He made everybody laugh back in the ‘90s – he and the Bayside High crew from Saved by the Bell. Samuel “Screech” Powers was the geeky kid, the outcast, the one we almost felt bad for but loved since he was just so adorable.
Now, we feel bad for him for many other, more serious reasons. Diamond died suddenly, in early 2021, of cancer. He was only 44. No one even knew he was sick, let alone suffering from stage four lung cancer. With the shocking news of his death came more information that Diamond clearly chose to keep under wraps.
What Happened to Dustin Diamond?
If you’re an ‘80s kid, you probably grew up in front of the TV. And chances are you watched Saved by the Bell on Saturday mornings (the show aired from 1989 to 1993 as Good Morning, Miss Bliss, then from 1994 to 2000 as Saved by the Bell: The New Class).
Diamond tended to steal every scene he was in. He was the comic relief, the nerd with the big hair, and an actor who seemed to have the world at his feet. But unlike some of his costars, who went on to become even more famous, Diamond retreated into oblivion.
He Was Only 11 When It Started
Since Saved by the Bell was such a hit, it continued on to Saved by the Bell: The College Years where Diamond and the cast moved into college dorms. But The College Years only lasted one season. Diamond’s years on Saved by the Bell turned out to be the peak of his career.
Many people don’t realize that Diamond was really young when he started the show. Diamond was only 11 when he started working on Saved by the Bell. He managed to beat out several other child actors for Screech’s part.
Friends on and off the Set
Disney Channel’s Good Morning, Miss Bliss eventually landed on NBC for its Saturday morning lineup. Diamond and his castmates – Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies), Zach Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani Thiessen), Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley), and A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez) – were his friends both on and off the set.
After all, they worked together for 12 or so years. By 2009, Diamond wrote a tell-all about his time on the show, giving the world a look into what it was really like to work on one of the biggest sitcoms ever made.
His Tell-All: Behind the Bell
His memoir, Behind the Bell, happened to threaten his relationships with all of his former Saved by the Bell co-stars. Diamond, with the help of a ghostwriter, released the book in 2009 and according to The Hollywood Reporter, he made some controversial claims.
One of his declarations was that all the cast members had sexual relationships with each other. Diamond also stated that the actors misused drugs behind the scenes. Unsurprisingly, it isolated Diamond from his former co-stars. Obviously, they weren’t happy about what he was exposing to the world.
He Regretted the Book
In 2014, Gosselaar (he played Zach Morris) called Diamond’s book “negative” and claimed that nothing negative happened on set of the sitcom. Diamond eventually grew embarrassed about his tell-all. He later shared in interviews that he didn’t write the book alone.
During an episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now? Diamond tried to clear the air and explain some things. He said that he didn’t have the final say on the book’s content. “A lot of the stories were just kind of throwaways,” he said.
Too Little, Too Late
“Really, I have nothing but good thoughts and memories toward everybody.” He went on to say that he expected to be sent a copy to proofread and give the “thumbs-up or thumbs-down.” According to Diamond, when he was sent the copy, it was already “done.”
Three years later, Diamond had more to share on the topic, this time on the Dr. Oz Show. He told the TV “doctor” how the tell-all basically ruined his relationships with the cast. He shared that he changed his ways since the memoir came out.
Slater and Belding Had His Back
Diamond also mentioned that only two of his former co-stars accepted his apology: Mario Lopez (AC Slater) and Denis Haskins (Principal Belding). Diamond said those two were the only ones who “know what [he] went through.”
As for the rest of the cast, like Gosselaar – Diamond said he hadn’t seen him since he was 16. “I feel terrible for it, but what can I do, I guess Tweet him.” (Gosselaar wasn’t part of The New Class cast, which explains why he hasn’t seen him since 1993.)
He Tried to Make It as a Standup Comedian
After the sitcom wrapped, Diamond started his attempt at a standup comedy career. Using his fame as Screech, he toured on and off as a hopeful comic, but he wasn’t on the Hollywood radar anymore. He did the occasional guest spots on game and reality shows.
