It’s been 46 years since the start of the 1970’s – we know, we can’t believe it either!
The ’70s was a great decade for Hollywood, numerous legendary films were produced and our TV screens were lit up with ‘The Brady Bunch’ and ‘Happy Days’. We were introduced to some of the greatest actors/actresses of all time, but at the time they were just children trying to make it in tinsel town.
The famous young faces that kept us entertained show after show and commercial after movie had to eventually grow up, and it’s shocking to see which stars let fame go straight to their heads, which stars blossomed into further success and which stars turned away from acting all together.
Prepare to feel nostalgic as we take a look at some of the biggest child stars of the seventies, and then compare them to the people they grew up to be.
Erin Murphy – Then
Murphy is most commonly known for her role as Tabitha Stephens in the hugely popular ‘Bewitched’ TV series that ran from 1964 to 1972. She shared the spotlight with her fraternal twin sister, Diane, but as the children grew older and looked less alike, Murphy took on the role by herself and became one of the most famous young actresses in the world.
Erin Murphy – Now
After ‘Bewitched’ ended, Murphy declined various commercials and modelling gigs whilst attending a few auditions. Her family eventually moved to Orange County, where she entered into the sixth grade in hopes of becoming a normal kid for a while. Murphy was married with a child by her very early twenties, before teaching acting and working in makeup and production. Around 10 years ago, Murphy moved back to L.A where she has been working on reality TV shows, commercials and as a celebrity judge. The proud mom of six boys also owns two companies on the side.
Kim Richards – Then
Richards seemed to be everywhere in the public eye back in her popularity. She starred in several tv shows throughout the seventies, including ‘Nanny and the Professor’, and ‘James at Sixteen’, as well as headlining films such as ‘Escape to Witch Mountain’.
Kim Richards – Now
Nowadays Richards is most popular for her appearance on ‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’. She was let go from the show after suffering from some personal issues such as trespassing, public intoxication, resisting an officer, and battery on a police officer at the Beverly Hills Hotel, but she appears in the show every now and again as a guest star.
Helen Hunt – Then
After starting her career at the youthful age of eight, Helen has been in the spotlight almost her entire life. She had a booming career in tv and film, playing roles on “Amy Prentiss” (1974-75), “Swiss Family Robinson” (1975-76), and “The Fitzpatricks (1977-78),” as well as films like Rollercoaster in 1977.
Helen Hunt – Now
Hunt’s career is still going strong, and in her maturity she has even had Oscar-winning performance in As Good As It Gets, and her own 2014 hit comedy Ride.
The Jacksons – Then
Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon, Michael, and Tito made up the hit group “Jackson Five.” Their first four singles (“I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There”) went to number one on the billboard charts – this was even a music-business history record in 1970.
The Jacksons – Now
After seventeen years apart, the Jackson’s reunited in 2011 to celebrate their brother, Michael’s, solo career. Although brother Randy retired many years ago, the rest of the brother’s still perform at various venues and events across the globe – they even had a Unity Tour.
Lance Kerwin – Then
Kermin had quite the career in the seventies, with roles in ‘The Family Holvak’ and ‘Salem’s Lot’ – he really was one of the most popular child stars at the time.
Lance Kerwin – Now
Lance continued his acting career until he retired in 1995. As a child star, the temptation was too much and he admitted to smoking pot before he was ten-years-old as well as using crack in his twenties. Thankfully, he found sobriety thanks to faith and he worked as a minister in Kaua’i, Hawaii, where he still lives. He and his wife have since pleaded guilty to fraud after they tried to get food stamps by falsifying paperwork, but they were found to own at least three homes in the mainland USA.
Janet Jackson – Then
The youngest member of the Jackson family was Janet, who had her career goals focussed more towards acting than singing. She played Penny on the show ‘Good Times’ where she portrayed a frightened and battered child who was a neighbor of the Evans family, and she also landed roles on hit shows ‘Fame’ and ‘Diff’rent Strokes’.
Janet Jackson – Now
Following in her brother Michael’s footsteps, Janet is one of the recording industry’s most celebrated musicians. She is a multi-platinum album artist who has sold millions of records and simultaneously pursued an acting career. She’s now married to billionaire Wissam Al Mana, and her most recent tour was canceled due to the fact that she wishes to start a family.
Karen Carpenter – Then
American drummer and singer, Karen Anne Carpenter, rose to fame in the ’70s with her contralto vocal range. She performed as a duo with her brother, Richard and her 1970 album ‘Close to You’ featured the two hit singles “(They Long to Be) Close to You” and “We’ve Only Just Begun”, which peaked to number 1 and 2 on the Hot 100.
Karen Carpenter – Now
Sadly, Carpenter passed away in 1983 at just 32-years-old after suffering from anorexia nervosa – a disorder caused by compulsive dieting. She collapsed suddenly at her parent’s house and died of cardiac arrest, but Carpenter performed right up until her death.
Barry Williams – Then
Williams landed the role of Greg Brady on the hit series ‘The Brady Bunch’ when he was just 14-years-old. Along with recording four albums with his famous TV siblings, Williams quickly became a heartthrob for millions of females across America.
