Time: the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole. A few weeks ago, when I was going through movies for Mary Steenburgen's "Then & Now" column, I watched some of the movie PARENTHOOD, and I had deja vu. This phenomenon came about when I saw a young actress playing one of the kids in the film. Her name was Alisan Porter, and she went on to star in the movie Curly Sue, a movie I hadn't seen since it came out in theaters in 1991. When I looked her up on IMDB, I noticed a large gap in her filmography after that movie's release. Naturally, I had to find out just where this girl went. If you will, follow me on this journey to find the answer to this question: where is Curly Sue now?
Alisan Porter was born in Worcester, Massachusetts into a Jewish family. Her mother, Laura Klein, was a dance coach for Diane & Elaine Klimaszewski, also known as the Coors Light twins. While in L.A. for the twins' appearance on the show "Star Search", the show's producer overheard Alisan singing in the hotel lobby and asked to have her on the very next episode. She became the youngest contestant to ever win the "Star Search" show at 5-years-old. That's about as far as we can get into Porter's bio without discussing her acting career, but that's a pretty impressive start, isn't it?
Some actress's first gigs are hardly memorable, nostalgic or interesting, but not Porter's. Her first acting job was none other than "Pee-wee's Playhouse", on which she played a girl named Lil' Punkin for a couple of episodes. That same year, she also had parts in "Family Ties" and a miniseries called "I'll Take Manhattan". All of this at the age six. Luckily, she had yet to surrender to the pressure of hard drugs and prostitution like most 6-year-old actors do, and she was able to get her first significant role in Ron Howard's PARENTHOOD (1989).
PARENTHOOD was the film Ron Howard directed between WILLOW (1988) and BACKDRAFT (1991). Talk about a diverse set of films. It stars Steve Martin as Bill Buckman, a family man whose daydreams get him through his days of frustration and anguish. His milfy wife Karen is played by recent "Then & Now" hottie Mary Steenburgen, of course. I'd also like to mention the music, which is written by the oh-so repetitive Randy Newman. Okay, I don't mean to bag on ol' Randy, but the opening song her wrote for PARENTHOOD, "I Love to See You Smile" is exactly the same song as TOY STORY's "You've Got a Friend In Me". I know, I know, all of his songs sound kinda similar, but still. Listen to that song, and you'll immediately think of Andy launching Woody off of a love seat recliner. Seriously... listen.
As I mentioned last week, Steve Martin recently became a first-time father, so I respect how easily he makes us believe he's a real dad. He even calls his daughter Taylor (played by Porter) a "rat", exactly like my dad used to before he locked me in my cage every night. Alisan is surprisingly one of the less-troubled kids in this movie, and his mainly around to create chaos and remind you of the innocence of childhood, back when your parents told you a vibrator was an electric ear-cleaner. The film mainly focuses on the son, Kevin, after the parents discover he has emotional problems and should seek counseling.
There's also Bill Buckman's sister Helen (played by Dianne Wiest), a single mother with a troubled son and daughter of her own. Keanu Reeves plays a very "Ted"-esque character who's secretly married to Helen's daughter. Soon after its success in theaters, PARENTHOOD was adapted into a TV-series, but was quickly cancelled due to being a critical flop. All in all, it's a pretty funny film with a dramatic edge, and might even be psychologically helpful to any parent whose thought about leaving their kid at the mall more than once.
A very sick Alisan, moments before puking like Linda Blair all over Steve Martin.
In late 1989, Alisan took part in 12 episodes of the sitcom "Chicken Soup". Only 8 episodes of the show ever made it to air. Things picked up in 1990, when she starred as the 8-year-old Jenny Claire in the movie-version of STELLA, which I presume gave her a chance to display her vocal talents. That same year, she also appeared in the Kevin Kline dark comedy I LOVE YOU TO DEATH. This film was loosely based on an attempted murder in 1984, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where Frances Toto repeatedly tried to kill her husband, Anthony. Sounds hilarious, right? Well it might be, I haven't seen the film. I just know that Alisan plays Carla Boca, daughter of Joey and Rosalie Boca (played by Kline and Tracey Ullman). It was directed by Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote STAR WARS EPISODES V & VI, so it's gotta be somewhat good, right? (Although, he also directed DREAMCATCHER, so who knows?).
Even though she was bringing in plenty of her parents' booze money, Alisan was a decent enough child actress to make it big. All she needed was that one big starring role that would push her career into the mainstream... or down the stream of box office poison.
I hope you've been patient enough to read this far, because John Hughes' CURLY SUE (1991) is the main reason I decided to dedicate an entire column to Alisan Porter. I reintroduced myself to this film after having not seen it in over 20 years, and it really took me back to the good old days when my dad would sneak me in through the movie theater exit to see it. After watching it as an adult, I have no idea why he would put himself at risk for such ridiculous nonsense. It's really not that good, and has the 14% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes to prove it. The film is about the deception of the charitable, and why we should lie to them more often. It defies all your average laws of love story-telling, just as its poster defies all the laws of physics...
She would be dead.
Bill Dancer (James Belushi) and his 8-year-old companion (not daughter), Curly Sue are just your average homeless archetypes with a positive attitude. Their reliance on each other, as well as their ability to con their way into and out of any situation, is what gets them through the day. At the top of the film, the two win the affection of a beautiful, rich divorce lawyer named Grey Ellison (Kelly Lynch) when they stage a car accident so it appears she's injured Bill. She takes them out to dinner, but her snobby, abusive fiancé Walker (cartoonishly played by John Getz) pulls her away before they can squeeze some more money out of her. Later on, Curly Sue and Bill try to relocate Grey, and she winds up hitting Bill with her car for real. Thus, the generous woman takes Bill and Curly Sue into her home, and they get a taste of the good life.
