The Real Curse of the Child Star

Getting to hear you're cursed, over and over and over again

By Joal Ryan Mar 13, 2010 7:00 PMTags
Corey HaimMichael Bezjian/Getty Images

Our own Answer B!tch is correct, of course: They're not. The tragedies make headlines, but on the whole, child stars go on to lives as happy and productive as anyone else.

But the assumptions keep coming, because, in a way, child stars are cursed.

They don't turn into werewolves with the full moon, and they're not destined to suffer. They're doomed to hear that they're cursed every time one of them falls.

Danny Bonaduce, a former child star via Central Casting with all the expected résumé lowlights, offers a telling anecdote. "When I went to rehab, I was the only ex-child star," he said once, "but there were nine dentists."

Do we ever ask, why are dentists cursed? Of course not. We know better than to judge dentists as a one-size-fits-all group.

We don't know better with child stars. To us, a Leif Garrett is an Andrew Koenig is a Corey Haim: cursed? Ron Howard, Jodie Foster, Neil Patrick Harris and a few others who haven't been arrested excepted. (Continued fame does have its perks?)

One size does not fit all, though. Not for dentists. Not for child stars. The storyline we know by heart—early success, fast money, access to the vice of choice, downward spiral, etc.—may or may not be applicable. And it's never insightful.

Take Phillips, an early poster child for the child-star cliché. Her long history of trouble, she made painfully clear in last year's memoir, stemmed from her home life, and not Hollywood.

Or take Brittany Murphy, herself a "T.G.I.F."-era child actor. Her death was assigned to the young-stars-gone-bad column, when in reality it was a cautionary tale about cold medicine.

If Koenig's family hadn't disclosed the actor's long battle with depression, we might have focused on silliness such as whether the Growing Pains star fell victim to the "curse of the '80s." (Scratch that, some of us are focused on that.)

If we look at Haim's life and say he struggled simply because he was cursed, then we ignore tough questions that frankly we needed Corey Feldman to raise: Namely, what does Hollywood owe its young, if anything?

The curse of the child star? To be told repeatedly that you're cursed, that being a child star is a fatal condition, when sometimes it's not even the symptom.


Sadly, there were no happy endings for the stars of the child variety or otherwise in our Hollywood: Dying Young gallery.