In 2009, Dustin Diamond published a tell-all book about Saved by the Bell. Behind the Bell was touted as the book that would give you all the juicy gossip behind the scenes and drop bombshells about what the cast was really like. In the end, the book actually damaged Dustin Diamond’s reputation and left most of his former cast mates refusing to speak to him or even appear publicly with him.
Diamond’s since went into full damage control, claiming that an unnamed and unspecified ghost writer wrote the entire thing and filled it with lies. He’s attempted to reconcile with the cast, and some, such as Dennis Haskins and Mario Lopez, seem to have accepted his apology. Others have not been so eager. He was even snubbed from the Jimmy Fallon skit.
I don’t believe Diamond for a second. I think he’s full of shit and thought that throwing his former cast mates under the bus would somehow jump start his career. After all, he was on The Howard Stern Show just before the release of the book bragging about his supposed truth bombs. I think when the entire project bit him in the ass, he suddenly realized he had to backpedal, and has been trying to resurrect his reputation ever since.
Naturally, the book is out of print, but I obtained a copy and decided to read it all the way through in order to tell you guys what I thought. Is the book as bad as critics claim? Let’s find out!
The introduction is basically a few pages of Dustin Diamond talking about how shitty Hollywood is. He does take a moment to trash a former cast mate for the first time, in this case Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, saying Hollywood turned her into a whore. This sort of character assassination posing as gossip is a running theme of this book, as we’ll see.
Part 1: The Beginning
Dustin Diamond claims within the first part that he’s not trying to paint a woe is me portrait of his life on the Saved by the Bell set, but he sure does seem that way. What this section taught me is that he has no clue the meaning of the phrase, “If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.” The entire section is basically about how almost everyone in Dustin Diamond’s life was a meanie pants who wouldn’t let him play with the cool kids.
And, ironically, his reason for not liking many of them is because they acted like kids. Fred Savage once did something kid like on The Wonder Years, so he’s an asshole. Neil Patrick Harris had an ego like a kid who’s starring in one of television’s hottest shows. Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Tiffani-Amber Thiessen thought they were all great because the fans loved them. Really, he just goes on and on about how everybody was jerks.
Well, almost everybody. He seems to have been in love with Hayley Mills. And Brandon Tartikoff kissed his ass so he was okay with him. He seems to like Dennis Haskins even though he talks shit about his ability to get women. And he has sympathy for Lark Voorhies because he seems to think she was raped or abused or something.
Dustin Diamond is also a petty, petty man. He dedicates entire sections to hammering out old, petty grievances with each of the cast members, although much of his vitriol is directed at Mark-Paul. They each did him wrong so he’s going to get them back, including talking about a rape Mario Lopez supposedly committed and then NBC covered up, which makes me wonder why Mario’s not suing Dustin Diamond for libel instead of inviting him on Extra.
And the jealous talk about sex. To hear Dustin Diamond talk, everyone was fucking everyone except him, and isn’t it just too god damned bad he was left out. As if that’s enough, his section on Elizabeth Berkley is basically devoted to how she saw a picture of his penis once and how he got to see her naked long before Showgirls.
Remarkably, for a section called “The Beginning,” there is very little information on Dustin Diamond’s life before Saved by the Bell. What little he does give seems to be designed to paint himself in a good light as a kid who started from the bottom, unlike all those other child actors who…started from the bottom I guess. He seems really in a hurry to trash his co-stars, so he doesn’t give much background.
Chronological errors in this section:
- Dustin Diamond places the release of Showgirls in 1995, but says Elizabeth Berkley was still on the cast of Saved by the Bell after its release. He seems oblivious to the fact that The New Class was getting ready to start its third season by that point and Berkley left Saved by the Bell in 1992. Thus, everything he says about the reaction to Showgirls is a fucking lie.
- He tries to insinuate Ed Alonzo and Neil Patrick Harris were fucking around. Neil Patrick Harris says this is years before he even knew Ed Alonzo.
His memory of Anthony Harrell’s siblings appearing on The New Class also doesn’t seem to be accurate as he claims they were playing a band that had just lost its singer and Eric filled in. In reality, Harrell’s siblings were playing Eric’s siblings.
Why is Dustin Diamond talking about Anthony Harrell in this section you ask? Because it’s Dustin Diamond and he can’t go two pages without a completely unrelated tangent. He’s just that horrible a writer.
Part II: How the Magic Happened—A Week in the Life of SBTB
This may end up being my favorite section of the book as it’s one of the few where I can actually believe half the shit Dustin Diamond says. As the title would suggest, Dustin Diamond takes you through the work week and explains what it was like to work for a television show. It’s actually quite fascinating and I quite enjoyed picturing what it must be like to be a star week in and out.
