They're Your Kids Not Your Clients

There should be a special place in hell reserved for stage parents. They should spend all eternity having to watch Hillary Clinton star as "Gypsy" and do her own singing.

The latest example of this unique form of child abuse is American Idol hopeful David Archuleta's overbearing father being banned from rehearsals. No wonder when little David has to speak he sounds like a whipped puppy. You would too if your dad was the Great Santini. It's hard enough to sing "Imagine" but when your dad is bouncing a basketball off your head during rehearsal it must really be tough.

Under the guise of "only wanting the best for their children" these parents drive their little meal tickets so hard that most wind up totally fucked up and the lucky few turn out like Brian Wilson . Social Services, please, take these kids away before they're cast in Annie!

If Michael Jackson didn't have the stage father from hell I'm sure he would have had a different life... and face.

You hear stories of toddlers standing in audition lines, 2 year olds wearing tiaras. Judy Garland was on diets and pills before she was old enough to smoke (seven).

A few years ago I went to an American Idol dress rehearsal and met the contestants in the make-up room. Diana DeGarmo had one of these hovering oppressive mothers. The AI staff member introduced me and mentioned some of my credits. All of the kids feigned giving a shit, politely said hello, and I left. Two minutes later Diana DeGarmo literally came sprinting down the hallway after me. She shook my hand, said what a pleasure it was to meet me, couldn't have been more effusive and bubbly. And as she was doing this all I kept thinking was, "I bet her mother said 'Diana, didn't you hear what they just said? He's a Hollywood PRODUCER. Get your ass out there and introduce yourself to that fucking idiot NOW!"

I felt so sorry for her. As I do for all those kids who have auditioned for me over the years.

Whenever there's a casting call, there they are -- little robots just out of school, nicely dressed, sitting obediently in a room while their stage parents read Variety, check their Blackberrys for callbacks, and scream at agents on their cellphones. Meanwhile, these kids' classmates are playing baseball, hanging out in the mall, ripping people on Facebook, drinking when no one's looking -- you know, normal healthy kid activities.

And sometimes when the choice is down to two and they're pretty equal I choose the one who I think would be screamed at the loudest if he didn't get the part.

And the "lucky" ones who get the roles don't get off too easy either.

I directed a few episodes of a series that featured a kid. He was a grizzled world-weary middle-aged man trapped inside the body of an eight-year-old. That was ten years ago. Today he's probably golfing with Henry Kissinger.

The loss of childhood is not worth becoming an American Idol or a New Mouseketeer. In the name of all that's decent and Natalie Wood, let your kids be kids. Let them have their own dreams.

Note to Mr. Archuleta: one loving father is worth more than 30,000,000 votes.

You can read more from Ken at kenlevine.blogspot.com