Children across the country once wanted to be the kids they saw every night on TV shows like The Brady Bunch or The Partridge Family. But the reality, unfortunately, didn’t always match up to the fiction. Here’s what happened to 20 child starlets of yesteryear once they grew up. Some continued to act, some walked away from the industry altogether, and sadly, more than a few of them were caught in the snares of showbiz.
20. Kami Cotler
Yes, the youngest Walton is all grown up now. However, Kami Cotler was just six when she was cast as Elizabeth in the 1971 to 1981 family show and 16 when the last of the Waltons TV specials aired. Upon reaching adult life, she became a teacher. And at the beginning of her classes, she would even set aside half an hour to answer Waltons questions from her pupils!
19. Erin Murphy
When Erin Murphy first started playing Tabitha Stephens in 1964’s Bewitched, she shared the part with her twin sister Diane. But as the fraternal twins grew up and began to look different, Erin was given the role as an individual. Once the show came to a close in 1972, she did some commercial work but eventually became a businesswoman instead.
18. Clint Howard
Imagine having a bear as your co-star. Well, that’s what happened to child actor Clint Howard, brother of actor and director Ron Howard. Howard starred in the 1967 to 1969 TV show Gentle Ben as Mark, the friend of a giant black bear. And he continued to act as he grew up, appearing in no fewer than 17 of his big brother’s films.
17. Butch Patrick
Butch Patrick beat off competition from hundreds of other children to play werewolf Eddie Munster on The Munsters. The show ran from 1964 to 1966, but it gained a large fanbase and ensured Patrick remained in the public eye. Throughout his adult life, however, Patrick struggled with drug addiction. In 2011 he was also diagnosed with cancer; thankfully, he’s survived.
16. Valerie Bertinelli
The one-time Mrs. Eddie Van Halen began her acting career at the age of 15 as Barbara Cooper in One Day at a Time from 1975 to 1984. And although her marriage to Van Halen (which took place while she was still on the show) was disastrous, her acting career remained pretty steady after One Day at a Time finished.
15. Melissa Gilbert
Melissa Gilbert played Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie from 1974 to 1984. After that, she made the transition from child to grown-up actor with relative ease and is still active in the TV industry today. She also ran for Congress in 2016, but ultimately had to step out of the race because of health problems.
14. David W. Harper
David W. Harper, whose father was also an actor, started his childhood career by playing Jim Bob Walton in The Waltons. He stuck with the show for its entire run and appeared in a few other things once it was over. But eventually Harper left the acting world altogether, and his private life remains just that – private.
13. Alison Arngrim
Alison Arngrim shot to fame playing Nellie for seven seasons of Little House on the Prairie. But behind the scenes her childhood was hellish, as she had been sexually abused by her brother for three years. In 2013, though, Arngrim told The Huffington Post that her time playing Nellie had been “therapeutic.”
12. Jerry Mathers
Thanks to Leave It to Beaver, Jerry Mathers was one of the biggest child stars from 1957 to 1963. Mathers is still best known for his role as Beaver, but he’s done many other things with his life too. For one, he joined the United States Air Force Reserve and even presented the 1967 Emmys in uniform; he also subsequently earned a bachelor’s in philosophy.
11. Linda Blair
Linda Blair will forever be associated with just one, infamous, role – that of the possessed little girl Reagan from the notorious 1973 horror film The Exorcist. And she’s not always happy about it, either. In fact, in 2016 she told the AFP that the media’s inability to disassociate her from her character was “discouraging.”
10. Mike Lookinland
Mike Lookinland had only done TV commercials before he was cast as little Bobby Brady on The Brady Bunch, a show which ultimately ran from 1969 to 1974. And once the show was over, he appeared in a few other things before eventually reprising his role as Bobby in the Brady sequels. Ultimately, however, Lookinland quit acting and Hollywood altogether; now, he runs a concrete company in Salt Lake City.
9. Kim Richards
Cute blonde Kim Richards appeared as Prudence on Nanny and the Professor from 1970 to 1971 and then went on to be a Disney kid who starred in many of its movies. But sadly, Richards’ fame only exacerbated her personal struggles and she succumbed to alcohol and drugs. She later tried to reinvent herself as a reality TV star, but sadly her substance abuse problems kept getting in the way.
8. Melissa Sue Anderson
Melissa Sue Anderson is still primarily known as Mary Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie, but before winning that role she actually showed up on two other popular shows – Bewitched and The Brady Bunch. Once Prairie came to an end in 1981, though, Anderson kept on acting, and in 2010 she released an autobiography detailing her time as a child star.
7. Peter Ostrum
Peter Ostrum was once at the center of one of the most popular children’s movies of all time – 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Ultimately, however, Ostrum decided that the showbiz life wasn’t for him. In fact, Charlie Bucket was to be his only acting role, and he actually grew up to become a vet.
6. Lisa Loring
Spooky little Lisa Loring was the original Wednesday Addams from the Addams Family TV show, which aired from 1964 to 1966. Once it finished, Lorim kept acting and eventually joined the soap opera As the World Turns. A heroin addiction, however, took a toll on her, and it was something from she didn’t recover until the ’90s.
5. Johnny Whitaker
Johnny Whitaker was a child celeb who rose to fame during the ’60s and ‘’70s. From 1966 to 1971 he played Jody on Family Affair, and in 1973 he played the lead in Tom Sawyer. Whitaker didn’t take the usual child star path, however. After leaving school he briefly became a missionary and then eventually an agent. He also turned his drug addiction into something good, by getting clean and becoming a counselor.
4. Danny Bonaduce
During the years 1970 to 1974, Danny Bonaduce was the cute, cheeky little son of the Partridge Family. After that, unfortunately, he went on something of a downward spiral. Multiple arrests have hindered his career, and his political views are considered pretty controversial, too. These days, in fact, Bonaduce is now more of a reality TV personality and wrestler than a serious actor.
3. Maureen McCormick
Once The Brady Bunch finished in 1974, it, unfortunately, caused the life of Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia, to take a downward turn. McCormick developed a severe drug problem and battled mental health problems, too. Consequently, her acting career more or less came to an end, although these days she does appear frequently on reality TV.
2. Tatum O’Neal
In 1974 Tatum O’Neal won an Oscar for her performance in Paper Moon – and at ten years old became the youngest person in history to do so. Unfortunately, in her adult years O’Neal was dogged by controversy and drug problems, and she hasn’t had a starring role in a while.
1. Susan Olsen
When she was aged just eight years old, Susan Olsen was cast as Cindy on The Brady Bunch, a role she later said made her unpopular among her schoolmates. As an adult, Olsen became an animal rights activist, artist, and radio host – but she lost her hosting job when she made homophobic comments on air.