In the fall of 1994, Saturday morning cartoons had long since become a thing of the past, both in my household-- where at ten (10!) years old, I already felt pretty confident I had outgrown such childish fiction—but also on the NBC lineup itself. For a couple of years I had grown accustomed to spending my weekends with the slightly older, very much prettier, albeit still fictional characters of Bayside High School (Saved by the Bell) and the Garrison family (California Dreams). However, when I tuned into my beloved …Dreams (as I simply called it back then) that fall, I couldn’t help but notice the absence of Matt, the last remaining Garrison clan member in a show that in only two previous seasons had gone through more reinvention than Madonna to date. I admit, I never found Brent Gore all that attractive, with his then-floppy hair in that Matthew-Perry-in-Dance-Til-Dawn-but-without-the-charm-of-Matthew-Perry-attached sort of way, so I didn’t mourn his loss the way I would have Mark Paul Gosselaar’s (ptoy, ptoy) from SBTB. And in Brent’s place stood a tan, twinkly-eyed, adorable specimen of a boy in the newest addition to the fake band and the show, Mark Winkle.
His real name was Aaron Jackson, and though he was kind of short for my taste (though still taller than I was at that time), standing just a few hairs above Kelly Packard, his love interest on the show (and man, did I hate her for it!), he won me over immediately. The fact that his singing voice was dubbed for the show was only one which I suspected but could not confirm, but even that did not make me love him less. The show finally found its legs during that third season, and I credited it all to Aaron.
During his few-year run on California Dreams, I wrote Aaron some fan mail-- yes I was one of “those” girls-- and I was pleased to find he wrote back. I received quite a few autographs from him in a short amount of time because once I realized he was responsive, I never let up. I have no idea what I wrote in any of my letters, but I’m sure they were embarrassing, with hearts dotting the eyes and sketches of butterflies in the margins. I know I must have commented on the fact that he had tattoos—something I learned from one of many Teen Beat magazines in which he graced the pin-ups—because he sent me a postcard once that was one of the first pieces of personalized memorabilia I ever received: he crafted his note to me based on my own note to him, and I was impressed, as most usually just scrawled their signature over a glossy black and white 8x10, something mass produced. I read his “No tattoos for you; you’re too young!” comment not as a scolding but as something said out of love and responsible care; I could even hear his gentle laugh in my ear as he said it. Ah, if only he could see me now ;)
The years went on, and Aaron drifted to the back of my mind, as young loves often do. He was replaced by fleeting crushes on guys like Christian Oliver (Saved by the Bell: The New Class, The Babysitter’s Club) and then a much more permanent attraction to Jensen Ackles (Days of our Lives, now Supernatural). Recently, as I was working on a canvas called “Growing Up With 90s TV,” I thought of him again and got to wondering where he’s been because I haven’t seen him on anything since the late nineties. Well, a quick trip to IMDb told me he worked steadily until 2005 on self-proclaimed “over-the-top” features that surely went straight-to-DVD (like Children of the Corn 85 or something, Wicked Spring, Tangy Guacamole, From Venus, Heaven’s Neighbors, to name most). While no bio or other explanation can be found as to why Aaron has gone MIA in the last two years, most of his titles included a credit for actor DJ Perry, as well, and since he has gone on to write, producer, and continue to act, I can only speculate that (barring just straight disenchantment with the industry) there was a falling out between the two and DJ had been the one getting Aaron parts… which is sad, really.
So, Aaron, if you’re still auditioning and trying to “make it” as an actor, and you happen to Google search your own name and come across this blog, please contact me. I may only dabble in independent film right now, but as someone who was so sweet to me when I was growing up, even in a distant way, I’d be honored to work with you. I never forget those who help me, and I will always do what I can to give back.