Child stars are loved and fawned over for their irresistible cuteness, insightful one-liners and generally mischievous behavior. Rarely do we think about all of the pressure and stress placed atop those tiny shoulders when a child is thrown into the very-adult Hollywood world. Sometimes everything turns out okay, but there are some who buckle beneath the weight of celebrity status at such a young age. Here are 15 child stars who became really screwed up adults.
Getting her start by doing commercials for Oscar Meyer and Sizzler and landing a guest appearance on the show “Valerie”, Jodie Sweetin was just gearing up for the role of which she is best known: feisty middle daughter Stephanie Tanner in ABC’s “Full House”. Eight hugely successful seasons later she was back on the job market. With her showbiz career exploding at such a young age, she realized her guest roles in “Party of Five” and “Brotherly Love” might not last and decided it would be a good decision to get back into school. If only this had panned out.
Poor Stephanie Tanner had no idea who she was, according to her 2006 interview with Good Morning America. She feebly rationalized her extreme methamphetamine habit and stated, “this extra hurdle to overcome, you know — trying to prove who I wasn’t, that I wasn’t the girl from “Full House” — but I didn’t really know who Jodie was.” Jodie’s remedy was marriage to crystal meth — err, a police officer — actually, both. While the premature marriage to the young cop unfortunately failed, her relations with crystal meth remained as staunch as ever. It took an intervention from John Stamos, Bob Saget, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in order for her to finally check into rehab.
After marriage number two and her first child, it seems Jodie’s addiction was brought to the forefront again. Allegations made by her then husband Corey Herpin of driving while intoxicated with their daughter in the car was the beginning of a long custody battle and separation process.
While Judy Garland is so much more awesome than many of the trashier celebrities on this list, she’s certainly had her problems. Garland was a spritely sixteen year old when she was cast to play Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”, and would forever be associated with this success. Though she had many accolades, and even performed at Carnegie Hall, Judy had made a complete mess of her life outside of her stardom. With no less than five failed marriages — with at least two gay men — she bounced from musicians to actors to Mark Herron, a man who was paid to deliver her drugs. He would later have an affair with her daughter Liza’s also apparently gay husband, Peter Allen.
This is where acclaimed actress Judy Garland fails. Hooked on barbiturates and amphetamines, she bailed on “The Barkley’s of Broadway” and had to be replaced. This would be the beginning of a trend for Garland. Only a year after giving birth to her daughter, Liza Minelli, she attempted suicide by taking shards of glass to both wrists and was institutionalized for a short time. Garland was prescribed sleeping pills for her migraine headaches, and then illicitly obtained morphine pills before bailing on film roles due to her inability to make it to the set. The young mother passed while sitting on the toilet, and rigor mortis had set in by the time she was discovered by her then husband Mark Herron.
Judy is often idolized by the LGBT community although she balked when given the opportunity to stand up for gay rights, stating “I could care less, I sing to people.”
As a 13-year-old starring in Terminator 2, Edward Furlong made it immediately clear that he was a badass. Mostly in the way that he had no acting ambitions and had literally stumbled from the steps of Pasadena boys club to fame and fortune.
After appearing in films such as American History X, Little Odessa and Before and After and sharing the screen with greats such as Tim Roth, Liam Neeson, Meryl Streep and Anthony Edwards, Furlong made a strange choice. He soon began using his fame and popularity in Japan garnered from his role in Terminator 2 to act in commercials for Japanese products. He even released an album including a cover of The Doors song “People are Strange” but later denounced it by saying it was “the exact opposite of rock” and “a bad mistake.” That wasn’t the end of his embarrassing mistakes.
Edward was quoted stating, “Lots of money and lots of free coke will turn anyone into a cokehead” but not every celebrity is found overdosing face first in a pile of their own vomit. He was soon after arrested for driving without a license and then again for DUI — meaning he must have gotten his license, at least. A bitter split with Jacqueline Domac, his girlfriend/manager who also happened to be 15 years his senior, led her to she sue him for assault and 15% of his earnings.
It is worth mentioning that this guy doesn’t completely lack substance. A self proclaimed advocate of animals and proponent of PETA, it really is too bad he’s best at sitting poised and looking surly on his motorcycle. In one shot he both embarrassed himself and managed to get himself arrested trying to “free” lobsters from an aquarium in a Meijers grocery store — pretty accurate insight about the nutjobs behind PETA as a whole.
