Parents are tightfisted skinflints for a reason. Kids want abundant sugared snacks, loud and irritating noises, bright lights and expensive plastic pieces of crap from Toys R Us, all day, every day, for ever. Imagine if they were given, say, $50,000 a week to play with; what would happen? They’d keep being kids until old age, only with drugs replacing sugar and a totally different genre of toys. If ever there was proof that the process of giving little people money and fame from day one is less than sensible, these people are it.
1. Dana Plato
Possibly one of the darkest falls from celebrity grace, Dana also starred in Diff’rent Strokes alongside Gary Coleman, as the sweet and pretty Kimberley. What followed her childhood success was a cornucopia of tragic pitfalls in her adult life. Drug addiction, alcoholism, and an inability to properly cope with her typecast career led her not only to appearing in numerous pornographic movies, but even resulted in her robbing a convenience store at gunpoint to take a haul of a couple of hundred dollars. The unfortunate Plato ended up dying of an overdose – suspected initially as suicide – in 1999, having lived the last few years of her life in a trailer park.
2. Gary Coleman
Where to even begin with pint sized Diff’rent Strokes legend Gary? After spending his childhood portraying Arnold Jackson in the classic show, Gary went on to even loftier heights. Broadway? Hollywood? Nay; security guard at a California mall, in which he ended up punching a woman in the face for ridiculing his poor fortune. On top of that, Coleman was also arrested countless times for ‘domestic disputes’ and even ran over some poor bastard after an argument at a bowling alley. Sadly Gary is no longer with us, but hopefully it’ll be the memory of his lovable portrayal of Arnold that will live on, not some sucker with tire marks down his bowling arm.
3. Mackenzie Phillips
Earning $50,000 a week must be tough when you’re a teenager. What on earth do you spend it on? Cocaine, apparently. Phillips, daughter of John from The Mamas And The Papas, was snorting so much of the fun stuff that she became skeletal and developed rotten teeth during the sixth season of the long running show that made her famous – the ’70s hit One Day At A Time. Other details thrown into the ruined celebrity mix include an alleged ongoing incestuous relationship with her father, a refusal to enter rehab which culminated in her dismissal from the show, two near-fatal overdoses and an on-set collapse. Luckily Phillips appears to be coping much better nowadays, having performed guest roles in numerous popular TV dramas and appeared in two productions for the Disney Channel.
4. Macaulay Culkin
To Culkin’s credit, he doesn’t particularly seem to have spent as much time as his fellow child stars inhaling bad quality drugs and turning up in mugshots with tags on his legs, but if you look at a picture of him as a sweet little boy in the Home Alone days and then look at him now, it’s like something out of a B-movie. Indeed, the zombie-skinned former child star has been far from squeaky clean, having been arrested in 2004 for possession of a veritable party-mix of illegal and prescription drugs. He was subsequently charged and briefly imprisoned.
5. Todd Bridges
Fifty percent of the Diff’rent Strokes double act and the formerly sweet recipient of Willis gags, Todd went downhill following his childhood stint in the seemingly cursed show. In his twenties he suffered from an ongoing addiction to crack cocaine, which led to his reputed shooting of a Los Angeles drug dealer. He was acquitted at his trial courtesy of efforts by the same lawyer who saved O.J Simpson’s ass years later. In the 1990s he stabbed a man in the chest with a kitchen knife after entering into a dispute involving a samurai sword in his own home. Now a born again Christian, Todd tours schools stressing the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
6. Brad Renfro
Reading like an anti-drug leaflet, Renfro’s life after achieving early fame is littered with tales of binges and arrests right up until his premature death at 25 from a heroin overdose in 2005. The star of films such as Bully and Apt Pupil, Renfro spent most of his adult life hopelessly addicted to various substances, culminating in the attempted theft of a 45-foot yacht in 2000. He is the epitome of the fallen child star.
7. Michael Jackson
Perhaps the definitive example of the child star disaster story, it’s difficult to be too mean about Michael because you can’t help but feel it was never really his fault. Arguably one of the most famous people on the planet before his early death when only in his fifties, Jackson was one of the most bizarre figures in the celebrity world. Accusations – which were unsubstantiated – of his sexual harassment of children were not altogether surprising following insights into the private life of the star who was never allowed a childhood and never really grew up. Stories flew about his abusive childhood, intense working hours as a child, appearing in the massively successful Jackson 5, and subsequent issues with his sexuality. Add to this the fact that he was – through intense plastic surgery – not only totally unrecognizable from his former self but frankly hideous, and it was very apparent to anyone with brain in their skull that despite his billions of dollars and extreme levels of fame he was not a happy man.
8. Dustin Diamond
Diamond played the lovable nerd Screech in classic nineties teen comedy Saved By The Bell, and was well known for his gangly appearance, curly hair and harmless, geeky demeanor. Scroll forward a decade or so and Diamond not only has a somewhat creepy reputation for womanizing, but even stars in his own sex tape, popularly cringed at on the internet world over. Okay, so that might not seem like a completely legitimate reason to be named a messed up former child star, but watch him perform the ‘dirty sanchez’ on an unsuspecting female accomplice – in the bleached tones of handheld videotape – and it’s sadly apparent that the affable fall guy we knew and loved is now something very sinister indeed.
9. Britney Spears
After being part of the squeaky clean neon nightmare that was The Mickey Mouse Club, Britney became the most famous female face in the world in 1998 after releasing her debut single “Baby One More Time”, aged just 16. What followed was a prime example of a child star meltdown in adult life. In 2007 she had what has been described as an inevitable breakdown in front of the mass of paparazzi who followed her around for her entire career; was charged with a hit-and-run; spent some time beating a photographer’s car with an umbrella; and lost custody of her kids to her ex-husband Kevin Federline. Not wanting to be considered unfashionable, she had a number of obligatory celebrity stints in rehab, but the icing on the cake was her decision to embrace the chromedome by shaving her head bald in the craziest celebrity breakdown stunt of recent years.
Lindsay started out as the ultimate angelic child actress, performing in countless commercials throughout her early years before starring as Alli Fowler in the TV series Another World. Cue a deal with Disney in a remake of The Parent Trap, aged 12 and she was a bona fide child starlet. What’s more, after a healthy career spanning her teens during which she played safe, high school orientated roles, who could possibly have imagined that the red-headed cutie could do wrong? Turns out she could. In her early twenties Lohan has been arrested countless times for drug, drink and driving related offenses and regularly appears on glossy magazine pages looking like a starving red donkey with meth-face.