Barry Williams – Now
Williams took home the Young Artist Foundation Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989 before following up the honour in 1992 with the release of his autobiography, ‘Growing Up Brady… I Was A Teenage Greg’. This was a best seller for three months and was even turned into a movie in 2001, which he executively produced. Williams also continued his acting career as a guest on numerous ‘Brady Bunch’ specials, ‘That ’70s Show’ and ‘Three’s Company’.
Maureen McCormick – Then
McCormick played Marcia Brady in the hit series ‘The Brady Bunch’ from 1969 to 1974. She was smart, pretty and confident 12-year-old girl who took on a major role.
Maureen McCormick – Now
Since the series ended, McCormick has battled through drug addiction and overcome it to marry Michael Cummings in 1985 and gave birth to their daughter, Natalie, in 1989. In 2007, she also appeared as a popular contestant on and won ‘VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club’.
Danielle Spencer – Then
Danielle played the role of Dee Thomas, or more commonly known as “the more annoying little sister” on ‘What’s Happening’. Dee Dee said her favourite saying from the show that ran for three years was “Oooooohh, I’m tellin’ Mama!”.
Danielle Spencer – Now
Spencer has come a long way since being “the annoying little sister”, in fact, now she is a doctor of veterinary medicine in California and is the only child actor to be inducted into the Smithsonian Museum as part of a permanent exhibition on African American Culture. Spencer was also diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, but thankfully managed to beat it.
Erin Moran – Then
You’ll recognise Moran as Joanie Cunningham, the youngest child of the Cunningham family, from ‘Happy Days’. Her sense of humour and timing skills led her to bag the perfect role as the “brat sister” to Ron Howard’s character, Richie Cunningham. She played the part from 1974 to 1984 and then from 1982 to 1983 in the spin-off “Joanie Loves Chachi.”
Erin Moran – Now
Moran had a few acting jobs after ‘Happy Days’ ended, but sadly she still fell into highly publicised financial hardship. After getting into a drunken brawl in public, it was reported that Moran was evicted from her house and forced to move into a trailer with her husband and mother-in-law.
Robbie Rist – Then
Rist was brought on to ‘The Brady Bunch’ as cousin Oliver during the show’s last six episodes in order to boost the ratings. The show faced huge competition from other shows such as ‘Sanford & Son’, and so used Rist as an alternative to the usual older Brady kids.
Robbie Rist – Now
Rist now relies on his voice rather than his acting capabilities to bring in money. He has provided voiceovers for ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ and ‘Batman: The Animated Series’, whilst appearing on the ‘Sharknado’ and ‘Sharknado 2’ soundtracks. He also likes to use his voice for pleasure, as he performs as the lead singer, guitarist, bassist and/or drummer for several Los Angeles rock bands.
Johnny Whitaker – Then
You might recognise Whitaker from his roles in television series ‘Family Affair’ or ‘General Hospital’. He was lucky enough to give Jodie Foster an on-screen kiss in the film ‘Tom Sawyer’ but he later retired from acting for a long period of time after he went through a tough time getting over his ‘Family Affair’ co-star and friend Anissa Jones’ death.
Johnny Whitaker – Now
Whitaker spent many years suffering through substance abuse before his family held an intervention to push him to get help. Thankfully, after a 12-step program, he has been clean for the past 12 years.
Leif Garrett – Then
Garrett was a child star, singer and tv personality who started the seventies with the film ‘Walking Tall’ and ended it with ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. During the late seventies however, Garrett started experiencing personal difficulties that would affect his career.
Leif Garrett – Now
With fame came partying and drugs, which led to Garrett’s downfall. He crashed a leased Porsche that left his friend a paraplegic when he was just seventeen-years-old, and repeatedly ran into legal and drug troubles, including trying to purchase cocaine from undercover cops in the eighties to again getting arrested for heroin possession.
Mark Lester – Then
English child star Lester is probably best-known for his role as ‘Oliver Twist’, which he did at the ripe young age of six. Following his success, he took on the role of Oliver in the musical adaptation of the film when he turned eight-years-old. Did you know that Lester couldn’t actually sing very well, so all of Lester’s singing was dubbed in ‘Oliver Twist’ by the daughter of the musical director.
Mark Lester – Now
After a great break into the acting industry, Lester retired at just nineteen-years-old to pursue a career as an osteopath. He became extremely good friends with Michael Jackson, so much so that they were Godfather to each other’s kids. Lester even claims to have given sperm to Jackson to conceive children and has made claims that Jackson’s children may be his biologically.
Mindy Cohn – Then
Cohn is best-known for her role of Natalie in ‘Facts of Life’ from 1979-1988. Her character as the irresponsible student was an integral part of the show’s success, which unfortunately became her downfall as she was typecast as the ‘nice girl’ from then on.
Mindy Cohn – Now
Whilst Cohn struggled to get more substantial acting roles, she also earned a degree in cultural anthropology. She later helped to found the weSPARK cancer support center and she’s also focussed on voiceover work, including being the voice of Velma from the ‘Scooby-Doo’ series which landed her an Emmy nomination.
