Oh, the 1970s. For many, it was a golden era of entertainment. From iconic films to TV shows that will never be forgotten, the child stars of the ’70s left an impression on everyone who watched them blossom under the spotlight. But what happened to them after the era had ended? Some stayed in the public eye and some left it for good, whether through circumstance or their own decisions. Read on to see what your favorite ’70s child stars did after the shows or movies that made them huge celebrities.
Many fans know her as Natalie Green, the role that made Mindy Cohn a household name in the late ’70s. One of the stars on the long-running sitcom The Facts Of Life, Cohn was discovered by the show’s producers while she was in high school. After the show, Cohn went on to play smaller roles in a variety of TV shows including doing voice work for the Scooby-Doo franchise, which earned her a Daytime Emmy Award nomination.
In 2017, the actress revealed that she’d been fighting breast cancer for years, staying out of the limelight during her treatments. She’s a founding member of the weSpark cancer support center and also advocates for the LGBT community in her spare time.
After making his debut in the 1979 film The Champ, Ricky Schroder became a child star playing Ricky Stratton on the hit show Silver Spoons. Now billed as “Rick” Schroder, the actor went on to appear in Lonesome Dove and the crime-drama series NYPD Blue. He’s also produced three war documentaries, spending five months in Afghanistan to capture footage for them.
Today, Schroder is the owner and operator of Ricky Schroder Productions. He and his former wife Andrea Bernard had four children together before divorcing in 2016.
Fans of the Witch Mountain film franchise are likely glad that the former child actress Kim Richards is still in the public eye! After years in the movies, Richards transitioned to the small screen where she made guest appearances on shows like Alice, Fantasy Island, Diff’rent Strokes, The Love Boat, CHiPs, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Little House on the Prairie, among others.
Although she had roles in later films including a cameo in 2009’s Race to Witch Mountain, she’s best known in recent years as a regular cast member of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, alongside her sister Kyle. She still makes guest appearances on the series.
Sarah Jessica Parker
Actress and producer, Sarah Jessica Parker got her start in showbiz on Broadway at the age of 11. She’s been a rising star ever since, appearing in many films over the years including Footloose, L.A. Story, Hocus Pocus, The First Wives Club, and others. But there’s no denying that the biggest role of her life was that of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, for which she’s won numerous awards.
In her personal world, SJP is married to fellow actor Matthew Broderick and they share three kids. The family primarily lives in Greenwich Village, New York City, but spends part of their time at their second home in Ireland.
Hey everyone, it’s Peter Brady! At least, that’s the role that Christopher Knight is best known for. After The Brady Bunch ended in 1974, Knight made several guest appearances in other TV series as well as some films and Brady reunions.
The self-proclaimed “geek” has had a second career as a businessman in the computer industry, even co-founding a 3D graphics company in addition to several other tech-related endeavors. He also made a return to television, most notably in VH1’s reality show The Surreal Life where he met his future wife Adrienne Curry. The two later divorced and he married his fourth wife, Cara Kokenes, in 2016.
The former teen heartthrob David Cassidy rose to fame in the 1970s playing Keith Partridge in the musical-sitcom The Partridge Family. After the show ended, he focused on recording and songwriting, becoming a huge pop star with multiple hits such as “I Think I Love You” and “Could It Be Forever.”
Despite a lengthy career in the music industry, Cassidy’s personal life was marred by tragedy. He publicly acknowledged a battle with alcoholism and sadly, passed away from liver and kidney failure in 2017. He left behind a son and daughter, and a catalog of music that remains eternally popular with his many fans.
Valerie Bertinelli has been gracing television screens since she was 15 years old. Her first famous role was playing Barbara Cooper in One Day at a Time, which debuted in 1975. After the show ended, Bertinelli appeared in several made-for-TV miniseries, movies, and guest appearances on several television shows.
Today, she’s known as one of the stars of the hit show Hot in Cleveland. In addition, she’s a popular Food Network host and has worked as a health and weight-loss activist after becoming the spokeswoman for Jenny Craig. She and her ex-husband Eddie Van Halen had a son together, Wolfgang, who is now the bassist for Van Halen.
Scott Baio has had plenty of “happy days” since his time as a teen star on the TV shows Happy Days, Joanie Loves Chachi and Charles in Charge. He went on to play Dr. Jack Stewart in Diagnosis: Murder, made his big-screen debut in the 1976 musical film Bugsy Malone and has been in tons of other shows and movies since.
He met his wife Renée at the Playboy Mansion in the ’90s and they have a daughter together, Bailey. Scott and Renée started a foundation in her name, which helps families that are suffering from metabolic disorders.
