Growing Pains: The Trials and Tribulations of 1980s TV Child Stars

Andrew Koenig and more '80s stars who went through troubled times.

Feb. 24, 2010 — -- Andrew Koenig, Dana Plato, Gary Coleman, MacKenzie Phillips:

Growing pains, indeed.

Maybe it was the heavy metal, maybe it was the designer drugs, maybe it was the questionable fashion -- for a host of reasons, many of the actors and actresses who grew up on TV during the late 1970s and '80s plummeted from childhood stardom to a life mired in trials and tribulations.

Koenig, the "Growing Pains" actor who went missing in Vancouver, Canada, earlier this month, is the latest to reveal his personal struggles. Below, check out his story plus those of nine other child stars from 1980s TV who ended up plagued with problems.

Andrew Koenig

The '80s made him a star, but Koenig may not want any part of it. According to his friends and family, Koenig, who went missing while visiting friends in Vancouver earlier this month, has been trying to escape his fame as "Growing Pains" goofball Richard "Boner" Stabone and doesn't want to work anymore.

"He's been depressed," his father, Walter Koenig, told ABC News. The elder Koenig played Chekov on the "Star Trek" TV series. "He's trying to get ahead in this business, and he's been working at it a long time."

The younger Koenig, who appeared on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and played The Joker in 2003's "Batman: Dead End," had most recently been working on comedy and editing movies with his friend, writer/producer Lance Miccio. Miccio told that the actor "suffered with depression and "would get down easily."

"He liked to go to Vancouver because it's beautiful and quiet, it's his favorite place in nature," Miccio said. "One of the films we did together, 'Living the Blues,' it's about a manic depressive musician who went to a spot in nature that he loved and took his own life. I'm not saying that's what happened with Andrew, but it has occurred to me."

According to Miccio, Koenig hated being known for his "Growing Pains" role and "Star Trek" connection.

"When I introduced him to people, he said, 'Never say my dad's Chekov and never say I played Boner,'" Miccio said. "He didn't want to be known as Boner his whole life. That's something that affected him."

Tracey Gold

Koenig's "Growing Pains" co-star, Tracey Gold, has also whethered the ups and downs of Hollywood. Gold rocketed to teen stardom after being cast as Carol Seaver in the series.

But while she thrived on TV, behind the scenes, Gold struggled with anorexia. In 1992, her mother, Bonnie Gold, told People magazine that she burst into tears when she visited her daughter on the "Growing Pains" set in 1985 and was shocked to find she had wasted away to 90 lbs.

After seeking treatment in the early '90s, Gold transitioned from "Growing Pains" to acting in TV movies. But in 2004, she was arrested for driving under the influence after she rolled her SUV, carrying her husband and her three young sons, down a California highway embankment.

Gold's 7-year-old son, Sage, sustained the worst injuries, a broken clavicle and a head wound. The actress spent five hours in prison before being released on $50,000 bail. Gold later plead guilty to a felony DUI charge and was sentenced to one month in a work release program, 240 hours of community service, and three years of probation.

MacKenzie Phillips

In September 2009, actress Mackenzie Phillips revealed to Oprah Winfrey that her rock star father, John Phillips, raped her at age 18, sparking a 10-year-long consensual sexual relationship. Phillips, 49, the former star of '70s-'80s sitcom "One Day at a Time," said she was first raped by her father, the lead singer of the Mamas and the Papas, in a hotel room while passed out after a drug binge. (She also has a history of substance abuse issues.)

The relationship continued long after she married Jeff Sessler when she was 19-years-old, and ended only when she became pregnant and feared her father was the baby's father, Phillips said. Her father paid for an abortion. "I woke up that night from a blackout to find myself having sex with my father," Phillips said on "Oprah," reading an excerpt from her new book, "High on Arrival." "I don't know how it started."

Corey Feldman

During the 1980s, television was Corey Feldman's oyster. After landing a starring role in a McDonald's commercial at age three, he appeared in dozens of television shows, including "Mork and Mindy," "One Day at a Time," "Cheers" and "Eight is Enough." Feldman successfully crossed over into film, co-starring in box office boons like '85's "The Goonies" and '86's "Stand By Me."

But Feldman's success couldn't solve his problems. He worked constantly to escape parents who he claimed abused him, and at age 15, was granted legal emancipation from Sheila and Robert Feldman. Neverending exposure to the Hollywood lifestyle led to an appetite for drugs, and in 1990, Feldman was arrested for heroin possession -- twice. He went to rehab the following year.

"It took people a long, long time to forgive me. I was just a kid making mistakes like any other kid," he told the Phoenix New Times in 2000.

These days, Feldman's back on his feet. In 2002, he channeled his trials and tribulations in the business into a solo album, "Former Child Actor" and appeared on the first season of VH1's "The Surreal Life." He currently stars in the A&E reality TV series "The Two Coreys" with fellow '80s child star, Corey Haim.

