Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Rusty Hamer: The Sad Death of a Child Star

My life as a child bore no resemblance to what I believed was normal - i.e. the way people lived on television, a medium I mistook for my window on reality.  Even on TV, though, peer models were scarce, which is why I ended up identifying with a kid I didn't even like.

- Rusty Hamer
as quoted by the Internet Movie Data Base (

From 1953 to 1964, Rusty Hamer played Rusty Williams, the freckle-faced, curly-haired son on the Danny Thomas sitcom Make Room for Daddy (renamed The Danny Thomas Show).  Sadly, Rusty found very little happiness as an adult,  When he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 42, he became a poster boy for the problems faced by child actors.

Rusty was born Russell Craig Hamer in Tenafly New Jersey on February 15, 1947.  He was the youngest of the three sons of Arthur Walter John Hamer, Jr. and his wife Dorothy (née Chretin), a former silent film star.  Rusty and his older brothers, John and Walter, grew up in a theatre environment because their parents were active in amateur theatre productions.

In 1951, the Hamer family moved to Los Angeles where Arthur Hamer found employment as a sales representative for a men's sports shirt company.  Sons John and Rusty were noticed by an agent while performing in a local theatrical production.  Both brothers were signed to a film contract.  In 1952, Rusty was cast in his first acting role in Fort Ti, a 3D Western film starring George Montgomery and Joan Vohs.  Rusty played the George Montgomery character's nephew.  He was uncredited.

Rusty also appeared in several Abbott and Costello films.  However, his big break came when actor/comedian Danny Thomas' secretary saw him perform in a theatre production. She was impressed by talent on stage and suggested that he audition for a role in Thomas' upcoming television series, Make Room for Daddy.

Rusty won the part and was cast as the wise-cracking, somewhat bratty son of Danny Williams, the night club entertainer played by Danny Thomas on the show,  When the family comedy premiered on the ABC network on September 29, 1953, Rusty was just six years old. After three seasons, the show moved to CBS and was retitled The Danny Thomas Show.  When the series ended in 1964, he was an awkward 17-year-old.  Child stars were not paid lucrative salaries back then, so he was not extremely well-off.

Below is a photo of the cast of The Danny Thomas Show (clockwise Angela Cartwright who played daughter Linda Williams, Marjorie Lord who played wife Kathy Williams and Danny Thomas.

After The Danny Thomas Show ceased production, Rusty enrolled at Palisades Charter High School in Los Angeles.  He had difficulty adjusting from a film lot school to a public school  Danny Thomas told the Los Angeles Times that Rusty "had been one of only two students in a studio classroom.  "He was still a happy kid," explained Thomas, "but seemed like a fish out of water."

In April of 1964, just before his graduation from Palisades High School, Rusty was interviewed by reporter Bob Thomas for American Press (AP).  He was asked how he felt about the The Danny Thomas Show going off the air. "How do I feel?  Not sad, really," he responded.  "You can't go on doing the same thing all your life."  The teenager, however, was not under any immediate financial pressure to return to work.  Under California state law, 20 percent of his savings were invested in U.S. savings bonds until he reached the age of 21.  He also had a portfolio of stocks, bonds and some properties in Palm Springs and Fresno.

At the time, however, Rusty was optimistic about the future of his acting career.  "I want to work right away and the prospects are good," he enthused.  "They're interested in me for several of the Mr. Novak shows at MGM.  Walt Disney is interested in me.  And there are chances I might do shows like Dr. KildareBen Casey and Arrest and Trial.  I'd like that.  I want to do some dramatic shows."   Still, the young owner told Bob Thomas that he would work in  a gas station if necessary because he didn't want to use up his savings.

Alas, Rusty's optimism about his future was unwarranted.  Few job offers came his way except for guest spots and reprising his Rusty Williams role.  Worst of all, he was ill-prepared and ill-equipped for the world outside the entertainment industry.