He appeared on reality shows, such as The Weakest Link, Celebrity Boxing 2, and Celebrity Big Brother. He also made some cameo appearances in the movies Made (2001) and Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003).
No More Screech Stuff
After Saved by the Bell, it was “nearly impossible to find work.” Diamond was about to start down a path of “difficult times.” He said that he “didn’t know what to do when the show ended,” explaining how hard it was to find any role that “wasn’t Screech-clone stuff.”
In 2016, Diamond told Mario Lopez on ExtraTV that he wanted to make a fresh start. “I want to put the tomfoolery and malarkey behind me for that clean slate. Time for a change.” For those who don’t know, Diamond went through one scandal after another…
Losing His Temper on Celebrity Fit Club
In 2007, when Diamond became a cast member of the fifth season of Celebrity Fit Club, he ruffled some feathers. During his run on the reality show, he butted heads with several of his castmates, including former American Idol finalist Kimberley Locke, country singer Cledus T. Judd, and rapper Da Brat.
He even got into a fight with the host, Ant, and the trainer, former USMC sergeant Harvey Walden IV. In one episode, Diamond mentioned what would happen if he were to challenge Ant to “physical combat.” Walden defended Ant, and Diamond lost his temper.
How Did Dustin Diamond Die?
Diamond was diagnosed with stage four small cell carcinoma of the lungs in early 2021. He managed to complete one round of chemotherapy in Cape Coral, Florida, but he succumbed to the disease on February 1, 2021. He was only 44 years old.
In his case, he was diagnosed after seeking treatment for a “huge lump on his throat” that he had been ignoring for a while. Sadly, Diamond became a statistic – one of the 154,000 Americans who die from the disease every year. (This type of cancer accounts for 25 percent of all cancer deaths in the country.)
Was Dustin Diamond a Smoker?
Dustin Diamond’s death shows how lung cancer can strike non-smokers. Diamond was a professed non-smoker, which may baffle many of us who think only smokers get struck with the disease. Not only that – he was diagnosed with stage four small cell lung carcinoma only WEEKS before he passed away.
“He was diagnosed with this brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer only three weeks ago. In that time, it managed to spread rapidly throughout his system… Dustin did not suffer,” a representative of his, Roger Paul, stated.
Was It His Years on the Road?
In the few weeks between his diagnosis (early 2021) and his death (February 1, 2021), the actor had a chance to reflect. Paul told TMZ that Diamond had an idea about why he got cancer. In the actor’s eyes, it’s because of all his years spent on the road traveling.
He went around the country to perform standup gigs and went to varied film sets. It meant staying at “pretty questionable hotels and motels … [that] might have had mold or asbestos which he could have breathed in,” Paul shared.
His Girlfriend Was With Him in His Last Moments
His death was a shock to everyone. Most people didn’t even know he was sick, and how could they have? Diamond himself was only aware for a few weeks. On January 14, his medical team “first revealed his diagnosis,” and after his first round of chemo, his second was already scheduled.
“He has a handful of people who are in his close circle,” Paul noted, “his girlfriend being one of them.” Tash Jules, Diamond’s girlfriend of one year, was by his side when he passed.
She Made Him Get Checked Out
According to Paul, Diamond “was afraid of the public attention if he went into the hospital.” But Jules made him go. “Of course, he was scared, but he tried to find the humor in it,” Paul shared. “He didn’t want to die.”
Tragically, Diamond waited too long to seek treatment and didn’t make it in time. The cancer had already spread throughout his system. The silver lining? He “didn’t have to lie submerged in pain” as Paul said. “For that, we are grateful.” After the news, his friends spoke out on social media.
Slater and Zach Paid Their Respects
Mario Lopez posted via Instagram: “Dustin, you will be missed my man. The fragility of this life is something never to be taken for granted. Prayers for your family will continue on.” Lopez wasn’t the only one who paid tribute. The rest of the alumni paid respects as well.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the original cast of Saved by the Bell paid homage through statements. One of them was Gosselaar, who had ignored Diamond for over two decades but offered support to his loved ones. “I’m deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Dustin Diamond, a true comedic genius,” he wrote.
