THE POWDER WAS DEEP, THE AIR was crisp, and actress Jenna von Oy, 17, was antsy. Eight days earlier, on the set of NBC’s Blossom, in which she plays title star Mayim Bialik’s loopy, loquacious pal, Six, Von Oy and her castmates had taped what may be their final episode ever—though NBC won’t decide until next month. Now, released from the grind of daily rehearsals and high school tutorials, Von Oy, a 5′, 100-lb. dynamo, yearned to celebrate. Then she spied the 130-foot tower looming over the Bear Mountain ski resort near Lake Arrowhead, Calif. “That’s it!” she decided. “I’ve got to bungee-jump!”
As she began climbing the tower, her mother, Gloria, 47, vacationing with her, offered an emphatic maternal protest. Von Oy climbed on. But after reaching the top and hooking on the bungee harness, she froze. “I started to shake,” she says. “Then suddenly I wasn’t scared. I just let myself go. It was an amazing rush.”
And good practice, perhaps, for a larger plunge Von Oy is about to take—into adulthood. This month she can be heard (if not quite seen) on the big screen in The Goofy Movie, a Disney animated film in which she plays Stacey, a motor-mouthed, decidedly Sixish character. (“I’m typecast even in animation,” notes Von Oy.) Then in June, after graduating with her high school senior class in Fairfield County, Conn., she will move out of the three-bedroom Burbank apartment she has shared with her mother and brother Tyler, now 7, for the last two seasons of Blossom and into a place of her own. (Her father, Frank, 53, has remained in Connecticut with Jenna’s two other siblings, Peter, 15, and Alyssa, 12.) Come September, she’s due to begin her first semester at USC’s film school—that is, unless a juicy role in front of the camera intervenes. “My career is my priority now,” she says.
She has her parents’ blessing. “She’ll be 18 on May 2,” says Frank, a former restaurant owner and cook who now manages Jenna’s career, “and it’s natural she’s taking more control. We just hope we’ve given her the judgment to make good decisions.”
Their daughter hopes so too. In her Burbank bedroom, she playfully tries on her vast collection of hats—straw bonnets, flowered bowlers, a felt boater—but her head is spinning from all the uncertainties she’ll face on her own. “I’ll still call my parents every other day,” she says, “but I’ve always known what I’ve wanted to do.”
Which is, simply, to perform. At 5, having memorized all the songs from Annie, she lobbied her parents to let her try out for a regional production of the musical and nabbed the role of littlest orphan Molly. “Several nights she stole the show,” her father recalls. “That’s when we decided to take her career seriously.”
They began taking her to casting calls, and at 7, Jenna got her first paycheck, for a Northern bathroom tissue commercial. Joe Buccellato, her fifth-grade teacher, remembers Jenna auditioning three afternoons a week after school—and landing parts in a mini-series (At Mother’s Request) and soaps (including The Guiding Light). “She’s very intense, very determined,” says Bucccellato, 58, who remains a friend. “But if her father said no [to a role], Jenna wouldn’t ever argue.”
In fact, Frank did say “No way” in 1983, when Jenna’s role at 9 in Born on the Fourth of July called for her to play Tom Cruise‘s childhood pal who urinates in public. She held out for a more acceptable part: Cruise’s kid sister.
The kid grew up fast on Blossom, which, according to one staffer, “was not the most pleasant set.” The studious Bialik and the effervescent Von Oy reportedly clashed. Bialik won’t comment, but Von Oy downplays their differences. A cast, she says, “is like a family. Sometimes you have problems, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work together.” And Von Oy worked hard. After five seasons, says executive producer Don Reo, “she could certainly carry her own show.”
Her career hasn’t been her only passion, though. She and actor Will Friedle, 19 (of ABC’s Boy Meets World), dated for six months. (“We’re still friends,” she says.) And now she and her friend, actress Danielle Harris, 18, are planning a tour of Europe this summer. “Just the two of us alone,” muses Von Oy, with a bungee jumper’s gleam. “That could be dangerous.”
LYNDA WRIGHT in Los Angeles