Property Grunt

Friday, June 16, 2006

Save Screech

Dustin "Screech" Diamond of Save by the Bell is in danger of losing his home to foreclosure.

The bell may not save him this time
'Screech Powers' could lose his home
Posted: June 14, 2006
On the front porch of the Port Washington home he may be thrown out of, the actor Dustin Diamond tried Wednesday to calculate how his kitsch celebrity might stave off a foreclosure.


Millions could remember him from his role as the geeky Screech on the early '90s sitcom "Saved by the Bell," and its perpetual syndication. Close to 100,000 computers had logged onto his Web site at within a few hours of his Tuesday morning appearance on Howard Stern's satellite radio show. Diamond figured that selling 30,000 T-shirts to save his gray, two-story suburban home might be within reason.

"If the public didn't care, I as an entertainer wouldn't have been a success," he said.

Personal issues in adulthood have become commonplace for former child actors. But Diamond, who was 12 when the Saturday-morning sitcom first aired on NBC, boasts that he doesn't drink or use drugs, has never been arrested and has only two traffic tickets in his life.

"I'm the poster child for everything child stars aren't," he said, allowing one caveat: money problems.

Diamond, 29, faces losing the home under a foreclosure order filed in Ozaukee County Circuit Court on May 4. It demands that he kick up the remaining $250,000 he owes under a land contract, which Diamond said was one of the few options available for him in 2003 because of a bad credit record, which includes a 2001 bankruptcy filing in California.

A land contract is a contract between a landowner and a buyer, in which the buyer agrees to make an initial payment and regular subsequent payments until the purchase price is paid. No loan or mortgage is involved.

He claims he kept up on the $2,400 monthly payments.

The landowner's attorney couldn't be reached for comment.

Diamond called the situation "an injustice that could happen to anyone" and his $15 T-shirt "a potential cult classic" for an audience he thinks will give him the kind of money his career hasn't.

"I just don't get paid $250,000 in 30 days," said Diamond, who said his savings have been drained over the years.

"It's not retirement money, OK? It's supersize-it money, if anything."

'Definitely a low point'
He works as a ribald stand-up comedian now - asked to tell a joke to a television reporter, he demurred, claiming he didn't have anything appropriate - and said he gets enough work from it to stay on the road virtually the whole year.

"I'm doing great with my comedy, but this is definitely a low point," Diamond said. "Real life comes in and affects you."

There have been, he said, other issues, including a failed 2005 pregnancy by his girlfriend, Jennifer Misner, that left the couple with high medical bills. A pending small-claims suit in Ozaukee County alleges that Diamond and Misner owe $800 in landscaping bills, which Diamond claimed in a court filing came from a contract signed in 2004 without his knowledge by an ex-girlfriend. He wrote that they went through "a very ugly breakup" that November.

The ex-girlfriend, Beth Musolff, said news of the foreclosure didn't surprise her.

"He doesn't handle money very well," Musolff said.

And then there's his career.

Diamond's acting roles have been sporadic since "Saved by the Bell" went off - and will be even more sporadic if roles as Samuel "Screech" Powers in reunion specials and spinoffs are tossed out.

He is cagey about giving specific information about both his current income and the home, which he declined to allow reporters into. On the 2001 bankruptcy filing, he listed his employer as NBC and his take-home income, at the time, as about $5,300 a month.

The active run of "Saved by the Bell" happened before Diamond turned 18, and he said that problems with both his parents spending his money, and substantial tax miscalculations, left him in a hole as a young adult.

Now, he says, he has reconciled with his father, owes money only for his home and car, and needs mainly to find a way out of foreclosure to move on with life. His best plan for it, he said, is the $15 T-shirt, on which a disheveled Diamond is pictured, as he described it, "in the Wisconsin woodlands in front of a shack," holding a "Save My House" sign.

The back reads "I paid $15.00 to save Screeech's house," with the third "e" added, he said, to offer at least a technical separation between the fund-raising shirt from the "Screech Powers" character on a copyrighted show.

"I think there's a lot of people who think it's funny," Diamond said. "It's not a hoax. I wouldn't draw this kind of attention to myself for nothing."

Yes. I used to watch Save by the Bell. And yes, I lusted after Tiffany Amber Thissen. And yes, I did watch Showgirls. It is the same old story when it comes to entertainers but it just goes to show they are just as vulberable as all of us.