- Freed Willie: Aames found God and a new career, cape included.
The only difference between the Willie Aames life story and an E! True Hollywood Story is that Aames is still alive and has retained some semblance of an acting career. He was the requisite child actor (Eight Is Enough) who went on to ingest a laundry list of drugs ("It was the '70s -- we all did drugs") and even helped corrupt Charles in Charge co-star Scott Baio by taking him to the Playboy mansion. Then he found God and hijacked a direct-to-video show called The Bibleman Adventure.
"We did the first two episodes, and they just stunk," recalls Aames, then only the hired star. The original concept had been for a superhero in a purple-and-yellow outfit to basically stand there and tell kids to read the Bible. "Four episodes ago, we were on the ropes. We were sitting there going, 'This isn't any good.'" Now Aames is writer, producer, and director, and somehow the former Buddy Lembeck didn't screw it up. In fact, the overtly Christian videos have even garnered a good review from The New York Times.
"You don't expect anything to be a success," admits Aames, who is also vice president of Pamplin, the entertainment company that produces Bibleman. "The six feature films I did stunk. We didn't set out to make dogs -- none of us purposely said, 'Hey, let's make a movie that's really stupid.' You just do the best you can, and that's what we did with Bibleman."
Now the sword-wielding, scripture-quoting superhero has taken his show on the road, the live version landing this week in Youngstown. Aames took the once straitlaced "grape in a cape" and turned him into a cross between Roadrunner and Batman.
"If you're jumping around doing what I'm doing, it's either a very sad thing or a very bizarre deal -- or it's a lot of fun. So we started goofing around and having more fun, and guess what? They came out better."
The "cartoon humor" is not just aimed at the target 6- to 12-year-old market; it is also peppered with non sequiturs and campiness that adults will appreciate. And even though the show has a born-again Christian morality, it's not offensively overdone. "People are very smart," says Aames. "I don't think we need to preach at them. I think we need to entertain them, and the message will sink in. Whether you're Christian or non-Christian, these are the same issues that all kids and adults go through. 'Thou shalt not kill' -- I think we can all agree on that one."
But not everyone can agree on whether the one-time teen idol still has a respectable career, by Hollywood standards. "It's a very fine line that we walk," Aames agrees. "If they wanna laugh -- hey, man, have at it. I laugh at me, too."