Where you can do pointless crap like this.
Just like Pippi Longstocking, Curly Sue can give a f*ck about your education. Bill has trained her to impress other adults by spelling big words like "asphyxiate", even though she really doesn't know how to spell. She's doesn't attend school, and is used to getting around by fake-crying her way out of things. Although, she does seem to have a talent for shuffling cards, not to mention winning round after round of poker. Walker (the fiancé) doesn't take kindly to the new house guests, which stirs up some drama between him and his future wife. As Grey continues to take care of Bill, stockholm syndrome starts to kick in, and the two grow feelings for one another. But soon enough, Walker informs the police that a homeless man and an uneducated little girl are infesting his apartment. So Bill gets sent to jail and Curly Sue is sent to an orphanage, where they cut her hair a little shorter. See? Crime doesn't pay.
Did I say crime doesn't pay? Well, let me rephrase that: it totally does. After nearly killing her fiancé, Grey uses her golden coin stacks to bail Bill out of jail, and also applies to adopt Curly Sue. At this point, Bill's whereabouts are unknown to Grey and Curly Sue. When they return to the apartment, they find Bill standing next to the fireplace (I guess he broke in earlier?), and they end the movie on a group hug. Awwwww. Just goes to show you, if you want to be set for life, just find a gullible, hot blonde divorce attorney in Chicago. It's as simple as lying your ass off.
That reminds me, in order to stage the accident at the beginning of the movie, Bill has to make it appear as though he's been severely hit in the head. So to accomplish this, he asks Curly Sue to…. severely hit him in the head with a wooden board in an alley way. He says "Hit me as much as you love me", so Curly Sue spits on her hands, picks up the board, and knocks him 10 feet across the ground. I absolutely loved this scene as a kid, because children using violence against adults is always hilarious to children (just look at HOME ALONE; another John Hughes '90's flick). In fact, it's the only scene I thoroughly remembered seeing in theaters.
And that's not the only scene in the movie where an adult gets hit in the face with an over-the-top sound effect. 41 minutes and 17 seconds into the film, Curly Sue socks Walker in the face, followed almost immediately by Walker punching Bill in the face (41:29), and finally, Grey punching her fiancé in the face ((41:31). At the 45:08 mark, the maid gets startled by Bill and SMASHES his face with a telephone box. At 65:21, Bill punches a rude restaurant host in the face, then again at 65:25. Grey recklessly drives with her fiancé on the roof of her car and launches him head-first into a "wrong way" sign (89:23). The most random of all is when Bill is having very sincere moment with Grey, and she hits him hard in the face with a cabinet door. It's all really silly, and obviously just there to entertain the kids. Still, watching Alisan smashing James Belushi's face with a 2x4 was the most heartwarmingly laughable thing I saw all week, besides this picture Ang Lee eating In-n-Out after the Oscars...
Alisan Porter won the Young Artist Award for Starring Role for her portrayal of Curly Sue. So with all the word-of-mouth, and the thousands of promotional posters in movie theaters, bus stops, and freeway billboards with her big face plastered on them, why did Alisan Porter straight-up disappear after CURLY SUE? Was it the bad reviews? Did her parents want her to convert back into a normal lifestyle? Was it because she reminded people of Fred Savage, just a little, but not in a bad way (am I the only one?)? Well, I typed her name into my exclusive, time-traveling search engine (Google) and found out just what happened to Curly Sue!
Well, I guess she still has the ability to stare directly into the darkness of my soul. I'm aware this has the potential to make a lot of you feel like pervy grandpas, but that's what we do around these parts. Alisan Porter didn't do any acting on film for 10 years after CURLY SUE. Her next gig was in 2001, on MTV's "Undressed" (unfortunately, I couldn't find the episode). She continued acting in high school, in Westport, Connecticut. When she was 18, she moved to New York to audition for Broadway shows, and was cast as Urleen in Footloose. Since 2006, Alisan's been living in Los Angeles, focusing on her music career. Yup, just like other "Then & Now" hotties like Jenny Lewis and Taylor Momsen, Alisan went from being an adorable child star to a rebellious rocker.
It's funny how Alisan seems to have come full circle. Getting noticed for her voice is what launched her career as a child actress, and now she's successfully made it as a singer (which I find odd, since the only time I've heard her singing voice was in CURLY SUE, during her godawful rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner"). In 2004, Alisan formed a band called The Raz, which split up a year later. She formed a new band called The Alisan Porter Project in 2006. That same year, Alisan starred alongside Val Kilmer in The 10 Commandments: The Musical at the Kodak theatre, which was a smash hit. In more recent news, Alisan got married to former "Days of Our Lives" actor Brian Autenrieth in March, 2012. Here are a couple pictures from the beautiful, romantic wedding…
It's almost as romantic as this TwitPic from Alisan's bachelorette party...
Well, I'm just about out of useless tidbits regarding Alisan Porter. She's been contributing columns to Movmnt magazine since December, 2008. She seems to be at a good place in her life, which is a rare kind of relief when it comes to former child stars. I still have yet to figure out exactly where that 10 years went after 1991. Maybe she did get hooked on hard drugs after all. Oh well. Whatever happened, she turned out to be a pretty cool 31-year-old woman, so who cares? Thanks for reading, and sorry there were so many pictures of Curly Sue's smug little face. I'll make sure the pictures in the next "Then & Now" are more MovieHotties appropriate. Cheers!