Dustin Diamond is best known for his role as Screech in Saved By The Bell. Diamond is now working in several different jobs including a stand-up comedian, a bass player in a progressive rock band and as a chess player. Despite rumours to the contrary, he has no famous relatives, in particular Michael Diamond from the Beastie Boys.
Born in San Jose, California, on 7th January 1977, he was named Dustin Neil Diamond by his parents.
"I grew up in the Bay Area, San Jose. From there, I spread to Southern California, to the Orange County area. I never really lived in L.A. I don't like all the hubbub. I don't mind being close to the hubbub, but 45 miles is about close enough for me."
Whilst attending Zion Lutherian School in Anaheim, California, he began his life in the public eye by taking a job as a live mannequin in a shop. This was quickly followed by a role in a commercial for Giant Eagle Food Stores, a supermarket based on the east coast of America.
"I had one line. I said, "Busy." They said, "How does Giant Eagle Food Stores food taste to you?" And I look up and go, "Busy!" That was it."
Good Morning, Miss Bliss
An audition for the role of Samuel 'Screech' Powers in Good Morning, Miss Bliss, the debut of the characters later to star in popular family television show Saved By The Bell was next.
"Saved By The Bell is in syndication in over one hundred countries, airing as many as seven times a day, seven days a week, in some areas. With over four million people tuning in on Saturday morning. Receiving as many as five thousand fan letters a week, and with a built-in fan base of around five hundred million fans, Dustin has become an icon of society, as well as a household word among kids and adults alike.
From the Caissa Productions press release
Whilst auditioning for this role as Screech, who can easily be described as a geek, Diamond was still in the fifth grade at school. Looking back on the event, Diamond describes it as a unique experience in his life which started out as just another acting job until he kept getting called back to audition repeatedly for the role. Each time he was called back there were less and less people attending the audition.
"I started getting paired up with the same people again and again. It got more exciting and yet more stressful as time went on. Here I was, 11 years old, auditioning for a major series, and finally getting it after auditioning a number of times. I think I auditioned on six separate occasions, going in multiple times. It came down to two Zacks that they paired me up with, one with black hair and one with blond hair, of course that was Mark-Paul, who got the part. I went in with Mark-Paul numerous times, and they loved our chemistry together."
In the audition, they handed Diamond a piece of paper on which was written a description of the character Screech and his biographical details. Diamond then had to improvise the character's mannerism and reactions.
"Originally, they wanted Screech to be screeching in his voice all the time. They wanted him to talk really high-pitched all of the time. That's why they called him Screech. He made you feel like nails screeching on a chalkboard, to be around him. The bio said, "Extremely intelligent, lovable eccentric type, but not good socially." He had the nerdy qualities of wanting to be in the ant-farm club or whatever, all these other weird things.
Saved By The Bell
The series was so sucessful that follow up series were planned which followed the gang which comprised of
These were Saved By The Bell: The College Years and Saved By The Bell: The New Class with one off episodes on occassions.
The Decision To Leave
Diamond was thinking about leaving the series when Saved By The Bell: The College Years
had finished it's first, and only season. Saved By The Bell: The New Class
was just finishing it's first season
too, however the ratings for this show weren't too good. Despite having a character similar to Screech called Weasel
, the producers of The New Class
asked Diamond to star in the show as the assistant Mr Belding
, the School Principal
, giving Diamond a role which wasn't a child, but wasn't yet an adult. As he had played the role of Screech since he was 11 yeras old, this role was simple for Dustin.
"My initial reaction was to say no, which I did, and then they came back at me with a better figure. It's show business, and the business aspect is important, because everyone's gotta eat."
Due to Saved By The Bell, Screech became a household name, making Diamond recognised wherever he went. Four television series and two films later, he decided to leave the show, and the role behind.
Even though the shows ended in 2000, Diamond get recognised often for his role as Screech.
"Some days, I can go pretty much the whole day incognito, if I'm trying to. Other days, I can't walk two feet. I went to Disneyland, and I just got mobbed by kids and people and families. It was amazing. I've worn a full beard, glasses, a hat, a big jacket that covers all the way up my neck, walking away from someone 30 feet away, and they say, "Screech!" How do these people know?"
People who recognise him are usually shocked to see him, and having to sign autographs are a regular occurance, with him even having a request to autograph a baby on one occassion.
"People did grow up with my character and the rest of the characters for years, so people still get excited when they see me. Maybe I was responsible for someone laughing a lot during their prime years of being a kid. Between 10 and 20, I've met so many people who just said, "Oh, you cracked me up, you made me laugh every Saturday morning." We were the first live-action sitcom on Saturday morning.
Dustin Diamond has no famous relations depspite a rumour circulating that he is related to Michael Diamond from the Beastie Boys. This urban legend is due to them both having the same surname and that they both have very similar distinctive noses. This rumour has been denied many times and is false.
Diamond still receives fan mail from his days on Saved By The Bell, some of which in the past has been rather bizarre.
