Monday, September 24, 2007


Twenty years ago, ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING premiered. A favorite of mine, I looked around to see what the cast was up to today. I was particularly interested in Keith Coogan who played Brad.

He was very good in the film, and went on to appear in several other popular films of the 80's and 90's, including another cult favorite DON'T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER'S DEAD ("Dishes are done, man").

Well, I found him. He has a blog, Adventures in Los Angeles, and even his own YouTube channel. I contacted him to see about doing an email interview, and he agreed.

While ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING was the film where I first realized who he was, Keith had been around for a decade before, acting in some of the biggest TV shows of the 70's and 80's.

The grandson of legendary child star Jackie Coogan, Keith here talks about that early TV work.

How big of an impact did your grandfather have on your getting in the industry?

It must have been huge, although our family wasn't as close at the time I started acting (1975) as when he passed (1984), there must have been something in the blood. I know I was also inspired by Sesame Street, Electric Company, New Zoo Review, and Vi Alegre! I would see these other kids having fun on the TV, and I totally wanted to be one of those kids. Jackie played a supportive role, yet flat out would not coach, instruct or otherwise tell me how to act... he would simply repeat the mantra, "Watch your money, never trust Mothers!"

Early on, you appeared on countless TV shows. Do you have any memories from those shows?

The Waltons was a watershed moment in my career, and probably helped me get most of the rest of my guest appearance work in the late 70's and into the 80's. It was an unforgettable experience, joining a family that was so well known. Every single cast and crew member was welcoming and kind. To this day, they are the nicest folks in show business, although the creator of that particular show had a dirty old mouth, which was a surprising contrast to his material. Playing Jeffrey on the Waltons was also a great chance to stretch a little, you see, I played the biggest brat in the world, even though I thought I was a pretty well behaved young professional. I got to lie, cheat, steal, throw wicked attitude at Ralph Waite, run over the daisies with a stolen car, and nearly burn the barn down. Good fun. Shot from '78 into '79 at The Burbank Studios, it was the show that set our family up in a nice home in Malibu, California.

Love Boat was one of the only times I was ever offered a part without having to go through the audition process. I had the privilege of working side by side with Haley Mills, Sir John Mills, Reggie Jackson, and of course the entire cast of the show. I also had the not so fun experience of seeing how they shot the show... on a sound stage in Century City. I was sorely disillusioned.

Fantasy Island and Fantasy Island Jr. were also great chances at working with people I had grown up watching. Scott and Jimmy Baio, Jill Whalen (again), Gilligan, The Millionaire, and Larry Storch happened to be on those episodes, and it was also a kick in the pants. I loved working with Tattoo! Finally, here was an actor that was shorter than me! I will also become quite fond of Scott Baio, he is a very generous and patient actor.

The final episode of Mork and Mindy was sad. They all knew the show was ending, and so it was very hard to bring the joy out of everyone's performances. I played a kid reporter that was doing an interview with Mearth (Jonathan Winters). I tried a bit of improv, encouraged by my Mom, but when Mork fired back... I had nothing. Scary stuff that live television.

I always had a tough time with the "live" shows like Mork and Mindy, Laverne and Shirley, It's a Living, Growing Pains, Silver Spoons, Raising Miranda, Sibs, Just the 10 of Us and Married to the Kellys are the only "live" shows I ever worked on, and I was totally nervous the entire time. I prefer the pace and focus of a film shoot. I don't know why.. it's just the canvas that I like to paint on.

Little House on the Prairie came hot on the heels of shooting Laverne and Shirley, in fact, we had to throw some lies around about how late I worked on the final night of taping Laverne and Shirley, and how early I had to be on set for Little House... but that didn't matter, my career was on fire at that point. I played a blind kid that sings. Totally annoying if you ask me, but only because they play that episode far too much for my liking.

Chip's was actually my first theatrical job (outside of commercials). I had a non-speaking role in an episode that I don't even know the title of. We played a large family that left their baby in it's car seat at a picnic site. I remember making like I had to go to the bathroom real hard. It turned into 3 more appearances on Chip's.

The one thing I can say about the TV shows of the 70's like Duke's of Hazzard, Chip's and Knight Rider, is that they were all Rolling Thunder! Car carriers, grip and electric trucks, honey wagons and the like would all assemble at a moments notice somewhere along the Southern California Freeway system, and then before lunch, they had packed up, moved location, and were lighting something on fire by 2:00. Big shows with old school, union, studio people working on them. There is nothing like learning from the best. The last two were "Brat Patrol" and "Return of the Brat Patrol" where a group of kids were little mini-chips that got out played or something in track or basketball. The scripts were interchangeable, and represent some of the worst series writing ever. But it sure was popular. John Astin directed the last episode of Chip's. It's a small world.

Growing Pains was surreal. Here I was working with my agent's daughter. It was inevitable that I did the show, and it turned into a guest appearance on Just the 10 of Us as well. These were the two shows that I felt the least nervous on, probably because the cast and crew were so cool and laid back.