Barely having made it to adulthood, Brad Renfro died at just 25 years old. Discovered at the age of 10 for the lead role in Joel Schumacher’s The Client, he shared the screen with film legends Tommy Lee Jones and Susan Sarandon. Winning awards for these roles and getting cast for Huckleberry Finn a year later in Tom and Huck launched the young actor into inevitable stardom.
Honored eight times for five of his films, and having been cast with Robert De Niro, Mickey Rourke, Wynona Ryder, Billy Bob Thornton, Brad Pitt, Kevin Bacon and Dustin Hoffman, Brad had a short but veritably impressive career.
His story is nothing short of depressing. By the age of sixteen, Brad had already picked his poison — he was arrested on cocaine and marijuana charges. Two years later, he was arrested again for allegedly attempting to steal a 45-foot yacht, causing four thousand dollars worth of damage without actually leaving port.
Renfro would be arrested three more times before his death: once in 2001 for a DUI, a public intoxication and driving without a license in 2002, and finally for attempting to buy heroin in 2005. It seems that he had simply bailed on life. With a bottomless well of untapped potential that would remain as such, Brad’s unfortunate and untimely death came in 2008 when he overdosed on heroin.
Everyone, even those who aren’t nineties babies, remembers TV sitcom Family Matters. Jaimee Foxworth played youngest daughter Jodie Winslow, but was apparently written out to make room for superstar Steve Urkel four seasons in. The rejection threw Miss Foxworth into a lifelong battle of drug abuse, alcoholism, depression and eventually drove her family into bankruptcy.
Little Jodie Winslow turned to a career in porno under the moniker “Crave.” Although she did manage to appear on TV a few more times (with her clothes on), it was clear that she had become less than a B-list celebrity. Not all celebs have the grace to bow out in a timely manner, and in an effort to gain some last minute popularity she went on reality television show “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.” According to a 2008 radio interview, Dr. Pinsky alleged he suspects Foxworth is still using.
She appeared again 2009 on TV One speaking out about her progression from her departure from Family Matters to her drug abuse, to porno, to showing her off her newborn son.
Taran Noah Smith
Taran Noah Smith’s biography shows a promising young star degrade into a pathetic saga of sad and messy stories. This guy was emasculated at birth by his parents when they decided he should be given a girls name. Then he got his first job, floundering through puberty on national television when he was cast as “the ugly son” in 90s sitcom show Home Improvement starring Tim Allen.
At 17 Taran made the huge mistake of marrying a succubus known as Heidi Van Pelt. He then sued his parents for control of his 1.5 million earned from his days on Home Improvement, and promptly invested in an illegally run vegan restaurant/catering company called “PlayFood.” He and his new bride ran the company from the home he bought for himself when he was just 12 years old. After being shut down by the police, they gave a an actual restaurant space on Ventura Boulevard a try, but failed again. The resulting stress finally caused the couple to snap; although Taran’s wife cited a lack of interest in men, she also found it necessary to trash his home with an axe and break all the dishes. She finished off by urinating and defecating in every room of the four bedroom mansion. The most obvious question is: Did she actually pee and poo in every room, or did she give each room a serving of the same batch of it? Either way, Taran clearly chose a real winner.
Danny Bonaduce battled long and hard with depression, and it’s no wonder if you take a glance at this man’s achievements. Getting his start as a kid on the 70′s TV show The Partridge Family, he played wisenheimer ginger and middle child Danny Partridge. When he began showing up to work with bruises became clear to the cast of “The Partridge Family” that Danny was being abused at home. Shirley Jones, AKA Mama Partridge, and others would take him home on the weekends. Despite the best efforts of his coworkers, by the end of the seventies Bonaduce was a bonafide washed up talent — he lived out of his car in order to save money for his coke fund.
Bonaduce was arrested in 1985 with 50 grams of cocaine in his car and again in 1990 at a Daytona Beach crack house — and then again when he misappropriated a whole bunch of ginger rage and physically abused some poor transvestite hooker. The former star will regularly refer to his life as a car crash, but just because you’re royally blowing it doesn’t mean you can bend physics or are excused from the responsibility over your own actions. Breaking Bonaduce, a reality show about the very angry and intoxicated man, happened and embarrassed every single poor soul involved.
You may remember the late River Phoenix as the young brooding boy from a family of alcoholics searching for a dead body with his friends in “Stand By Me”, or even as a heartthrob twink prostitute — opposite a young Keanu Reeves — on a quest to find his mother in “My Own Private Idaho.” However, it’s more likely that you’re remembering River for his untimely, tragic overdose and subsequent death.
