7 forgotten teen idols of the Seventies

Do you remember Wild, Brophy and the other Baio?

The young Boomers had icons like the Beatles, Elvis and the Mousketeers to pin on their bedroom walls. In the Seventies, a new wave of feathered-hair heartthrobs arrived for a young generation.

Spearheaded by the Bradys, the Partridges and the Jacksons, there suddenly seemed to be so many more child stars in the 1970s. Most of television had catered to adults in the prior years. Even The Flintstones began as a primetime series with a cigarette sponsor. But in this groovy new decade, young protagonists proliferated.

There were the young stars of many Krofft Brothers productions. The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries soared on the Tiger Beat-fueled popularity of Shaun Cassidy and Pamela Sue Martin. The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie kept countless tutors employed for its sprawling teen casts. John Travolta, Scott Baio, Kristy McNichol, Leif Garrett and the Osmonds became household names.

But not everyone could be Donny and Marie, who continue to appear on television to this day. Here are seven more obscure male teen idols from the 1970s.

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1. Jimmy Baio

Yes, there were multiple Baios. The cousin of the Chachi actor, Jimmy landed his first big role at the age of 13 on Joe and Sons. The sitcom cast the Brooklyn-born kid as a Italian-American son in Hoboken — not too far from home. He is perhaps best known for his time on Soap, on which he played Billy Tate, the youngest child of Jessica (Katherine Helmond). In the early 1980s, after a couple of appearances in The Facts of Life, Jimmy's roles seemed to dry up.

Image: The Everett Collection

2. Clark Brandon

Teen rags like Tiger Beat needed little provocation to publish pin-ups of hyped new faces. The 1977 CBS series The Fitzpatricks lasted a mere 13 episodes. The casting agents did their job. Set in Flint, Michigan, the blue-collar drama paired Jimmy McNichol and Clark Brandon as brothers. Tiger Beat slapped him on the cover with the headline, "Clark: Will He Be Taken From You?" (Poster inside.) In 1981, he scored a lead role in Mr. Merlin. That lasted just 22 episodes.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. Kevin Brophy

Call him the Midwestern Tarzan of the Seventies. Brophy played the title character in Lucan, a series about a boy raised by wolves in Minnesota. The brief series ran on ABC just as Clark Brandon was starring in The Fitzpatricks. Brophy continued to pop up on television for a couple decades, up to a guest spot on JAG in 1996.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. Tony DeFranco

Beneath the Brady Kids and the Partridge Family on the fame ladder, you had the Cowsills. Another rung down sat the DeFranco Family, a Canadian clan consisting of five siblings born within 10 years of each other. The youngest, Tony DeFranco, was 13 when the family band's "Heartbeat - It's a Lovebeat" reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973. The follow-up "Abra-ca-dabra" scraped the Top 40 shortly thereafter. But in three short years, the DeFranco Family was in that "only released in Japan" phase of its career.

Image: Philips Records

5. Rick Ely

Millennials will fondly recall a Liberty's Kids, a historical cartoon set in colonial and early America. Well, it was kind of a rip-off. The live-action series The Young Rebels did something quite similar back in 1970. The show centered around the young patriots of the fictional "Yankee Doodle Society" who participated in the Revolutionary War. Rick Ely starred, alongside a young Louis Gossett Jr. Concurrently, RCA Records pushed Ely as a pop star, releasing his eponymous debut album. It contained the single "Circle Game."

Image: The Everett Collection

6. Lance Kerwin

California kid Kerwin was once described as "probably America's leading boy actor of the late Seventies." He was everywhere, headlining the coming-of-age drama James at 15, as well as the TV-movie adaptation of Salem's Lot. By the early 1980s, he was already somewhat relegated to educational fare like The Boy Who Drank Too Much (which cast him as Scott Baio's buddy) and the afterschool special The Shooting.

Image: The Everett Collection

7. Jack Wild

And now we come to the Oscar nominee on our list. Jack Wild earned the Academy's recognition for his work as the Artful Dodger in Oliver! (1968). A lead gig in H.R. Pufnstuf followed. In the early 1970s, he shifted focus into a recording career, beginning with The Jack Wild Album for Capitol Records in 1970. Everything's Coming Up Roses and A Beautiful World followed. Everything was not so rosy and beautiful behind the scenes, as Wild struggled with personal issues and being typecast. In 1981, he was reportedly set to star alongside Suzi Quatro (Leather of Happy Days) in a British update of Bonnie and Clyde, but the idea was scrapped.

Image: Buddah Records

SEE MORE: Do you remember these obscure teen idols of the early '60s?

