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March 09, 1990 - Image 71

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-03-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


Hollywood Economics


MARCH 9-15


From the
White House
to the silver
screen, Ben
Stein has led a
busy life.


Special to The Jewish News



en Stein has never
pursued a career in
acting, never taken
an acting class and never
had an acting agent. Yet, he
is a star, both on television
and the silver screen. How?
By playing himself.
In 1986, Stein appeared as
the teacher in Ferris
Bueller's Day Off. "Anyone?
Anyone?" he uttered after
he asked students, in his
monotone, about voodoo
economics. Then, he called
on Ferris (Matthew
Broderick) Bueller.
"Bueller? Bueller?," he
asked, searching for
Broderick in the classroom.
But Bueller decided to skip
class and take the day off.
"I have a lot of friends in
Hollywood, and they just
thought I was an interesting
type. That's why they use
me," Stein said.
Today, Stein is still in the
classroom as he plays Fred
Savage's science teacher,
Mr. Cantwell, on the televi-
sion show "The Wonder
Years." He also has a recurr-
ing role in the syndicated TV
series "Charles in Charge."
"It's just a hobby," he said.
"It's not a big part of my life.
I enjoy doing it very much,
but if you count on that kind
of thing, you'll lose your
mind. Less than 5 percent of
my time is occupied in work-
ing on movies and appearing
on TV.
"I'm a lawyer and a writer
by training," the Yale
graduate said. "I teach
about the legal and economic
subjects and have written
several books."

Ben Stein teaches science on ABC-TV's "Wonder Years."

Like his father, former
Detroiter Herbert Stein,
Stein's full-time job is in
writing about economics.
"I read about complex fi-
nancial transactions and
write analyses of them,"
said Stein, who grew up in
Silverspring, Md., and now
resides in Malibu. "I consult
with lawyers, stockbrokers
and other people who have
an interest in complicated
financial transactions."
When he's not writing and
selling novels such as Her
Only Sin and non-fiction
books that include Dreemz
and Ludes, Stein writes a
great deal about the ethics of
finance in America today for
the business newspaper
During the Nixon and
Ford years, both he and his
father worked together in
the White House.
His dad was chief economic
adviser for President Nixon
and then briefly for Ford.
Stein worked as a speech
writer for both presidents.
However, he didn't pen the
words, "Let me make one

thing perfectly clear . . . I am
not a crook."
Inheriting his father's
vocal chords, Stein was ridi-
culed about his voice as a
student in high school.
"It never, ever occurred to
me then that one day I'm go-
ing to be in a movie," he

"I did the teacher
ad lib, and I didn't
even consider it
funny. But I knew
that the day I did
the part was the
happiest day of my
Ben Stein

said. "On the other hand, I
did think I'd be rich, and I
never was. But I just love
what I do. So, although my
life has turned out to be less
well paid than I thought it
would be, it's much more fun
than I imagined."
Stein's other film credits

include The Wild Life and
Trains, Planes and
"For the Bueller role, I was
just having lunch at Para-
mount one day with a close
friend who worked for direc-
tor John Hughes. I walked
back with my friend to his
office just to chat, and
Hughes was standing by and
said, 'Gee, you have a funny
voice. Would you do some off-
camera work for us?"'
Stein agreed and called
class roll for the students in
Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
"When I got to the stage
and began, the students
started laughing so hard at
my voice. For that part, I
was not acting whatsoever. I
did the teacher ad lib, and I
didn't even consider it
funny. But," he admitted, "I
knew that the day I did the
part was the happiest day of
my life."
Since Bueller, Stein has
appeared in several com-
mercials. "Mrs. Grover, it's
about your son Rover. Better
send money; his ski trip's
over," said Stein as the doc-
tor in a Western Union
commercial. In three mon-
ths, he will star in an Oreo
Cookies commercial as he
introduces a new kind of
Another hobby of Stein's is
writing and selling scripts in
Hollywood. One was made
into the movie, The Boost,
starring James Woods and
Sean Young.
Stein said his favorite
actor is Nick Nolte, who
lives near him in Malibu.
And "by a million miles, my
favorite economist is my
father," he said. "I mean no
one else would even be close;
second would be Adam
As he ponders the future of
American economics, Stein
doesn't mind being
sidetracked into discussing
the science of the late 1960s
and early '70s as he does on
"Wonder Years." "I would
love to continue doing 'The
Wonder Years.' I've been
around a lot of sets and by
far the friendliest people I've
worked with are on 'The
Wonder Years.' They're just
incredibly nice."


Jewish Community
Center, 6600 W. Maple
Road, West Bloomfield,
Last Resort, March 14
through April 1,
admission, 661-1000.


6600 W. Maple Road,
West Bloomfield, Sid
Caesar lectures on
comedy, 9 p.m. March 10,
admission, 661-1000.



Mark Ridley's, koyal
Oak, George Miller,
through March 10,
admision, 542-9900.



Detroit, Hilberry Theatre,
She Stoops to Conquer,
through March 30;
Bonstelle Theatre, The
Tempest, through March
11, admission, 577-2972.

Rochester Hills, To
Gillian (On Her 37th
Birthday), through March

17, admission, 375-1390.


Baldwin Theatre, Royal
Oak, The Nerd, through
March 18, admission,



Aim Arbor, Maurizio
Pollini, pianist,
admission, 763-TKTS.


The Mall, Troy, Jim
Perkins and Friends, free,



Detroit Institute of Arts,
Weapons of the Spirit,
through March 11,
admission, 833-2323.



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