Bonus Material

Review of Dustin Diamond’s Autobiography, Behind the Bell

About 4 years ago, I found myself reading Dustin (the guy who played Screech on Saved By the Bell) Diamond’s autobiography on a lark.  After I finished it (which took about 3 hours) I thought it would be fun to write a little review so I threw something together and posted it on Facebook.  It didn’t get much of a reaction or anything but for some unknowable reason something came over me and I felt a strong urge to continue to write critiques of pop-culture’s most shameful endeavors.  I started FHR a few weeks later.  Now that it’s all over, I thought I’d share this initial article, which, to me, was the catalyst for this whole project:

I’ve never read a tell-all autobiography before but my morbid obsession with Saved By the Bell made this one irresistible. I don’t know what purpose these types of books usually serve, but this one is clearly an outlet for years of pent-up bitterness, not to mention a blatant effort to make a couple of bucks while attempting to craft a new and more marketable persona. Well, lemme tell ya, it did not work.

The main reason I wanted to read this book was to find out what it was like to work on Saved By the Bell and dish some dirt about real-life behind the scenes shenanigans, but this book provides much less of that than a sort of bizarre portrait of Dustin himself. Most of what he has to say about working on the show is focused around what a bunch of stupid jerks everyone was and how mean they were to him. He has bitter nicknames for everyone that he apparently still uses to this day, one of many features of his narrative that makes it hard to sympathize with him. Most of his behind-the-scenes gossip is made up of embarrassing moments his cast members endured while he stood idly by, snickering to himself. On one occasion, the guy who played Zack had to piss really bad during a press tour and got caught by the fuzz relieving himself behind a dumpster. Screech’s account of what a sniveling bitch Zack is when the law intervenes is clearly biased, if not entirely hyperbolic. On another occasion, Zack accidentally hit an innocent bystander in the face with a softball during a company game. I’m not really sure why this story is supposed to support an argument that Zack is a jerk, as the incident was clearly an accident, but the anecdote seems to be included with the intention to further defame the studios “golden child” that stole all of Screech’s glory.

The narrative gets kind of a Humbert Humbert thing going pretty quickly, where we see through Screech’s bullshit and clearly recognize the flaws within his own character as he desperately grasps for our empathy and attention. One incident recounted is of an extra who scored cool points with the cast by belittling Screech in front of everybody. I can see why that would sting, being the star and all and having even the lowest contributors to the show holding a higher social standing among the cast members. I might have felt bad for Screech if the climax of that story wasn’t him pissing in that extras purse backstage. You might think that he would recognize this as a petty and vindictive act all these years later, but no! The purpose of the story is to let us know what a bad motherfucker he is.

Overall the book contains surprisingly few noteworthy stories about the cast. There’s a few funny bits about Mario Lopez, who Screech clearly hated the most. I actually laughed out loud when he recalled what it was like to do promo interviews with Lopez, who would constantly talk over anyone else who tried to reply to questioning and redirect the conversation back to himself. The books overall biggest nugget of gossip is about Lopez as well, who Screech alleges narrowly avoided rape charges that NBC settled out of court while SBTB was still on the air. As with all the books allegations, it’s hard to know how to filter what is stated as we’re dealing with such a dubious narrator. It’s also questionable because it’s so clear that Screech was pretty far out of the casts social loop, which is probably why most of his behind-the-scenes content is filled with prank wars between himself and prop guys or the shows head carpenter. Not exactly the Saved By the Bell untold story I was hoping for…

Most of the book is filled with self-indulgent tripe that only serves to further prove that Screech is an even more obnoxious idiot in real life than on tv. He goes on and on about how many chicks he banged, recounting with great sentimentality his many trips to Disneyland to get his mack on. If that’s not vomit-inducing enough, there’s also a lengthy narrative (with foreshadowing and everything!) about a long-developing romance with an older NBC executive. If the image of Screech getting it on with some teenage hussy at the Magic Kingdom isn’t disturbing enough, how do some post-coital snuggles with a woman in her forties sound? Oh, man… it’s just… it’s just awful. There’s a few other hilarious tidbits, like when he claims to be the catalyst for the live action Scoobie Doo movie (despite a valiant effort, he was not selected to play Shaggy on screen) or provides his 2 cents about Urkel (“the primetime Screech”), but most of his exploits just involve him hanging out with his lame friends that you’ve never heard of.

