Phila. Boy Catches Hollywood's Eye The Northeast's Blake Bashoff, 14, Takes To The Big Screen Friday In The Comedy "Bushwhacked."

Posted: July 30, 1995

This whole movie star thing will take some getting used to for a Northeast Philadelphia kid.

Take the other day, for instance, when the long, black stretch limo pulled up in front of the home of Blake Bashoff, ready to whisk the 14-year-old eighth grader and his mom to the airport to fly to the Bahamas on a publicity tour for his new movie, Bushwhacked.

"It's very early in the morning, 5:30, 6:30, I forget, when the limo arrives," recalls Blake's dad, attorney Ken Bashoff. "So Blake and Irene come out of the house, rolling their suitcases.

"The limo guy pops the trunk and Blake and Irene start lifting their suitcases into the trunk. The limo guy runs up, going, 'Wait, what are you doing? I'm supposed to do that.' So they let him have the suitcases and they go around to open the car door to get in. But the limo guy comes running over, going, 'Wait, wait, let me do that!'

"I said to the guy, 'You'll have to excuse us. We're not used to this.' "

Well, it looks as if they'd better get used to it. Judging from Blake's work in the action-adventure comedy Bushwhacked, which opens Friday and stars Blake, five other kids, and Daniel Stern, stardom looms.

"He has loads of talent, a very big future," says Edie Robb, the Philadelphia talent manager who handled Blake's career until recently. "He's bright, he's handsome, he's a good actor, he's the all-American boy that everybody wants."

Robb is not the only person who feels that way. In addition to Bushwhacked, Blake's second movie, Big Bully, starring Rick Moranis and Tom Arnold, is scheduled to open in the fall. He also has an HBO movie, A Child Betrayed: The Calvin Mire Story, which aired last year, in addition to more than 30 national TV commercials (Grape Nuts, Wendy's, Skippy peanut butter, Dannon yogurt, French's mustard, Cool Whip, to name a few).

Did we mention he'll be on the cover of the October issue of Teen Beat and that he received his first fan letter just last week?

Blake showed his first show-business inclinations at the age of 4. Much to the embarrassment of his family, he would climb onto the table at most any occasion to sing the Japanese folk songs he'd learned at kindergarten, using the silverware as a mike.

"We'd be having Thanksgiving dinner with the whole extended family and he'd get right up on the table," moans mom Irene. "We'd be rolling our eyes."

"Blake, Blake," interjects dad Ken, finishing his wife's sentence. ''Blake, come down, people have to eat now."

Members of the Bashoff family, including Blake's sister Jaclyn, 17, look at one another around the dining room table, searching for a hint, a clue, anything to explain where Blake's talent and ambition came from. Apparently, not from any of them.

"I have a relative on my side of the family who's funny and sings a little," says Irene, 40, a tailor's daughter, groping for an explanation.

"I used to do school plays, but that's it," adds a baffled dad Ken, 41, a judge's son who spent 16 1/2 years in the City Solicitor's Office before joining Fidelity Mutual Insurance two years ago as general counsel.

Jaclyn just shrugs and shakes her head.

Even Blake is baffled. "I don't know," he says.

Whenever it first happened and wherever it came from, there's no denying he's got something. Teen Beat magazine doesn't put you on the cover unless it's expecting a major response from its 11-to-13-year-old female audience.

"He's a real cutie, so he's got potential," says Teen Beat managing editor Ellen Jurcsak.

Ken and Irene Bashoff first heeded the advice of his teachers when Blake was 9 by sending him to a singing teacher. Impressed, the teacher quickly put him in touch with Edie Robb Talent Works in Huntingdon Valley, which handles many local performers.

That led to local commercials, then a spate of national commercials, a play at the Walnut Street Theatre, and the HBO movie. Also there were one of those bogus commercials on Saturday Night Live, a turn on NBC's Law & Order, and a guest shot on Fox's New York Undercover.

