ELWOOD CITY, PENNSYLVANIA – In the midst of filming the 19th season of his long-running reality TV show, Arthur Read was killed in a drunk driving accident. The perpetrator’s name is still being withheld by police. Read was 47, according to his agent, Mr. Brown, although the day he died he looked no older than the child actors he surrounded himself with on his television show.
Read’s early rise to fame was as a literary genius, writing stories about his own life, “mini-autobiographies” as he called them, aimed at children. His messages were always educational, upbeat, and beloved by parents and children alike. His father, owner of Read Books, started publishing young Arthur’s first book as a cheaply printed magazine before discovering that the audience was wide and varied and that there was a hunger among children and adults alike to experience the positivity within Arthur Read’s approach to the world. After several printings of Read’s first book, he was taken on by larger publishing house and wrote at least one book a year up until several years ago when he simply claimed he was “burned out.”
Due to Read’s insistence in his debut book on keeping his nose as long and curved as it was, it came as a great surprise to all when, in 1994, aged 16, Read signed a contract to star in a reality television show about his life and underwent drastic plastic surgery to all but remove his nose, which was considered too large for television. News reports across America and Canada (Read’s mother was Canadian and his books had found a market there as well) discussed the dramatic change and the negative message it would have on children. Read’s agent, however, insisted that his operation was due to a deviated septum that was likely to cause health concerns later in life.
Many reality TV shows are known to be highly produced and sometimes scripted, but none were as rigid as the show Arthur. Its original concept had been to watch him as he finished high school and progressed into college, but when Read signed on to the project, he had yet to attain puberty, and, whether coerced or not, he decided to begin taking growth-stunting hormonal treatments that would allow him to play an eight-year-old boy in the progressive elementary school he’d attended as a child, and which, he claimed, had taught him the positive outlook he maintained in life.
For years, Arthur was one of the highest rated shows on air and one of the only ones recommended to children by educators and psychologists alike. Although ostensibly a reality television show, the cast of child actors around Read changed seasonally as they aged out of their characters. However, the character names and general look remained the same, rendering the “reality” aspect of the show virtually fraudulent. However, it was still marketed as such because of Arthur Read’s own appearance which never changed due to the heavy regime of medications and injections he underwent.
Binky Barnes, Read’s official biographer and longtime friend, who allowed his name to be used in the show, has spoken about the traumatic effects of Read’s decision to remain a part of the show for so long. In an interview with Vice magazine, Barnes said that “Arthur was asexual not by choice but because he just couldn’t feel, you know, like any sexuality. He was hormonally stunted, you know? His brain kept maturing though so he was feeling seriously creeped out by being surrounded by all these kids when he was worrying about taxes and his parents’ health and whatever.”
While Read’s death has struck many as tragic, Barnes has said it was almost a mercy. Read, he said, had been “[expletive] dissatisfied with his [expletive]-up life for a while.” There has already been an outcry on social media regarding Arthur Read’s death, and it has not yet been announced whether the already filmed episodes of the final season will air or not.
Read’s body will be cremated and passed along to his parents, who request that all condolences be send to Read’s agent.