Not everyone could be Ricky Nelson. READ MORE

 
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TCKirkham 6 days ago
Having Clark Brandon in a series as a regular or proposed regular was the KISS. OF. DEATH. it was like the poor guy was cursed. The Fitzpatricks? Gone in less than two months. Mr Merlin? Gone after one season. Try and add him to Wonder Woman? Cancelled before it could happen. Take over as host of kids show Big Blue Marble? Canned after his one season as host. The poor guy couldn't catch a break....heh heh One shudders to think when FOL would have ended if he'd remained Jo's boyfriend for very long....
TifCreates 7 days ago
I still have my Tony DeFranco album! Sigh...so beautiful! I still remember all of the words to Heartbeat! So many hours spent singing to his picture. Oh, to be a young girl again :-)
JewelsChuck 13 days ago
Clark Brandon was in the Facts of Life playing Joe’s boyfriend who she ran away with to get married to.
Willalexmac 16 days ago
Jimmy and Scott Baio were Cousins...I guess I always assumed they were brothers. I remember Jimmy in the second Bad News Bears movie.
lmahabhashyam 16 days ago
I knew of the DeFranco’s, but they were no Osmonds and Tony couldn’t come close to Donny. Donny was and is in a whole other sphere. And I remember Lance Kerwin doing Michael Landon’s The Loneliest Runner and a Little House appearance and I remember James at 15 but it wasn’t that interesting so I didn’t watch it.
DawnGraham 22 days ago
Didn't remember Kevin Brophy or Rick Ely
JewelsChuck DawnGraham 13 days ago
Me either, their faces look familiar though.
Lacey 24 days ago
James at 15 was a show too intelligent for TV. The network heads did not know what to do with a quality product so they killed.
ETristanBooth Lacey 21 days ago
I watched this, although I don't remember it well. It began as "James at 15" and became "James at 16."
His little sister on the show was Kim Richards, now one of the real housewives of Beverly Hills.
denny 26 days ago
Kevin Brophy was and may still be a doorman at a hotel in LA. He was in bad health and was able to get better with the help of an inheritance.
MarkSpeck denny 24 days ago
I remember reading an article that someone left an inheritance jointly to Kevin Brophy and Peter Barton (the star of Powers of Matthew Star, later on The Young & The Restless, the Burke's Law revival and Sunset Beach).
Cyn_Finnegan denny 20 days ago
Nope. Kevin was in the movie Fearless with Jeff Bridges, and here's what happened to him after:
https://abcnews.go.com/Business/dead-man-leaves-estate-actors-met/story?id=18443026
denny Cyn_Finnegan 16 days ago
So, you are saying he wasn't a doorman? I already mentioned the inheritance.
WordsmithWorks 26 days ago
My very first concert was The De Franco Family at Knott's Berry Farm. The show was in the arena (room?) they had in the now-defunct Roaring 20's section. Saw the Brady Kids there, too. I couldn't have been more than 7 or 8 years old. Really felt like a big kid yelling "Rock on, Tony!" Great memories. Thanks, Mom.
* The 2 DeFranco gals were so lovely! ☺
I took a lot of stick from my hippie older brother for being a DeFranco Family fan. That song was so COOL! Still is.
Barry22 26 days ago
I do remember the tv show The Young Rebels.
Cyn_Finnegan 26 days ago
Clark Brandon was to become a cast member on what would've been season four of Wonder Woman. He even appeared in two season three episodes. He's now a director.
Kevin Brophy was most recently seen in episodes of JAG and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He retired when a gentleman names Ray Fulk left him and his best friend, "The Powers of Matthew Star" lead Peter Barton, his entire estate.
Tony deFranco is a real estate agent, and still cute.
Jack Wild passed away from cancer in 2005.
Lance Kerwin now lives in Kaua'i, Hawaii with his wife and kids and works as a substance abuse councilor.
You make it sound like Wonder Woman only aired for 3 seasons. I think you meant to say what would have been season 5. WW aired from 1975-1979. It ran for the same number of seasons as another ABC show: Starsky & Hutch.
Wonder Woman did only last 3 seasons. The 2 hour Pilot movie aired at the end of 1975, then season 1 resumed in April 1976 and ended in Feb. 1977. Season 2 aired from Sept 1977 to April 1978, and season 3 aired from Sept 1978 to Sept 1979.
http://epguides.com/WonderWoman/
Unrelated, but if you're a Starsky and Hutch fan it's on every Saturday on Cozi from 12-3. My dogs and I never miss it 😄
MrsPhilHarris 26 days ago
Frankly I don't remember most of them, but I did read Tiger Beat.
Krn 26 days ago
I think Clark Brandon played Jo’s boyfriend on Facts of Life.
Cyn_Finnegan Krn 26 days ago
Yup, he played Eddie.
Krn Cyn_Finnegan 26 days ago
So the next question is what is Jo doing these days? 😀
stephaniestavr5 Krn 26 days ago
By Jo you mean Nancy McKeon? I'm not sure. But you do know that back in December, she lost her big brother Philip? {He played Tommy on Alice.} I don't think she's hurting for $ though, according to Google, her net worth is $6 million.
Krn stephaniestavr5 26 days ago
Oh gosh I didn’t know her brother passed. Wasn’t she on Dancing with the Stars not too long ago? I’ll have a Google her later 🙂
denny Krn 26 days ago
She lives in Texas.
BrittReid 27 days ago
I don't remember any one of them to even be forgotten.
harlow1313 27 days ago
The horror. This phenomenon is beyond me. The horror...
cperrynaples 27 days ago
Some footnotes: Tony DeFranco is now a successful real estate seller and I believe Jack Wild died fairly young! His Oliver co-star Mark Lester is still alive in his 60's! Bonus Question: The Defrancos appeared on what comedian's "Second Farewell Special"? Hint: The quotes are intentional!
The answer to the bonus question is Jack Benny.
Jack Wild was a millionaire at 18, an alcoholic at 21, and died at 53 due to oral cancer. {The cancer was so bad, he had both of his vocal chords removed, and part of his tongue. }He was not only a drinker but a smoker as well.
Yes Stephanie, and Benny's second farewell special would be his last!
Krn cperrynaples 26 days ago
I totally remember Heartbeat It’s a Love Beat
MarkSpeck Krn 24 days ago
And the follow-ups "Abracadabra" and the remake of "Save the Last Dance For Me".
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