Being a child actor isn’t easy. Strange women put makeup on you while stranger men with cameras have you read the line “Uh-oh… don’t tell Daaaaadd” 130 times until you get it PERFECT. While other kids are struggling with public school and the realities of being 9, you’re driving a Hummer-mini, taking scotch-fueled showers with call girls, and spending six figures at the FAO Schwatz blow counter.
Wait a minute. I take all that back. Child stars have it way easy. They get paid a ton of money from an early age and can potentially spend the rest of their lives pursing noble interests wrapped in warm blanket of financial security. Let’s stop writing them excuses. Here are 8 child stars who burned out the hard way pitted againtst 8 child actors that ended up making something of themselves. Don’t think of this as a ‘where are they now’ kind of story. Think of it in terms of ‘where they could have been if they just weren’t such gigantic wusses.
The Show was Who’s the Boss. She was Sam, the tough but lovable tomboy. But when a show ends and there are still bills to pay, what does a girl do? If you said ‘vampire porn,’ then you’re smarter than most agents. Yeah. Alyssa opted for soft-core with Embrace of the Vampire, a soft-focus skin flick that was (drum roll) not very good. Okay, sure. Today she’s got a job with Rose McGowan on Charmed. But that’s like purgatory for people who survived the 80s. It’s worse than death.
The show was The Wonder Years. She was an adorable dark-haired girl-next-door type. Then she graduated summa cum laude in mathematics from UCLA after writing a unique theorem explaining some complex number shit that neither you nor I could ever understand. These days she’s still acting and is involved in numerous charities. Who’s the boss NOW?
The show was Full House, and middle sisters have it tough. They work twice as hard to get attention, especially when they live with John Stamos, a needy toddler, and a very reigned-in Bob Sagat. When the show was finally cancelled, Sweetin made her own ‘spinoff.’ She got addicted to crystal meth, lost four teeth, and eventually married a corrupt cop in the Inland Empire. Most people die with dignity at that point; Sweetin went on Good Morning America.
Sure they blew a tour-de-France winner and were accessories to homicide (RIP, Heath). But they stuck to the acting plan, and it pays the rent for that bungalow just north of Sunset. As far as keeping their shit together, they’ve done a pretty stellar job, all stints are rehab aside. And remember– there’s two of them, thus doubling the statistical probability of spiraling out of control.
The Show was Family Matters, and it seemed like a loving household. Carl, the dad, was a lovable pie-eating cop. That irrepressible scamp Urkel broke the nerd color barrier by becoming the first African-American dweeb to sport suspenders. But one season the Jaimee disappears and kinda re-surfaced as a porn-star named Crave. She has since appeared in such titles as My Baby Got Back 29 and More Black Dirty Debutantes 30 (which is better than 28 but worse than 43).
The show was the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and she was the little sister. She managed to stay out any rooms filled with DV cams and gangbags, graduating from Harvard with a degree in African American Studies. I guess Carlton’s ivy league antics paid off after all.
The show was Diff’rent Strokes and Dana was the big sis of two adopted boys. Dana really hit every branch falling out of the normal tree. When the cash ran out, she did a 1989 centerfold in Playboy–inspiring some diff’rent strokes than she intended. She was arrested for forging checks and Valium prescriptions, and got busted in Las Vegas for attempting to rob a video store. Her internship in petty crime ended in 1999 when she overdosed on painkillers. Things have also been a little rough for Willis and Gary Coleman in the years since Strokes wrapped.
The show was Punky Brewster and so was the character. Rocking the measurements 38DD-26-35 at the ripe age of 15, Soleil had two huge reasons to be led astray. But she kept it together had a reduction (thumbs down) and has been involved in plenty of interesting projects, none of which involved stints in rehab or handfuls of Vicodin.
Paper Moon was the movie. She had an Oscar at 9. Then she slipped a little with The Bad News Bears. Then she really slipped, starting a marriage with cocaine and John McEnroe during the same week (that would be an intense breakfast table). She bounced back with roles on Rescue Me and Dancing With the Stars, but was busted last month in Manhattan for buying crack. She has since lined up a role on the forthcoming show Dancing With The Crack Heads.
She landed an Oscar at age 9 for her role in Piano, had roles in X-Men and the recent True Blood series on HBO. To be quite honest, I find her to be one of the most annoying young actresses ever to somehow make it. Her quirkiness makes me want to strangle a kitten, and then throw it at Ellen Page. But I have to respect the hard work and the fact that she hasn’t gone bonkers yet. YET.
He was the one we all thought was pure awesome in Goonies. The kid was a natural born wise-ass with gelled hair. But really, what the shit hasn’t gone. This his product of the Reagan 80s started using blow. Then he snorted heroin. Then he turned 16. Some years later, he did a softcore role with fellow burnout Corey Haim. After they made a B-list actress sandwich together, trauma bonded them for life. Now their never-ending spiral is on reality TV, for us to all laugh at. Whenever God tortures a child star, he gives the rest of us quality entertainment on VH1.
Chunk from Goonies. According to some internet trivia, to generate tears during his "confession" scene with the Fratellis, he thought of his mother dying. This was perfect practice for the histrionics needed to become a successful entertainment lawyer in LA, which is what he is. He went to Berkeley and got elected student president on a “Chunk Rules” platform. See. The geeks are always the ones that end up figuring shit out in the end.
Alfalfa from The Little Rascals found that being a rascal was good training for a life of crime. Carl stopped being young after 15 years and became an alcoholic who liked guns. He tried to start a career as a dog breeder and sold hounds to the likes of Roy Rogers and Jimmy Stewart. Soon after he was arrested for illegal logging in a Sequoia National Forrest. And things kept heading south. Really south. Switzer got shot in the dick and died of massive internal bleeding while trying to collect on a debt at the age of 31.
My knowledge of Shirley Temple was basically that she was a tap-dancing automaton who held no worth beyond blond hair and entertaining our grandparents grandparents. Her acting career was basically about entertaining our grandparent’s grandparents. But as an adult, she was the US Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia, and designated the first Honorary Foreign Service Officer in US History in 1987. Any and all coke binges were clearly kept top secret.
The show was The Brady Bunch. Turns out innocent little Marcia Brady wasn’t so innocent. After failing to get a part as a hooker or heroin dealer for the movie Midnight Express, she decided to investigate the role first hand. She became a super-coke-face with a addiction so severe that she traded sex for cocaine. She had two unwanted pregnancies, both of which ended in abortion. She managed to pull it together, and published an auto biography in October of 2008.
Christopher Knight was also in the Brady carpool. While Marcia was buried face deep in a mountain of Texas Booger Sugar, he held it together becoming a successful salesman in the computer industry. In 1995 he partnered with a friend to create a line of edutainment products, and developed a slew of successful business after. One his most successful conquests, however, was bedding Adrianne Curry, a contestant from America’s Next Top Model.
Phillip Buster 12-4-08