Many revelations have surfaced in the past regarding actors who fell into the world of television at too young an age. Todd Bridges, who played Willis Jackson in the 70’s and 80’s sitcom, Diff’rent Strokes, joined the list of childhood stars who admitted to falling from grace.
The man of “what you talking about Willis” fame shared his insights into childhood stardom and its effects on the minds of those involved, the loss of adolescence and the impact of huge wages at an irresponsible time of life.
Bridges was earning an incredible $30,000 a week during his time on Diff’rent Strokes, but the show, as all do, ran its inevitable course and by the age of 22 he found himself out of work.
Some time thereafter Bridges was the victim of spiralling debts and the only way he could find to pay them off was by selling drugs. That idea backfired on him when he began using his own supply. The addictions led to more problems and he admitted his worst vices were crystal meth and cocaine.
Now 44 years old, Bridges said: “I hated myself, I hated the way I looked in the mirror. I believed everything people said about me.”
Bridges is trying hard to put the traumas behind him and has written a revealing and candid autobiography that describes in detail the many episodes in his young life. Of these stories, one of the most harrowing was of alleged sexual abuse by a male publicist who introduced Bridges to drugs. When Bridges sought help from family his father sided with the publicist.
Bridges’ book is entitled, “Killing Willis: From Diff’rent Strokes to the Mean Streets to the Life I Always Wanted,” and comes at a poignant time when Diff’rent Strokes co-star Gary Coleman and close friend Corey Haim passed away.
Bridges talked about his desire to help Haim during an interview with the Today Show. Back in 2009 he tried to help his friend give up drugs, but Haim’s addiction was far too established and the damage was already done by then.
“The thing about drug addiction is, sometimes people are ready to stop and sometimes they’re not,” said Bridges. “You have to have it in your mind that you’re ready to stop.”
Another major problem, he pointed out, is that most addicts – whether drugs or anything else – are generally in deep denial about their situation. This is a common problem highlighted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other help groups.
“No one ever goes into addiction thinking they are going to get addicted to drugs,” he said. “You do it to cover the pain up.”
Bridges is pragmatic about his life however and doesn’t feel the need to blame anyone else for his misfortunes.
“We can’t blame Hollywood, it’s not Hollywood — those are choices that I made,” he said. “The media always wants to blame Hollywood: ‘Oh, it’s because they threw you away,’ and all this and that, but I can’t blame Hollywood. … I made some stupid choices; I made some horrible mistakes that cost me.”
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Read about Corey Haim and his links to an illegal drug ring, Gary Coleman and his accidental death verdict, and King of Pop Michael Jackson who began as a childhood star.
images: sitcomsonline.com, friendsoftheprogram.net