Paul Petersen

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Paul Petersen
Petersen in 2015
William Paul Petersen[citation needed]

(1945-09-23) September 23, 1945 (age 75)
Glendale, California, U.S.
  • Actor
  • singer
  • writer
  • activist
Years active1955–present
(m. 1967; div. 1970)

Hallie Litman
(m. 1974; div. 1988)

Rana Jo Platz
(m. 1992)
RelativesPatty Petersen (sister)

William Paul Petersen (born September 23, 1945) is an American actor, singer, novelist, and activist.

Petersen first rose to prominence in the 1950s playing Jeff Stone on The Donna Reed Show, and transitioned to a singing career in the 1960s. In the early 1980s, he had a recurring role as a police officer on Matt Houston, and in the late 1990s, he played the author Paul Conway in the film Mommy's Day.

In 1990, Petersen established the organization "A Minor Consideration" to support child stars and other child laborers through legislation, family education, and personal intervention and counseling for those in crisis.[1]



Petersen with Sally Field in The Flying Nun, 1968

Petersen began his show business career at the age of ten as a Mouseketeer on the Mickey Mouse Club.[2] He appeared in the 1958 movie Houseboat with Sophia Loren and Cary Grant, but achieved stardom playing teenager Jeff Stone from 1958 to 1966 on the ABC family television sitcom The Donna Reed Show. Throughout eight seasons and decades of reruns in syndication, The Donna Reed Show became part of American popular culture and, in 1997, Petersen was honored by the Young Artist Foundation with its Former Child Star "Lifetime Achievement" Award for his role on the series.[3]

After The Donna Reed Show ended, Petersen had a small role as Tony Biddle in the 1967 musical film The Happiest Millionaire.[citation needed] He also appeared in many guest roles, including one as a military officer in the short-lived 1967 ABC western series Custer, with Wayne Maunder in the title role. He also made a guest appearance on F Troop as "Johnny Eagle Eye" that aired on April 12, 1966.


With the fame he achieved on The Donna Reed Show, Petersen received recording offers and had hit record singles with the songs "She Can't Find Her Keys" (also introduced on The Donna Reed Show), "Amy," and "Lollipops and Roses." In 1962, the sentimental teen pop song "My Dad" was performed on The Donna Reed Show with Petersen singing the tune to his on-screen father, actor Carl Betz. Released as a single in the same year, it reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He also recorded for Motown/Tamla throughout the 1960s releasing such singles as "Chained" and "A Little Bit For Sandy".


After his years as a child actor, Petersen returned to university and obtained a degree in literature. He went on to write sixteen adventure novels.

Petersen's authorship began after he met David Oliphant, a New York City publisher visiting Los Angeles. His first novel concerned car racing. Thereafter, he created a Matt Helm-type hero, Eric Saveman, also known as "The Smuggler." In one year, Pocket Books published eight of his Smuggler novels, earning $75,000 for Peterson.

In 1977, Petersen's autobiography entitled Walt, Mickey and Me: Confessions of the First Ex-Mouseketeer was published.

Other ventures[edit]

Petersen with The Donna Reed Show co-stars (L–R) Donna Reed, Carl Betz and Shelley Fabares, 1958

He is currently a board member of the Donna Reed Foundation and works for the Donna Reed Festival, which takes place annually on the third week of June in Reed's hometown of Denison, Iowa. He also currently serves on the board of directors of Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), a national media performers AFL-CIO union based in Los Angeles.


In 1990, following the suicide of former child star Rusty Hamer, Petersen founded a child-actor support group, "A Minor Consideration", to improve working conditions for child actors and to assist in the transition between working as a child actor and adult life, whether in acting or in other professions.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Petersen has been married three times. His first marriage was to actress Brenda Benet. They married in 1967 and divorced in 1970. In 1974, he married Hallie Litman with whom he had two children. They divorced in 1988. In December 1992, Petersen married Rana Jo Platz to whom he is still married.

In addition to his two children from his second marriage, Petersen also has a daughter from a previous relationship.


Studio albums[edit]

Featuring four tracks each by Paul Petersen, Shelley Fabares, and James Darren
  • 1963: My Dad — Colpix CP-442/SCP-442
  • 1963: Bye Bye Birdie — Colpix CP-454/SCP-454
Songs from the movie sung by Petersen, The Marcels, James Darren, and Shelley Fabares
  • 1964: More Teenage Triangle — Colpix CP-468/SCP-468
Second album featuring Petersen, Fabares, and Darren


Year Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Chart Positions Album
1962 "She Can't Find Her Keys"
b/w "Very Unlikely" (with Shelley Fabares) (Non-album track)
19 62 Lollipops and Roses
"What Did They Do Before Rock & Roll"
b/w "Very Unlikely" (Non-album track)
Both tracks with Shelley Fabares
"Keep Your Love Locked (Deep in Your Heart)"
b/w "Be Everything to Anyone You Love"
"Lollipops and Roses"
b/w "Please Mr. Sun"
"My Dad"
b/w "Little Boy Sad" (from Teenage Triangle)
6 59 My Dad
1963 "Amy"
b/w "Goody Goody" (from My Dad)
65 Non-album tracks
"Girls in the Summertime"
b/w "Mama, Your Little Boy Fell" (from Lollipops and Roses)
"The Cheer Leader"
b/w "Polka Dots and Moonbeams"
1964 "She Rides with Me"
b/w "Poorest Boy in Town"
More Teenage Triangle
"Hey There Beautiful"
b/w "Where Is She"
Non-album tracks
1965 "Little Dreamer"
b/w "Happy"
"The Ring"
b/w "You Don't Need Money"
1967 "Chained"
b/w "Don't Let It Happen to Us"
1968 "A Little Bit for Sandy"
b/w "Your Love's Got Me Burning Alive"


Year Title Role Notes
1957 This Could Be the Night Joey Uncredited
1957 The Monolith Monsters Bobby – Paperboy Uncredited
1958 Day of the Badman Little Boy Uncredited
1958 Houseboat David Winters
1967 A Time for Killing Blue Lake
1967 The Happiest Millionaire Tony
1967 In The Year 2889 Steve Morrow TV movie
1968 Journey to Shiloh J.C. Sutton
1997 Mommy 2: Mommy's Day Paul Conway
2003 Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star Himself
2010 The Portal Manager Rick
2010 Soupernatural CNN Producer


  1. ^ a b Ames, Denise (June 27, 2007). "Interview with Paul Petersen by the Tolucan Times". reproduced on Archived from the original on May 15, 2008.
  2. ^ "Televised interview with professor Catherine Clinch, CSU Dominguez Hills". DHTV. October 2, 2009. Retrieved May 28, 2010.
  3. ^ "18th Annual Youth in Film Awards". Archived from the original on March 4, 2011. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
  4. ^ "Shelley Fabares". AllMusic. January 19, 1944. Retrieved July 29, 2011.

External links[edit]