An in-depth look at the psychological effects of finding fame at a young age.
Dana Plato didn’t believe Diff’rent Strokes was ill-fated. “I would have crashed and burned no matter what,” the ex-primetimer said in 1997. And then, two years later, she crashed and burned for good — dead of an apparent suicide. She was 34 and, commonly perceived as the latest victim of something far greater than Diff’rent Strokes — Plato had succumbed to the former child star “curse.”
Or had she?
Former Child Star is the first in-depth look at a generation’s virtual peers — from Dana Plato to Gary Coleman, from Ricky Nelson to Rick Schroder and beyond. No mere where-are-they-now? journalism, Former Child Star asks the question: Why are they now? Why do most ex-kid actors turn out just fine, while others dwell in tabloid (or worse) hell?
Author Joal Ryan, the journalist and keeper of an acclaimed Web site on tv former child stars, is ready with answers. Tracing the behind-the-scenes history of the TV child actor from the 1950s to 2000s, Ryan examines the successes of the Ron Howards, the trying times of the Gary Colemans, the burnouts of the Dana Platos. She finds that the real curse faced by these familiar faces is our “celebrity-or-bust” culture. Drawing on first-hand interviews with players who appeared on My Three Sons, The Brady Bunch, One Day at a Time, Diff’rent Strokes, and more, Ryan weaves a compelling tale that is as much a treatise on the culture of celebrity as it is a really cool book about kids we grew up watching grow up.
Joal Ryan is a Los Angeles-based journalist and author of three pop-culture-related books. In 1996, she wrote and directed Former Child Star, an indie comedy about a totally fictional (and somewhat felonious) former child star. Her fan Web site, Former Child Star Central, has been featured on CNN and in Movieline magazine.
Published: October 2000
Dimensions: 6 x 9 in.