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Jay Waverly North (born August 3, 1951) is an American actor. Beginning a career as a child actor at the age of six, he became a household name during the early 1960s for his role as the well-meaning but mischievous Dennis Mitchell on the CBS situation comedy Dennis the Menace, based on the comic strip created by Hank Ketcham.
Dennis the Menace premiered on CBS on Sunday, October 4, 1959, and quickly became a hit with audiences. North was paid $500 per episode, his strawberry red hair was bleached platinum blonde for the role, and the eight-year-old was instructed to "shave" a year off his age when speaking with the press. North's mother continued to work at AFTRA full-time to support the two of them, and hired business managers to invest North's earnings for him. In a 1993 interview with Filmfax magazine, North spoke highly of his mother, saying: "I want to make it very clear about one thing. I never supported my mother during (Dennis the Menace). She earned her own money from AFTRA. She never lived off my earnings. I know that sometimes happens with child actors, but it was not true in my situation."
While Mrs. North worked, her sister Marie Hopper and brother-in-law Hal Hopper served as North's on-set guardians during filming for Dennis The Menace. In addition to filming the series, North appeared as Dennis in commercials for the show's sponsors, Kellogg's cereals, Best Foods mayonnaise, Skippy peanut butter, and Bosco chocolate milk, and regularly traveled around the country with his aunt and uncle on the weekends to promote the show. These obligations, combined with the required three hours a day of school, took their toll on North, and by the end of the first season, the eight-year-old had begun to feel the pressures of being the lead star of a popular show.
By the fall of 1961, the series was in its third season, and North was earning $2,500 an episode. The show remained in the top 20, but North had grown tired and frustrated with the pressures of carrying a hit show and the long work hours. Complicating matters was his relationship with his Aunt Marie. Many years later, North revealed that his aunt physically and verbally abused him when he made mistakes on the set or did not perform to her standards. North's mother, Dorothy, and the rest of the Dennis The Menace cast were unaware of the abuse, and North concealed his unhappiness for fear of retribution from his aunt. In July 2007, North's childhood co-star, Jeannie Russell, who portrayed Margaret Wade on the series, told radio host Stu Shostak in a radio interview: "'The show comes first.' This was the ethic that we were raised in. Had I seen any abuse or any horrible upset on Jay's part, I would have noticed. It would have impacted me. It would have upset me terribly."
By the fourth season, North was earning $3,500 an episode.