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St. Albans teen well on his way to Hollywood stardom

Fourteen-year-old Duane McLaughlin of St. Albans has one thing in common with Leonardo DiCaprio, Julia Roberts, Michael Jackson, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and many other Hollywood lights.

They're all recipients of the Young Artist Awards, generally considered to be the Oscars for performers 21 and younger. A kid who gets the YAA has more than a foot in the door in show business.

Duane, for one, plans to "reach celebrity" by age 30.

How does he define "celebrity"? "It's when you can't walk on the street without people coming up to you for your autograph.," the teen said.

That doesn't happen to him now, but the way he's going, it might not be too long before it does. He started doing commercials when he was 6, and by age 14 he already has had starring roles in two made-for-TV movies: "The Runaway," which aired Dec. 10 on CBS, and "Finding Buck McHenry," which continues to be presented on the Show Time cable channel.

It was for his role of Aaron, the grandson of a Little League coach played by Ossie Davis in "Buck McHenry," that he received the YAA in ceremonies April 1 in Hollywood, the 22nd year of the awards.

In the film, Aaron slowly discovers the hidden past of his grandfather, a veteran of the Negro League in the 1930s, and finds out why he had changed his name to Buck Mac Henry from McHenry.

Duane plays a character learning of the effects of discrimination of the past; in "The Runaway," his character, Sonny, experiences it first-hand.

Both films are fictional, but Duane evokes enough credibility in each role that one could easily think they were true stories.

Duane is now in the ninth grade at the Professional Children's School in Manhattan, as a 14-year-old with his own cell phone - it's the best way for him to keep track of his schedule, and for his mother, Joy McLaughlin, to keep track of him.

"I've always been interested in the arts," said McLaughlin, the principal of the New Dawn School in Jamaica, a kindergarten-through-6th grade performing arts school she founded in 1999. But she couldn't be called a stage mother - Duane took a liking on his own to being at the busy end of a camera as soon as he was selected to pose for children's clothing catalogs when he was 6, after Joy had sent his photo to all the key agencies in Manhattan. "I liked the attention and all the activity," Duane recalled.

Duane was scheduled to start filming this week in the role of a student in the big-screen movie, "The Palace Thief," set in the present in a U.S. boarding school.

Amid all his auditions and rehearsals, as well as ice-skating, snowboarding, and roller-blading, Duane maintains a B average in school - his mother has made it clear that he can't lead a star-studded life if he goes below that.

He has another motivation for keeping up his grades - he wants to go to law school, and become a performing arts attorney.

That's "to fall back on" if he doesn't start being recognized on the street.

Reach Qguide Editor David Glenn by e-mail at, or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.

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