By Kim Morgan
Special to MSN Movies
Oh to be a child star -- to find fame and fortune before you're able to set your own bedtime.
The Olsen sisters are the ultimate young success stories: The twins won't turn 18 till June, but they've already created an empire of videos, books, dolls, magazines, clothing and more (with projected yearly sales of more than $1 billion).
Mary Kate and Ashley -- who made their TV debut at nine months old and literally grew up on camera -- appear to have staying power. Not only are they reportedly worth up to $150 million each, but so far, they seem to be scandal-free, heading for college instead of Paris Hilton-style notoriety. Can they really be that rich, that beautiful and still be, well, normal?
But of course, many young celebs don't enjoy Hollywood happy endings. Life ain't so easy when your voice changes and stubble grows in; you can become, well, creepy. Do we really want to see Haley Joel Osment grow up? Or might his next haunting catch phrase be: "I see facial hair"? And are we really accepting ex-Menudo-ite Ricky Martin anymore? Is he living mi vida over? Whitney Houston may have been wrong when she youthfully sang: "I believe the children are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way." Yes, teach them, Whitney, but in the case of Corey Feldman, maybe they shouldn't lead the way.
So in honor of the many troubled child stars, we've come up with the list of the 10 most intriguing train-wreck kiddies. Some have crawled out of a rut, some have died and some have remained in the notorious files — potent examples of how too much fame too quickly and too young can have detrimental effects on a not-so-aged personality. But don't give up on them, you never know who'll have a comeback. Scott Baio meet Steven Spielberg.
10. Tatum O'Neal
Tatum had some major pressure on her by the mere age of 9. After she won an Academy Award for her plucky performance in "Paper Moon," the world was her oyster and she was, for a time, the highest-paid child star. The daughter of super-famous, now notorious Ryan O'Neal and actress Joanna Moore (who reportedly suffered from drug addiction), Tatum lived the Hollywood life with her younger brother Griffin, who would later have some problems of his own (drug-addled Griffin was involved in the boating accident that killed Francis Ford Coppola's son). Tatum found fame in the delightful "The Bad News Bears" and grew into a sexy tomboy teen with "Little Darlings." But her career never made it into the 1980s and '90s; instead she married the bad-tempered tennis star John McEnroe and attempted to raise a family. Divorce followed and Tatum admitted to past drug addiction. Now 40-something, O'Neal's still lovely and not too old for a comeback. Quentin Tarantino, are you listening?
9. Carl Switzer
Who didn't love Alfalfa from the late 1930s/early 1940s "The Little Rascals"/"Our Gang" series? Playing the curiously-coifed, nerdy romantic, he delighted us and won our sympathy when he sang "I'm in the Mood For Love" with a frog in his throat, pined for Darla and bravely belted out "I'm the Barber of Seville" whilst being pelted with tomatoes. But living in La-La land has its disadvantages, especially when you're most famous for being named Alfalfa. Film roles dried up for Carl Switzer after leaving the Gang and hitting puberty. By the '50s, poor Alfalfa made his keep as a hunting guide and bartender, leading a boozy, wild life. Going against the shy little boy he portrayed in the series, he met his end like a country music song. The still-young 32-year-old was shot to death over a botched-up debt. Guess he really was a rascal.
8. Danny Bonaduce
Sure he's found fame on the radio and the half-baked male version of "The View" called "The Other Half," but Danny Bonaduce, a.k.a. Danny Partridge from the 1970s TV show "The Partridge Family," was for a time, a big-time screw ball. The red-haired, smart-aleck drummer kid grew into a young man with a terrible drug problem. The '80s and early '90s were not kind to Mr. Bonaduce. He was arrested in 1985 with 50 grams of cocaine in his car and again in 1990 at a Daytona Beach crack house. And then there was that whole beating up a transvestite he thought was a female prostitute incident. Now sober, Bonaduce has maintained a sense of humor about his ordeal, which makes him infinitely more lovable than his famed childhood character. It seems that finally he heeded advice to "Come on Get Happy."
7. Corey Feldman
"I'm all about image repair at this point," said Corey Feldman in a newspaper interview while promoting last year's bizarre reality sideshow, "The Surreal Life" (co-starring fellow former stars MC Hammer and Emmanuel Lewis). The child star of such hit movies as "The Goonies," "Stand By Me" and "The Lost Boys" (which also starred Corey Haim, the second half of the "The Coreys") has become something of a punching bag in the where-are-they-now-and-what-kind-of-trouble-are-they-in department. Claiming an abusive childhood led to his downward spiral, Feldman was legally emancipated from his parents by age 15, went party wild and was arrested in 1990 for heroin possession. Perhaps his most heinous offense however has been his fashion choices -- wearing Michael Jackson gear long after it was cool (see "Dream a Little Dream" for evidence). Oh yes, and the record album "Still Searching for Soul." Ever hungry for a comeback, Feldman landed a role in, what a surprise, David Spade's comedy "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star." Which leads us to the question: Where's Corey Haim?