Although she was part of a family famous for their music, Marie Osmond found fame on her own as a solo country music artist in the 1970s and 1980. She and her brother Donny also had a variety show that aired from 1975 to 1979. With her hit “Paper Roses,” Osmond became one of the youngest singers to reach No. 1 on the Billboard country music charts.
She’s continued to make music ever since, as well as appearing in various television shows, films, and even on Broadway. In 2020, Osmond announced that she was working on a new operatic album.
Donny Osmond was one of the biggest teen idols around in the 1970s. Primarily known for being in his family’s band The Osmonds, he also co-hosted Donny & Marie with his sister in addition to leading a successful solo musical career with several top ten songs to his name.
Most recently, Donny & Marie headlined a residency at the Flamingo Las Vegas from 2008 to 2019. Donny has hosted a game show and competed in two reality television shows, Dancing with the Stars and The Masked Singer.
The former child star Noah Hathaway got his showbiz start playing the character “Boxey” in the 1978 series Battlestar Galactica, but he soared to fame when he took on the role of Atreyu in the classic 1984 film The Neverending Story. He later appeared in Troll, Casebusters, and To Die, to Sleep.
Hathaway is multi-talented, having worked as a dance instructor, tattoo artist, and supersport motorcycle racer. Most recently, he reprised his role as Atreyu for a 2016 Spotify commercial.
Best known to many as the roller-skating Tootie from The Facts of Life, Kim Fields first became a famous face in the late 1970s. She’s also been in Good Times, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Golden Palace, and had a starring role in Living Single from 1993 to 1998. In more recent years she directed episodes of Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, and BET’s Let’s Stay Together.
Fields has also competed on Dancing With The Stars, finishing in eighth place in 2016. She and her husband, Broadway actor Christopher Morgan, have two children together.
When she was just 14 years old, actress Diane Lane was cast in the 1979 film A Little Romance. Time magazine called her one of Hollywood’s “Whiz Kids” that same year. Lane then appeared in films like Cattle Annie and Little Britches, Six Pack, and The Outsiders.
In the years since, Lane has continued her prolific career in film. She earned Academy, Golden Globe, and SAG Award nominations for her role in the 2002 film Unfaithful. In her personal life, she supports many charities including Artists for Peace and Justice and Heifer International.
Laurence Fishburne is a critically-acclaimed actor known for playing powerful characters in films like Boyz n the Hood, Apocalypse Now, What’s Love Got to Do With It, and the John Wick franchise. He’s received a slew of awards for his work over the years.
Before becoming the household name he is today, Fishburne got his start on the soap opera One Life to Live in 1973, followed by stage work during the 1980s. Married twice, his current wife is fellow actress Gina Torres. Fishburne is also a father of three children.
Julie Dawn Cole
This former child actress is known for playing one of the most infamous spoiled children in film history, the easy-to-loath Veruca Salt in 1971’s Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. After the role, she continued to get steady acting offers and was in several TV series.
She also developed a children’s drama school, became a fitness instructor, and works today as a psychotherapist. Cole admits that she used her Willy Wonka character in teachable lessons when she was raising her children. “Whenever Holly [her daughter] said or did anything brattish, I’d just go, ‘Is there a problem, Veruca? Can I help you?’ That always snapped her out of it,” said Cole.
Mackenzie Phillips is another child star from a famous family, the daughter of John Phillips, a singer from the Mamas and The Papas. She starred in the 1970s-’80s hit television series One Day At A Time and is probably best known for her role in the film American Graffiti. She was only 12 years old during the filming of the movie.
Her most recent acting work includes appearances in the 2017 reboot of One Day at a Time and in several 2018 episodes of Orange Is the New Black. Phillips faced some serious addiction problems in her private life and appeared on the reality show Celebrity Rehab in 2010. She is now an addiction counselor.
Emilio Estevez made his showbiz debut alongside his famous dad Martin Sheen and brother Charlie Sheen, although he went on to become his own success story. He was a member of the acting Brat Pack of the 1980s, appearing in The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, and The Outsiders.
Later work included titles like Repo Man, The Mighty Ducks, Stakeout, and more. He directed the 2006 film Bobby, about Bobby Kennedy, which earned him a Hollywood Film Award. Most recently, he released a feature film called The Public in 2018. Estevez was married to the singer Paula Abdul for two years but they ended up divorcing.
Former child star Erin Murphy was in one of the most popular series in television history, Bewitched. She played Tabitha Stephens from 1966 to 1972. Her fraternal twin sister Diane initially shared the role with her, but as they began to look different as they aged, Erin took over full-time.
