Your favorite TV student bodies from the '80s & '90s
October 22, 2001


Buried between cartoons in an untraditional Saturday-morning time slot, the teen sitcom wasn't expected to garner huge ratings.  But the gang from Bayside High--and their innocent antics--won a loyal audience.  "The first time we beat Bugs Bunny, we felt really good" says Dennis Haskins, who played ever patient principal Mr. Belding on both the original show and the 1993-99 sequel Saved by the Bell: the New Class.  (Dustin Diamond also continued, as Screech.)  "And then we did a mall tour, and people chased the kids and ripped their clothes.  That's when we knew we were a hit."
Dustin Diamond
After Bell's demise, the Internet buzzed with tales about Diamond's fate.  "There were a bunch of rumors," says the actor who played supernerd Screech Powers.  "My favorites were that I was actually Mike D from the Beastie Boys and that I'd died."  Alive and well and touring as a stand-up comic, Diamond, 24, also plays bass in his band Salty the Pocketknife, which recently recorded its first album.  Now living in Orange County, Calif., with his girlfriend of three years, whom he'll only identify as Jennifer, Diamond says that despite being "pigeonholed" by his Bell role, "it has been a great springboard for many things."  Among them:  a film project he is undertaking with--who else?--Jaleel White, a.k.a. Family Matters geek Steve Urkel.
Mario Lopez
Playing heartthrob A.C. Slater for five years, Lopez, 28, should have learned something about male-female relationships.  This fall he gets to show how much on NBC's The Other Half, a new daytime talk show that aims to be a male counterpoint to ABC's The View.  He also recently produced a film starring girlfriend Ali Landry, 28--best known as the sexy Doritos girl.  "I've always said I want to be the Bo Jackson of entertainment," he declares.  "I want to do it all."
Mark-Paul Gosselaar
After six years as Bell's smart-alecky smooth talker Zack Morris, "I was struggling to get a job," Gosselaar, the son of Dutch emigres, told PEOPLE in 1998.  He eventually won roles in The WB's short-lived 1998 series Hyperion Bay and a big-screen comedy of the same year, Dead Man on Campus.  But his big breakthrough didn't come until this year, when he was offered a new beat, playing cop John Clark on NYPD Blue.  Wed since 1996 to actress Lisa Ann Russell, 30, Gosselaar, 27, who lives just outside of Los Angeles, is relishing his new acting challenge.  Now when he reports to the set, he says, "I get to carry a pistol."
Lark Voorhies
After Bell, Voorhies (clothes-horse Lisa Turtle) found her niche in soaps, first joining Days of Our Lives and later The Bold and the Beautiful.  Offscreen life brought unexpected drama as well.  After a brief 1993 engagement to actor Martin Lawrence, Voorhies, 27, wed L.A. some-time model Miguel Coleman, 27, in 1996.  Today she runs her own film production company and continues to act, most recently in a film with rapper Method Man.  "I thought she was a cute little girl on Saved by the Bell," says the film's producer Shauna Garr, "and when I met her she had tue exact same quality, yet as a woman."
Elizabeth Berkley
Bell's studious Jessie Spano would have been shocked--shocked!--by Berkley's gyrating G-strings in 1995's cinematic-turkey-turned-cult-fave Showgirls.  When the movie was universally vilified, Berkley, 29, saw her career prospects plummet.  Nasty reviews aside, however, she certainly earned plenty of exposure.  "After Showgirls I was left with this name and fame," she told Newsday in 1999, "that millions of actresses work years for."
Since then Berkley (with boyfriend Greg Lauren, and actor and nephew of designer Ralph) returned to the big screen in films like The First Wives Club, Any Given Sunday and this summer's The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.  The L.A.-based actess also went back to school, earning an English literature degree from UCLA.  Post-Showgirls, she said "I had to get past the hurt and get on with it."
Dennis Haskins
As Bell's ultra-approachable principal, Haskins faced even the most outrageous student antics with a laugh.  Fans won't let him forget it.  "Just last week someone said to me, 'Let me hear your laugh, Mr. Belding!'" says Haskins, who remained on the show throughout its 10-year run.  "That and the line, 'Hey, hey, hey, what's going on here?'"
Having recently grown a mustache to distance himself from his Bell role, Haskins, 50, hopes to land wider-ranging acting jobs, such as his guest-starring role last season as a psychiatrist on ABC's The Practice.  Divorced since 1996, he lives in Los Angeles and sometimes visits schools to give motivational speeches.  "I talk to the kids and the teachers and principals," he says, "and I say, 'Follow your dreams.'"
Tiffani-Amber Thiessen
An acting novice and former Miss Junior America, Thiessen was an easy pick for Kelly Kapowski, the wholesome-as-yogurt lass who beguiled all the Bell boys.  "Tiffani was just that character," recalls casting director Robin Lippin.  But after her five ears on Bell, Thiessen got the chance to show her wilder side.  In 1994 she joined the cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 as vampy Valerie Malone.  This fall Thiessen, 27, will appear as a love interest of David Spade's on Just Shoot Me.  Now living in the Hollywood Hills with her boyfriend, actor Richard Ruccolo, 29 (the pair met last year on ABC's now defunct Two Guys and a Girl), Thiessen has worked hard to shed her cutesy Bell rep.  One possible step in that direction:  Two years ago she dropped the "Amber" from her name.