I’m not even sure if this qualifies as a real book. It doesn’t seem to adhere to any publishing standards whatsoever. I’m not even talking about the total lack of production design or the easy-reader sized font (which was actually a nice relief for my crappy eyesight). Early in the text there are some weird spelling errors and commas for no reason, but as the book progresses I found a few paragraphs that ran twice in a row and sentences randomly cut and pasted into adjoining paragraphs. It’s possible that Screech was trying to pull off a William S. Burroughs thing, but it’s more probable that nobody bothered to read the text before printing it up. It’s all kind of appropriate, though. The whole appeal of Saved By the Bell is how mind-bogglingly half-assed and ridiculous it is, so this quality-control-free publication does faithfully mirror the shows aesthetic. Whenever I watch SBTB, I find myself less interested in the characters and situations than I am compelled to speculate as to just what the hell the shows writers and producers were thinking when they put the whole mess together. In behind the Bell, the creators intention is glaringly obvious, and like the tv series itself, it fails to make a genuine connection with its audience. The audience finds themselves laughing at it, not with it.

It’s impossible to say whether I’d actually recommend this book to anyone. The only people who would even consider reading it are hopeless fanatics like myself, who don’t really have a choice. I knew this book was a piece of garbage before I picked it up and I read the whole thing anyway. I’m a slave to this shit. As far as mindless drivel goes, at least it was pretty undemanding. The whole thing reads like an enormous sidebar to an US magazine article. What a stupid waste of time!

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31 thoughts on “Review of Dustin Diamond’s Autobiography, Behind the Bell

  1. Aunt Becky's Breast Buds says:

    I think Dustin Diamond is haunted by Screetch. I find it funny that Screetch’s behavior in the Saved by the Bell episode “Rockumentary” foreshadows (or influences?) the future Dustin Diamond’s betrayal of his cast-mates with a “tell-all” and becomes even more ostracized from the group.

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  2. Sara Wilson says:

    Why is it that we can’t stay away from this mind-numbing garbage? I probably would have read the whole book too. And when the reruns are on, I watch those two. I don’t get it. It’s so terrible!

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  3. If you’re looking for some juicy behind the scenes stories from a hit 90′s show, I can’t recommend sTori Telling, by Tori Spelling, enough. The Luke Perry and Shannen Doherty stories are amazing! It’s a quick read, but super juicy.

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  4. Meg says:

    I (embarrassingly) watched him on Celebrity Fit Club a few years ago and he’s just so icky. Thanks for reading this so I didn’t have to!

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    • I also watched that Celebrity Fit Club (actually I watched them all because I’m classy like that) and I was so appalled by his behavior. I tried to believe that the producers told him to be a villain and he ran with it, but the terrible eating habits, mouthing off or totally skipping workouts and randomly just not showing up to the show and sort of quitting was just bizarre and terrible. I mean, I know he clearly needs money, but why sign up for a fitness reality show if you aren’t going to do any fitness?

      This was right around the time when his sex tape came out and he was trying to play the victim card, that it was stolen from him or something and none of the other celebs believed him. He “didn’t want to talk about it” but then would keep bringing it up. Such a weird little man.

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  5. astrowaffle says:

    I love that you ended your first review with “what a stupid waste of time”, its perfect.
    I once went to see Dustin Diamond’s stand up with the same morbid curiosity, it was exactly as bad as you would expect.

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  6. Staplerhed says:

    I live in Milwaukee, and Dustin Diamond lives in Wisconsin, so quite naturally he throws an event every year called Dustin Diamond’s Bayside Bash.

    Saved By The Bell’s own Dustin Diamond hosts the second annual “Bayside Bash.” An evening of 80’s and 90’s retro dance, classic video games. 80’s and 90’s Attire encouraged. if you missed this last year do not make the same mistake again! – See more at: http://pabsttheater.org/show/baysidebash2013#sthash.mTK9WbTC.dpuf

    Here’s last year

    http://pabsttheater.org/show/baysidebash2013

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  7. Considering the fact that none of the rest of the cast will talk to him, I can’t help but think the majority of his claims are lies, exaggerated, or just bat shit insane. He has nothing apart from Saved by the Bell. Even Elizabeth Berkley got Showgirls.

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  8. Kayla says:

    Ha, well I’m glad to find out the book was as ridiculous as I would have expected, before having to read it myself. Dustin Diamond is clearly unstable and petty. For hating SBtB and the rest of the cast so much, he certainly still tries to make money off of his association with the show any chance he gets. (Bayside bash? Really??)