He and his three siblings were raised by gypsy-like parents who joined their entire family into a religious cult, called the Children of God, in Venezuela. As missionaries, they were forced to use dirty tactics to make their cause seem more appealing to the rich through sex. Though the Phoenix’s were pretty high up in the Children of God food chain, they were never reimbursed for their services. This forced siblings; River and Rain to play guitar on street corners to support their family. Later, River and Rain would start a band called Aleka’s Attic. When the Phoenix parents became too disgusted by the cult’s ways, they stowed away on a cargo ship back to the U.S.
In America, a talent agency introduced River to acting. He appeared in many television shows and eventually in feature films, acting opposite Harrison ford in “The Mosquito Coast” and Sydney Poitier in “Little Nikita.” This Phoenix rose from the ashes and used his celebrity status to push his agenda of staunch veganism and animal rights into the mainstream media. In between film roles, River liked to take his band on tour. Aleka’s Attic was River’s creative outlet. Unfortunately, touring life in the early 90s also brought River to a head with a nasty drug habit.
After wrapping the filming of his latest project, “Dark Blood”, Phoenix flew to LA to play a show at Johnny Depp’s nightclub. After his set, River embarked on the night of drug abuse that would end his life. In the wee hours of the morning on Halloween 1993, River collapsed outside of the now infamous Hollywood nightclub; The Viper Room, and died shortly thereafter from lethal amounts of cocaine and heroin.
Scouted out by the industry giant known as Disney, this once adorable Mousketeer was immediately sexualized. Despite her obvious sex appeal, she was portrayed to be a young girl with morals and a lot of chastity, but was outed by then boyfriend Justin Timberlake to be not quite as virginal as she claimed.
She had made some questionable decisions at this point, including a 55-hour marriage, six months later marrying again to infamous nobody Kevin Federline. Never has there been a better wanna-be wangster than this total fool. When they started hooking up, he had just impregnated Shar Jackson for the third time. Federline told her he was shooting a commercial overseas when in actuality he was cavorting around shooting his new reality show “Chaotic” with Brit. How debonair.
At this point Britney had lost all credibility, and soon enough gave birth to two children with K-Fed only to break it off a month after her second was born. After having the magnifying glass of the media catching her every nip and lip slip, unwanted pregnancy, divorce, apparent drug abuse and inability to stay in rehab, her parenting came into question. After all, she was photographed driving around with her five month old Sean Preston in her lap. Spears was questioned by LA child services, and then again when he fell out of his high chair. She blamed the paparazzi then the nanny, respectively. The next time she dropped Sean Preston she had no-one to blame except herself, and somehow managed to hold onto her coffee. Priorities.
This shit show has no end in sight. She breaks up with K-Fed via text and files for sole custody of the children, then celebrates ice skating at Rockefeller Center. Spears explains some of these things away with that relaxed country background, but this seems more like that backward country bumpkin. Even then she had millions of fans supporting her, parental coaches, plenty of friends and the entire police forcing trying to keep her together, Britney could not manage to make her urine stay clean. She lost custody of her kids, just after her sixteen year old sister announces her first pregnancy. Even her “personal publicist” (damage control artist) resigned.
The King of Pop had many highs and lows. If he hadn’t been put through his father Michael Joseph Jackson’s little boy singing boot camp, who knows what he wouldn’t have accomplished. Although his father had originally not approved of Michael, Marlon, Jackie, Tito and Jermaine’s idea for a band, he sure came around quick enough. Motown signed the Jackson 5 and immediately it was nose to the grindstone for the Jackson boys. Years later it became public that it was commonplace for abuse to occur during practice. After the Jackson children hit the number-one spot on the singles chart — repeatedly — Michael decided to go solo. He landed an acting gig, some Grammys and then released Thriller, arguably his best work ever in which he revealed his signature dance move the moonwalk. Thriller stayed atop the charts for thirty-seven weeks. Michael was seemingly immortal. He would test this every day by ingesting massive amounts of drugs obtained both illicitly and by prescription through many doctors.
The King of Pop had multiple elective operations, surgically altering his appearance. At the same time he had a mansion built on 2,700 acre plot, complete with an amusement park called Neverland. Many very empathetic or just ignorant people rationalize this behavior with his lack of childhood. Maybe it has to do with his allegedly fondling an 11-year-old, maybe not. He received a full body search by police and stated “it was the most humiliating ordeal of my life” and kept the family quiet with a nominal bribe of just 15 million dollars.
