9 Former TV Child Stars: Where Are They Now?
Ever catch a rerun of The Partridge Family or The Munsters or Leave It To Beaver and wonder—whatever happened to those kids? Well, so do we!
Sometimes it feels like our favourite child actors disappeared off the face of the earth. Whatever happened to The Beaver or Little Ricky? After a bit of digging, we found out what some of those former child stars are up to now: one grew up to open a counseling centre, while another went on to star in his own reality series. Others left Hollywood entirely, or take part in the horror convention circuit.
Here, we take a look at where some of those familiar faces are now.
Jerry Mathers, Leave It To Beaver (1957-1963)
Jerry Mathers was only nine years old when Leave It To Beaver premiered in 1957 and became an overnight success story. With its “by golly gosh” wholesomeness which spoke to the times, Beaver became an instant family classic. But the series ended in 1963 and, by 1966, Mathers had joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve. Although he later reprised his famous role for a TV reunion in the 1983 film, Still the Beaver, and landed bit roles in series such as The Love Boat and Married…With Children, Mathers largely disappeared from acting. In 1997, he briefly resurfaced to become the first male spokesman for Jenny Craig after losing more than 40 pounds after a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Now 68, he lives in Los Angeles with his third wife.
Next: Jay North
Jay North, Dennis the Menace (1959-1963)
At the tender age of six, Jay North catapulted to fame in 1959 as the overall-clad kid who continuously pesters his neighbour Mr. Wilson (Gale Gordon) in Dennis the Menace. By 1966, he’d landed a starring role in the film Maya, which briefly made him a teen idol. He was featured in issues of Tiger Beat, 16 Magazine and Teen Datebook, before fading into the obscurity that befalls many former stars. But it was the 1990 suicide of former child actor Rusty Hamer (of Make Room for Daddy fame) that ultimately helped North address his own battle with depression. He and friend Paul Peterson (of The Donna Reed Show) co-founded A Minor Consideration, a counseling centre for former child stars battling depression. North, 65, now resides in Florida with his second wife and three stepdaughters.
Next: Lisa Loring
Lisa Loring, The Addams Family (1964-1966)
As Wednesday Addams, the ghoulish daughter on The Addams Family, Lisa Loring had to dress all in black, pretend to love spiders and play with a headless doll—which was probably more than just a little bit “mysterious and kooky” for an impressionable five-year-old. Having started a modeling career at age three, Loring grew up in the spotlight and struggled to cope with fame her entire life (she also originated the role of Cricket Montgomery on As the World Turns in the early 1980s). She became a heroin addict while in her 30s, and announced her recovery in 1992. Now 58, the divorced mother of two makes regular appearances at horror conventions.
Next: Danny Bonaduce
Danny Bonaduce, The Partridge Family (1970-1974)
Alright, so Danny Bonaduce hasn’t exactly “disappeared” from our radar since his child actor days—he often graces the front pages of tabloids. He of the freckles and red hair, Bonaduce was once the standout in The Partridge Family—to his credit, his role as a wise-cracking bass player managed to divert (some) attention away from series dreamboat David Cassidy. The musical series quickly thrust Bonaduce and his costars into the limelight and the sudden fame was an epic battle for most of the cast members, of which Bonaduce’s is the most chronicled. His adult career rapidly nosedived after a series of failed marriages and an addiction to cocaine. Now 57, his “bad boy” image has resulted in gigs as a radio host, author, reality TV star—even a wrestler.
Next: Melissa Gilbert
Melissa Gilbert, Little House on the Prairie (1974-1983)
The braided pixie won herself a legion of fans as the precocious Laura Ingalls on the acclaimed series Little House on the Prairie. But Melissa Gilbert’s career stalled after the series finale, and she was reduced to cameo appearances and bit parts on other TV shows. That, coupled with a string of failed romances and struggles with substance abuse, ultimately made more news than her attempts to restart her acting career. Although she appeared on the 2012 season of Dancing with the Stars, she ultimately turned to politics, running for Congress in Michigan. Now 52, she lives with her two kids and third husband.
Next: Keith Thibodeaux
Keith Thibodeaux, I Love Lucy (1951-1957)
Keith Thibodeaux famously played the drum-toting Little Ricky in the classic, I Love Lucy and The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (1957-1960). The actor is now the last surviving regular cast member from Lucy. Thibodeaux adopted the professional name of Richard Keith after Desi Arnaz requested the change in 1953, fearing the Cajun French surname would be too hard for American viewers to pronounce. Thibodeaux later appeared on The Andy Griffith Show in 1962 and 1966 as Opie’s friend, Johnny Paul Jason. However, he soon ditched his acting career for his band David and the Giants. Although he battled a drug problem for a time, Thibodeaux, now 65, still plays with his band (their latest album was released in 2014) and lives with his longtime wife and daughter, Tara. He and his wife, a former ballet dancer, opened their own dance company in Jackson, Mississippi.
Next: Butch Patrick
Butch Patrick, The Munsters (1964-1966)
Butch Patrick landed the iconic role of Eddie Munster at the age of 11, beating out a slew of other child actors for the part. Although The Munsters only aired for two years, Patrick wasn’t quite done with the character. He’d later reprise the role in countless TV shows and movies, such as brief cameos in Here Come the Munsters (1995) and Scary Movie (2000). He continued to guest star as a child in popular series such as I Dream of Jeannie, Gunsmoke and The Monkees. He even released a song titled “Whatever Happened to Eddie?” in 1983 with his band, Eddie and the Monsters. After a brief stint in rehab, Patrick cleaned up his act and started taking part in the horror convention circuit. In 2011, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which was detected early and treated. Now 63, he resides in Los Angeles.
Next: Larry Mathews
Larry Mathews, The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)
Now here’s a former child actor who left show business to do his own thing: Larry Mathews, who played Ritchie Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show starting at the age of five, checked out of Hollywood after the series ended in 1966 and went on to graduate from the University of California, Los Angeles a decade later. And it’s the rare occasion that a former child star relates a positive on-set experience: “It was always a fun place to be,” he told Parade in 2014. “It felt like you were at home in a family.” While he’s appeared on a handful of TV programs to discuss his role as Ritchie, he’s mostly kept himself out of the limelight. Now 61, he’s an account executive living with his longtime wife in Los Angeles.