Real Whirl

You’ve already seen Jeff Conaway battle addiction and Scott Baio commit to one woman after 45 years of bachelorhood, so VH1 rang in ’09 by throwing a new twist into its reality-show repertoire — a house full of former teen idols considering whether to make a last run at show business or leave it behind for good.

Billy Hufsey is among the seven men weighing a comeback in Confessions of a Teen Idol (Sundays at 8 p.m.). The Brook Park native became a star as Christopher Donlon on the ’80s NBC television seriesFame. The show went on to worldwide syndication that has since only been rivaled byBaywatch, and Hufsey later shifted to daytime television with his role as Emilio Ramirez on Days of Our Lives.

But as the ’80s turned to the ’90s, his roles as a rebel heartthrob dried up, leaving Hufsey with occasional minor movie parts. After an appearance in the 2001 film Tomcats, he walked away from the spotlight, turning his attention to the corporate world.

Hufsey says he was reluctant to participate in Confessions when first approached by Scott Baio, who is producing the series for VH1. Though he and the Charles in Charge star had been friends since Hufsey was “living like a vagabond” in Los Angeles (officially homeless and waiting for his big break), the idea made him a little uneasy.

“I thought,a comeback? I’d stand a better chance jumping off the top of the Terminal Tower without a parachute and surviving,” Hufsey says.

But Hufsey ultimately agreed to do the show and found himself living in a house alongside former teen idols such as Jamie Walters of Beverly Hills 90210, Eric Nies of MTV’s original The Real World and Chris Atkins of the 1980 film The Blue Lagoon. So Hufsey is taking a shot at that comeback, but this time it’s for the singing career he’s always wanted to pursue. He has a debut album, and his single, “Better Man,” will be promoted by way of the VH1 show and the cable channel’s Web site.

Hufsey, who turned 50 in December, has a sense of humor about his prospects in a youth-obsessed business, sharing a recent inquiry from someone hoping to snag him for a role in a stage version of Grease.

“They wanted me to be the Teen Angel,” he recalls with a laugh. “At first I thought they would want me to be the John Travolta character [Danny Zuko], but they wanted me for the Frankie Avalon part.”
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