6. Drew Barrymore
How could we not include our little Drew? Though now on top as one of America's sweethearts, her lineage of theatrical and cinematic royalty is the quintessence of the live fast, die young kiddo. Thankfully, she lived. "Little Girl Lost" is the title of her autobiography, and boy was she ever. The cute little star of "E.T." and "Firestarter" put those rebel girls in "Thirteen" to shame. By 13, Drew had already entered rehab. As she says in the book: "I had my first drink at age 9, began smoking marijuana at 10, and at 12 took up cocaine." Yowza. Slipping into L.A. clubs with no adult supervision, Drew was a party girl before she even had a learner's permit. But as Hollywood notoriety can sometimes go, she managed to use her struggle adventitiously, becoming even more famous because of her past lifestyle. Oh, and she also grew up to be a massively hot babe who's unafraid to show a little skin. That helped too. How could Corey Feldman compete?
5. Anissa Jones
She looked a lot like young Drew Barrymore, and it was a shock when Anissa Jones died in 1976 of a drug overdose. Wait, Anissa Jones, Buffy from that sweet, late '60s/early '70s TV show "Family Affair"? The daughter of a patient, perfect, though slightly unorthodox Brian Keith? The loving darling to Sebastion Cabot's Mr. French? The product of divorced parents and some deep-seated personal and substance issues, Jones died at age 18 at a friend's house in Oceanside, Calif. In her own morbid way, Jones laid the downward path for the other child stars that followed, particularly child television stars.
4. The "Diff'rent Strokes" cast
Though they are all special in their own right, the kids from the popular sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes" get their own category in the screwed-up child star department. Just what was it about that show that cursed them so? Mr. Drummond? The "what you talking 'bout Willis" tagline? The now ironic "just say no to drugs" visit by Nancy Reagan? Gary Coleman, Todd Bridges and Dana Plato could never shake their early '80s fame, becoming train-wreck curios through the '90s and onward. Coleman successfully sued his parents and was sued himself, showing up in the court of Judge Mills Lane, where he was ordered to pay an autograph seeker $1,665 for hospital bills suffered after a fight. Most recently, Coleman has shown up on the de-moralizing "Star Dates" and made a run for governor of California. Bridges kicked Vanilla Ice's butt on "Celebrity Boxing." And Dana Plato was not only busted robbing a video store, but struggled with drugs until an overdose in a trailer home following a particularly harsh Howard Stern appearance in 1999. As the theme song crooned: "the world just don't move to the beat of just one drum." Do tell.
3. Patty Duke
"What a crazy pair!" likely became a horrifying mantra for the bubbly Patty Duke, the cute, talented star of seminal 1960s sitcom "The Patty Duke Show." The Oscar-winning actress was made to look like a happy little teen when manager John Ross took her in on her mother's insistence. Her name was changed from Anna Pearce to the more marquee-friendly Patty Duke, and things looked swinging as she spent TV time talking to herself as pedal-pusher twin cousins. But Patty was unhappy. In her autobiography, Duke writes of both sexual abuse and drug abuse. She rebelled by marrying a much older man at age 18, and was allegedly sent to a mental hospital by her husband. Her show was cancelled, and though she scored big with the TV movie "My Sweet Charlie," her success was a roller-coaster ride. With all of her anxiety attacks, suicide attempts and wild highs and lows, poor Patty was relieved when she was diagnosed with manic depression — her illness finally had a name. But Patty, in her own way, came out on top by helping others deal with depression. She also mothered Sean Astin, Sam from "The Lord of the Rings."
2. Judy Garland
The original Little Girl Lost, Judy Garland is the most tragic star to grace this list. An almost frightening talent, Garland was given the starring role in the legendary "The Wizard of Oz" (the film almost went to the well-adjusted Shirley Temple) in which she turned the song "Over the Rainbow" into an instant classic. With her sudden success, MGM hoped to keep her as their squeaky-clean girl next door by casting her with life-long friend Mickey Rooney in a series of Andy Hardy movies. She was a ravishing adult in the sublime "Meet Me in St. Louis" and she married the film's director, Vincente Minnelli. That union wouldn't last, however, and her career remained rocky. Though never at a loss for talent, Garland was afflicted by a barbiturate addiction, allegedly beginning while a child star at the studio. Suffering from erratic behavior, reported suicide attempts and heavy drinking, Garland's career was marked by a comeback ("A Star is Born") and unforgettable TV specials. In 1969, just 12 days after her 47th birthday, she was found dead in London from an overdose of barbiturates.
1. Robert Blake
Robert Blake may not be the biggest child star, but he has become the most notorious. He was also the cutest. Mickey Gubistosi, as he was known then, played the sweet-faced Mickey on "The Little Rascals/"Our Gang" series. He changed his name to Bobby Blake and appeared in several films until making an adult splash with a powerful performance as a killer in "In Cold Blood." Later he would star in the gritty cop show "Baretta" as Tony Baretta, winning an Emmy for his take-no-prisoners character. But life still wasn't easy for Blake. He showed up on the talk show circuit and complained about Hollywood. He also revealed that he was abused by his parents as child. Blake always seemed a dangerous, wounded soul. No wonder he was so effective in his last screen appearance, as a creepy vision in David Lynch's "Lost Highway." In May 2001 Blake's life took a serious turn when his wife Bonnie Lee Bakely was found dead in his car from a gunshot wound. Though Bakely was portrayed as a shady character (celebrity hound, gold digger, scam artist), Blake was arrested and charged with her murder. Stuck in jail awaiting trial, Blake became the star of his own terrifying murder mystery, losing his high-profile attorney and appearing on TV in bursts of anger and bizarre mood swings. Swearing his innocence from day one, Blake is currently out on bail but still awaiting trial. This child star chapter is still open and we can't wait to see what happens next. Certainly not an "Our Gang" reunion.
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