'Dickie Roberts' Mocks Ex-Child Stars

Just because you were a child star doesn't mean you're screwed up.

Everybody talks about the so-called Diff'rent Strokes Syndrome — and certainly the kids from that show have had their problems. But how then do you explain Oscar-winning director Ron Howard? Once known as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show, Howard is about as successful and scandal-free as anyone in Hollywood.

And while Drew Barrymore and Danny Bonaduce have both had their tabloid moments, Barrymore's star has been rising dramatically since the 1995 release of Boys on the Side. She earned a cool $14 million this summer for Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.

Bonaduce recounted the troubled years following his run as the redheaded, loudmouthed kid on The Partridge Family in his 2001 memoir Random Acts of Badness. Highlights included his 1991 arrest in Phoenix for beating up a prostitute after discovering he had taken home a transvestite.

But Bonaduce has had a successful run on the NBC morning talk show The Other Half. Although it's coming to an end, he continues to be a star on Los Angeles radio, with a popular drive-time show.

Now, Bonaduce joins Barry (Brady Bunch) Williams, former teenybopper idol Leif Garrett, and Corey Feldman, along with countless other eternally familiar, now-wizened faces in David Spade's Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, in theaters today.

What's the ultimate low for a teenage star? Becoming a drunken 35-year-old parking lot attendant with no money and no future? Competing in a celebrity boxing match and getting the tar beaten out of you by Emmanuel Lewis, the still-pint-size former star of Webster? A Fun Way to Lose Hair

Spade plays a former child star who, once a household name, will try anything to revive his career, but only manages to sink to new lows. It's a pattern that's not all that unfamiliar.

"I remember how the day the show [The Partridge Family] aired, my mom and I walked outside and there were 300 people on the lawn," Bonaduce says. "Another time, during a parade, a fan pulled a chunk out of my hair, and I'm thinking, 'Cool! [I get to be in a parade while] other kids are going to the sixth grade this morning!' "

Bonaduce takes pride in revisiting his early career, as do many of the others who pop up at the end of Dickie Roberts for a hilarious "We are the World"-type spoof sing-along, written by Garrett. The scene features a cast of now very available former superstars 3 even California gubernatorial candidate Gary Coleman.

With Coleman's return to the public eye, it might be time to reconsider the whole notion of the Diff'rent Strokes Syndrome. Child stars often sink into oblivion. Some are completely ruined. Others maintain a career, even if it's somewhat diminished. And others manage to create a life outside show business.

That's even true for the Diff'rent Strokes gang. Coleman earned an estimated $18 million for his work on that sitcom. Now 35 years old, he's been perpetually near-broke and out of work for years. He was working as a security guard when he entered the California campaign and, once again, became omnipresent on TV.

That's hardly a comeback. But Coleman's doing much better than he was a few years ago, when he was forced to auction off personal items, selling his size 4 ½ bowling shoes ($107.50), Afro pick ($61) and spatula ($41) to keep him financially afloat.

The Gary Coleman Renaissance

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