Sometimes the truth can be far stranger than fiction. Case in point? The 2016 film “The Late Bloomer” (now streaming on Netflix), which tells the tale of Peter Newmans (Johnny Simmons), a 30-year-old sex therapist who discovers he has a tumor on his pituitary gland that has blocked the production of testosterone throughout his life, thereby preventing puberty. The tumor is quickly removed and Peter finally begins to experience the mercurial hormonal developments most do in their early teen years, but as an adult and at a highly accelerated rate.
Sounds like an outlandish premise, right? But “The Late Bloomer” was inspired by an actual life story – of a well-known public figure at that! Hollywood correspondent Ken Baker did not experience puberty until having a tumor removed from his pituitary gland in 1998 at the ripe old age of 27. Baker chronicled the biological anomaly and its traumatic before and after effects in his 2001 book, “Man Made: A Memoir of My Body,” which The Buffalo News describes as “a detailed and often harrowing journey through his childhood and 20s.”
“The Late Bloomer” turns Ken’s story a bit on its head by looking at his experiences through a comedic lens, walking a grown Peter through acne, voice changes and all of the other hormonal trials and tribulations puberty entails. According to Baker, despite the comedic slant, the movie still rings true. After viewing it, he told his son “a third was pure fiction, a third was partially true, and a third was straight out of his life,” according to The Buffalo News.
A year after “The Late Bloomer” was released, Baker was accused of sexual harassment by several former employees, thereby severely tainting the film and its coverage of his sexual awakening. He gave up Hollywood soon after (he says for reasons that have nothing to do with the allegations) and moved to Chicago, where he established a digital marketing company. Today, he lives very much outside of the public eye.
But in 2016, Baker put his life on full big-screen display via “The Late Bloomer” (not to be confused with the similarly titled “Late Bloomer” TV movie from the same year). Though the flick, which marked actor Kevin Pollack’s feature directorial debut, started out strong, winning Best Comedy at the San Diego Film Festival, it mainly scored jeers from critics and the general public alike. On Rotten Tomatoes, it currently ranks in the low 20s in both the Tomatometer and Audience Score categories.
While I can’t say I disagree with the naysayers, I find the movie highly memorable, nonetheless, as well as the main house featured in it – a gorgeous Craftsman located at 1841 S. Wilton Pl. in Los Angeles’ Arlington Heights neighborhood. Back in August 2015, I was invited for a brief set visit at the property during the filming of “The Late Bloomer” thanks to a friend who was part of the crew. The few hours I spent there, basking in the glow of a movie shoot taking place virtually right at my fingertips, will forever be embedded in my mind.