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Body of Unknown Vagrant Found in Greenwich Village -- New York -- March 30, 1968
March 10, 2009 1:57 PM   Subscribe

This month marks both the birth and the death of Bobby Driscoll, child star, Peter Pan, "Walt Disney's golden boy." He was penniless, drug-addled and buried in an unmarked grave by the age of 31.

Some of his notable early work for Disney included Song of the South and Treasure Island. He won a special Academy Award for his performance in "The Window," a film that won the Edgar Allen Poe award in 1950. Three years later he turned in the performance that he would be best remembered for, the voice of Disney's "Peter Pan."

Shortly thereafter, puberty struck, and with it a bad case of acne; Disney terminated his contract, saying he needed too much makeup, and things were never the same for Bobby. He ran afoul of the law. He started taking drugs at the age of 17; at 31, he ventured into a New York tenement and never emerged. The body was unidentifiable, and was buried in an umarked pauper's grave. Nearly two years later, his mother tried to locate him to reunite him with his dying father; it was only then that a fingerprint match told her what had become of her son.
posted by jbickers (26 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bobby's story is (re)told, in a fashion, on the excellent new Benjy Ferree CD, "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Bobby Dee Bobby Dee."
posted by jbickers at 1:57 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Look upon his hep C infected works, ye stage mothers, and despair!
posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:12 PM on March 10, 2009


I look forward to the Disney biopic.
posted by absalom at 2:18 PM on March 10, 2009


Well the two main characters of Disney's Treasure Island both died early of heart attacks caused by drug addiction. Robert Newton (Long John Silver) "chronic alcoholism, which led to his death from a heart attack" in 1956, about the same time Driscoll started downhill. They got the treasure, and it killed them.
posted by stbalbach at 2:19 PM on March 10, 2009


Huge fan of Benjy Ferree and was totally going to post a link to that.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:22 PM on March 10, 2009


A quote from his mother: "Oh, it was different then. When I went to visit him [in jail] I had to stick his fresh underwear under a faucet and hand it to him wet."

Maybe I'm really naive, or maybe it's just early-afternoon brain drain, but I can't for the life of me figure out what the hell that means. Why the wet underwear?
posted by mudpuppie at 2:27 PM on March 10, 2009


Things were different then.
posted by stbalbach at 2:30 PM on March 10, 2009 [11 favorites]


Perhaps she had to prove that she didn't soak it in heroin and dry it - maybe inmates were smoking opium-laced underwear back then. Or something.
posted by GuyZero at 2:32 PM on March 10, 2009


Why the wet underwear?

Maybe to prove nothing solid was embedded in it? I don't know. It was the olden days/
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:33 PM on March 10, 2009


Jonas Brothers, you're next.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:37 PM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wrote a little bit about this when I was reviewing pirate movies.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:42 PM on March 10, 2009


Things were different then.

"So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time."
posted by Turtles all the way down at 2:54 PM on March 10, 2009 [13 favorites]


It seems things weren't really all that different back then. Hollywood was fickle then, and is now. The loss of fame and fortune hits child stars hard in the present, and in the past. Now we have the internet and reality TV to keep up on where they are now.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:16 PM on March 10, 2009


This was good. Two links have the same info but the second, direct scans of an article in Movie Digest, has photos. The Wikipedia article is good, too. Driscoll's last movie was Andy Warhol's Dirt.
I still recall seeing Song of the South as a kid and being scared to death when Driscoll is gored by the bull. And scenes from Treasure Island are burned into my memory. "One more step, Mr. Hands, and I'll blow your brains out!" Robert Crumb's comic about the film's impact on him and his brother is instructive about the value of popular culture to children. (An early strip, "Treasure Island Days" by Robert and Charles is included in Volume 1 of the Complete Crumb.) The importance of this movie to children of the day was due to Driscoll. Sure, Robert Newton had the flashy role, but Driscoll was a kid you could identify with: tough, gutsy, but believable. You could be him.
In more ways than one, I guess.
RIP, Bob.
posted by CCBC at 4:22 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Robert Crumb's comic about the film's impact on him and his brother is instructive about the value of popular culture to children.

I found that to be one of the most gripping parts of the film - when Robert is turning the pages on Charles' later Treasure Island comics, and the speech balloons keep getting larger until they're almost totally obscuring the characters, finally descending into pages of pages of paneled graphomania squiggles. It's like a that moment from The Shining in real life.
posted by gngstrMNKY at 4:32 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


The entertainment industry sure can chew 'em up and spit 'em out.
posted by jamstigator at 4:33 PM on March 10, 2009


Wow I had no idea. I loved Treasure Island when I was a kid.
posted by nola at 4:35 PM on March 10, 2009


drjimmy11: It was the olden days/

March 30, 1968. Two little kids exploring an abandoned tenement in Greenwich Village peeked into a room.


Yes, it was the olden days.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:53 PM on March 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


From Astro Zombies link:

It was Newton [Long John Silver, in Treasue Island] who introduced Devonshire's elongated aaahrs into the pirate vocabulary, and he makes inappropriate, broadly comic use of this affectation

Now we know.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:58 PM on March 10, 2009


Why the wet underwear?

I'm guessing it had something to do with some idea they had then that prisons were for punishment, not simply for keeping people off the streets. Giving an inmate clean, dry underwear or other clothing would provide him with comfort, not punishment, and thus, they probably figured, would negate the whole purpose of being there. Soaking the underwear would remove the comfort factor, as wet underwear would have to air-dry, thus getting all stiff and scratchy and/or getting mildewed and/or mildewing other things and/or falling on the floor and getting dirty.
posted by limeonaire at 5:49 PM on March 10, 2009


Huh.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:35 PM on March 10, 2009


> It was Newton [Long John Silver, in Treasue Island] who introduced Devonshire's elongated aaahrs into the pirate vocabulary, and he makes inappropriate, broadly comic use of this affectation

Now we know.


And it wasn't until Kids in the Hall that "talk like a pirate" was semi main streamed. In 1990.
posted by mrzarquon at 7:02 PM on March 10, 2009


I wrote a little bit about this when I was reviewing pirate movies.

If you are going to review movies the least you could do is pay for them.


Aaarh!
posted by eye of newt at 8:31 PM on March 10, 2009


I wrote a little bit about this when I was reviewing pirate movies.

Aye, and I'll wager they were Arrr-rated to boot.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:48 AM on March 11, 2009


Them's as dies'll be the lucky ones!

:-(
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:23 AM on March 11, 2009


I always wonder about child actors/performers; how much can what they're doing be a true measure of what they want vs. what their parents want, even if they're talented? Acting is work, even with child-labor laws; should kids really be working at all?

So many of them seem to burn out, even if they stay in their professions.

I can't imagine being able to stage-parent my kid, even if he were extremely talented; I'd be much more inclined to keep things casual until he was at least a teenager, so that he could have some kind of grounding in real life.
posted by emjaybee at 12:22 PM on March 11, 2009


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