"He may not be a household name, but David Naughton has more accomplishments in his career
than some actors could ever dream of." -The Unofficial David Naughton Page
Recently, I've rediscovered a small chunk of my childhood. Among the many symbols that float in my memories of that time, is an actor who is under-appreciated, at best, but whose cult-classic status will live on for generations to come.
David Naughton was born on 13 February, 1951, in Hartford, Connecticut, USA. His older brother is stage and film actor James Naughton. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and later, studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.
David's first notable appearance was starring in the popular, late 1970's Dr. Pepper TV commercials. These ads were like short versions of the Hollywood musicals that were popular at that time, and featured a tremendously catchy theme song ("I'm a pepper, you're a pepper, he's a..." you get the point.)
In 1979, he starred in the TV series, Makin' It. This was, basically, a rip-off of the movie "Saturday Night Fever." However, David's recording of the show's theme song, oddly enough titled "Makin' It", went to #5 on the pop charts in July of 1979. The song appeared in the wildly popular film "Meatballs" later that year. "Makin' It", the single, sold over one million copies. The TV show, on the other hand, only lasted for two months.
In 1980 David got his first "major" film role. As graduate student Adam, in the "wacky college adventure" Midnight Madness, he joined a cast of eventual stars that includes Stephen Furst (Animal House;) Eddie Deezen (the quintessential movie nerd;) Debra Clinger (later to be David's wife;) Maggie Roswell (who does cartoon voices, and works with cartoonist Ralph Bakshi;) and a young Michael J. Fox (in his first big screen role!) This Disney film, one of their first PG-rated movies, also features a very early appearance of Paul Reubens (a.k.a. Pee-Wee Herman.)
Naughton gave his best-known performance as David Kessler in An American Werewolf in London. This 1981 black comedy, about a young American who gets attacked by a werewolf on the English moors, and consequently becomes a werewolf himself, was a tremendous hit with horror fans. The film won an Oscar that year for best special effects. David endured long hours in the make-up chair for what is still considered the most convincing lycanthropic transformation ever portrayed on film. American Werewolf still enjoys a cult following throughout the world.
David had supporting roles on a few films, including Hot Dog... The Movie, and an unsuccessful TV series, before catching a huge break in 1986 as the male lead in the TV sitcom My Sister Sam. The series, very popular in its first season, also starred Pam Dawber (best known as Mindy in TV's Mork and Mindy,) and the late Rebecca Schaeffer. Despite the show's apparent success, it was short-lived. The network moved the popular show to a different night. Fans did not follow, and the ratings suffered terribly.
In the 1990's, David starred in several lesser-known films, including Wild Cactus, and Overexposed. He also guest starred on an apparently memorable episode of the TV show Seinfeld, playing Elaine's co-worker, who heckles Jerry.
While he may not be considered a great actor, David Naughton has had a very successful career in film and television. He stands out in my mind as a symbol of the late 70's/early 80's, and a few of his works rank among my favorite memories. I can't remember ever mentioning An American Werewolf in London and getting a negative response. (Granted, the company dictates the conversation.) And what American child of the 70's, with the exception of the few whose babysitters were not televisions, doesn't remember "I'm a pepper, you're a pepper, he's a pepper, she's a pepper. Wouldn't you like to be a pepper, too?"
The Unofficial David Naughton Page
The Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)