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And A DeLuise Shall Lead Them

I've got a thing for Michael DeLuise. That's right: Dom's son. This is what I get for watching so much seaQuest.

I can't quite call it a crush, and I'm not entirely sure that it qualifies as a fascination. An attraction? A compulsion? Nah, it's not that serious. Maybe it's just an interested awareness. It'll probably burn itself out in a month or so, leaving me with more time on my hands and a vague, icky memory of having voluntarily sat through more than one encore showing of "Encino Man" on TBS.

Ah, but this "thing" will not leave me unchanged in its wake. It has altered the way I view the world. It has made me aware of a conspiracy lurking in the entertainment industry: The DeLuise Conspiracy.

I hate to be an alarmist, but you can't run from the DeLuises -- they're everywhere. Having been left alone and relatively undisturbed for the past three and a half decades, they have quietly and cleverly managed to infiltrate much of the television industry, and leave their suspicious fingerprints all over a healthy chunk of the film industry as well.

Contemplate the following and tell me it doesn't scare you: Beginning in 1964 with "The Entertainers" and running right up to the present with Jesse, La Famiglia DeLuise has been involved in some way or other with no less than 39 TV series.

Wait. It gets better. More than one of them has been called The Dom DeLuise Show.

Before the Michael DeLuise "thing" started, I possessed only a typical disinterested bystander's awareness of the DeLuise clan. Said awareness consists mainly of a collection of vague impressions of patriarch Dom, such as: 1) Italian; 2) been around forever; 3) seems to be an actor; 4) cooks or something, doesn't he?; and 5) should be getting residuals for dozens of appearances in the punchlines of fat jokes.

Anyone who was alive and conscious in the early '80s will recall Dom as Burt Reynolds' sidekick in "Cannonball Run" and the hardy veteran of a number of Mel Brooks outings. What the disinterested might not know is that Dom has at various intervals taken time off from his career to father three sons -- Peter, Michael, and David.

Following in Dom's footsteps, the boys apparently set out to amass as many film and television credits as possible, and further the cause of the DeLuise conspiracy. A healthy dose of television viewing in the '80s will have armed the layman with a recognition of Peter as one of the guys who wasn't Johnny Depp on 21 Jump Street. During that time Michael was vying for the "Participant in the Highest Number of Failed Series" crown with such entries as One of the Boys and One Big Family. He was later added to the cast of Jump Street -- as the brother of Peter's character -- during its final season. From there he went on to a brief stint in another short-lived drama Sunset Beat. His co-star in this venture was George Clooney, who was making his own run for the "failed series" title, a dubious ambition which only ended with Clooney's participation in ER.

Peter and Michael went on to do occasional films, and took roles of varying sizes on a staggering variety of shows, including but not limited to The Facts of Life, Amazing Stories, Friends, seaQuest, NYPD Blue, Brooklyn South, Tales From the Crypt, L.A. Law, and Booker. Along came David to keep the ball rolling with bits on Home Improvement, Ellen, Lois & Clark, Saved By the Bell, and The Single Guy.

Then, of course, there was the crowning DeLuise television event -- an episode of 3rd Rock From the Sun last season which featured all of the DeLuise men. I'm still trying to figure out why. Is there a little-known but oft-enacted SAG rule that requires a DeLuise in a certain number of productions per year? Or does some equipment company in L.A. give one of them out free with every camera rental?

Lest you think I am exaggerating about this phenomenon, allow me to offer the following proof: I scored a DeLuise trifecta last night. I was channel surfing and found that one of the movie channels was showing "Silent Movie," a 1978 Mel Brooks film co-starring none other than Dom DeLuise. I then hopped over to one of the networks and glimpsed the brand-new Christina Applegate sitcom, Jesse. A familiar name flashed in the opening credits: David DeLuise. Finally, 9 p.m. rolled around. What choice did I have but to click over to the SciFi channel for seaQuest, which, in its second and third season, starred both Peter and Michael DeLuise (with a second season episode in which Dom played the father of Michael's character)?

The only thing that prevented me from rounding out my DeLuisean night with a healthy dose of 21 Jump Street (starring Peter in seasons 1-5, with the addition of Michael for season 5) and NYPD Blue (Michael appears in a handful of episodes before being rudely killed off) was the fact that the FX Network was on the fritz. Face it, people -- the DeLuises are everywhere, and we cannot escape.

You might think that heading over to MTV or MuchMusic will afford you a bit of relief. No such luck, as Michael can currently be seen in the Brian Setzer video, "Jump Jive an' Wail", and in the "Wayne's World" version of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". PBS? Again, no haven, since Dom participated in a documentary about Italian-Americans which has been getting airtime lately.

I'm actually kind of charmed by this application of the apprentice system to the oft heartless world of television. It manages to imply that Hollywood is a cozy, friendly, family-oriented kind of place where Dad can bring his kids to work, teach them the ropes, and pass his career on as a kind of legacy. Then the whole family can sit around each year and consult back issues of TV Guide in order to write their annual Christmas letter.

On the other hand, it is just this system which has brought us the likes of Pauly Shore (who, incidentally, co-starred with Michael in "Encino Man"), and Tori Spelling (of Beverly Hills 90210, on which Dom did a guest spot).

All of this reflection on the DeLuises has give me a new goal.

I am now planning to move to Los Angeles and lay the groundwork for my own showbiz dynasty. How hard can it be? I'll build a name for myself and then marry an actor. We'll have a few cute, talented children, all of whom we will put in front of the camera. I might even look into the possibility of fostering them out to Dom so they can really learn the ropes. Or maybe I'll take a more direct approach.

I wonder if Michael is still single?


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