If the name Taran Noah Smith doesn’t sound familiar to you, you are not alone. If that name does sound familiar to you, well, you may be dating yourself since Smith played the youngest Taylor boy on the ‘90s hit TV comedy series Home Improvement. With many from the show moving on to bigger and better things (well, maybe not better), how come we haven’t heard Smith’s name? There is one good reason. Home Improvement was the last thing Smith appeared in.
TARAN NOAH SMITH ON HOME IMPROVEMENT
Taran Noah Smith was a mere 7-years-old when he was hired to play Mark Taylor on the Tim Allen-led comedy Home Improvement. He was cast as the youngest of three boys to Tim Taylor (Allen) and Jill Taylor (Patricia Richardson). His two older brothers were Brad (Zachery Ty Bryan) and Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas).
Home Improvement was a weekly sitcom that ran for 8 seasons. Tim Taylor was a man’s man, trying to raise his sons to fit his image. Jill was many times is foil. Home Improvement was also a show within a show. Taylor was the host of Tool Time, a home improvement show where he was assisted by his co-host Al Borland (played by Richard Karn). He also had a Tool Time girl to help out. His first one started the career of Pamela Anderson. She played Lisa for the series’s first three seasons and then was replaced by Debbe Dunning, who played Heidi, once Anderson’s career took off.
While most of the shows were obviously centered around Allen and Richardson, over the eight seasons Taran Noah Smith had plenty to do. Early on he was more of a background filler, but as he grew older, more storylines involved his growing character.
Taran Noah Smith would never say his time on Home Improvement was bad, on the contrary, he loved his time on the show. The problem for Smith, though he loved the show, was that he was spending his entire childhood on a Disney lot. That is basically where he grew up.
His troubles began shortly after the show ended its eight-season run. His mother, Candy Bennici, explained to the Marin Independent Journal, “I thought that when the whole thing was ending, he had the hardest time,” Bennici said. “The adults and the other kids had a life before the show, but his whole life as he knew it was suddenly gone overnight. They take your ID card and you can’t go on the lot anymore.”
TAKEN IN BY AN OLDER WOMAN
Eight years on a TV show can teach a person many things. Especially if one starts at the young age of 7. For Taran Noah Smith, he got to see many parts of the TV series process, from the writing, producing, and directing standpoints. It was this reason that after Home Improvement ended, Smith decided that he wanted to be a director.
Taran Noah Smith enrolled in the prestigious film school at the University of Southern California. But for Smith, he bit off a lot more than he could chew. Instead of concentrating on his studies, he met and fell in love with vegan chef Heidi Van Pelt, who had been hosting dinners for those adventurous Hollywood eaters in her Southern California home.
While love should never be a problem, the issue here was that Taran Noah Smith was still 17. Van Pelt was 33. “She was 15 years older than me,” Smith said. “I knew my parents would not be excited by that, so I told them she was nine years older, the same distance as my parents in age. But they eventually figured it out and that’s when they tried to push her out of my life. But that never works with a teenager in love.” Smith dropped out of school to be with his new wife.
Immediate concern followed. It wasn’t only the age difference; many were convinced she was trying to get his money. Taran Noah Smith went to court to become emancipated. This would allow Smith (and Van Pelt) to get his $1.5 million trust fund a year early. The couple was hoping that being married would help sway a judge.
Things got worse when Taran Noah Smith accused his parents of living off the money he made from Home Improvement and squandering his fortune. It got real nasty between Smith and his parents. To this day, Bennici denies taking Smith’s money. “Of course we didn’t touch his money,” his mother claimed. “It was in a trust fund. We couldn’t have touched it if we wanted to. They were trying to get it when he was 17, and we were trying to protect it. Luckily the Marin courts were very good about it and didn’t give it to them.”
Chef Van Pelt makes the same claim. “There was no usurping of anyone’s money,” she told the Marin Independent Journal. “I’ve always had my own thing and my own strengths. I don’t rely on others.” She added, “I had my own way of making money, but he didn’t have a job and was running out of money,” she said. “The only way he could get money was to try to access his trust fund. How else was he going to survive?”
Once Taran Noah Smith turned 18, he became a millionaire. He and Van pelt then formed Playfood in Kansas City. The company made vegan products out of cashews. According to Van Pelt, the company was formed well after Smith received his trust fund and that he went into their venture with his eyes wide open.
His eyes were also wide open when it came to Van Pelt. “I was with Heidi for five or six years,” Taran Noah Smith said. “At the end of that, I realized I had made a mistake. The funny thing is, that’s when my parents were ready to forgive her and make her part of the family. They told me they wanted to tell me something, but I said, ‘I want to tell you something first — Heidi and I have split up.’”
Before this, though, Taran Noah Smith had already patched things up with his parents. “I’d gotten out of the teenage phase and realized my parents weren’t doing anything wrong but were trying to protect me,” he said. “I apologized to them, and they were very forgiving and apologized, too.”
Taran Noah Smith is now backing his mother’s book. It’s called Stardom Happens: Nurturing Your Child in the Entertainment Business, and Bennici decided to write it as a guide to parents of show-biz kids. She wanted to take her experiences and show others how they can navigate through the maze that is called Hollywood.
She says there are sharks out there and they prey on the young. “You go in so naive,” she says. “I had no idea what that contract meant, and I didn’t know if the show was going to last past the contract. We didn’t even know who Tim Allen was.” Granted, that was almost 30 years ago, but things really haven’t changed that much in Hollywood. “That’s one of the reasons we wrote the book,” Bennici said “There are sharks out there that prey on kids, and we encountered one.”
TARAN NOAH SMITH NOW
Taran Noah Smith was last in front of a camera in 1999. He walked away from Hollywood and has never looked back. He bounced around after his time with Van Pelt concluded, pretty much burning through his entire trust fund. He has performed various jobs to include an installation artist for big events like Coachella. He helped his father build energy-efficient water purifiers that our military is now using overseas.
Now, you can find Taran Noah Smith teaching people how to pilot submarines. He’s part of a company called Community Submersibles and holds the title of Technical Manager. The goal of the company is to teach those who are interested not only how to pilot a sub but also to teach those who are interested in life under the sea. Taran Noah Smith currently lives on a sailboat.
As for acting? He has no answer for that but may have to give one soon. With Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing comedy series entering its final season, there has been talk of a Home Improvement reunion series. Both Allen and Karn have gone on record numerous times stating they are more than willing to return to that world. In fact, Allen has gone so far as to bring Tim Taylor out of retirement for a recent episode of Last Man Standing when he appeared as both Mike Baxter (his LMS character) and Tim Taylor. If a reunion happens Taran Noah Smith may end up back on screen.