Jodie Sweetin

"Full House" sweetheart Jodie Sweetin didn't grow up to resemble her goody-two-shoes character at all. At age 22, the star of the '80s and '90s sitcom developed a debilitating daily meth habit that she kept a secret from her then-husband, LAPD officer Shaun Holguin.

In 2005, after a night of partying landed her in the hospital, Sweetin sought treatment. Once sober, she divorced Holguin and married Cody Herpin, the father of her daughter Zoie.

But in November 2008, Sweetin split with Herpin. Last year, she came out with the book "unSweetined," in which she reveals she kept the meth, cocaine and ecstasy binges going while she claimed to be sober. In one passage, she talks about breaking into tears while addressing a crowd at Wisconsin's Marquette University about her "trials and tribulations."

"I talked about growing up on television and about how great my life was now that I was sober, and then midspeech I started to cry," Sweetin writes. "The crowd probably thought that the memories of hitting rock bottom were too much for me to handle. Or maybe they thought the tears were just a way for an actor to send a message that drugs are bad. I don't know what they thought."

"I know what they didn't think," she continues. "They didn't think I was coming down from a two-day bender of coke, meth, and ecstasy and they didn't think that I was lying to them with every sentence that came out of my mouth."

Dustin Diamond

Who would've expected Screech to turn into a sexual freak? Dustin Diamond, who played the loveable nerd Samuel "Screech" Powers on "Saved by the Bell" and its precursor, "Good Morning Miss Bliss," through the late '80s and '90s, seemed allergic to scandal as a teen.

But in 2006, Diamond released a sex tape, "Screeched," aka "Saved By the Smell." It depicted the TV nerd in more detail than any fan wanted to see, and Diamond was panned for participating in the decidedly un-sexy endeavor.

His manager, Roger Paul, told the New York Daily News that he hoped the tape would raise Diamond's profile and help him get back into acting of the non-pornographic variety. Still, Diamond's relying on his past to get him through the present. Last year, he released "Behind the Bell," a book about his sitcom days in which he claims that drugs and sex were the rule on the "Saved by the Bell" set.

Dana Plato

Some child stars of '80s television met a tragic end. Dana Plato seemed to have a bright future ahead of her when she landed the role of Kimberly Drummond on "Diff'rent Strokes." The show was a hit from its 1978 premiere, and Plato charmed audiences. But in 1984, she was written off the series amid rumors of drug use, and she struggled to find other roles.

In 1989, Plato bared all for Playboy and started starring in B-movies. From there, she dabbled in softcore pornography, including a 1997 feature based on her "Diff'rent Strokes" past.

Meanwhile, legal and substance abuse problems plagued the actress. In 1991, she (unsuccessfully) attempted to rob a video store at gunpoint; the following year, she was arrested for forging a Valium prescription. Plato's drug addiction eventually took her life -- in 1999, at age 34, she died after overdosing on Vanadom and Vicodin.

Gary Coleman

Plato's "Diff'rent Strokes" co-star, Gary Coleman, has seen his fair share of troubles. While he turned into a pop culture icon thanks to his signature line on the show, "What'choo talkin' 'bout, Willis?," Coleman became infamous for his problems with the law.

In 1989, Coleman sued his parents and former manager over misappropriation of his $3.8 million trust fund.Though he won a ruling in excess of $1.2 million in 1993, Coleman filed for bankruptcy six years later, and blamed his financial problems on mismanagement of his trust.

Coleman has also been cited for disorderly conduct multiple times, and in 1998, was charged with assault after punching bus driver Tracy Fields. He plead no contest and was ordered to pay Fields' hospital fees. Most recently, in January, he was arrested on a domestic violence assault warrant in Utah, and spent a night in jail.

Adam Rich

Adam Rich may have charmed audiences as adorable Nicholas Bradford on "Eight Is Enough," but in real life, his shenanigans have been far from cute.

After leaving "Eight Is Enough" in 1981, Rich made a handful of guest appearances on shows including "CHiPS" and "Baywatch." Apparently, those guest roles didn't give him enough dough. In 1991, he was arrested for breaking through a pharmacy window in an attempt to steal drugs. He was bailed out of jail by his "Eight is Enough" dad, Dick Van Patten, only to be arrested for shoplifting again.

Rich pleaded no contest to both charges, but his legal troubles didn't end there. In 2003, he racked up a misdemeanor DUI arrest after almost smashing into a police car in Los Angeles, and also plead no contest to those charges.

Jaimee Foxworth

Jamiee Foxworth's post-'80s TV career is one her "Family Matters" dad would probably condemn.

After playing youngest daughter Judy Winslow on the sitcom from 1989 to 1993, Foxworth was written out of the show with no explanation. The actress turned to drugs and alcohol and attempted to supplement her meager funds by starring in pornographic movies under the name Crave.

In 2008, Foxworth sought help for her substance abuse problems by participating in VH1's "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew." She gave birth to a baby boy in May 2009 and told People magazine, "I've been through a lot of pain in the past and … I now look forward to years of joy to share with my child."