From the Mouths of Babes


Unlike the rest of the major

media, we here at Suck have

taken a particularly keen

interest in the vastly, sadly,

even grotesquely under-reported

saga of Little Elian Gonzalez.

Don't misunderstand us: We're

true-blue, red-blooded,

white-knuckled patriots every

bit as much as John McCain or

Wen Ho Lee. We love America as a

country so generous and giving

that even Robin Williams can

find regular work, and we're

willing to pay whatever it takes

in taxes to defend this land of

unbounded opportunity.

But the shameful lack of coverage

of this brave, buoyant little

soul forces us to pose a most

uncomfortable question: Is it

simply historical racism —

we understand that Gonzalez may

be half-Italian — that the

demi-orphan's heart-tugging

twist on the standard American

immigration narrative has been

featured only 45 times on

Hardball, 58 times on Hannity &

Colmes, and 34 times on Geraldo

(who is himself rumored to be part

Italian) since December 1999?

Does anything except for

mediagenic "blondness" explain

the disparity between the

attention paid Little Elian and

that of golden girl JonBenet


But there's a personal element to

our interest in this lad who

managed a feat that eluded

champion distance-swimmer Diana

Nyad (even when she was aided by

a shark-proof tank). As mostly

former child stars ourselves

— Suck's contributors

include six cast members of

Zoom, a couple of Sheens, no

fewer than eight castrati from

the first three generations of

Menudo, and several late-night

escapees from Art Linkletter's

TV Studio — we know what

it's like to be seared by the

klieg lights of fleeting fame

during the bed-wetting years.

Out of that sense of fraternity,

Suck has solicited advice from a

wide variety of former child

stars on how Little Elian might

best manage his 15 minutes

in the sun and the lucrative

cash and prizes such attention

inevitably brings.

These folks have been there and

done that: Although Little Elian

suffered merely a few days in

shark-infested waters where, it

so happens, he lost his mother,

these former stars journeyed to

hell and back on a Burbank back

lot, surviving puberty, parental

theft of earnings, and, all too

often, the rule of law. Whether

he ultimately stays in the

United States (where he'll

likely get a lifetime pass to

Walt Disney World) or returns to

Cuba (where he'll likely work

for a Disney-owned hotel in

Havana for US$4 a month once the

American boycott is lifted),

Little Elian would do well to

learn English and listen up.

Soleil Moon Frye (as TV's Punky

Brewster, opened the door for

succeeding figures of import

such as Mayim Bialik, TV's

Blossom; recipient of a widely

discussed breast-reduction that

helped make plastic surgery

acceptable for former child

stars and other Americans; the

subject of several cable

documentaries): "Little Elian,

keep your feet on the ground

while you reach for the stars.

And don't wait until puberty to

undergo elective cosmetic

surgery. By then, it's too


Macaulay Culkin (won America's

heart as violent sociopath in

the Home Alone movies;

precociously shaved and screamed

in pain upon applying

aftershave; emancipated himself

from parents after disputes over

money; widely predicted to go on

murderous, multistate rampage by

the time he's 30; leading

candidate to play John Hinckley

Jr. and Mark David Chapman in

any made-for-TV movies): "Little

Elian, youth is wasted on the

middle-aged. If you do nothing

else, take the initiative now to

make more than one memorable

facial expression."

Corey Feldman (misshapen,

dwarfish star of Stand by Me and

other kid flicks; high-profile

young friend of Michael Jackson

— boasted of Neverland

stayovers and dressed and danced

like the King of Pop; divorced

parents over money issues;

recovering heroin addict with

jones for porno stars): "Little

Elian, real winners don't use

drugs. Don't believe anyone who

says they just want to sleep

with you."

Leif Garrett (played Felix

Unger's son on TV's Odd Couple;

inexplicably popular '70s

singing sensation; paralyzed

partying pal in drunk-driving

wreck; later reconciled with pal

on camera during a cable-TV

documentary; unapologetic

bandana-wearer into 21st

century): "Little Elian, keep on

rockin' in the free world. But

know when to say when."

Danny Bonaduce (played sardonic,

neckless sibling on TV's

Partridge Family; post-show

highlights include several drug

arrests, detox stints, and a

highly publicized arrest for

beating a transvestite

prostitute; reemerged in recent

years as radio disc jockey and

professional former child star):

"Little Elian, when you buy a

car, always check under the hood

before handing over the cash.

And remember, it doesn't matter

if they're laughing with you or

at you. As long as they're


Gary Coleman (troll-like genetic

loser who starred on TV's

Diff'rent Strokes; post-show

highlights include learning that

parents and manager bilked him

out of millions and being

arrested for attacking a rare

autograph-seeking fan;

successfully refashioned himself

as a security guard and an

embittered former child star

available for demeaning cameo

roles): "Little Elian, the

measure of a man isn't his bank

account. It's his parents' bank


Nick Gillespie is editor-in-chief of reason. This story originally appeared in Suck, and can be viewed in that format here.