Jackson married Lisa-Marie Presley, and after a short marriage, Debbie Rowe. Rowe gave birth to two of his children and soon enough, Jackson was endangering his newborn by dangling the child over a hotel room terrace. In 2003, MJ was charged with seven counts of child sexual abuse and two blistering counts of administering an intoxicating agent. The alleged victim was Gavin Arvizo, a 14-year-old with whom Jackson had often played. Gavin had identified accurately the dimensions and state of Jackson’s penis; but Jackson was acquitted in 2005. When his death came in 2008 due to drug-induced cardiac arrest he was mourned for deeply by naive fans around the world.
Little person Gary Coleman played Arnold Jackson in the celebrated American sitcom Diff’rent Strokes. Though he passed away just last May, we can be sure his catchphrase “What you talkin ’bout Willis?” will be echoed in pop culture for eons to come. Throughout his career, he appeared in 25 films — mostly made for TV movies and cameos.
Gary had some major financial difficulties which apparently stemmed from misappropriation of his trust by his parents and former business adviser. He sued and managed to win $1.28 million, but still filed for bankruptcy in 1999. This resulted in his decision to become a security guard. For a man who did not seem to have much in the way of a sense of humor about himself, that was an interesting first move.
Though famous for his comic relief, Gary’s struggle with depression was well known to those who cared. He spoke of two separate suicide attempts via pill overdose during a 1993 television interview. Coleman also had quite a few brushes with the law. First, after punching a bus driver who had mocked him and his career (or, more accurately, lack thereof). Under oath he testified, “I was getting scared and she was getting ugly”, implying that he thought the driver was going to hit him. This would not be the last time he would be under the law’s watchful eye.
Gary married famous Ebayer Shannon Price in August 2007. Things must have turned sour fairly quickly; they had been spotted arguing often during the last years of his life, and at one point she was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. Though Gary had received his share of citations for disorderly conduct, he didn’t seem to be of any real threat. They appeared on “Divorce Court” in effort to supposedly save the marriage but eventually split up. They were, for some reason, still living together during the last five months of his life, in which he suffered two seizures and “fell down the stairs” causing his fatal brain hemorrhage.
Dana Plato played “Diff’rent Strokes” character Kimberly Drummond, big sis of Willis and Arnold (played by Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman). She is also pretty well known for her acting in “Exorcist II: The Heretic” and “The Bionic Woman.” Her time on “Diff’rent Strokes” was cut short, due to a pregnancy with boyfriend Lanny Lambert and she was written out of the show in 1984. After losing custody of her child and with no other offers for work and in an effort to revive her career, Dana posed nude in a 1989 edition of Playboy. Unfortunately her next gig landed her completely off camera, working in a dry cleaners in Las Vegas.
Things got real funky for Dana when she decided to rob a video store with a pellet gun in a cunning disguise consisting of a curly blonde wig and sunglasses. She was caught by police and bailed out by famous Las Vegas entertainer Wayne Newton. Wayne must have felt mighty stupid when she was arrested again a year later for forging a prescription for Valium. At this point, Dana took roles in movies that could be considered softcore pornography with films like, “Bikini Beach Race”, “Compelling Evidence” and “Different Strokes: The Story of Jack and Jill… and Jill.” She then showed up drunk for her cover shoot in lesbian lifestyle magazine “Girlfriends”, came out as a lesbian, and then recanted the statement.
Dana Plato passed away the day after an interview on “The Howard Stern Show” where callers had called in with a variety of different questions and comments. While some showed support and understanding, most berated her about her apparent lesbianism or drug addicted past. While she did address this on the air stating she had been clean for upwards of ten years, she also had wagered money on the outcome of a drug test, taken there in the studio. She wept when a caller had given sympathy and did not understand why people had been so cruel to her. It seemed like all too much for Plato. The next day she stopped at her mothers house in California where she had taken a moment to lay down inside her recreational vehicle parked outside the house. It was there she would die of Soma and Lortab overdose. It was ruled a suicide.
Macaulay Culkin is someone whose name is almost synonymous with child stardom. After landing a starring role in the first two “Home Alone” movies, and acting in the cult classics “My Girl”, “Richie Rich”, and “The Pagemaster”, he became known as the adorable blonde actor who could hold his own acting opposite Hollywood heavyweights. What most people did not know at the time is that Macaulay had absolutely no say in which roles he took up until the mid 90s. Culkin’s father was also his overbearing manager who signed Macaulay onto movie after movie to almost single-handedly support their family. At the age of 14, Macaulay Culkin took a break from his acting career and filed for legal emancipation from his parents to gain control of his money, which was being squandered by his alcoholic father.