"I got a fly once. Someone sent me a dead fly, and they would send it every week, not the same one, I wouldn't send it back! I've gotten toenail clippings, I've gotten spray-painted rocks. Just weird stuff. I've gotten hair. I got a spider, and the person wrote in the letter that they hoped it was still alive, and if it was, they wanted me to send it back. Of course, it wasn't. I opened it up, and it was just a letter with a little smear in the corner that used to be Charlie the spider."
Life After Saved By The Bell
On 18th March 2000, Diamond made an appearance on Memphis Championship Wrestling. Whilst The Kat was being interviewed by Lance Russell, Diamond entered the wrestling ring to tell The Kat how much he admired her and showed her a tape of Saved By The Bell before asking her out on a date.
The Kat turned him down, but on the 25th March, he showed up again only to be invited into the ring by The Kat. She let him down very easily about the crush that he had on her, but wouldn't take no for an answer and chased her until other wrestlers, Chip Diver, The Fabulous Rocker, and Dannie B tried to stop him. After attacking Chip Diver with a piece of candy, Diamond was assaulted and was taken away from the ring on a stretcher.
In May the same year, Diamond made an apperance on Say What! Karaoke on MTV. After this, he changed the direction of his career again slightly when he started working as a stand-up comedian.
"I start out with the Screech stuff, because that's what everyone knows me as, and that's what everyone wants to see right away. I don't portray Screech on stage, but I talk about it, I talk about the show and the business, and then I start gradually expanding into things that I think are funny, just personal observations"
His routine can't be described as family entertainment, but it isn't intended to be. After he has satisfied the curiosity about his life as Screech, he gets on with the rest of his act.
The same year, he hit the headlines with news that the majority of the money that he had earned for his role in the Saved By The Bell series had been frittered away by his father who lived with him at the time.
"My parents went through my money and a lot of it was wasted. I made about $250,000 a year. I got 25 per cent of that until I turned 18... My dad used to teach electronics but he gave that up to drive me to auditions. I get a lot of, 'you should be grateful I gave up my career' comments... But 75 per cent of my money went out the window. My mother took some of the money too. She ran off and partied with it. My mom passed away in 1996 but my dad still lives with me. I'm on the borderline of kicking him out."
At the time, Diamond commented on his life by saying,
"I'm 23, I'm the longest-running geek in history. But I can't get a development deal to save my life."
However, the same year, he managed to get a small role in the film Made by Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau.
"In the scene I'm in, I'm playing myself. I walk with my girlfriend into a nightclub, and these guys are really ticked off because they can't get into the nightclub, but they'll let me in. They start shouting, "You're gonna let Screech in, but you're not gonna let us in?!"
Diamond also had a similar role in a film called You'll Never Wiez In This Town Again with Pauly Shore where he has a fleeting visit to a party.
At 25, despite being a child star, Diamond seemed to be the exception the rule. Unlike many other child stars, he has not fallen foul to the lure of drugs and crime, but instead picked up his life and carried on his journey. Having always liked playing chess, he made a video about it.
"Dustin Diamond Teaches Chess is the only video in existence that includes comedy and highly instructive content, as well as being the first chess video ever to be hosted by a world famous T.V. celebrity. Dustin Diamond Teaches Chess is a breakthrough in chess instruction for people of all ages. Dustin Diamond makes chess both easy and fun to learn. His comedy insures that it’s an entertaining experience, not a boring one. Where other chess videos are lacking, Diamond fills the gaps and brings chess to the average person. Watching Dustin’s video is so entertaining that it will destroy the notion that chess is a boring game."
From a Caissa Productions press release
Diamond himself is an avid player of chess and has done work for the U.S. Chess Federation to increase the awareness that people have about the game. His aim is to get chess accepted by average people by encouraging them to laugh as they learn.
Salty The Pocketknife
Another love of Diamond's is music. He plays the electric bass in a progressive rock band called Salty The Pocketknife who can be found on MP3.com.
Diamond started his life long love of music by learning to play the classical guitar, but due to his childhood acting career, he didn't have enough time to practise, but in 1994, he walked into a guitar shop and realized that he always paid attention to the bass when listening to music. He figured that as the bass has two strings less than a guitar that it should be easier to learn, so bought one and taught himself how to play it.
"I used to date Johnny Cash's granddaughter, and she's a fantastic songwriter and singer and guitarist. We used to play out together. I just started hanging out with some heavy cats then, heavy guys, and started listening and learning, soaking up as much knowledge as I could. That helped me grow as a musician and a person,some of these guys say some pretty deep stuff, and I guess at some point, I decided that I wanted to start a band that was like the music I listen to.
He listens to a wide variety of music such as Frank Zappa, Miles Davies, Joni Mitchell and Mr. Bungle, and is inspired by these influences when making music with his band.
"We're not saying, "We've got a TV celebrity in the band, so we're gonna make lots and lots of money!" We have to jump through the hoops all over again, but I don't mind that. I have faith in our ability and our music. I'd like to play music for the rest of my life and make my living doing music, and just do acting things here and there, much like what Henry Rollins does. If I could play music and make my living that way for the rest of my life, I think that's what I'd do."
Diamond now lives with his girlfriend of three years, Jennifer, in Orange County, California, USA.
Film and Television Credits