David Cassidy – Then
David played the family band’s lead singer Keith Partridge on the hit show ‘The Partridge Family’, although he was hired for his good looks rather than his singing capabilities.
David Cassidy – Now
After convincing the show’s producers that he really could sing, David and The Partridge Family produced ten albums together, with each album selling at least one million copies. This skyrocketed David to superstardom, where he remains enjoying a career in music and TV.
Mike Lookinland – Then
Lookinland played Bobby Brady, the youngest boy in the family on ‘The Brady Bunch’. His natural hair was actually sandy brown and curly, so he had to have it dyed and straightened to match more closely to the other male characters of the show. This wasn’t ideal though, as sometimes the dye would run down his face if the set lights were too hot.
Mike Lookinland – Now
Mike carried on acting in shows such as ‘Little House on The Prairie’ and several ‘Brady Bunch’ specials, as well as landing a part in the movie ‘Towering Inferno’ before leaving the industry for good. He’s now happily married with two children and runs a decorative concrete business in Utah.
Mason Reese – Then
Reese’s unique look made him an instant child star in the ’70s. You might have spotted him on dozens of television commercials, as well as shows like ‘Howard Cosell’ and ‘Mike Douglas’. Everyone knew who Mason Reese was back in the day.
Mason Reese – Now
After having such a successful career early on, Reese was able to retire from television and become a restaurateur. He has opened several restaurants, including Paladar and Destination Bar and Grill in the Manhattan area. He recently raised money to make a pending television pilot called ‘Life Interrupted’ which featured TV icons such as Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on ‘Gilligan’s Island’, Robbie Rist, who played Cousin Oliver on ‘The Brady Bunch’ and Erin Murphy, who played Tabitha on ‘Bewitched’.
Susan Dey – Then
Dey (pictured left) was a fashion model before playing Larie Partridge on ‘The Partridge Family’, alongside acclaimed star Shirley Jones and super-talented David Cassidy.
Susan Dey – Now
Dey has a brief relationship with co-star David Cassidy after ‘The Partridge Family’ ended, which might explain why they don’t speak to this day and why Dey doesn’t attend any Partridge Family reunion shows. Dey left the Partridge’s behind and went on to play roles in ‘Skyjacked’, ‘Little Women’ and ‘Disappearance’.
Robby Benson – Then
Although Benson appeared on tv, such as in the soap opera ‘Search for Tomorrow’, he was mostly known for his film work. His films included ‘Jory’, ‘Jeremy’ and ‘Ode to Billy Joe’. Did you know that he even had to learn how to skate for his role in ‘Ice Castles’?
Robby Benson – Now
Benson is now best-known as being the voice of the Beast in the Disney movie ‘Beauty and the Beast’. He got married in 1982 and has served as a professor at several universities in New York, Utah, South Carolina, and now Indiana. Benson has had at least four heart surgeries in his lifetime, but he kept his heart problems a secret from producers and directors as he thought this might prevent him from getting work.
Ron Howard – Then
Ron started his acting career as a child in the sixties, with a role in ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ and later bagging the role of Richie Cunningham in ‘Happy Days.
Ron Howard – Now
Howard is perhaps one of the most successful child stars on this list, as he has had great success in acting, producing and directing throughout his career. He has played in over 27 films, directed about 28 motion pictures and produced over 20 films. Howard really has made a legendary name for himself in Hollywood.
Ron Palillo – Then
If you’ve ever seen one episode of ‘Welcome Back Kotter’ then you will recognise Palillo as Arnold Horshack, the class clown of a group of high school kids known as the Sweathogs.
Ron Palillo – Now
From his success on ‘Welcome Back Kotter’, Palillo stayed in demand in Hollywood all of his adult life. He played a variety of TV and films roles, including ‘Laverne and Shirley in The Army’ and ‘Friday The Thirteenth’. He also experimented with other jobs, such as directing Broadway musicals, fashion design and even writing children’s books. Sadly Palillo died on August 14, 2012, from a heart attack at home.
Melissa Gilbert – Then
Gilbert beat over 200 other actresses to the role of Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie.
Melissa Gilbert – Now
Gilbert has enjoyed a relatively successful career in television and even featured in the 2012 season of Dancing with the Stars.
Scott Baio – Then
After beating over 2,000 other kids for the lead part in ‘Bugsy Malone’, Baio was officially on the map in Hollywood. This former teen heartthrob later played Chachi on ‘Happy Days’ as the love interest of Joanie Cunningham (Erin Moran).
Scott Baio – Now
After ‘Happy Days’ ended, Baio joined the spin-off show ‘Joanie Loves Chachi’. He also landed roles in several movies, such as ‘Skatetown USA’, ‘Foxes’ and ‘Zapped’. More recently, Baio starred in his own reality tv show and produced several shows for ‘Nick at Nite’.
Mad Max fans will recognise Emil as the ‘Feral Kid’ from the movie Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Emil was just nine years old when the film came out and he was tipped to be a huge name in the industry.
Emil Minty Now
Now aged 45, Minty hasn’t been in a film since his last in 1990- The Flying Doctors. These days the Australian works as a jeweller in order to provide for his family.