After the show ended, she had a relatively normal high school experience, even being named homecoming queen. In later years she has returned to show business, working as a makeup artist, fashion stylist, casting director, acting teacher, and stunt double. She even finds the time to appear in various tv shows and infomercials.
Danny Bonaduce, who played the lovable middle child on The Partridge Family, was a promising child star in the 1970s. His future roles included titles like CHiPs, Married… with Children, The Drew Carey Show, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and a 2005 reality TV show called Breaking Bonaduce.
He’s had a number of jobs over the years in addition to acting, including comedy and professional wrestling. These days, he hosts a radio show in Seattle. He’s been married to Amy Railsback since 2010 and has two children.
Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! Most people know Maureen McCormick best for her role as the oldest daughter of the Brady family, Marcia. By the time she became a household name in The Brady Bunch, McCormick had already appeared in other popular television series like My Three Sons and Bewitched, as well as several commercials.
She then moved into stage acting, appearing in a variety of different roles before hitting a rough patch in life and dealing with addiction issues. In 2008, she released a tell-all memoir called Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice. She’s also made appearances in several reality television series in recent years.
Not many child stars achieve the same level of success as an adult, but Ron Howard certainly has. He landed the role of Opie Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show when he was just five, and went on to portray Richie Cunningham in Happy Days after several other appearances on TV and in films.
He’s acted in more than 20 movies now, but today is better known for directing, with more than 30 titles to his credit including The Davinci Code, Apollo 13, and A Beautiful Mind (which earned him an Academy Award). Howard has been married to his wife Cheryl since 1975, and they have four children together.
Alison Arngrim started out as a child actress and model in commercials but rose to stardom when she was cast as the manipulative Nellie Olson in Little House on the Prairie. Her distinctive blonde curls and nasty attitude made her one of the most hated characters in TV history. She later told the TODAY show that “playing a villain [was] fantastic.”
After Little House, Arngrim guest-starred on other shows such as The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. She also recorded a comedy record album, made frequent appearances on Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour, and had a successful stage career. In her free time, Arngrim advocates for AIDS awareness and childhood abuse survivors.
Robert Downey Jr.
Well before he was known around the world as Tony Stark from the Iron Man franchise, Robert Downey Jr. made his screen debut in his father Robert Downey Sr.’s film Pound, in which the five-year-old RDJ played a puppy. From there, his star continued to rise with roles in Weird Science, Less Than Zero, and Chaplin.
Downey, Jr. famously struggled with addiction problems which led to a hiatus from acting for several years. But he returned with a vengeance after becoming sober and is now the sixth-highest-grossing box office star of all-time and one of Time magazine’s “100 most influential people in the world.”
Brooke Shields was one of the top child models of the 1970s and made her movie debut in 1978’s Pretty Baby, when she was just 12. She went on to appear in many more iconic films including The Blue Lagoon and Endless Love.
Shields then looked to the small screen and took on the lead role in the sitcom Suddenly Susan, followed by parts in Lipstick Jungle, and in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She also went public with her personal struggles when she published the book Down Came the Rain in 2003, talking candidly about postpartum depression.
Helen Hunt was destined for fame, since her father was the director and acting coach Gordon Hunt. Since making her debut on The Mary Tyler Moore Show at age nine, she also appeared in The Bionic Woman and had a recurring role in The Swiss Family Robinson as well as other notable television shows.
Although she had some impressive roles as a kid, she shot to stardom as the character Jamie Buchman in the sitcom Mad About You. Hunt earned multiple Golden Globes and Emmys for the part. Her big-screen work (As Good as It Gets, etc) has also nabbed the actress many awards, and she also directs!
Even if you don’t recognize this ’70s child star’s name, you’re sure to recognize his adorable face! Mason Reese was a sought-after actor, appearing in more than 70 television commercials. His most famous ad campaigns were for Dunkin Donuts, Underwood Deviled Ham, and Post Raisin Bran cereal. He was also a frequent guest on talk shows like The Mike Douglas Show.
After leaving showbiz behind, Reese became a restauranteur and opened several eateries including Paladar, Destination Bar and Grille, and a sports bar called The Luxury Box, all of which are now closed. He lives in New York City.
It’s another Brady, this time the youngest son. Mike Lookinland, who played Bobby Brady on the show, was a TV commercial actor before snagging the part he’s most famous for. After The Brady Bunch ended, he appeared in several Brady specials as well as the show The Secrets of Isis and the film The Towering Inferno.