Mind you, that doesn’t mean it’s all good. He takes the time to give more subtle jabs at Mario Lopez, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, Fred Savage, and Neil Patrick Harris. Oddly enough, after accusing them all of being assholes for doing stupid shit, he brags about peeing in an extra’s purse and putting a bottle of Ex-lax in a member of the crew’s drink–or, more precisely, his drink he knew the crew member would steal.
Interesting enough, Diamond claims that “Slater’s Friend” is the least-aired episode of the series. He says even all the cast and he were unable to shoot the episode without laughing every few minutes because it was so ridiculous. I get the out of season episodes are bad, but I didn’t think “Slater’s Friend” was worse than, say, “Screech’s Birthday” or “The Babysitters.”
And it wouldn’t be Dustin Diamond if he weren’t bragging about his prowess with the ladies which, at this point, is beginning to just sound pathetic. He brags about getting audience members and extras to do shit with him and then tries to justify why he’s not a loser at it like Mario Lopez. How noble of him.
In the end, the theme of this section is, “Look, ma, I’m a real actor and all professional like and shit!”
Part III: Famous as Shit
So we went from the best part of the book to the worst. I swear to god, part three spends a large chunk of its time talking about girls Dustin Diamond has fucked. Like seriously, he keeps referring to his penis as a monster and talking in the most sexist terms possible about how much he enjoyed fucking all these girls. Seriously, all the shit he talks about regarding other people, and he brags about picking up foreign girls at Disneyland who recognize him from Saved by the Bell and fucking them.
I feel dirty.
On top of that, he’s turning out to be one of the most sexist guys I’ve ever encountered. Seriously, these girls were nothing but props to him, living, breathing sex dolls, and he has the gall to talk smack about Mark-Paul and Mario fucking around. Seriously, does he have no semblance of measure? He’s making himself out to be such a fucking asshole I don’t even have words.
Perhaps the chapter in this section that nauseated me more than any was him bragging about an affair with Linda Mancuso, who was VP of children’s programming at NBC. You can tell he’s doing his damndest to try to write an erotic account of his time with her, but it just comes off like someone who has no clue what sex or romance is. What’s worse, Mancuso died in 2003, so there’s no way she can defend herself against Dustin Diamond’s bullshit.
His timeline is completely off for his relationship with Mancuso as well. He claims he was fucking her while Saved by the Bell was still going on, but then he says he got his driver’s license shortly before he had sex with her for the first time. If he was eleven when Good Morning, Miss Bliss started, Dustin Diamond would not have turned sixteen until either The College Years or the second season of The New Class.
But, seriously, he wants you to think he fucked all kinds of extras and an executive at NBC.
There’s also a chapter about how he was pissed that Tiffani-Amber Thiessen went to Paris with Mark-Paul instead of him (boo hoo) and one about a violent stalker who tried to set his house on fire, forcing him to move in with the Thiessen family for protection. Perhaps the most bizarre, and infuriating, chapter was a random account of his misadventures with cats and how he seriously brags that he shot his neighbor’s cat with a BB gun to scare it away from messing with his cats. I really have no idea what it had to do with anything else in the book at all other than to further illustrate how fucked up Dustin Diamond is.
By the time I got to the second to last chapter, I was seriously wondering why I was now reading Dustin Diamond brag about all the celebrities he’s met. No, really, that’s the entirety of the second to last chapter. But there are no words for the final chapter, his account of how an extra used him and tried to blackmail him and sue NBC.
Like the previous sections, there are random tangents that have nothing to do with anything, like Mark-Paul urinating in public and Sidney Sharron, the set teacher, having to get him out of it when a police officer witnessed it, and Dustin Diamond’s history with marijuana. There’s also a bizarre account of him getting drunk the night before a promotional appearance in South Carolina and claiming that it was such a disaster the local affiliate dropped Saved by the Bell after that. I need proof of this story actually happening since I find it hard to believe that wouldn’t have made the tabloids.
This section should have been titled, “Hey, guys, I’m cool! Please believe me! I’m cool!” I feel a little sick to my stomach after reading it, and it was the longest section in the book. Dustin Diamond claims everyone else were such huge jerks. Maybe they were. But he’s the biggest of them all and dares to point fingers when all fingers should be pointing at him.