In 1969, Rusty Hamer appeared as Alfred Newton in an episode of Green Acres entitled "Oliver's Schoolgirl Crush" (Season 5. Episode 10, Air Date: November 29, 1969).  By the end of the 1960s, however, Rusty had become quite distraught over his flagging acting career.  To earn a living, he worked for a messenger service in Los Angeles.and later as a carpenter's apprentice.

He eventually returned to his role as Rusty Williams in the 1970-1971 series Danny Thomas in Make Room for Granddaddy.  In that series, a grown-up Rusty portrayed a married 23-year-old medical student. Unfortunately, Make Room for Granddaddy was short-lived. It only lasted a single season despite guest appearances by such popular stars as Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Frank Sinatra and Milton Berle. When it was cancelled, Hamer once again found himself out of work and without direction.

Below is a photo of the cast Make Room for Granddaddy:  Front row Left to Right, Michael Hughes, who played Danny's grandson Michael,, and Marjorie Lord.  Top Row Left to Right: Rusty Hamer, Angela Cartwright and Danny Thomas.

In 1976, Rusty Hamer moved to southwestern Louisiana to be closer to his ailing mother, Dorothy, who suffered from Alzheimer's Disease.  At the time, Dorothy was living with Rusty's older brother, John, in the town of DeRidder (about 40 miles north of Lake Charles).  While in Louisiana, Rusty was employed by Exxon to worked on their offshore oil rigs. According to information provided by DeRidder historian Velma Lenora Smith, he was not suited to the job and resigned in 1982. Unable to find steady employment, Rusty worked intermittently as a short order cook at Richlighter, John's small cafe near Bundick Lake on Highway 394, southeast of DeRidder.

Sadly, Rusty Hamer's mental and physical health deteriorated sharply and he fell into a deep depression.  He became delusional and reclusive.  On January 18, 1990, Rusty committed suicide by putting a .357 pistol to his head and pulling the trigger.  It was his brother John who discovered his body in the trailer where he lived near DeRidder.

In announcing Rusty's death, John Hamer declared that the child star "hasn't been really happy since his early 20s,"  "I've heard of a lot of child actors who have become unhappy with their lives after they've left the industry," stated John, "But he didn't show any signs of this happening.  It was just all of a sudden."  Rusty's older sibling also revealed that his brother had been experiencing extreme back pain but refused to go to a doctor.

Rusty's tragic suicide raised awareness of the problems faced by child entertainers.  It inspired Paul Peter Petersen, a child actor on The Donna Reed Show, to create a support group, "A Minor Consideration", to assist child actors in their transition from childhood to adulthood.


* Rusty Hamer's father, Arthur, died after his son had been on Make Room for Daddy for eight months.

* At the time of Rusty's death, his mother Dorothy was in a nursing home,  According to Rusty's AP obituary, John Hamer stated that Dorothy's ill health had contributed to Rusty's downward spiral.  Dortothy Chretin Hamer died on June 20, 1991 at the age 76,

* John Hamer was 47 years old when Rusty's died, about five years older than his brother.  John left Hollywood at the age of 17.  He had an uncredited role as a child spectator in the 1952 film The Greatest Show on Earth.  He appeared in a 1958 episode of The Danny Thomas Show in an episode entitled "Terry Goes Steady." (Season 6, Episode 4, Air Date: October 27, 1958).  He portrayed Walter, a boy who was dating Rusty Williams' older sister Terry.  John was also a guest on The Tonight Show starring Jack Parr in 1957.

* Rusty Hamer played his Rusty Williams character in three 1965 episodes of The Joey Bishop Show.  In the episodes, "Rusty Arrives." "Rusty's Education" and "Joey Entertains Rusty's Fraternity,"  Hamer portrayed Rusty Williams as a college student staying at the home of Joey Barnes (Joey Bishop).

* Rusty Hamer has a star on the Hollywood Walk of 6323 Hollywood Boulevard.  He was awarded the honour on February 8, 1960.

* In December of 1966, Rusty Hamer received an accidental gunshot wound after returning from an overnight hunting trip.  According to an AP report, he was shot in the abdomen "when a revolver slid from his shoulder holster, fell to the ground and discharged."  He had surgery at Santa Monica Emergency Hospital.

