From Cute to Convict: 'Family Ties' Star Now

Brian Bonsall and other stars of "Family Ties" then and now.

Dec. 9, 2009— -- Compared to the Gosselins, the Kardashians and the Hogans on television today, the fictional Keaton family, which defined the 1980s, appears almost quaint.

The Keatons -- Steven, Elyse, Alex, Mallory, Jennifer and Andrew -- were a nuclear family that stayed together over the seven-year run of the iconic television sitcom "Family Ties."

"By one of these quirks in the time-space continuum, we were the only nuclear family on television, the show's creator Gary David Goldberg told Matt Lauer when the five original cast members reunited on the "Today" show last year.

And America loved them. At the height of its popularity, "Family Ties," which was about 1960s hippie parents raising their conservative children during the Reagan years, was watched by a third of the television audience.

"We caught the crest of a wave there," said Michael J. Fox, who played Alex P. Keaton, the ultraconservative, success-driven son. "We thought we were having fun with it, but it was having fun with us. It was big, it was huge."

It's a testament to the show's enduring imprint that Meredith Baxter, who played the mom Elyse Keaton, could make headlines last week with the announcement that she is gay.

Brian Bonsall, who played the Keaton's fourth child Andrew in the show's last two seasons, made headlines of a different kind this week. The 28-year-old was arrested in Colorado for investigation of an assault.

According to Colorado Daily, Bonsall was picked up by police last Saturday at the home of his best friend Micheal Trujillo. Both had been drinking heavily and arguing loudly. According to the arrest report obtained by Colorado Daily, Bonsall struck Trujillo with a splintered bar stool, but remembers nothing.

"Bonsall then said that he and Trujillo both are bipolar and like drugs," the report said. "Bonsall said he takes a lot of drugs and sometimes those drugs make him forget things."

Perhaps Bonsall, whose face and neck are covered with numerous tattoos and piercings, is trying to forget his brief success as cute Little Andy. Sadly, he's followed the route of many former child actors.

Brian Bonsall Then and Now

Since playing the youngest sibling on "Family Ties," Bonsall has bounced around Boulder, Colo. According to Fox News, he never graduated from high school, instead forming a rock band, "Late Bloomers," in 1998.

He's also had mounting legal troubles, including for DUI and assault on his girlfriend. Last year, Colorado authorities were preparing new charges against him for violating his parole, according to the Colorado Daily. When Bonsall failed to appear at a hearing July 16, 2008, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Now, Bonsall faces new third-degree assault charges and is currently being held at the Boulder County Jail. He's due to appear in court today.

Bonsall's cast mates have fared better since their days on "Family Ties." Here's a look at where they are now:

Michael Gross

Gross came from theater and hardly watched television before he accepted the role as dad Steven Keaton. He told Lauer the camaraderie on the set made coming to work a pleasure.

"Every episode ended with a group hug," he said. "I thought all shows were this well run, all casts got along this well and all shows were this well written. Boy, did I take it for granted. I had no idea.

Now 63, Gross went on to star as Burt Gummer in the "Tremors" movies in the early 90s. He also guest-starred on other sitcoms, including "Spin City," where he reunited with Fox, the show's star, by playing his therapist.

Showing he hadn't lost his liberal Steven Keaton ways, Gross campaigned with Baxter for Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 election.

Meredith Baxter

Off the set, Baxter's own family ties were strained. Divorced three times, she decided to try dating women seven years ago and says her entire world view changed.

"I am a lesbian and it was a later-in-life recognition," Baxter said recently on the "Today" show. "I got involved with someone I never expected to get involved with, and it was that kind of awakening."

Before her public declaration, Baxter shared the news of her relationship with Nancy Locke -- a contractor she met through mutual friends -- with her on-screen "Family Ties" family and her real life relatives, including her five children.

As for her professional life, Baxter, now 63, has become a staple of the TV movie circuit. She's received Emmy nominations for her roles in such Lifetime movie classics as "A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story," and "Other Mothers."

Michael J. Fox

"Family Ties" creator Goldberg said soon after the show started, it became clear that Fox's character Alex was becoming the star. It was a lucky break for Fox, who had been prepared to quit acting and return to his native Canada if he didn't get the part.

"I was eating cardboard," he told Lauer. "I was playing duck-the-landlord. It was bad. It was bad."

Goldberg told the "Today" show he originally wanted to cast Matthew Broderick in the role of Alex and rejected Fox because he thought he was too much of a smart aleck, but his production assistant nagged him into bringing Fox back for a second audition.

The role changed Fox's life. "To be given a second family just out of nowhere. You're just blessed with these people," Fox told "Today."

He also met his real life wife Tracy Pollan on the set when she played Alex's girlfriend. They've been married since 1988 and have four children.

Of all the show's stars, Fox achieved the most commercial success. Following the show, he starred in the hugely successful "Back to the Future" movies and later starred in his own sitcom, "Spin City," which Goldberg also produced.

Now 47, Fox is perhaps best known for his continuing struggle with Parkinson's disease, which was diagnosed in 1991. He started his own research foundation, has lobbied Congress for stem cell research and recently published a book about being an incurable optimist.

"Your happiness grows in direct proportion to your acceptance and in inverse proportion to your expectations," Fox told ABC News' Diane Sawyer. "Acceptance doesn't really mean you're resigned to it. It just means acknowledging that that's what it is."

Justine Bateman

Soon after the show ended, Bateman admitted she was suffering from anorexia and bulimia. Now 43, Bateman helps girls diagnosed with the same disorder.

Steering clear of the limelight since "Family Ties," Bateman has appeared in only minor TV roles, guest-starring in her brother Jason's critically acclaimed show, "Arrested Development."

A converted Christian, Bateman has been married since 2001 and has two children. Like her character Mallory, she now has her own fashion design company.

Tina Yothers

Like Bateman, Yothers has struggled with her weight, though her problem was always keeping it off.

Asked by a member of the "Today" show audience if the "Family Ties" producers pressured her to keep her weight down, she joked, "They would all give me carrot sticks to eat – if that's pressure. I was a big kid. Next to Justine and Meredith, I was two times their size."

During her run on "Family Ties," Yothers formed a punk band called Jaded with her brother Cory, and even sang a song on the show called "Baby I'm Back in Love Again," which she later recorded as a single. She also wrote a book for girls called "Being Your Best: Tina Yothers's Guide for Girls."

After the show, Yothers, now 36, died her blond locks black and accepted a few television roles, including playing skater Tonya Harding in a 1993 television movie. Then, following a nine-year hiatus from acting, Yothers appeared on stage in 2004 in "Lovelace the Musical," about porn star Linda Lovelace.

Still battling her weight, she appeared on VH-1's "Celebrity Fit Club" in 2006 and dropped 42 pounds and five dress sizes. After the birth of her second child with electrician husband Robert Kaiser, Yothers returned to the show, to appear on "Celebrity Fit Club: Boot Camp."

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