FLASHBACK! True Stories From Famous People

When I was a dorky teenager, I was sort of thrust into the spotlight by Stand By Me and Star Trek.

I've written before about how weird the whole thing was, and how uncomfortable a lot of the attention made me, but it wasn't all bad; I got to do some cool things, and meet some cool people as a result.

Being a cable TV subscriber in the 80s meant that I watched a lot of Nickelodeon, so I was a fan of You Can't Do That On Television, Double Dare, Mister Wizard's World, The Third Eye, Dangermouse, and getting slimed. Because I was a kid, and because I was on TV, I was invited to lots of Nickelodeon events over the years, where I got to meet a lot of the people I'd seen on Nick (never got to meet Moose from YCDTOT, though, which was a bummer).

Once, I even got to host the Kids Choice Awards, where I met Bobby "The Brain" Heenan (Weasel! Weasel! Weasel!) and Debbie Gibson (I still get lost in her eyes, though it was painfully easy for her to shake my love.)

I really liked the people who worked at Nickelodeon, and I guess they liked me, too, because I was always getting invited to participate in things like this, which appears to have been filmed when I was 14, or right after I turned 15:

That's even more embarrassing than my Complete Dork Who Loves Batman picture (which was probably taken 6 to 12 months after this video was shot), because I am such a dork, bordering on obnoxiousness. 30 year-old me would have wanted to kick 14 or 15 year-old me in the nuts if he had seen that, but almost 38 year-old me is willing to give that kid a break; he was so excited just to be there, and he was such an awkward nerd, he really was doing the best he could.

Doing these things was so much fun, and I genuinely loved it at the time, though I really took for granted that I'd always be asked to do them. Over the years, as I faded from view and struggled, I regretted that I didn't appreciate them more (though I don't think I was capable of fully appreciating them at the time, being fourteen and fifteen and all) … so when things happen to me now, like getting to watch a private concert by the Barenaked Ladies from about 10 feet away – where Ed Robertson fucking namechecks me in a song – you can bet your Vorpal Sword I take a moment to be grateful, and take nothing for granted.

(Thanks to Joshua C who e-mailed the link)

100 thoughts on “FLASHBACK! True Stories From Famous People”

  1. Not having cable growing up, I still loved “You Can’t Do That on Television.” If I ever went to someone’s house who did have cable, I would begin an unyielding struggle to convince my host to watch it with me. That turned out to be a suboptimal social strategy.
    However, not having cable also meant PBS was one of five channels available and around 530pm there was this little show called Doctor Who that was a rather obvious choice against competition like PM Magazine and Jeopardy.
    One of my sister’s friends had cable but still watched Doctor Who. She also told tales of a science fiction program on Nickelodeon called Tomorrow People. I remember wanted to watch that, but never being able to.
    Speaking as a 38 year old, those videos look dated, but not at all dorky. They just look like something on a kids show. Also you got some pretty good associated with Lando (yes, I know, the actor who played Lando, but I’m going to pretend that the association is with Lando).
    One day I’m going to be rich and I’m going to buy Disneyland too… but I’ll be too old and ornery to enjoy it.

  2. O.M.G. I loved YCDTOTV. I thought Moose was the bee’s knees. And Danger Mouse! I haven’t thought about Danger Mouse for 25 years lol. Thanks Wil! See you at PAX! Why am I using so many !’s?!

  3. Wil, 14/15-year-old me is jealous at how comfortable and funny you come off on camera. I would have been much, much dorkier on camera.
    And you list Pee Wee Herman and Gumby as heroes! How freakin’ cool is that?

  4. 13- or 14-year-old me had the hugest crush on you. You were even cooler than Kirk Cameron and almost as awesome as Michael J. Fox. And you’ve only gotten better.
    I endorse the compound telescope as a Father’s Day present idea.

  5. I don’t think that’s anything to be embarrassed about! It always takes someone else to tell you that though, as I know from experience. (They just shouldn’t let eight-yr olds on tv, that was a decade of shame and regret I had to endure!)
    As soon as I invent time travel I’m gonna head back and steal your virginity. Is that creepy? It sounds quite creepy, now that I write it. Let’s rephrase that. You were / are super cute.

  6. Look how cute, I just wanna pat little teenage Wil on his head! That really took me back. I used to LOVE watching Nickelodeon, especially YCDTOT. It’s weird, I even remember seeing those clips. I was a latch-key kid, so I’d come home from school & park myself in front of Nickelodeon for HOURS. Even when they’d play all the old reruns of Dennis the Menace (before the creation of Nick At Nite), I’d be watching it.
    I tried every year to win that damned Toys R Us shopping spree & when I watched the kid who did win it, I’d be shouting at the screen how dumb they were for filling their carts up with stuffed animals.
    Nick-nick-nick-nick-na-nick-nick-nick Nickelodeon!