Macaulay became close friends with Michael Jackson. Neverland ranch was the only paparazzi-free zone he had ever known, and Jackson was a good ally to have since they were both shoved into show business by their greedy fathers. When Jackson was first accused of child molestation, the scandal cloud immediately enveloped the young flaxen-haired boy, even though Culkin attested to Jackson’s innocence saying the pop star had never acted inappropriately towards him.
Culkin’s life began a downward spiral beginning with his marriage to Rachel Miner, of “Bully” fame, at age 17. The marriage lasted a whopping two years before the couple’s separation and subsequent divorce. Then in 2004, he was arrested on drug possession charges when his friend was pulled over for speeding in Oklahoma City with Culkin in the car. Police found pot, Xanax and Clonazepam in Culkin’s possession. Ironically, the year before, Culkin had portrayed Michael Alig in the film “Party Monster.” Alig is best known in infamy for starting the club kid movement in New York City, and for being a notorious abuser and distributor of all types of narcotics. Macaulay and his actress girlfriend Mila Kunis shy away from the limelight these days.
Mary-Kate Olsen got her early start in acting playing Michelle Tanner, along with her twin sister Ashley, on the hugely successful TV sitcom, “Full House.” After “Full House” wrapped, they made many cheesy straight-to-VHS videos such as “To Grandmother’s House We Go” and “Olsen and Olsen Mystery Agency.” Their production agency, Dualstar, funded their film and TV projects, and allowed them to later start their own fashion and make-up lines. However, the fashion lines have been widely ridiculed by animal rights activists because of the Olsen’s unabashed use of real animal fur.
When the girls reached college-age, they decided to both enroll at NYU, and during Mary-Kate’s first year at college it became apparent that her teensy figure could be attributed to more than just genetics. Mary Kate entered a rehabilitation center in 2004 because of a “health disorder” and was later discovered to have been severely anorexic. Public opinion of this once loved American icon flat lined, being that she had served as a role model for so many young girls at the time.
After that scandal, no matter how much weight her publicists claimed she gained, photos proved otherwise. To avoid the flash of tabloid cameras trying to catch a glimpse of her skeletor-like figure, Mary-Kate decided to start dressing herself up as some sort of hobo, a style she tried to pass off as boho chic. Recently, Mary Kate has done her very best to stay out of the limelight, other than a short stint on “Weeds” and a make-out scene with 67-year-old costar Ben Kingsley in “The Wackness.” In early 2008 when Heath Ledger was found dead in his Manhattan apartment, it was discovered that the cleaning lady who found him called Mary-Kate twice before calling the police. Sketchy business.
Lohan grew up privileged in a nice area of Long Island with a Wall Street stock trading dad and a former singer for a mother. She was signed to Ford modeling agency at the age of three and appeared in over 100 commercials over the next seven years. At the ripe age of 11, Lindsay got her big break in the acting world, portraying twin sisters separated at birth in the Disney remake of the 1961 classic “The Parent Trap.” The success of this movie landed Lohan a three picture deal with Disney, which would give her starring roles in “Life Size”, opposite Tyra Banks, and the teeny bop crime mystery “Get a Clue.”
The diva in Lindsay first surfaced in 2002 when she was reportedly feuding with Hillary Duff over young pop star Aaron Carter. Two years later, she got the chance to play a role she knew all too well: a prissy, head-up-her-ass high schooler in Tina Fey’s brainchild, “Mean Girls.” The huge success of this film must have gotten to Lohan’s head, because she would soon signed a record deal with mogul Tommy Mattola and began to fancy herself a pop star! Her songs were glorified, auto-tuned, angsty pop crap that many Lohan fanatics wasted 12 bucks on.
Lohan has seemed to rack up more DUI charges than any other celebrities lately. She has been caught red-nosed with cocaine and was getting plastered way before she was legal. She has been booted from many a film role for just plain not showing up for work. Apparently her career has taken a backseat to her bad habits: one of her recent exploits unraveled when she fled the country rather than take a urine test to clear her record. She claims her flights back to the U.S. were delayed, but we can all tell what’s going on from the pictures (see: nip slips). Lilo recently did some time in jail and currently resides at the Betty Ford Center in an effort to avoid returning to jail for failed drug tests, which violate her terms of probation.