By the time Blake was getting auditions for movie roles, Irene, a former marketing rep, was spending most of her time transporting her son to New York for casting calls.

The big break happened last summer when Daniel Stern (Home Alone, Home Alone II), executive producer of Bushwhacked, decided Blake was perfect for the role of Gordy, the lead kid in a pack of six Ranger scouts. Stern stars as the small-time punk turned unwitting scout leader and hero in the film. In no time, Irene and Blake were off to Lake Tahoe, and later Los Angeles, for four months of filming.

At Lake Tahoe, Blake and Irene lived in a cabin in the mountains, as did the other actors and crew members. Blake and the other Ranger scouts spent their off-camera time living like kids at summer camp, hiking, swimming, running amok.

"I hear that on other films the kids don't feel like getting up to go to the set at 6 a.m.," says Blake. "We were getting up at 4 in the morning, raring to go. Whoever got to the van first got the front seat."

Bushwhacked no sooner wrapped in February than Blake and Irene were off to Vancouver to begin shooting Big Bully. He missed eight months from Greenberg Elementary School in Bustleton last year.

Meanwhile, back home in Northeast Philadelphia, Ken and Jaclyn held down the home front, meaning much of the household shopping and chores fell to sis, who had just gotten her driver's license.

"This is our life now," says Jaclyn. "I had to grow up quickly.

"When my mom is away, I occasionally complain to my friends, but it's a lot of fun."

Indeed, Jaclyn says she doesn't resent Blake or the family's focus on his career one bit. "I love what he does," she says. "I mean, I open a magazine and there is my little brother's face. It's weird. But during the past three years, through things he's booked, the whole family has been to Florida, Canada, L.A. I love L.A. I've gotten to go shopping in every place, and I've gotten to meet stars of TV sitcoms through him."

The Bashoffs also credit their friends and neighbors for pitching in. Blake's buddies back home kept in touch through letters and phone calls. On occasion, neighbors even brought over meals for Ken and Jaclyn. To thank them all, the Bashoffs are hosting a private screening of Bushwhacked followed by dinner at an Italian restaurant.

By now, the Bashoffs figure the hardest adjustment is over. They've tried to learn to accommodate Blake's career without totally disrupting the family.

"Last August, when we knew Bushwhacked was happening, we sat down at this dining room table and talked about how it was going to be," says Ken. "We knew it was going to be traumatic for the family. We were all in tears.

"But having been through the first one, we think we can do it again. We don't plan vacations anymore. We watch to see what's going to happen with Blake. I want to be able to go see my family, whether it's for a long weekend or a vacation. We've found ways to do it."

Blake, meanwhile, seems to be working hard to keep his ego in check and his success in perspective. Though his earnings hit six figures last year, he doesn't spend wildly. He did buy a computer and a fancy stereo system for the family, but that's about it. Most of the money goes into the bank for college.

Show-biz lingo has slipped into his vocabulary, and he does admit to being somewhat awed by Hollywood and all the trappings of fine hotels, limos and movie stars. But he's trying hard to still be a kid from Northeast Philadelphia who comes home when he can and hangs with his buddies.

The future?

"I definitely want to stay in the industry, whether it's acting or

directing," Blake says.

What if Blake's career suddenly goes south? What if he becomes a candidate for one of those "Whatever-happened-to?" stories?

Again, the Bashoffs look around the dining room table at one another, knowing that's always a possibility in such a fickle business.

"So far, it has been a fantasy," says Ken. "We don't know what the future holds."

"I take this day to day," says Irene. "It's here today, which is great, but if it's gone tomorrow, there's nothing we can do. We're trying to live as normal a life as possible. If he wants to quit tomorrow and go back to playing soccer, fine. We're not pushing him."

But then, nobody ever pushed Blake.

He's the one who, at age 4, climbed up on the dining table. He's the one who craved the attention. And this time nobody's telling him it's time to get down.

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