For years, Coleman was locked in a legal battle with his parents. When a court finally dissolved his trust fund, his parents' share was worth $770,000, while Coleman himself had only $220,000. The liver ailment that stunted the 4-foot-8-inch star sucked away much of his money and in 1993, he revealed on Geraldo that he attempted suicide twice with sleeping pills.
The ultimate low came after a widely publicized fist fight with an autograph-seeking fan, when Coleman was fined $400. He failed to come up with the money and soon after declared bankruptcy. (The $3,500 fee for filing as a gubernatorial candidate was paid by an an alternative newspaper in San Francisco.)
But Coleman is doing much better now, and so is his TV brother Todd Bridges, who struggled with chemical dependency and had several brushes with the law. In 1990, he was acquitted after being accused of shooting a crack dealer.
Bridges, 38, has been appearing in soap operas and TV movies. He's married with a child and played a drug dealer in the TV docudrama After Diff'rent Strokes: When the Laughter Stopped, wherein he sold crack to his on-screen persona.
Last year, he took on vintage rapper Vanilla Ice on Fox's Celebrity Boxing and won.
Bridges even turned into a real-life hero. Last April, he and his brother were fishing in a lake in Encino, Calif., when a woman in a wheelchair rolled into the water. The Bridges brothers jumped in and rescued her.
But Coleman's TV sister, Dana Plato, represents the saddest side of child fame. After a series of low-budget, straight-to-video movies, she found herself unemployed and in trouble with the law. In 1991, she was arrested for robbing a video store in Las Vegas and placed on probation. She was arrested again the following year for forging a prescription for Valium.
In May 1999, Plato announced on Howard Stern's radio show that she was mounting a comeback. Days later, she died from an overdose of a painkiller called Loritab. A coroner's inquest ruled her death a suicide. She was 34 years old.
Indeed, other child actors have lead nightmarish lives. But they shouldn't overshadow those who straighten themselves out. Even Dickie Roberts has a happy ending.
Perhaps that's why so many former child stars show up in Spade's film. Or perhaps, like Dickie, any chance to step before a camera, no matter how embarrassing, is acceptable.
Up and Down With Hollywood Tykes
Here's a look at some of the highs and lows of Hollywood's biggest child stars.