One of “Those Dorky Kids”
Diamond wasn’t the only one who told all in a memoir. Mario Lopez wrote one of his own, titled Just Between Us. In it, he wrote about how the rest of the original cast didn’t get along with Diamond. “Not everyone got along with Screech AKA Dustin Diamond,” he wrote.
“I did, but maybe I was the exception. He was one of those dorky kids who thought it was hilarious to take polaroids of his genitals and leave the photos all over the set.”
The Damage Was Done
As a result of Diamond’s tell-all, he was never invited to any of the Saved by the Bell cast reunions. He did his best to apologize with the Oz and Oprah interviews, for example, but it didn’t do the trick.
He told Dr. Oz that “Oddly enough, it’s doing interviews like this and getting the word out there,” that “is my best weapon for repairing the damage that was caused by things that were done by people who took advantage of me and the situation I was in at the time.”
He Stayed Out of the Reboot
Diamond didn’t reprise his role in the 2020 reboot of Saved by the Bell on the streaming service Peacock. Of the original cast, Elizabeth Berkley, Mario Lopez, Tiffani Thiessen and Mark-Paul Gosselaar chose to opt in. Diamond, however, was not asked to return.
Regardless, during the show’s second season, there was a scene where Berkley, Lopez, Gosselaar, Thiessen and Lark Voorhies reunited at The Max (the Bayside High hangout spot) to remember Screech. There were also clips of Diamond from the original show.
Why Wasn’t He in the Reboot?
There are likely a few reasons why he wasn’t asked back. For one, there was the whole Behind the Bell scandal that left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth. Then there was the fact that Diamond had filed for bankruptcy in 2001 and served jail time in 2014.
In 2001, one year after the final season of Saved by the Bell, Diamond declared bankruptcy. He moved to Port Washington, Wisconsin, two years later. By 2006, he seemed to be scrounging for cash. An interview on The Howard Stern Show made it clear…
He Sold T-Shirts to Keep His House
On June 13, 2006, Diamond asked the listeners of Stern’s XM radio show to visit his website and buy a T-shirt, that read: “I paid $15.00 to save Screeech’s house.” He specifically spelled “Screech” with an extra “e” due to copyright issues.
He told Stern that his goal was to sell 30,000 T-shirts so he could raise $250,000 in order to avoid foreclosure on his house. In 2018, Diamond moved to Florida and put his house in Port Washington up for sale. Did he make the 30,000 sales mark? Who knows…?
A Not-Fatal Stabbing in a Bar Fight
Diamond hit an all-time low in 2014 when he was arrested for possession of a switchblade knife. He allegedly used it in a threatening way during a fight in a bar (the Grand Avenue Saloon in Port Washington).
The fight also involved Diamond’s girlfriend at the time, Amanda Schutz, and it resulted in a man at the bar being stabbed. Apparently, the fight broke out because Diamond refused to shake hands with a woman who kept bumping into Amanda. He tried to leave the bar, but a man allegedly hit Diamond back as he swung his arm while holding the switchblade.
He Said It Was a Pen
That man was allegedly stabbed by Diamond but survived. The couple then fled together in an SUV, only to be taken into custody a short time later. They were stopped by the police, who said they found a 3.75-inch folding knife in the car.
At first, Diamond told the police that it was a pen in his hand. Later, he admitted it was actually a knife. Diamond claimed that he stabbed the man in an attempt to protect Amanda. She was his fiancé at the time (although some sources say they were only dating).
A Concealed Weapon and Disorderly Conduct
Amanda told the police that the fight only broke out when she grew upset over people taking pictures of them. Either way, on December 26, 2014, Diamond was arrested in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin and convicted of possession of a concealed weapon and disorderly conduct.
Amanda had also been found guilty of disorderly conduct and fined $1,500. Diamond was sentenced to four months in prison; he served three before being released on probation. He ended up violating the terms of his probation and was arrested again in 2016, landing himself in court only a month after leaving jail.
Who Was His Girlfriend?
