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Celebrity Slam - To Screech their own

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Anyone who follows Celebrity Slam with regularity knows that there are a few things that we particularly enjoy. We love Twitter beef – particularly when the beefers don’t necessarily make sense together. We love celebrity coupling and uncoupling, so that we can make up fancy portmanteaux and then deconstruct them. And we love a good old-fashioned “Don’t you know who I am?”

But we also like to occasionally use this space to pay tribute to those who have left us – particularly if it is someone at whose expense we’ve had some fun over the years.

Dustin Diamond – best known as Screech from the Saturday morning classic “Saved By the Bell” – passed away this week at the age of 44 following a brief stint in the hospital. The actor’s representatives announced just a couple of weeks ago that Diamond had been dealing with cancer.

While his issues with many of his former castmates were well-documented, it didn’t change the fact that they took to social media to express their love for him upon his passing.

“Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Dustin Diamond, a true comedic genius,” Mark-Paul Gosselaar – Zack Morris – tweeted. “My sincere condolences to his family and friends. Looking back at our time working together, I will miss those raw, brilliant sparks that only he was able to produce. A pie in your face, my comrade.”

Mario Lopez – A.C. Slater – had this to say on Instagram:

“Dustin, you will be missed my man. The fragility of this life is something never to be taken for granted. Prayers for your family will continue on.”

Also on Instagram, Tiffani Thiessen – Kelly Kapowski – said this:

“I am deeply saddened by I the news of my old co-star … passing. Life is extremely fragile and it’s something we should never take for granted. God speed Dustin.”

Now, we’ve featured Diamond in this space a few times over the years – his ill-conceived sex tape, his tell-all book, that time he stabbed a guy in Wisconsin – but even at his weirdest and sketchiest, he still held a very dear place in my heart.

I was a little too old for “Saved By the Bell” when I started watching it, but it didn’t stop me from doing so … and continuing to do so. I watched the show on the regular throughout high school and college. I was partly watching ironically, but there was sincerity to it as well. There was something so wholesomely cornball about the show, a weird trapped-in-amber quality that made it feel like a nostalgia trip even though it was just a few years old.

I’ll be real here – I watched this show A LOT. So much so that even now, years after the last time I sat down to watch, if you gave me the first 30 seconds of an episode of the show, I could almost certainly tell you the plot. I’ve got a lot of mental real estate devoted to storing the minutiae and trivial details of “SBTB.”

I loved it – and Screech was a big part of why. Many of the primary denizens of Bayside High were figures to whom I couldn’t quite relate – they were caricatures of the pretty and the popular. Now, Screech was a caricature as well, but he was a caricature that I understood – a nerd. Was I ever as weird or as socially awkward as Screech? Of course not. But I was close enough that I understood. I might have wanted to be a Zack or a Slater, but I was a Screech. And proud of it.

It’s sad when someone so young dies. Particularly someone who you remember as a kid. Even when all the weird stuff was happening – and there was a ton of weird stuff over the years – he was still that kid to me. And while I know he spent a good chunk of his adulthood running away from that nerdy little dude, it seemed as though he was starting to come around. Like he began to understand what Screech meant to a lot of the people who grew up with him.

Dustin Diamond was an imperfect person, a flawed human who made his share of questionable choices. But he’s also a fond memory for thousands of people who came of age at the same time he did. As far as legacies go, that’s not too bad.

Last modified on Wednesday, 03 February 2021 08:47

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