  7. Aw, that wasn’t nearly as bad as the batman promo poster. What a cute kid you were.
    I also watched the crap out of Nickelodeon way back in the day, but also loved things like “Are you Afraid of the Dark” and “Roundhouse.” Awesome stuff.
    38 welcomes you with open arms, which is better than a kick in the pants, right? I’m hoping Thursday is the day this little one gives me my body back, but my friends have bets on all sorts of other days… we shall see. These things already have a mind of their own! Can you believe it? I will be back to let you all know.

  8. Oh, man, I had/have the most MASSIVE crush on Daphne Zuniga. But there’s no way I’m watching One Tree Hill just to see her. :)
    Very funny clip, thanks for sharing.

  9. Wow, those spots bring back some memories!
    You can see the man in the teenager, that’s for sure. Wil, you’re just adorable. I can see how it could ache a bit to revisit oneself at that age – I’m forever grateful there’s no such video of me! I always thought you were one of the coolest TV kids ever and now you’re one of the coolest TV people of any age.

  10. You know what’s neat, Wil, is that your basic “beat”, the timing that you use to deliver a line, hasn’t changed since Those Days. It’s more refined, it sure as heck is more professional, but the basic rhythmic structure is still pretty much the same. Even the facial expressions you used in Eureka can be seen in those clips.
    I think that that’s a Good Thing.
    You make whatever role you’re taking, be it Wesley Crusher, Dr. Isaac Parrish on Eureka or, Boy Star on Nickelodeon, YOUR role. You own it.
    Well done, young (*snort*) Jedi!

  11. Were the YCDTOTV hosts ever at Nickelodeon events? If not, that might explain why you never got to meet Moose. YCDTOTV was a Canadian production that came out of (I think) the Ottawa area before being picked up by other networks. I certainly recall it being part of my very Canadian upbringing, aired later in the 80s on YTV. It’s amazing how vividly I still remember that show.

  12. Wil, one of the things I love about Stephen Colbert is that he has used his current fame to do all sorts of really cool stuff. He did a Christmas special with Elvis Costello! Every time I see him singing a song with some famous performer or flirting with Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda or having a species of spider named after him, I think “there’s a guy who is using his fame in a really cool way”. Your stuff with Nickelodeon back in your early teens is in the same book to me.

  13. what good memories this brings back! You talk about your growing up memories of being a fan of shows like You Can’t Do That On Television, Double Dare, Mister Wizard’s do you find it weird that to many of us YOU are included as a big part of our growing up memories!

  14. As a European I can’t share your memories so I have to ask who the others are (except Billy Dee Williams).
    I wouldn’t feel so about about this, you clearly had the most sensible hair of all those featured, with the possible exception of Billy Dee Williams. πŸ˜‰
    Did you meet the others in this clip on set or were they shot separately?

  15. You’re welcome for the most excellent You Can’t Do That On Television and all the green slime it delivered, btw.
    Canada <3

  16. That’s how you feel now. During the 80’s there was a different person answering by your name. Certainly, you were not alone in those days: Batman was “in” (put the blame on Frank Miller) e a lot of grown-up Trekkies/Trekkers envied you. I remember reading your interview to Starlog before TNG 1st season’s finale and thinking that you were the Trekkies-Trekkers-Nerds perfect choice to the role, cause you were one of us. Unfortunately, I always had the feeling that the “Wesley” role could be better used by the series’ scriptwriters, adding a little mystery to his origin.

  17. Wil, 9-10 year old me found you hugely inspiring and VERY handsome. You were awesome then, and you’re awesome now, and everytime you’re on the Big Bang Theory, I’m torn between petting poor Sheldon and hugging you for winning so hard!
    Ahem, yes. I should stop now, before I get geek all over you, and we all know how hard THAT is to get out.

  18. Aaaannnnd – just like that, we know what to suggest the family get you for your next birthday ;>. Of course, we’ll have to make that suggestion here – so you have to promise to tell them :>.
    I remember Nick – tho I was a college student, so the memory is kind of blurry ;’>

  19. would you stop being so hard on past you, please? i feel sorry for him if you beat him up so. what’s with all the aggression (you positively seem to HATE past you about that batman-cap-picture)? come on, man, don’t be a dick!

  20. rereading my comment: it came out all wrong, sorry. what i meant to convey: you’re awesome now, you were adorable then. don’t trash yourself for being a teenager, i don’t know anyone worth knowing who wasn’t akward at that age.

  21. Can anyone tell me who the woman at :55 is? I know her face but don’t know why & it’s driving me nuts! Thanks, guys, especially Wil for posting this.