Amanda Schutz was employed as a birthday clown under the stage name Loli Pop. She was actually the business owner of a clown company that entertains kids at events. She even appeared as Loli Pop in an episode of The Real Housewives of New York City.
Some sources say she and Diamond were engaged briefly; however, they decided to call it off and broke up not long after the arrests. Before Amanda there was another woman in Diamond’s life… his one and only wife…
Was Dustin Diamond Married?
Diamond married his longtime girlfriend, Jennifer Misner, in 2009. He met Misner, who is now a Director for Sales and Marketing at Premier Inn Express, during his touring days in the mid-‘00s. They met in Pennsylvania and maintained a serious relationship.
Diamond was seen wearing a promise ring, but reports are conflicting – some say the couple never married. Other sources, however, say they were married for four years before separating in 2013 and officially divorcing not long after. They didn’t have any children but were very close…
The Tragic Reason He Started His Own Foundation
Their relationship wasn’t without tragedy. Misner suffered a miscarriage in 2004 due to an ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus). Amidst the heartbreak, Diamond decided to create the Dustin Diamond Foundation in Port Washington to raise money for children’s medical treatments.
The foundation had a mission to “support organizations that specialize in childcare.” They offered therapeutic spa treatments for disabled children and their families. However, the foundation was dissolved a few years later (the foundation’s website is no longer in service).
Screeched: Saved by the Smell
Diamond has found himself in the middle of multiple scandals. You may have heard about the sex tape. That’s right, Screech had a sex tape of his own – one that he directed and released himself in 2006. If you haven’t heard the name of it, prepare yourself…
He called the X-rated video Screeched: Saved by the Smell, which featured himself in a threesome with two women. According to one press release, Diamond said the tape got out after he and a group of friends exchanged such tapes in one of their “monthly gatherings.”
He Said It Was a Stunt Double
Diamond’s alleged hope that the tape “may help get more bookings” came to nothing. It proved to be the beginning of a descent into more controversy. In 2009, in that Where Are They Now? interview on the Oprah Winfrey Network, he said that it wasn’t him in the sex tape.
He claimed that in the part of the tape where he appears nude, it was actually a stunt double. After Diamond’s death, many celebrities posted tributes to the late child star on social media. One, by Marlon Wayans, even poked at the unmentionable tape.
From Marlon Wayans to the Iron Sheik
“Thanks for Screech,” he began. “You made many kids [that are] now adults laugh. Will never forget the celebrity boxing. And I’m still trying to forget that sex tape … you lived man. Quite entertaining. Gone too f–king soon.” Diamond clearly had far-ranging appeal, proven by the posts random celebs made after his death.
Former professional wrestler The Iron Sheik and Newfound Glory drummer Cyrus Bolooki were two who evidently had a connection to Diamond and even texted with Diamond frequently. Bolooki wrote that he was “sad that we never got to jam together. Hope you get to keep playing music up in Heaven.”
His Wrestling Career
Not many people know that Diamond was into professional wrestling – so much so that he attempted to launch a career in it. In 2000, he appeared at Memphis Championship Wrestling and was involved in a skit with The Kat where he was beaten up by Chip Diver, the Fabulous Rocker, and Dannie B.
In 2002, he appeared on NWA-TNA’s Asylum weekly pay-per-view, where he was billed as Screech. He challenged Tiny the Bellkeeper to a boxing match. Screech won by a knockout in 42 seconds. In 2008, he was a contestant on Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling.
His Last Wishes
Diamond didn’t have much time to reflect on life, given his extremely short period of time in which he was aware of the disease. But he was able to tell his good friend Dan Block about the things he never got to do but always wished he would.
“There are two things Dustin asked for,” Block told The Sun. “The ability to talk to Justin Chancellor about music and to be able to visit Disney World to see Star Wars Galaxy Edge.” Chancellor was the bassist of the band Tool, Diamond’s favorite band.
He Wanted to Start a Tool Tribute Band
According to Block, Diamond was learning to play some Tool songs and even expressed his wish to start a Tool tribute band. “He would play the song and play along with his bass while watching YouTube videos.”
