Thursday, July 8, 2010

Shaker Heights and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Now thats what we call ACTING!

When casting directors for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were searching for a young unknown to play "Charlie" the settled upon on Peter Ostrum from Ashley Road in Shaker Heights.

Ostrum, then a student at Mercer Elementary, was well supported by Gene Wilder and Jack Albertson.  The movie perplexed the public and they weren't sure what to make of it.  It was too mature for young children, and too childish for adults of the era.  It enjoyed some success, but never became a real classic until baby boomer's began to age and were ready to deal with its edgy irony.  Since it wasn't a success with the young crowd, young Ostrum wasn't really fodder for the Tiger Beat set.  A recent poll listed him as the 78th most popular Teen Star of all time. Yah!

Upon his return to Byron in 1972 or 1973, there was a "buzz" in the air that lasted a couple hours.  After students figured out that a movie star of "one" movie is not a MOVIE STAR, they started to treat Peter just as they did before, after all when you're in grades seven, eight and nine, there are other important things going on your life.

In one legendary incident, Ostrum reached out and "got fresh" Annie Heller.  Annie clocked Ostrum.  According to her sister Hetty, Annie decked him because he acted like he felt "entitled".  Did he feel entitled?  I don't know, I never got the chance to act as Hetty and I were still fourth graders at Mercer.

Annie's mother Ellen and my mother were best friends.  So upon hearing this (Annie is about four years older than I am) I thought "Good for her!"

Shortly thereafter Peter was enrolled at University School - a private, expensive and legendary boys prep academy.  Ashley Road actually abuts the U.S. grounds - so Peter merely had to cross Shelboure and Ashley Roads and there he was.

By the time I was carrying my Cleveland Press route, the Ostrum family had moved to Hunting Valley and Peter was long gone.  The Merkatz family owned the house on Ashley and our brush with "Hollywood" had long since passed.


  1. wow....a brush with Fame!
    (Alas, sometimes Fame, much like Annie Heller, reaches out and clocks you when you brush up on Her.)

  2. Fascinating, Does Peter still live in the area? What does he look like? And more importantly can he arrange a brush with Veruca Salt?

  3. Did he have his own trailer at University School?

  4. Peter is a large-animal vet in NY now. Don't know what happened to the Mercatzes, or even remember if it was 'c' or 'k' in their katzes. Do remember climbing around on the roof of that bigass house though...