When Bobby Diamond made his move from actor to lawyer, even his best friends could hardly tell the difference. Once, he did a back flip to jolly up a judge. Another time, he juggled before a jury to suggest that his opponent’s case was all flash and no substance.
Indeed, attorney Diamond, now a boyish 45, has been more outrageous in court than he ever was as Joey Newton, the horse-loving adopted son of rancher Peter Graves on the 1955-60 Saturday morning series Fury. “I loved it,” he says. “We had a fire once a year as well as a Christmas show.” Filming all day at the movie ranch in an L.A. suburb was nothing but play. “All summer I got to ride horses and have fun.” The horse (played by Beauty, who made $1,500 an episode to the 11-year-old Diamond’s starting fee of $350) threw him a few times, but he never got hurt. “We were happy, and the money was steady,” says Diamond, who had been raised to $750 by the time the show was canceled.
Born to a real estate broker and a housewife, Bobby was launched at 8 when his mother, Pearl, “the architect of my career,” nudged Bobby and his younger brother, Gary, into a tap dance act that entered talent contests at supermarket openings. (Big sister Arlene escaped the act and grew up to be a secretary; Gary is now also a lawyer.) Pearl worked Bobby into movie extra roles, but the youngster learned a hard lesson after filming a scene for Ride, Vaquero, in which he handed a newspaper to Anthony Quinn. “I told all my friends I was in that movie,” Diamond recalls. “What happens? I go to a birthday party where we go to see Vaquero. I remind everyone that I’m in it. But all you see is my hand coming up and giving Quinn the paper. Forty kids died of laughter.”
Bobby was disappointed at 16 when Fury ended. Worse yet, for reasons of convenience in commuting to the set, he chose Nanette Fabray’s weekly comedy series (a one-season flop) over My Three Sons, an instant hit which ran for 12 years. Pearl’s death from diabetes three years later was a double blow, and without her guidance Bobby’s career began to wane.
Throughout his high school and college years, Diamond had parts on a variety of series—Mr. Novak, Wagon Train, The Twilight Zone, My Three Sons, The Patty Duke Show and Mr. Ed—but landed only one steady job, as cousin Duncan in the last season of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. He came close to snaring the role of Robin on Batman, but the producer told him he was, at 21, too old.
While working on a broadcast-journalism degree at San Fernando Valley State College, Diamond unwittingly prepared for his career as a lawyer by indulging in a stint of petty crime. During what he calls his “filet mignon stage,” he nipped prime cuts of meat from supermarkets, stowing them in a slit in his coat for later consumption. “I used to be a great thief,” he admits. “The motivation was I was cheap. The money I was making wasn’t phenomenal, and it was just something to do.” He wasn’t caught, he says, but at 22, he stopped cold. “All of a sudden I noticed I was nervous.”
With the Vietnam draft staring him in the face, Diamond opted for the San Fernando Valley College of Law. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a lawyer, but it was a good way to stay in the United States and remain alive,” he says. From the office in Woodland Hills, Calif., that he shares with a partner, he now practices civil and criminal law—usually personal injury and medical malpractice. On the job, Diamond is not all theatrical tricks. One of his finest hours involved a client accused of stealing a pair of slacks from a department store. Over five years of legal maneuverings, he not only discredited a key prosecution witness but jacked up the out-of-court settlement in his client’s favor from $5,000 to $250,000. “I even got the pants back,” he says.
In spite of Diamond’s persuasive talents, personal commitment evaded him until the ripe old age of 39, when he met 22-year-old Tara Parker in a gym. (Both are ardent gymnasts.) “I saw him throw a triple twist, and I thought, not bad,” says Tara, who wasn’t impressed by his tales of stardom in Fury since it happened about the time she was born. They wed three years later, with Bobby improvising a terrifying pause before muttering his “I do,” just for laughs. The couple now has a 10-month-old boy, Robby, and the former preschool gymnastics teacher has turned full-time mom.
The other career changer in the family is equally happy. With his courtroom antics satisfying his penchant for theatrics, Diamond doesn’t miss legitimate showbiz, especially the long “rests” between jobs. Between his practice and his real estate investments, he rakes in up to $200,000 a year. “I like acting,” he says, “but the insecurity is something else. Every actor friend I’ve got is seeing a psychiatrist, trying to understand why they’re not working regularly.” On the other hand, he admits, if the right opportunity trotted along, he’d saddle up. “Would I do a remake of Fury?” he asks. “Sure. In a minute.”
—Tim Allis, David Lustig in Los Angeles