R.I.P. Dustin Diamond, Saved by the Bell’s “Screech” Dead at 44

The former child start was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in January

Dustin Diamond in Saved By the Bell
Dustin Diamond in Saved By the Bell

Dustin Diamond, the actor who famously played Screech on Saved by the Bell, has died at the age of 44.

Last month, Diamond was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. TMZ reports that he passed away early Monday (February 1st).

Born January 7th, 1977, Diamond said goodbye to a normal childhood at the age of 11, when he appeared in the first non-pilot episode of the Disney Channel original series Good Morning, Miss Bliss. That show transferred to NBC in 1989, in the process moving from John F. Kennedy Junior High to Bayside High School and acquiring the new name Saved by the Bell. Diamond played the role of Samuel “Screech” Powers throughout the show’s initial run (1989-93), plus the TV movie Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style (1992), the sequel series The College Years (1993-94), the two-hour series finale Wedding Las Vegas (1994), and seasons two through seven of Saved by the Bell: The New Class (1993-2000).

While his early years were filled with guest appearances on shows such as It’s a Living, The Wonder Years, and The Munsters Today, Diamond struggled with the transition to adulthood. In the 2000s he appeared in a number of projects as himself, with cameos in Pauly Shore Is Dead and Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. In 2006, Diamond released a notorious sex tape entitled Screeched: Saved by the Smell, which he candidly admitted was a ploy to raise his profile. Later, he told Oprah that a stunt double had performed the sexual activities.

It didn’t revive his acting career, but Diamond did find new life as a reality TV star, booking appearances on Celebrity Fit Club (2007) and Celebrity Big Brother (2013). He also released a memoir, 2009’s Behind The Bell, which portrayed his fellow child actors in an unflattering light. He claimed that some of his castmates had slept with producers or taken steroids, in addition to other sensational tales of sex and drugs. He later apologized, saying he had been victimized by his ghostwriter. After getting into a knife fight on Christmas Day 2014, he was arrested in 2015 and sentenced to two months in prison. Despite public lobbying, he was not included in the new Saved by the Bell reboot on Peacock.

Diamond played bass in the short-lived band Salty the Pocketknife. In the final statement released by his team before his death, he expressed admiration for Tool’s Justin Chancellor and said he hoped to visit Disney World to see Star Wars Galaxy Edge.

Several of Diamond’s several Saved By the Bell co-stars have issued statements in tribute. “I’m deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Dustin Diamond, a true comedic genius,” said Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who played Zack Morris on the show. “My sincere condolences to his family and friends. Looking back at our time working together, I will miss those raw, brilliant sparks that only he was able to produce. A pie in your face, my comrade.”

“Dustin, you will be missed my man,” tweeted Mario Lopez, who played A.C. Slater. “The fragility of this life is something never to be taken for granted. Prayers for your family will continue on.”

Kelly Kapowski actress Tiffani Thiessen said, “I am deeply saddened by the news of my old co-star @realdustindiamond passing. Life is extremely fragile and it’s something we should never take for granted. God speed Dustin.”

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