William Neff High School
Through the Eyes of Matthew Star
William N. Neff High School opened in the fall of 1964. It was located in the city of La Mirada, California.
I graduated from that high school, a member of the Class of 1979.
Unfortunately, for me and many other thousands of Neff Alumni, our
school was eventually torn down. The very last graduating class at
Neff was the Class of 1981, something my younger brother Bill, a member
of that class, was always quite proud of.
Fortunately, the school was not torn down immediately and... via the magic of television... a few memories of Neff live on!
During the fall of 1982, a short-lived (just one season) television show called The Powers of Matthew Star premiered.
This TV series was telecast on NBC, and starred Peter Barton as an alien prince from another planet, with telekinetic powers, posing as a high school student. The series also starred Louis Gossett Jr., who had just recently finished filming An Officer and a Gentleman, in which he would later receive an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
All of the high school scenes (with a possible few exceptions of some of the interior classroom scenes) were filmed at Neff! Those involved with the production of the series apparently needed a high school to film, heard that Neff was empty, available, and decided the city of La Mirada wasn't too far from Paramount Studios in Hollywwod, got the required permission, and shot the series on Neff's campus.
I never watched this series when it was on the air. (In fact, I barely remember it. During '82 and '83 I was working in Hollywood on Friday nights, the night the show was televised. I, most likely, never watched a single episode.)
It's a shame I didn't hear about the series being filmed at Neff at the time, as I almost surely would have made it a point to try to watch the series shot in person.
I recently purchased this one-season series on DVD, via Amazon. ($9.99) I didn't purchase it to watch the series, which really doesn't interest me too much at all. No, instead, I purchased it, of course, with the sole intention of enjoying all of the scenes involving Neff High!
For your enjoyment, below are some of the screen captures I made while watching it.
A few Matthew Star tidbits:
The TV series got very bad reviews. In fact, in 2002, the series was ranked #22 on the list of TV Guide's "50 Worst TV Shows of All Time."
Tom Cruise screen tested for the role of Matthew Star!
Leonard Nimoy has a total of just 13 directing credits to his name... and one of them is from this series! (Episode #9... "The Triangle.")
Walter Koenig has a total of just 8 writing credits to his name... and one of them is from this series! (Episode #10, "Mother.")
In the series, the name of the school was Crestridge High. I can certainly understand why they chose not to keep the Neff name (What's a Neff?) but they DID keep the mascot name! See one of the photos far below, that shows a banner that mentions they are the Trojans.
If you watch the series and are looking for scenes of Neff, don't bother with the last half a dozen episodes or so. At some point midway through the season, the format changed! Matthew Star was no longer a high school student. He was now an agent working for the government!
Peter Barton was born in the summer of 1956. During the summer of 1982, when the series was being filmed, he turned 26 years old! (However, this is certainly not the only case of an adult playing a high school student.)
Edit: No, I don't know exactly why Neff High School was shut down. I've read that the Norwalk/La Mirada School District voted to close William N. Neff High School in 1980. The decision most likely involved money (it always does) but I don't know any of the specifics. A declining attendance over the past ten years? The land it was on was now worth enough to sell and the proceeds would be better used elsewhere? We may never know the exact reasons.
I do know the Neff High School students who attended the school who didn't graduate in the summer of 1981 began attending La Mirada High School (and most likely some of them attended John Glenn High School) in the Fall of 1981.
|Finally, here's a photograph of an actual piece
of Neff High School! It's a brick belonging to my classmate and
friend, Jim Sass.
Like me, Jim also graduated in the summer of '79, from Neff.
When Neff was being demolished (probably in 1983 or early 1984), Jim and his dad visited the campus and took this brick from the rubble, as a souvenir.