It’s a sad fact that being a child star isn’t always an easy ride. They’re taken advantage of, get harassed by the paparazzi and are unfortunately most definitely witness to the seedier side of showbiz. And yet, back in the ’70s, it seemed like a more innocent time. These 20 child stars from the film, TV and music worlds all had an all-American wholesomeness or sweetness to them which made them beloved by all. But what happened once they grew older and were no longer necessarily cute? Let’s find out…
20. David Cassidy
The Partridge Family made David Cassidy a teen idol in the 1970s, but with this came all sorts of horrors. “Cassidymania” even led to a concert stampede that left a teenage fan dead. In his later years, moreover, Cassidy would complain that he’d been “exploited.” In adulthood, then, he gradually he declined into alcohol abuse – which destroyed his good looks – as well as bankruptcy and DUI arrests.
19. Scott Baio
When he was 16, Scott Baio was picked to play Chachi Arcola in the incredibly popular Happy Days. Four decades on, not only is he much less friendly-looking, but he’s a devoted Republican who campaigned for Donald Trump and called President Obama a “Muslim sympathizer.” Fonzie would be disgusted at his lack of cool today.
18. Kami Cotler
Kami Cotler played Elizabeth, the youngest Walton child on The Waltons, from the start of the CBS show. But it appears as if she never really sought fame. After all, although she’s since popped up in all the Waltons reunion movies, Cotler now works in education, rather than in showbiz.
17. Tatum O’Neal
Tatum O’Neal bagged an Oscar in 1974 aged just ten to become the youngest person ever to win one – a title she still holds today. Her success continued during the ’70s and, despite a past heroin addiction, she barely looks any different to her teenage self decades on. The actress has since also enjoyed marriage to tennis player John McEnroe and a brief relationship with Rosie O’Donnell.
16. Kim Richards
As a popular child actor throughout the ’70s, Kim Richards appeared in many Disney movies, including Escape to Witch Mountain. What’s more, she successfully reinvented herself as a grown-up celeb with The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Sadly, though, her new role didn’t last. And her personal struggles – including numerous arrests and a murdered ex-fiancé – now clearly show on her face.
15. Robbie Rist
Desperate for a child character to boost ratings, producers picked Robbie Rist to play Cousin Oliver in The Brady Bunch when he was just nine. After that, the work dried up, but nevertheless Rist has since found employment in the great forgotten actors community that is the Sharknado franchise. And while his career may have changed, his bespectacled look remains the same.
14. Janet Jackson
Little Janet Jackson, sister to Michael and the youngest of her family, got started with The Jacksons in 1976 and soon became a regular face on TV. She grew up in the public eye and shed her cuteness for adult sexiness; now, of course, she’s still a well-known pop star and soon-to-be first-time mom.
13. Melissa Sue Anderson
After appearing in Bewitched and The Brady Bunch, an 11-year-old Melissa Sue Anderson was then cast in Little House on the Prairie as Mary Ingalls. After that, she continued acting in smaller roles – and while her celebrity has faded somewhat, her youthful looks haven’t.
12. Mindy Cohn
Mindy Cohn shot to fame as a child star when she was cast as Natalie in The Facts of Life – a role that led her to parts in the likes of Charles in Charge and 21 Jump Street. Now she voices Velma in the Scooby-Doo movies and TV series – and though she may naturally look older, she’s nevertheless totally rocking lilac-colored hair.
11. Johnny Whitaker
As a big ’70s star, Johnny Whitaker starred in Family Affair and even gave Jodie Foster her first on-screen kiss in the film Tom Sawyer. Unfortunately, like so many child stars, he fell prey to drug addiction, but his story has a happy ending: he got clean and now appears perfectly healthy.
10. Erin Moran
Erin Moran played Joanie, the spunky teenage sister of Richie, on Happy Days and its eventual spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi. But like many of her co-stars, it didn’t work out for her so great after the series ended. Indeed, although she has kept her looks well, she has since lost her home and has been dogged by major money worries. Not so happy days.
9. Maureen McCormick
Forever known as Marcia Brady from The Brady Bunch, unfortunately Maureen McCormick’s life went off the rails after the show finished. She became a drug addict very young, in fact, and her life has had intervals of turmoil ever since. And while she looks different now, fortunately her life may be starting to improve.
8. David W. Harper
David W. Harper played second-youngest child Jim Bob Walton in The Waltons, but once the show was over, he decided acting wasn’t for him. However, despite living life out of the public eye – and despite not really looking like Jim Bob anymore – he still appears from time to time at Waltons conventions.
7. Melissa Gilbert
From 1974 to 1984, Melissa Gilbert played Laura Ingalls Wilder on hit show Little House on the Prairie. Afterwards, she made the transition to other roles quite easily. And she can still be seen on TV every now and again – for example, she was on the 2012 season of Dancing with the Stars. At 52, meanwhile, she still looks pretty fabulous.
6. Valerie Bertinelli
Valerie Bertinelli was just 15 years old when she was cast in One Day at a Time, but she dealt with the subsequent fame pretty well. In subsequent years, then, she has continued to act, married and divorced rocker Eddie van Halen and now shows up a lot on reality TV. And, happily, she still looks identical to her former self.
5. Helen Hunt
After appearing in many TV shows during the ’70s – The Fitzpatricks, Amy Prentiss and Swiss Family Robinson, to name but a few – Helen Hunt actually achieved greater success, including a Best Actress Oscar win, as an older film star. Rumor has it, though, that she’s used plastic surgery or Botox to keep looking so young.
4. Erin Murphy
As a child actor on Bewitched, Erin Murphy had to share the role of Tabitha Stephens with her twin sister Diane at first. But as the girls got older, Murphy was allowed to play the part on her own. She opted out of acting eventually, though, and now mostly appears on reality shows – where she’s still pretty recognizable as Tabitha.
3. Danny Bonaduce
Even though he’s now made the remarkable career move into professional wrestling, Danny Bonaduce may forever be associated with The Partridge Family. He played his namesake Danny, the red-haired smart alec, and still undoubtedly looks like him, too – albeit with added facial hair. Unfortunately, Bonaduce has also had his share of problems in his life: he memorably got arrested buying drugs in 1990 at an, er, anti-drugs event.
2. Susan Dey
Susan Dey played Laurie on The Partridge Family but, unlike many child stars, she achieved success once the show wrapped up. In fact, she’s since been nominated for three Emmys and six Golden Globes, winning one of the latter in 1988. And she’s still looking youthful, too!
1. Linda Blair
Everyone remembers the moment that cute little Linda Blair turned into a figure from their worst nightmares in horror hit The Exorcist. It changed Blair’s life completely, and not always for the better – indeed, while she won a Golden Globe, she also became the center of a media scrum. Now mainly an animal welfare activist, she’s older, happier and healthy-looking – a far cry, in fact, from her alter ego Regan.