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My Thoughts On Linday Lohan and Other Troubles of Child Stars

Updated on July 22, 2011

As of this writing, one of the biggest former child actresses of the past fifteen years is in a rehab clinic for chronic drug and alcohol abuse after having been in jail for the third time since 2007.

Lindsay Lohan has been a indisputably well-regarded star since the late 1990s; her film debut in 1998's The Parent Trap put her on the map, with her turn in 2004's Mean Girls being considered as her best work.

It has saddened me that Lindsay has joined the ranks of people like Danny Bonaduce, Todd Bridges, and Gary Coleman - child stars who had fallen on hard times.

It's no secret that this isn't a new issue; there have been former kid entertainers with problems as long as there have been kids in entertainment.

I remember hearing about how the Little Rascals' Alfalfa, Carl Switzer, was a bully on that set back in the 1930s and got no better when he grew up, eventually getting killed in 1959 over a $50 debt. I also recall watching a "Where Are They Now" show and learning about Lauren Chapin - "Kitten" on the 1950s sitcom Father Knows Best - spending her adolescence being a major drug addict, while Jay North - Dennis The Menace from that same time period - talked about how he was abused on the set by his guardians and spent years afterward in a rage.

Not to mention hearing about Bobby Driscoll, who was a Disney star in the 1940s as well as the voice of Peter Pan in that 1953 animated feature, dying penniless in a tenement in New York City in 1968.

This issue of child stars of film, TV and the stage has always interested me, and not only because of the many troubles that so many of them have gone through over the decades.

Watching shows like The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Different Strokes and The Facts of Life as a youngster, I felt like I could relate to all of those young people on my television screen. Even though I never met any of those contemporaries save one - Kami Cotler of The Waltons fame, nearly thirty years after she played the youngest daughter on that show - I felt that they were some of the best friends that I never got a chance to meet.

And don't get me started on the crushes that I had on some of those young female personalities. One crush from those days stood out in particular: Dana Plato from Different Strokes.

During my pubescent years, Dana, who played the sister of Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman's characters on that show, was the quintessential girl next door and the All-American fox. Much like Annette Funicello twenty years before, Dana was every girl's best friend and every guy's first love, and I was definitely no exception to that rule.

While Dana wasn't technically my very first crush, I was absolutely crazy about her and desperately wished that she could be my girlfriend, along with Janet Jackson and Kim Fields from Facts of Life.

It's an understatement to say that it saddened me when Dana passed away from a drug overdose in May of 1999 after being addicted to drugs and alcohol for roughly twenty years; her robbing that video store in Las Vegas in 1991 due to her lack of money from being unable to work in Hollywood after leaving Strokes was well known.

Like Lindsay today, this was a girl who needed help.

Paul Peterson, who starred on The Donna Reed Show in the 1950s and 60s and should be declared the patron saint of child entertainers for his advocacy work in his organization, A Minor Consideration, perhaps said it best when he stated,

"There's nothing wrong with wanting to be rich and famous, but it's like eating a five-star meal; everybody gets a bill."

I very much admire Paul not only because he has gone out of his way to help ex-child celebrities in trouble, but also for one other important reason - he's a survivor.

That's the same reason why I admire Todd Bridges and Danny Bonaduce; here were two iconic kid celebs that went through some horrible times, where it would have been no surprise whatsoever if they had died, and yet they survived their drug addictions, crimes, and jail time to become productive human beings today.

I know full well that not every child star ends up in dire straits, develops addictions or gets in police trouble. As Barry Williams - Greg on The Brady Bunch - once said in an interview, "Most of us end up doing just fine."

Ron Howard and Jodie Foster are two obvious examples of that - they've actually done more than just fine with them winning Academy Awards. This is because of one important difference between Ron and Jodie and folks like Dana, Todd, Danny and Lindsay: stable home lives.

As Todd put it on A & E's Child Stars: Their Story, there's nothing wrong with a child being in show business if that what such kid wants, as long as they have "...two stable parents."

There's a saying from George Santayana: "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

That's certainly described Britney Spears when she was going buck-wild on the party circuit, doing stints in rehab centers, and having that nervous breakdown back in 2007; she was so out of control that the Associated Press had her obituary written and ready to go out on the news wires. Thank God that Britney's father was there for her and took over her conservator ship; I truly believe that without him, she may well not be here today.

And that's also described Lindsay Lohan over the past four years or so; people are understandably fearing for her life, as I read comments saying as much in a recent People magazine that was documenting Lindsay's problems with drugs and partying.

It would definitely be a tragic day if Lindsay did lose the battle against her inner demons. I'm not sure whether or not being a child star was the root of her issues, but her unstable home life, with her father in and out of jail while abusing her mother Dina and having such a bad temper, certainly has not helped.

I know I'll pray for Lindsay to come out of all this.

I also hope that all of today's young hot celebs, stars such as Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Dakota Fanning and Justin Beiber, don't repeat the same mistakes that too many of their predecessors made.

As John Lennon said in his last print interview just before his murder in 1980, "God help Bruce Springsteen when the fans realize he's no longer God...I hope he survives it."

I can say the exact same thing for Miley, Selena, her BFF Demi Lovato, the Jonas Brothers, and all the rest of them.


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