After several years as a television camera operator, Lookinland reunited with the other Brady kids for the 2019 HGTV series A Very Brady Renovation. Today, he operates a decorative concrete business in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Former teen idol Robby Benson rose to fame in the 1970s, starring in the sports films One on One and Ice Castles. Later, he appeared in the popular soap opera Search for Tomorrow, and also directed TV shows including six episodes of Friends. Although his face wasn’t seen, Benson’s voice is memorable to many as the character Beast in Disney’s classic 1991 animated film Beauty and the Beast.
The multi-talented star has also published two books. And as someone who has undergone four open-heart surgeries due to congenital aortic valve defects, Benson is also an activist in the field of heart research.
After starring in some early commercials, actress Quinn Cummings rose to prominence with her role as Lucy McFadden in Neil Simon’s 1977 film The Goodbye Girl, She received both Academy and Golden Globe nominations for her top-notch performance.
After leaving acting (her last role was in an episode of Blossom), she turned to writing. Her work has been featured in Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and more. She’s also an entrepreneur, inventing a sling-type device for holding a baby.
Corey Feldman is best known for his roles that occurred during the 1980s but he had been working in showbiz even before that. Corey’s first role, for a McDonald’s commercial, was when he was just three. Film titles on Feldman’s resume include Time After Time, Gremlins, The Goonies, Stand by Me, and The Lost Boys.
He became famous for his work and friendship with Corey Haim, and they were called “The Two Coreys” together. Later, the two publicly battled addictions, and Haim passed away in 2010. Feldman was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the third annual Young Entertainer Awards.
Not many people can say they became famous for playing the object of a film custody battle, but former child actor Justin Henry can. He received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor when he was eight years old for his role as Billy Kramer in 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer.
His following work included appearances in Fantasy Island, Tiger Town, Sixteen Candles, Danger Bay, My Own Worst Enemy, Brothers & Sisters, and more. Later on, Henry co-founded the Slamdunk Film Festival in 1998 and also runs an independent distribution company by the same name (Slamdunk).
Just 14 years old when fame came knocking, Barry Williams became a teen heartthrob as Greg Brady on The Brady Bunch. The role eventually earned him the Young Artist Foundation Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award.
In later years, Williams continued to appear in Brady specials, and also had roles in Three’s Company, That ’70s Show, and other shows. He wrote a best-selling autobiography called Growing Up Brady … I Was A Teenage Greg that stayed on the best-seller list for three months. Today, he lives in Branson, Missouri, and hosts the Sirius radio trivia show, The Real Greg Brady’s Totally ’70s Pop Quiz starring Barry Williams.
Tatum O’Neal became the youngest person ever to win a competitive Academy Award in 1974 when she was just 10 years old. The award-winning role was in Paper Moon, as the character Addie Loggins. She also starred in The Bad News Bears, Nickelodeon, International Velvet, and Little Darlings.
She took a hiatus from acting but returned with small-screen appearances in 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and Sex and the City. In 2011, O’Neal released a second memoir, in which she discusses her volatile relationships with her father, actor Ryan O’Neal, and ex-husband John McEnroe.
After years working in TV commercials as a child, former child actress Kristy McNichol got her big break in 1976 when she was cast as Letitia “Buddy” Lawrence in the television drama series Family. She received Emmy nominations for the role three years in a row.
She appeared in several more television shows and movies, and also made a foray into music with her brother, recording the album Kristy and Jimmy McNichol in 1978. McNichol announced in 2001 that she had retired from acting. She taught acting at a private school for a while and has lived in Los Angeles with her partner Martie Allen since the early 1990s.
Johnny Whitaker was just three years old when he started acting. From 1966 to 1971, he played Jody Davis on Family Affair. Whitaker was a very busy young star, with roles in General Hospital, Hallmark’s The Littlest Angel, and many more. He later received the Young Artist Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award for his early work.
As an adult, he briefly worked as a computer consultant at CBS and at a Los Angeles talent agency. After struggling with dependency issues himself, Whitaker became a certified addiction counselor.
This former child actor had just one role in his entertainment career, as the lead character in 1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Peter Ostrum was signed to play Charlie Bucket when he was just 12 years old. He decided not to sign a three-film contract when filming was over and rarely spoke about the movie. His now-wife Loretta didn’t even know about it until just before meeting Ostrum’s mother.
After the film, Ostrum became interested in horses and started a career in veterinary medicine. In 1990, he started an annual tradition of speaking to local students on the last day of school, answering their questions about his work as a vet and about the movie he didn’t discuss for so long.