* Rusty Hamer and Danny Thomas were very close.  In his AP interview with Bob Thomas, Rusty said that he called Danny his "second father."  After learning of Rusty's death, Thomas described his TV son as "the best boy actor I ever saw in my life."  "He had a great memory . . . great timing and you could change a line on him at the last minute and he came right back with it."

Danny and Rusty

Sources: The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press and other news files,, Wikipedia,

- Joanne

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Y&R Report (July 23, 2016): The Latest on The Young and the Restless


Hey Y&R fans, every second Saturday TV Banter discusses the latest happenings and provides commentary on your favourite daytime drama. Note to U.S. readers - SPOILER ALERT: Here in Canada, I watch the show on Global TV which is one episode ahead of CBS.  I will inevitably refer to incidents you haven't seen yet. Read at your own risk.  If you are the curious type, though, you may prefer to discover some things in advance.

It appears that Mal Young, the new Executive Producer of The Young and the Restless has already made some changes.  Travis Crawford (Michael Roark) has bid adieu to Victoria and sailed off into the sunset. Although Travis invited Victoria to accompany him on his boat, along with her children, she refused his offer because she did not want to keep the kids away from Billy.  

It seems to me that the decision to end the Travis-Victoria storyline was made quite abruptly.  It was decided that the character of Travis no longer fit into plans for the show; thus his sudden departure. Now that the blond bartender is no longer in the picture, what does that mean for Victoria?  Will she try to reconcile with Billy and reunite their family?  Will she compete with Phyllis for Billy's love?  How will she react when she discovers finds out about Billy Boy and his sister-in-law?  

There's a lot of turmoil ahead for Billy.  He is going to have to face the wrath of Jack when the truth comes out about his secret romance with Phyllis.  Understandably, Jack is not going to take a betrayal from his own brother well.  Then there's his mother, Jill.  Not only has she made sure the horrid paint colour is being removed from the Chancellor mansion, but she has taken control of Brass & Sassy. Billy is also going to have to face mad Chole again.  As viewers know, the disturbed woman has returned to Genoa City where she will wreak havoc upon its citizens.  Adam is her prime target. However, Billy will be thrown for a loop if he turns out to be the father of Chloe's daughter, Bella.

It's hard to imagine Snowflake at the helm of a multinational corporation like Newman Enterprises. I realize it was just a ruse to entrap Luca Santori.  Still, Summer is sorely lacking the experience and the expertise for such a demanding position.  Why would the slippery Spaniard believe that she would even be considered for the position of CEO unless there was some kind of setup?  How many 21-year-olds run major corporations?  But wait!  It seems that Luca isn't so slippery anymore.  He's suddenly discovered that he has feelings for Summer.  He is willing to give up everything for her sake and wants nothing in return but her love.  Fans, are we to believe that Luca is so in love with Snowflake that he has sacrificed his lofty ambitions?  Has the leopard really changed its spots?  Have the writers decided to soften Santori's character and make him more likeable?

Luca Santori's ambitions don't really matter now that Victor Newman has won his appeal.  "The Moustache" will soon return to his desk at Newman.  Could there have been any other outcome?  Did you really expect Victor to spend a decade in prison?  He'll be in complete control again, as usual, and he won't be too happy about seeing his granddaughter and Santori together.  

Not surprisingly, Victor has won yet again.  Is he remorseful  Is he a chastened man?  Did he take to heart the reprimand he received from the judge?  Well, I don`t think he`ll do anything as bad as the Marco Annicelli fiasco again.  I also think that Mal Young wants to redeem Victor`s character somewhat.  He will probably return to way he was before he became really evil.  That means he will remain controlling and powerful.  

Victor's biggest problem right now is dealing with Chloe.  She has really gone rogue.  She's a loose cannon.  Internet spoilers say that she will conceal her wicked intentions.  According to the spoilers, Kevin will fall for Chloe again, much to the chagrin of Natalie.  Chelsea will even be fooled and renew her friendship with the woman who wants to utterly destroy her husband Adam, 

Now that Victor is no long in prison and he has reunited with Nikki, the character of Dr. Meredith Gates is not really required any longer.  Alicia Coppola, who portrays Dr. Gates, has finished her run. I'm glad because her "romantic" scenes with Victor left a decidedly sour taste in my mouth.

