Today brings word that Dustin Diamond, the actor who will forever be known as Screech from Saved by the Bell, will serve four months in jail for a barroom stabbing in Wisconsin.
This news, and the fact that the incident took place in Wisconsin, calls to mind Diamond's bad behavior in Denver — bad enough to get a fledgling television network to cancel an entire telethon for his benefit.
The network in question was ManiaTV!, an ambitious Internet television venture founded by Drew Massey, who told us in 2005, "We're shooting to be the Viacom of the Internet."
It didn't work out that way. The operation relocated from Denver to Los Angeles in 2008, and by the following year, it was dead. But along the way, ManiaTV! built programming around celebrities a ways (sometimes a long ways) from the A-list, including comedian Tom Green and Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro.
In Diamond's case, ManiaTV! offered to sponsor a five-hour telethon circa August 2006 in which he'd star. The recipient of the proceeds: him. As we wrote, he said his home in Wisconsin was facing foreclosure, and the money was intended to prevent him from losing his crib.
But just ninety minutes before the telethon was scheduled to start, ManiaTV! vice president Richard Ayoub pulled the plug. Why?
"We didn't want to take the risk," ManiaTV! spokesman Jason Damata told us at the time. "We couldn't verify that his house is in foreclosure, and even if there are facts to substantiate that it is and he's really, honestly trying to save his house, he exhibited some really strange and obnoxious behavior."
For further explanation, here's an excerpt from our piece:
As Damata tells it, in the week or two before the big day, Diamond seemed legitimately excited about the telethon, and eagerly accepted ManiaTV!'s offer to fly him to Denver along with a companion, Jennifer, whom he introduced as his manager and fiancée (in at least one article, she's referred to as his wife). But Diamond's tone was much more negative after he arrived in town, even though he was generating headlines for the first time in recent memory. (On August 10, USA Today and other newspapers reported that Diamond had gotten into a mini-brawl with a woman who he claimed had broken into his hotel room in Omaha and tried to swipe some of his video games.) Things deteriorated further on Monday, the morning of the telethon, when Diamond was slated to conduct more than a dozen interviews that ManiaTV! had arranged with radio stations around the country. While Diamond participated in the chats, the ManiaTV! rep who moderated the conversations told Damata that the Screecher didn't seem comfortable talking about the fundraiser or even the "Save My House" crusade, which he'd previously pimped on Howard Stern's show and elsewhere.We're guessing the guy Diamond stabbed feels the same way. Diamond, for his part, reportedly dodged even worse punishment than he's getting when a jury found him guilty of carrying a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct rather than a felony.
And afterward, Damata says, Diamond "acted like a complete jerk," which prompted Ayoub to pull Jennifer aside for a conversation — and her comments made him wonder if the main thing in danger of foreclosure was ManiaTV!'s reputation. "We're really trying to develop trust," Damata notes, "and if we're perceived by our audience as being involved in something that was just a publicity stunt, it might be more hurtful than helpful."
Diamond and Jennifer were very upset when they learned that the telethon had been yanked, Damata continues, and they proceeded to run up a $700 bill at the Adam's Mark hotel on ManiaTV!'s tab. Meanwhile, ManiaTV! announced the programming change by placing a "CANCELLED" banner across Diamond's photo on its website, www.maniatv.com, and adding the phrase "Screech Sucks."
Below, see two videos: a report shortly after his arrest from the TV outlet TMJ4 and a clip compilation appropriately entitled "The Sad Evolution of Screech."
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.