Unfortunately, Diamond never got to fulfill his wishes. There are surely many things he never got the chance to do. One of those things was his desire to start fresh, with a clean slate. It’s clear to us now that life wasn’t easy for Diamond. And a lot of it had to do with being a child star.
He Swapped Childhood for Hollywood
“The hardest thing about being a child star is giving up your childhood,” Diamond stated in the Where Are They Now? special. Dustin Neil Diamond was born in 1977 in San Jose, California; he was raised in a Jewish family.
His father Mark was a digital electronics teacher and his mother, Jaimee, was a computer operator. Diamond caught the acting bug early and began to appear on children’s TV at age 10. He made brief appearances on the sitcoms It’s a Living and The Wonder Years.
An Unlikely Friendship
Diamond and Dan Block were unlikely friends. Block was an insurance business owner in Peoria, a married father of four. But the two were actually roommates for a brief period when Diamond was in town for work.
Peoria was something of a place of refuge for Diamond, who seemed to get himself into trouble in most places. Block was one of the people with Diamond when he died, and he helped plan his funeral. “He didn’t have a whole lot of people he trusted, and I treated him like a normal person,” Block said.
He Helped Diamond Get Back on Track
As Block explained, he was very “strait-laced.” He didn’t drink or do drugs. “I think he was looking for a little bit of, ‘Hey, man, I think you need to get your sh** together.’” Block explained that he was trying to help Diamond straighten out his life.
Choking up in an interview, he muttered, “I just wish I met him a couple of years earlier.” They met in the late 2010s. Half-jokingly, half-seriously, Block contacted Diamond about possibly starring in his internet commercials for Insurance King (his auto insurance company).
The Insurance King Commercials
At the time, Diamond was living in suburban Milwaukee. He agreed to meet Block, and they became instant friends. Block, just a few years older than Diamond, opened an Insurance King soon after.
As he was establishing the office, Block rented a two-bedroom apartment to stay there during the week. It became a temporary home for Diamond, who filmed those Insurance King commercials. For Diamond, the ads gave him steady work and some income, which he needed.
The Odd Couple
Diamond was never really taught how to manage his own money. “He really didn’t have anybody in his corner to show him how to do stuff, and he was always spending money,” Block revealed. Block was obviously a good influence on Diamond.
But their living situation was comical as much as it was a nuisance. “He was up late, being obnoxious, and the neighbor downstairs was punching the ceiling,” Block described. “I’m the most quiet, reserved guy. I was like, ‘You’re gonna get me kicked out of here.’ He was a night owl.”
Salty the Pocketknife
When he wasn’t disturbing the neighbors, Diamond liked to frequent the local bars and restaurants. People would recognize his face (“is that?… no, it can’t be”) but assumed it wasn’t actually Screech in the flesh because it was Peoria after all.
Diamond became a regular at Guitar Center at the local shopping mall (Westlake Shopping Center). He would play the bass guitar for hours there, Block recalled. Diamond was actually an amateur musician. He formed an alternative metal band called Salty the Pocketknife. He played bass and wrote the lyrics. They recorded a full album but split up shortly after due to internal disagreements.
“Bro, It’s Worse”
It was in Peoria that the first signs of Diamond’s developing ill health started to show. Block explained how while filming a commercial, a facial blemish became worse. He was soon diagnosed with MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
He recovered from that, but eventually he called Block about a more-serious health issue. “Dude, I think I’m sick. I’ve got this lump in my throat,” he told Block at the time. When Block asked if it was “as bad as MRSA?” Diamond said, “Bro, it’s worse.”
A Brother From Another Mother
The problem was that Diamond hated going to the doctor. We know now that his girlfriend forced him to get checked out. A week before he died, Block flew to Florida to meet him at the hospital.
According to Block, Diamond was broke when he died. He had considered moving to Rockford, to be closer to Block and his family – to gain some sense of normality. Block felt like Diamond was a brother to him. He treated Diamond like a true friend – someone who cared about who he was as a person rather than who he was on TV.