Isn't it about time for Jack Abbott to discover the truth about Phyllis and Billy?  Those two are really playing him for a fool.  Jack even asked Billy for advice when Phyllis left him and moved into a suite at the athletic club.  Billy, of course, advised his brother to give the redhead some space and stay away from her.  Meanwhile, Ashley wondered why Jack would take relationship advice from his wayward brother.

Jill is back on the scene again.   From the previews, it appears that she will be the one to discover Billy and Phyllis together.  Will she tell anyone else or will she keep the secret in order to protect Billy?  Maybe she'll use her discovery as a means of getting her son to do her bidding.  Will she force him to return to Victoria?  

Cane Ashby seems quite arrogant and full of himself these, especially now that Jill has made him co-CEO of Brass & Sassy, along with Billy.  I guess you could say the name of the company is a perfect description of his character of late.  He`s much more aggressive.   He didn`t hesitate to punch out Billy Abbott.  What's gotten into Sugar Cane, fans?  I think his new attitude is bound to get him in trouble.

I hope Mal Young is going back to the show`s roots again.  I think that`s why he`s brought back Jill and Colin.  That`s why the damage Billy to the Chancellor mansion is being undone.  The estate is returning to the way Katherine Chancellor would have wanted it.


It's official, fans.  Michael E. Knight (Dr. Neville) is leaving

I was disappointed when I read that Michael E. Knight (Dr. Simon Neville) was reportedly checking out of The Young and Restless. However, I held out hope that the unfortunate decision to let him go would be reversed.  After all, the decision was made before the firing of Executive Producer Jill Farren Phelps. It was reasonable to believe that new Executive Producer, Mal Young, would find a way to keep the talented actor.  Alas, it was not to be.  Michael's last appearance on Y&R will be Wednesday, July 27, 2016 on CBS (Tuseday, July 26 on Global TV in Canada). He was originally supposed to be on the show for only eight episodes, but still . . .

Michael Knight's departure indicates that the whole storyline about Neville's miracle drug will be dropped and forgotten.  Hilary will recover and Ashley will be back at Jabot.

Tristan Rogers (Colin Atkinson) will be back in August

Jill's bad boy hubby, Colin Atkinson will be returning to Genoa City.  Tristan Rogers, the Australian actor who plays Colin, wrote on Twitter that "Colin is back to being Colin."  He said he has "some interesting scenes" coming up with Jess Walton (Jill Abbott), Jason Thompson (Billy Abbott) and Daniel Goddard (Cane Ashby).  Tristan will return to the screen on August 24 (CBS) and August 23 (Global).


Amelia Heinle  Photo Attribution: Mingle MediaTV

Well fans, do you think Victoria (Amelia Heinle) should go back to Billy Abbott?  Should she forgive him yet again?  Let your opinion be know by participating in the poll below.

Now that Travis is out of the picture, should Victoria (Amelia Heinle) reunite with Billy?

Yes, they have a history together and they have children.
Maybe, if Billy smartens up.
No, Billy is a jerk. Victoria should find someone else.
No, Amelia Heinle had better chemistry with the previous Billy, Billy Martin. She doesn't have good chemistry with the curent Billy (Jason Thompson).
Billy should stay with Phyllis.
I don't care.
I don't know. I havven't made up my mind yet.
Please Specify:
My IQ Test

That's all for now.  The next edition of Y&R Report will appear in the space on Saturday, August 6, 2016.  Meanwhile, keep your eye on Chloe.  She's the character to watch.  She's really going to stir things up.  


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Y&R Report (July 9, 2016): The Latest on The Young and the Restless


Hey Y&R fans, every second Saturday TV Banter discusses the latest happenings and provides commentary on your favourite daytime drama. Note to U.S. readers - SPOILER ALERT: Here in Canada, I watch the show on Global TV which is one episode ahead of CBS.  I will inevitably refer to incidents you haven't seen yet. Read at your own risk.  If you are the curious type, though, you may prefer to discover some things in advance.