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  9. Kate says:

    Oh thank god you read this! I have an addiction to “celebrity” (yes, used very loosely) autobiographies and I was thinking of reading this one even though I knew it would be horrible. Now I can just skip it. Seems like it’s exactly as I expected.

    I read Jodie sweetin’s, and it was pretty boring. You’d think a meth addict would have some good stories, but I think she refuses to break from her Full House persona. It reads like the plot of Stephanie getting addicted to meth on a FH episode. There’s one story about her and an Olsen twin getting fucked up at stamos’s house, and then they… all slept in the bed together. Riiiiiiiight.

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    • Nukegrrrl says:

      Agreed, Jodie Sweetin’s autobiography, Unsweetined, was not a terribly engaging read. I got the feeling that Sweetin wasn’t ready to write her true life down yet, but hopes of money or an extended lease on her 15 minutes made her do it anyways.

      An amazing child actor autobiography is Alison Arngrim’s Confessions of a Prairie Bitch. It’s about her playing Nellie Oleson on Little House and being BFF’s with Melissa Gilbert in real life, then the AIDS activism she did in later years. I happened to grab it from the library at the same time I went to pick up Unsweetined, but became way more engrossed in Arngrim’s book instead.

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  10. Alicia says:

    Thanks for reading this crap so we don’t have to. I actually like Screech. I always had a crush on Zack, but Screech always had some great lines so why be so bitter about the show? He really needs to move on from this. Anyway, I definitely don’t want to read about him hooking up with anybody, anywhere.

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  11. Max says:

    I live in the same county in Southeast Wisconsin as Diamond, and I can vouch for him being an obnoxious idiot. For one, he had foreclosure problems on his home a few years ago, and he is known for not paying his taxes. His name shows up in our local paper every now and then. I also know someone who used to work at Walmart near where he lived, and Diamond would call in letting the managers know he was coming in and tell them not to bother him. The manager would tell his employees, and they’d all be like “Who cares, it’s just Screech.”

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    • Angela says:

      ROTFL, I love that response. Oh, man…

      Anytime I’ve seen clips of him on TV he’s always come off like an obnoxious creep, and this book doesn’t sound like it does anything to dispel that belief. Ugh. Never, ever trust a guy who thinks it’s cool to brag about all the women he’s slept with. Nobody cares, buddy.

      I might have felt bad for Screech if the climax of that story wasn’t him pissing in that extras purse backstage.

      I actually about put my head in my hand at that revelation. Perhaps that extra sensed right away what a dickhead he was and just wanted to speak the truth.

      And regarding the stuff about Lopez, again, I’m not big on the guy based on what I’ve seen of him on TV, too-he does have kind of a creepy “nice guy” thing going on…but the idea that Dustin, of all people, is making allegations and insinuations about Lopez’ supposed questionable sexual actions is stunning considering all his comments about the women he slept with. Glass houses, stones, yada, yada.

      Great review of this book. Sorry you had to put yourself through it. If you want a genuinely good autobiography to read, I’d highly recommend Craig Ferguson’s ‘American on Purpose’. Good writer, with a nice mix of funny as hell and touching stories, and a fun outsider perspective on our country.

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    • Bridget says:

      Max, didn’t he call the cops about rodents or something? I haven’t read anything about him in the paper in ages! I am more proud of Liberace and Gene Wilder being Wisconsin natives than him! I would just ignore him if he comes to the Delafield Walmart!

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      • Max says:

        Haha I don’t remember hearing about Screech and rodents. I have always hoped I would cross paths with him when I am in Saukville or Port Washington. I swear I saw him in Cedarburg one time though. But yeah I would imagine most people ignore him.

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  12. beautifulsorta says:

    I read this book a couple years back for the same reasons. The only thing I remembered about it (besides it making me hate Dustin Diamond) was the paragraph that repeated twice. I laughed so hard. Best part of the book.

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  13. CathySantone says:

    Amazingly meta – Screech is Dustin Diamond and Dustin Diamond is Screech.

    Awesome book review – you seriously have a talent for funny writing no matter what you’re reviewing. Please review more stuff!

    Like

  14. RachWho? says:

    About 4 years ago, I found myself reading Dustin (the guy who played Screech on Saved By the Bell) Diamond’s autobiography on a lark.

    Lark Voorhies, perhaps?

    Like

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