Dustin Diamond of ‘Saved by the Bell’ Dies @ 44

Dustin Diamond, the actor forever associated with his dorky Screech character on various Saved by the Bell incarnations, has died of lung cancer just weeks after being diagnosed. He was 44.

Screech's first kiss — not Dustin's — from Tori Spelling (b. 1973) (Image via NBC)

TMZ reports he had his girlfriend by his side when he died.

In a statement, his social media team wrote:

Hi Everyone! Team Dustin Here. We are saddened to confirm of Dustin Diamond's passing on Monday, February 1st, 2021 due to carcinoma. He was diagnosed with this brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer only three weeks ago. In that time, it managed to spread rapidly throughout his system; the only mercy it exhibited was its sharp and swift execution. Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that we are grateful.

Dustin Diamond was a character in and of himself: an unpredictable spitfire who always left us shocked, but never left us bored. We are thankful he trusted us enough to share his genuine, authentic self with our team. We wish you knew him in the way that we did. We please ask that you give room for privacy to our team and Mr. Diamond's family during this tragic time, as we grieve and remember the memories spent together. This loss is as much stinging as it is sudden.

Diamond was born January 7, 1977, in San Jose, California, and acted even as a child. By 1988, he was cast as Samuel "Screech" powers on the Disney Channel series Good Morning, Miss Bliss, starring Hayley Mills (b. 1946) as a schoolteacher. It lasted one season, was extensively revamped, and aired on NBC from 1989-1993 as Saved by the Bell.

The series, populated by telegenic teen actors Mark-Paul Gosselaar (b. 1974), Mario Lopez (b. 1973), Tiffani-Amber Thiessen (b. 1974), Elizabeth Berkley (b. 1972) and Lark Voorhies (b. 1974), became a sensation among kids, and sold a lot of teen-entertainment magazines in its time. It made several of the cast famous in their own right, though Diamond remained moored to his character, also appearing on the spin-off series Saved by the Bell: The College Years (1993-194) and Saved by the Bell: The New Class (1993-2000), as well as in the TV movies Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style (1992) and Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas (1994).

After that, his career was largely confined to reality TV, such as on Celebrity Fit Club (2007) and Celebrity Big Brother (2013).

Shockingly, in 2006, Diamond sold a sex video that he later admitted featured a stunt double. It tainted his image, rather than enhancing interest in it, and led to a long period of notoriety.

He became estranged from his Saved by the Bell castmates upon the 2009 publication of his tell-all memoir Behind the Bell, in which he slammed their on-set behavior, alleged he had had sex with NBC's VP of children's programming and boasted of bedding 2,000+ women. He later seemed to disavow the book, which was ghostwritten.

Nonetheless, he was not invited to appear on the Saved by the Bell reboot in 2020 on Peacock.

Diamond also did time in prison in 2015 on a concealed weapon charge, and was re-arrested for violating the terms of his probation in 2016.

He has been remembered by some of his old Saved by the Bell co-stars, including Mario Lopez, who wrote:

"Dustin, you will be missed my man. The fragility of this life is something never to be taken for granted. Prayers for your family will continue on..."

Thiessen wrote:

"I am deeply saddened by I the news of my old co-star @realdustindiamond passing. Life is extremely fragile and it's something we should never take for granted. God speed Dustin."

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