Y&R was really exciting with Nikki and Phyllis having been taken hostage by the diabolical Ian Ward, What a tour de force by actor Ray Wise, who portrays Ian so brilliantly.  His character is quite a piece of work.  His smiles and his mannerisms are really quite amusing.  He really deserves a Daytime Emmy for his performance in the role.

We witnessed an epic Victor Newman/Ian Ward confrontation.  However, it was a clash of two villains. There was no good guy. There was no knight in shining armour, although Victor tried to play the hero.  As usual, he came out on top.  He won.  He saved Nikki and Phyllis. You can be sure, however, that he has a plan.  As Adam pointed out, Victor always has a plan.  He'll never stop manipulating and controlling everyone.  He's recovering from a gunshot wound, but that hasn't stopped him from tying to force Adam to do his bidding.  No matter where he is, whether it's a prison cell or a hospital bed, Victor has everyone under his thumb.

I couldn't help but wonder why Ian Ward chose to go the Abbott.cabin?  How did he even know of its existence or where it was located?  As for superhuman Victor Newman, the man is absolutely amazing.  He was wounded by a bullet and still managed to escape from the hospital, albeit with the help of Dr. Gates.   Remember, fans, that Victor once received a heart it transplant.  When Traci's daughter, Colleen, died, Victor was given her heart to save his live.  I tell you, folks, ol' Vic has a lot of strength and energy.  I know he is in good shape for a septuagenarian, but really, how does he do it?  I guess we're not supposed ask those questions, but I like to ask them anyway.

As I've mentioned before, the Genoa City police, led by Clueless Paul Williams and his equally clueless son, Dylan, are quite inept.  Everyone else is one step ahead of them.  I have to admit, though, that Paul was wise to advise Nikki not to trust "The Moustache." Although, where Clueless is concerned, there may be a bit of jealousy involved.  He has always had a thing for Nikki and can't stand the fact that he has always come in second to Victor where she is concerned.  Ian Ward also has a thing for the lovely Nicole.  

As for the lovely, Nicole, she'll never leave Victor.  I din't think she'd really divorce him again.  Did you, fans?

Someone is bound to find out soon that the mysterious woman helping Victor is Chole.  In fact, Adam and Chelsea should have figured it out by now.  Chole used the name "Dorothy Gale" when she signed in to visit Victor.  That's the name of the character from The Wizard of Oz, which happens to be the play Delia appeared in before she met her tragic death.


If you have any comments on Y&R, please email them to me with "Viewer Forum in the subject line. I will be happy to publish your comments and reply to them You do not have to use your real name.  
My email address:

Here are some comments about the state of the show from regular contributor CC in Etobicoke, Ontario.  

Right now I am just hoping all these loose ends get tied up soon.  It has been very difficult to follow some storylines at times as they seesaw back and forth between possible culprits.  It is also discouraging for viewers as characters cannot be trusted as they take on different personas. For example, Victor has been in a cruel, evil state for far too long.  It will take a long time and many noble deeds for him to redeem himself with the fans.

I feel the same way as you do, CC.  Y&R needs some stability and consistency.  It is my hope that things will settle down now that Jill Farren Phelps is no longer the executive producer.  This is a transition period and there are changes in the wind.  I think that two things would be extremely welcome by viewers. If possible, Justin Hartley should be persuaded to stay, despite his new role
 on a prime time show.  He is such a good actor and Y&R can ill afford to lose another fan favourite.  Secondly, the show should reverse any decision to write out Dr. Neville (Michael E. Knight).  He is a delightful character and viewers have been waiting for a romance between him and Ashley Abbott.

Yes, it seems as if the writers are trying to redeem Victor's character, at least somewhat.  He's certainly redeemed himself in Nikki's eyes.  As you have pointed out, it will be a long time (if ever) before he redeems himself with viewers.  Hey, maybe doctors will discover he has a brain tumour too, like Ashley and Max.  That would explain his behaviour.  No need to worry, though, Dr. Neville to the rescue! (Just kidding).


