LOS ANGELES — Adam Rich, the child actor with a pageboy mop-top who charmed TV audiences in the late 1970s as “America’s little brother” on “Eight is Enough,” has died. He was 54.
Rich died Saturday in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, said Lt. Aimee Earl of the Los Angeles County Medical-Examiner Coroner’s office. The cause of death was under investigation but was not considered to be suspicious.
Rich had a limited acting career after playing Nicholas Bradford, the youngest of eight children, on the ABC hit dramedy that ran from from 1977 to 1981.
He had several run-ins with police related to drugs and alcohol — and sought treatment at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage.
Rich suffered from a type of depression that defied treatment and he had tried to erase the stigma of talking about mental illness, said publicist Danny Deraney. He unsuccessfully tried experimental cures over the years and had remained sober.
Deraney said he and others close to Rich were worried in recent weeks when they couldn’t reach him.
“He was just a very kind, generous, loving soul,” Deraney told The Associated Press. “Being a famous actor is not necessarily what he wanted to be … He had no ego, not an ounce of it.”
Rich frequently discussed his condition on Twitter and noted in October that he’d been sober for seven years. He said he wasn’t perfect — referring to arrests, many stints in rehab, several overdoses and “countless detoxes (and) relapses” — and urged his nearly 19,000 followers to never give up.
“Human beings weren’t built to endure mental illness,” Rich had tweeted in September. “The mere fact that some people consider those to be weak, or have a lack of will is totally laughable … because it’s the total opposite! It’s takes a very, very strong person … a warrior if you will … to battle such illnesses.”
Rich also tweeted a picture of himself from his heyday with one-time child star Mickey Rooney.
“Everyone used to say to me, ‘You are the modern day Mickey Rooney,’” he tweeted. “But when Mickey Rooney told me that himself, it meant a helluva a lot more to me!”
Rich became known as the little brother to a generation of TV viewers as the youngest child to a syndicated newspaper columnist played by Dick Van Patten, who has to raise eight children alone after the death of his wife in the first season of the show.
Rich starred in the series “Code Red” from 1981-82 and voiced the character of Presto the Magician on “Dungeons and Dragons” from 1983-85. He also reprised his most famous role in two “Eight is Enough” TV movie reunions.
But the balance of his acting career was in single-episode appearances on some of the most popular TV shows of the time: “The Love Boat,” “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “Silver Spoons,” and “Baywatch.”
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