• Thu, Jul 26 2007

The sad story of a Home Improvement child star gone awry

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Oy, vey. I don’t think you could make up a story this crazy if you tried.

Taran Noah Smith became famous as the youngest of Tim Allen’s sons on the hit TV comedy Home Improvement, but his stardom led to a brutal money battle with his parents as he married an older woman at age 17.

Now, his marriage and his life have exploded and he’s in the middle of fighting his estranged wife for what is left of his fortune.

Taran ran away from home to wed a woman nearly twice his age over his parents’ strong objections, but now tells The ENQUIRER that he recently left his wife because she announced that she preferred girls to guys! The couple agreed to have an open marriage, yet when Taran found a steady girlfriend, his angry wife smashed every dish they owned!

Now the two are not only divorced, they’re fighting over ownership of a business they started together- a vegan cashew cheese making company! Those are the latest bizarre twists in the May-December love story of Taran and Heidi Van Pelt, a raw foods chef who was 32 when she married Taran three weeks after his 17th birthday.

“I guess I’m living proof that love is blind,” Taran, now 23, told The ENQUIRER. “I’ve lost my house, and now I’m fighting to stop my wife from taking my livelihood away from me. I’m done with older women.”

Taran earned nearly $2 million playing Mark, the youngest of Tim Allen’s three sons, on ABC’s Home Improvement from 1991 to 1999. The ENQUIRER published a series of exclusive stories on his wacky antics- including him running away from home at 16 with Heidi and their kooky wedding with mood rings instead of wedding bands and strippers as ring bearers. We also chronicled Taran’s battle with his parents to gain control of his $1.5 million trust fund and his attempt to evict them from their home, which he owned.

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After their April 2001 wedding, Taran and Heidi launched Playfood, a company that makes and sells vegan cashew cheese. But after four years, problems developed. “Heidi told me she preferred girls to guys,” Taran told The ENQUIRER. “She began to bring girls home. But if they paid more attention to me than to her, she’d get jealous. Finally, we agreed to have an open marriage. But when I began seeing another girl, Heidi got so mad she broke every dish in the house.”

Eventually, the couple decided to split and Heidi moved to Kansas City, Mo., where she ran Playfood with her mother. Soon after, a new man- a musician 12 years Heidi’s junior- moved in with her, Taran said. And things went downhill from there. The business started to suffer first.”Heidi was fighting with the staff and even fired her mother,” Taran said. “Then she wanted to name her boyfriend the general manager. Now we’re in court, fighting over a divorce and control of Playfood,” he said. “I’ve also had to take out a restraining order to stop Heidi from transferring Playfood’s assets to another company that she started in her name. It’s all a mess.”

Meanwhile, the couple’s former home- a $1 million, four bedroom, four-bathroom pad in L.A. – has been trashed. Taran claims he sold the house and moved out months ago. “Squatters have been living there,” he said. “I have a lot of artist friends, and they spray-painted the walls.”

In yet another twist, Heidi has gotten a restraining order against Taran- claiming he’s transferring Playfood assets into a California company that he owns. “Heidi has not been a part of Playfood for seven months. She wants to get back into the company and continue to build it,” her attorney Phillip Willoughby Jr. told The ENQUIRER. As for Taran’s claim that Heidi prefers women, her publicist J.R. Savet fired back (somewhat humorously): “That’s definitely not the case. Is Taran saying that he turned Heidi gay?”

Heidi’s attorney Willoughby added: “Heidi loves her husband and her company, and is extremely disheartened at the way this has developed. She has never backed off loving Taran. This is breaking her heart.”

Meanwhile, Taran has apologized to his parents, David Smith and Candy Bennici. “I had to go back to them and say: “I’m sorry. You were right about Heidi.”

I told you – crazy, right?

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