What is it with these 1960s and ’70s sitcom child stars ending up in jail? The latest in a string of former tot stars in trouble, including Diff’rent Strokes’ Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges, is Pamelyn Ferdin, the voice of Lucy in the Peanuts TV specials. Ferdin, who also played Tony Randall’s daughter on The Odd Couple, faces 30 days in jail for protesting alleged animal cruelty at a traveling circus. (And she was always so mean to Snoopy!)
Ferdin was cited for carrying a bull hook, a wooden stick with a hook on the end that elephant handlers use to keep their charges in line. Veteran civil rights attorney Hugh Manes, who is appealing Ferdin’s conviction, says that the law used against his client is vague and over-broad, and would bar the use of crutches or canes during protests.
“Pamelyn was trying to hold a stick up to show people how elephants are mistreated by handlers. It violates her First Amendment right to demonstrate for or against a particular event,” Manes says.
The former child star, now 41, says she has a “naturally loud, weird voice” that attracts police attention. “Tony Randall would always say, ‘Project, Pamelyn,’” Ferdin recalls. “A lot of these police officers get pissed off because they feel they can’t control me and want to punish me.”
Rebel is a new role for a woman who says her straight-laced upbringing was a far cry from the star treatment given kid actresses such as Family Affair’s Anissa (“Buffy”) Jones. “She had dolls that looked like her. They would bring out wardrobe racks and ask her what she wanted to wear to a party,” Ferdin says of Jones, who died of a heroin overdose in 1976. “I didn’t live that kind of a life. My parents didn’t overindulge me.”
Growing up on TV, however — including two seasons starring in Lassie — did make her a bit of an outcast, recalls Ferdin. “I was an enigma to the kids. They would bark and make fun of me.”
Perhaps that’s why she now identifies with the underdog, -cat, -elephant and -tiger. Dropping out of acting at age 17 or 18, Ferdin became an emergency-room nurse, eventually marrying surgeon Jerry Vlasak. They moved to Connecticut, where she began volunteering at an animal shelter. The defining moment in her transformation into an animal-rights activist came when she witnessed rows of dogs chained to the wall, waiting to be euthanized. “I didn’t realize that there was that much killing,” she says.
Back in Los Angeles, Ferdin and her husband founded the Los Angeles chapter of the Animal Defense League in 1997. Its tactics are not subtle. The group’s Web site (