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Dustin Diamond

Todd Williamson/WireImage.com

Today’s birthday boy was a geek long before the word “chic” was ever appended.

Best known for playing loveable loser Screech on the painfully awful (yet greatly beloved) high school sit-com Saved By the Bell, Dustin Diamond quipped and voice-cracked his awkward way into our adolescent hearts.

Screech was the butt of jokes and abuse. He rarely got the girl (and when he did, it was a bespectacled Tori Spellingblech!). He never caught a break.

If only we’d have known that, 15 or so years later, skinny dudes in ill-fitting jeans would be getting all kinds of girls by using the label of “hipster”. Marketing! Sneaky!

Dustin Diamond neither made a go of things like fellow Bell castmate Mario Lopez, nor did he fade into dignified obscurity like Lark Voorhies. No, Dustin Diamond resides in a special kind of celebrity purgatory. He’s never successful  at anything he does, but he never allows himself to be out of the spotlight long enough for him to fade from our collective memories. There have been spin-offs, reality shows and even an ill-conceived porno that we dearly hope we’ll never have the misfortune of accidentally stumbling upon. And yet—all of these colossal failures make us love him all the more.

Unlike Jaleel White. GOD, that dude was annoying!

Happy birthday, sweet Dustin. Long may you run.