Jackie Earle Haley
Fans of the 1976 film The Bad News Bears are going to recognize this former child star! Now an Academy Award-nominated actor, Jackie Earle Haley got his start in showbiz in his teens, going on to star in many films before becoming the producer and director of television commercials.
In more recent years, Haley has returned to the big screen in titles including Watchmen, the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Little Children, Alita: Battle Angel, and Preacher.
Chaz Bono was born to two of the most famous people in the 1970s — Cher and Sonny Bono. At a very young age, the rising star began making appearances on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.
In 2008, Bono publicly transitioned from female to male and is an advocate for LGBTQ rights, serving as a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign. He also produced a documentary, Becoming Chaz, about his journey.
Since The Facts of Life was one of the most popular shows of its time, it makes sense that another of its stars appears on the list. Lisa Whelchel rose to prominence as the preppy character Blaire on the sitcom.
She also had a successful career as a contemporary Christian musician, winning a Grammy for her 1984 album All Because of You. Religion is a big part of Whelchel’s life. She’s an author, a motivational speaker, and makes regular appearances at Women of Faith Christian conferences. Whelchel has three children and is married to Pete Harris, Ph.D.
Many will recognize this former child actor as Damien from the horror film The Omen. London-born Harvey Stephens won a Golden Globe nomination for his role in the movie, which he was cast in at the age of four. Director Richard Donner said Stephens got the role after convincingly attacking the filmmaker, at Donner’s request.
Stephens didn’t pursue a film career after The Omen but did have a cameo spot in the movie’s 2006 remake. also appearing in the DVD’s special features section. According to a fan site, Stephens became a futures trader on the London stock market.
Just like his older brother Ron, actor Clint Howard got his start in showbiz when he was a kid. He appeared in five episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. Other early roles were in The Streets of San Francisco, The Virginian, Breaking Point, and The Fugitive, with his most prominent part in the TV series Gentle Ben.
Howard’s also been in many films, including 17 directed by his brother! Some of his more recent acting credits include Grand Theft Auto, Cocoon, Backdraft, Apollo 13, The Waterboy, and the TV show My Name Is Earl. An avid gamer, Howard also creates one-of-a-kind snow globes in his spare time.
One of the top-paid child actors of the 1970s and 1980s, Gary Coleman was most famous for his role as Arnold Jackson on the TV show Diff’rent Strokes. He was even named #1 on a VH1 list of “100 Greatest Kid Stars” on television. He went on to appear in many other series and had some big-screen work as well.
Sadly, although he was a successful actor, Coleman struggled financially and with health issues later in life. He tragically passed away on May 28, 2010, at just 42 years old.
Another alum from The Little House on the Prairie, actress Katy Kurtzman was cast by Michael Landon for a third season episode playing a child with a stutter. She appeared in a second episode of the beloved show but is best known for her roles as Heidi in 1978’s The New Adventures of Heidi, and for Lindsay Blaisdel in the long-running TV series Dynasty.
Kurtzman continued to act over the years, in films such as Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker, Out in Fifty, and the Pool Boy. Most recently, she guest-starred in a 2013 episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
Former child star Eric Scott is known to many fans as Ben Walton in the 1970s dramatic television series The Waltons, which ran from 1972 to 1981. There have been a number of reunion specials over the years.
Apart from appearing in Waltons specials, Scott has gone in a completely different direction with his career in recent years. Today, he operates a parcel delivery business in Sherman Oaks, California, called Chase Messengers. He’s been married three times, most recently to Cynthia Wolfen.
Janet Jackson is from a famous family, but like Marie Osmond, she rose to stardom doing her own thing. After appearing on the variety television series The Jacksons in 1976, she scored roles in shows like Fame, Good Times, and Diff’rent Strokes.
The multi-talented actress, singer, songwriter, and dancer has a string of multi-platinum albums to her name and Billboard named her the second most successful recording artist of the 1990s after Mariah Carey. Jackson shares a son with her ex-husband, Qatari businessman Wissam Al Mana. The pair separated in 2017.
Melissa Gilbert’s name could be used in the dictionary definition of “child star.” She started acting in commercials when she was just a tot and became a household name playing Laura Ingalls Wilder in the beloved series Little House on the Prairie. She had other early roles in television films, including The Diary of Anne Frank and The Miracle Worker, and continued her TV career into adulthood.
Gilbert is also a writer, having released an autobiography, a short story for kids, and a cookbook. With a mind for leadership, she served as the president of SAG from 2001 to 2005 and ran for U.S. Congress in 2016.