  22. I was in Puerto Rico as a nanny (in 1987-1991) when I would watch Nickelodeon with the two boys. They learned English watching American tv on cable. Oh yeah I was also one of your members from you Wil Wheaton fan club that your mom ran when I was in Puerto Rico and when I moved back to the US. I wish I hadn’t lost my WIL POWER fan club T-Shirt when I moved! I loved that shirt! I became a fan when you were in Stand By Me and then I was watching all of the other movies you were in on VHS and on HBO, CINEMAX and Disney. I also watched Star Trek until you left then I stopped. The boys and I only watched because of you and when you left…they said “Where’s Wesley?” That Nickelodeon video brought back memories. BTW my friend lit’l Bit wishes you would follow her so she could tweet you. (Her user name is litlbit2001)

  23. Ha. You totally sent me that batman picture when I wrote asking for an autograph in the late 80s. I thought it was awesome because I was obsessed with the Keaton batman movies (still have a T shirt from then, it’s old enough to by beer now) and you were my hollywood fangirl crush of the moment. Two great things that went great together, I thought.
    I still had it up until about two years ago when I freak plumbing accident forced me to throw out two whole boxes of oddball childhood memorabilia of a paper variety. There was a lot of cool stuff in that box. I has a sad. :(

  24. I don’t know where my post went but I was a member of the Wil Wheaton Fan Club your mom ran and still have all of the newsletters and etc. I’m only missing my WIL POWER T-Shirt I lost when I moved. I was in Puerto Rico as a nanny from 1987-1991. I remember I never got my T-Shirt and I had moved back to the US and your mom finally sent me the T-Shirt. I loved that T-Shirt. I also became a fan when I saw you in Stand By Me in 1987 on Showtime when we were at the grandma’s house, then later it came on HBO or Cinemax and I watched it with the two boys I took care of. Because of american TV they now speak both spanish and english. My friend litlbit2001 has a twitter and follows you. I saw alot of your movies on VHS and on the premium channels when I lived in Puerto Rico. I also followed you when you played Wesley. I stopped watching when you left. The two boys were sad when you left the show, but were happy to watch you in the movies I let them watch. Remember THE CURSE. So yeah I still have all of those newsletters and all of the stuff I collected of you. I can’t seem to want to throw it all away. Sorry for the double post. BTW the kids loved Nickelodeon and would beg me to turn it on for them. They loved all of the shows and were also introduced to Jerry O’Connell when they showed MY SECRET IDENTITY on sundays. They loved that show as much as I did.

  25. From what I hear, you were going to buy one, then you saw this hot girl who had spilled wine on her mother’s dress, and you…
    Oh wait, that was someone else.

  26. I just posted on my blog a thought I’d been fermenting for a while. I still didn’t get it quite right, but I think it resonates to this post. Brief clip, without all the personal rambling πŸ˜‰ …
    “A while back I was pondering this. Why do I, and so many other people, love geeks?
    “And I came up with this answer: to be a geek, you have to love something so much and so honestly that you pursue or “fan” or talk about or geek out about this thing–depsite *knowing* that this thing is a thing that is considered a social fail, by all the people who “matter.” And the emotional and intellectual honesty is irresistible in this world of political and media and educational lies and slick marketing. Not only irresistible, but clearly a vital and saving counter-force.”
    * * * * *
    Give Younger Will a break ;). Part of the reason he was lovable was because he was a geek. None of us (and probably not you either, if you really dig deep about it) would have preferred him to be one of the guys who always knew exactly what would be “cool” to say, “cool” to dress in, “cool” to do.
    You just loved life a little more honestly than society is comfortable with. You win. (And so, so did the rest of us. A little more win all the time :).)

  27. Oh man, they don’t make Nickelodeon they way they used to! I loved Mr. Wizard…always wanted to go off and do his experiments. I specifically remember doing the door one that involved something like holding your arms straight out in a door frame, then moving on watching your arms go up “on their own.” I think I had fantasies about picking the flag out of the nose on Double Dare.
    If anyone hasn’t seen the Double Dare gem regarding “The Boat,” you should watch this now:
    I miss Harvey, and Marc Summers is the man.
    For every one of you (Wil) saying to yourself “wow, I was such a ‘dweeb’ back then, what was I thinking?”, there are many more of us thinking “that person back then was alot like us, I wasn’t the only person decked out in acid-wash denim wishing to be slimed…how awesome!”
    I had forgotten about those spots until you posted the link, and now they are trickling back into memory…so thanks for that!

  28. I too have been getting blank stares for years. My favorite line is from Penfold when the Chief is about to get enveloped by a strange fog, at which point Penfold says, “Caw! He will surely be missed.” I typically hate pun humor, but this line struck a cord with me for reasons that I can’t explain.

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