Neil Winters' parents likely to appear on Y&R

Kristoff St. John

Y&R viewers may soon get a look at the parents of Neil Winters (Kristoff St. John).  A casting call has apparently gone out for someone to play the role of Lucinda, an African-American woman in her late sixties or early seventies.  Lucinda is try to put her past behind her and move forward with her life.

Another casting call has gone out for an actor to play the part of Ellis, an African-American man of the same age bracket.  He will be trying to make up for mistakes that he has made in the past. Soap Opera Digest reports that both roles will start taping later this month.  The description of the characters certainly fits Neil's mother and father.  Their appearance will certainly provide us with a better understanding of Neil's background and that of his brother, Malcolm.  I remember that Malcolm was once referred to as Neil's "half-brother," so the parents may be divorced or they may have had previous marriages.

The arrival of Lily's grandparents will certainly have an impact on her too.  Have they even met her? Why doesn't Neil ever mention his parents.  It sounds as if their relationship is strained.

Bethany will be back in August

Bad girl Bethany Bryant, played by Chrishell Stause, will be back on screen next month. Stause, the real-life girlfriend of Justin Hartley (Adam Newman) wrote on Twitter that she is "filming some great Y&R stuff soon so look for her( Bethany) back in August." 

Well fans, what do you think about the imminent return of Bethany?  Are you pleased that she'll be returning.  Let me know by responding to the poll at the end of this posting.

BREAKING NEWS . . . Michael Graziadei returning as Daniel Romalotti

Entertainment Weekly reports that Michael Graziadei is reprising his role as Daniel Romalotti on The Young and the Restless but only on a limited basis.  His first screen appearance will occur on August 25, 2016 on CBS and August 24, 2016 on Global TV in Canada.  His return coincides with Y&R's 11,000th episode on September 1, 2016 (August 31st on Global).  There is little doubt that the show has something special planned to mark the occasion.  Don't be surprised if some other Y&R performers from the past show up.  

Even though Michael's return is just temporary, his fans will be pleased to see him in Genoa City again.  He left Y&R in 2013 and has since been busy with other acting roles.  He starred as Kyle Walker in the Lifetime drama series The Lottery and currently has a recurring role on the Amazon series Good Girls Revolt.

Daniel Romalotti's return to Genoa City should send some sparks flying.  He's been living in Georgia for a while and has no idea about what's been going on in the life of his mother, Phyllis, (Gina Tognoni).  How will he react when he finds out about her relationship with her brother-in-law, Billy Abbot and her betrayal of her husband Jack?  Will he be upset about his sister Summer's smarmy boyfriend, Luca?  What about Daniel's own life?  Is he still with Heather, the lawyer daughter of Paul Williams, or have they broken up?  Remember too that he was once married to Lily Winters Ashby.  

Daniel is also going to come face to face with Mariah, who looks exactly like her twin sister, Cassie. Romalotti played a role in young Cassie's death.  Seeing Mariah is bound to upset him. How will he interact with her?  His scenes with Mariah will certainly be emotional for him and unsettling for Mariah.

Are the writers bringing back Daniel for a a specific nnurpose?  If so, there should be a great deal of intrigue.  I'm looking forward to it


Nick Newman giving advice and encouragement to his daughter Summer:

NICK:  Take care of yourself.  Trust your instincts.  And never ever forget you're not a snowflake.  You're Supergirl.


Are you pleased that Bethany (Chrishell Stause) is returning in August?

Yes. She's a troublemaker and it's fun the way she stirs thing up.
Yes. She's a good actress.
No. She's not a good actress and her character is just a bimbo.
No. She hasn't made much of an impression on me and the show can easily do without her.
I don't care much one way or the other.
Please Specify:
Quiz Maker

That's all for now.  Don't forget that the next edition of Y&R Report will appear in this space on Saturday, July 23, 2016.

- Joanne