Part IV: The Denouncement
This is a weird section. Diamond has the expected, obligatory chapters on The College Years and The New Class. Yet he talks very little about those shows in their respective chapters. In fact, he really only gives two brief vignettes from The College Years before going off on a tangent about Mark-Paul injuring himself while training for Circus of the Stars and then giving his own woe-is-me story about how he got injured playing at a concert.
There’s no real analysis of why The College Years failed other than Drew Carey and some critics hated it and how pissed off Diamond was that Tiffani-Amber wiggled her way into it. What’s worse, the entire last part of that chapter is all about the final season of the original Saved by the Bell. Yeah, Diamond can’t even stay on topic for a chapter. He talks about the graduation episode and the Tori episodes and continue spewing bullshit about his imaginary timeline for Showgirls. Not only that, he claims Tiffani-Amber joined the cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 immediately after she quit Saved by the Bell, apparently forgetting he was just fucking complaining about her joining The College Years!
He also talks a bit about Wedding in Las Vegas so he can take the opportunity to brag about fucking a Vegas showgirl, the classy guy he is, and accuses Mark-Paul of taking steroids during The College Years. As if that’s not enough, he randomly decides to talk about how Tori Spelling had no boobs in those years and wanted to fuck Mark-Paul, apparently jealous she didn’t want him in real life.
For The New Class, he mostly complains that Brett Dewey was purposely making homoerotic scenes for Mr. Belding and Screech while getting dates very wrong. For instance, he claims that Richard Lee Jackson replaced Robert Sutherland Telfer for season two, even when a photo in his own book clearly shows Christian Oliver in the blonde lead role for the second season. He also claims he grew his hair out into a curly Afro during the final season to divorce himself from the Screech character, even though that was seasons four and five and he was back to short hair for seasons six and seven.
Yeah, he claims that he grew his hair out and did the horrible Screech voice because he thought that would allow future casting directors to separate Dustin Diamond from Screech and not typecast him. He must have been a fucking moron if he really thought that.
He doesn’t get very much into his post-The New Class career. He devotes a chapter to complaining that Hollywood screwed him over because the live action Scooby-Doo movie was his idea and he wanted to play Shaggy and fuck Matthew Lillard and all that shit. He talks about doing stand-up on the college circuit and about how he moved to Wisconsin. He waxes poetic about his messed-up childhood and reveals that his parents squandered most of his money; as a result, he’s not on speaking terms with his father. And he talks about his reality show days, claiming he’s not really an asshole, but it was another role he was playing.
Perhaps the most hypocritical part of the book, though, is when Dustin Diamond complains about people labeling other people based on roles, like how Screech was a nerd. I say it’s hypocritical because he spends most of the book labeling his co-stars and other random celebrities who caught his ire. So, fuck you, Dustin Diamond. Fuck you.
After spending nearly three-hundred pages talking shit and whining, Dustin Diamond switches to philosopher in the last few pages and talks about how, despite everything, he misses playing Screech, but will fight anyone who talks shit to him. Yeah, I think that’s where some of your legal trouble has come from. In the end, it’s an attempt to justify some of the pretentiousness of the rest of the book, and falls completely flat.
One Amazon reviewer made the claim that this book is basically Dustin Diamond pleading with you, the reader, to think he’s cool. I’m tempted to agree, but I think it’s more than that. Imagine you walked into a bar and saw a drunk Dustin Diamond. You decide you want to speak to this guy who was on one of your favorite shows as a kid, and you ask him what it was like to do Saved by the Bell. This book is the drunken ramblings that follow as Diamond talks shit about everything that comes to his mind.
It’s not a book, really. I’ve read plenty of great biographies and memoirs. This is not one of them. It really has no cohesive structure, and can’t even be said to be chronological considering he seems to write this stream of thought, complete with confusing and boring tangents as well as enough sexism to make me think Dustin Diamond was taking cues from Bill Cosby.
The entire book is about how the cool kids didn’t let Dustin Diamond play with their toys, and now he, a man in his thirties at the time, is pissed and wants to get back at them. It comes off as a pathetic attempt to cash in on his washed-up celebrity status.
What’s worse, the book doesn’t seem to have been edited or even proofread before publication. There are horrible line breaks where there should be none, random repeats of paragraphs, and misspellings all over the place. The book is of such low quality I’m honestly surprised it got published.
This book makes me hate Dustin Diamond. I don’t believe for a second he didn’t write this, and he’s just such an asshole. His high profile run-ins with the law since publication of Behind the Bell seem to confirm this. In any case, I have no sympathy for him and the consequences of publishing this piece of trash. He made his bed. Now he’s sleeping in it.