LOS ANGELES (AP) — Adam Rich, the child actor with a pageboy mop who charmed viewers as “America’s little brother” on “Eight is Enough,” has died. He was 54 years old.
Rich died Saturday at his home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, Lt. Aimee Earl of the Los Angeles County Medical Coroner’s Office said. The cause of death was being investigated but was not considered suspicious.
Rich had a limited acting career after starring at age 8 as Nicholas Bradford, the youngest of eight children, in the hit ABC comedy-drama that ran from 1977 to 1981.
He had several run-ins with the 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, publicist Danny Deraney said. He has tried experimental remedies over the years without success.
Deraney said he and others close to Rich have been 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 isn’t necessarily what he wanted to be. … He had no ego, not a shred of it.
Rich discussed his mental health on Twitter and noted in October that he had been sober for seven years. He said he wasn’t perfect – referring to arrests, numerous stints in rehab, multiple overdoses and “countless detoxes (and) relapses” – and urged his nearly 19,000 followers to never give up.
“Human beings were not designed to endure mental illness,” Rich tweeted in September. “The mere fact that some people consider them weak or lacking in willpower is totally laughable…because it’s quite the opposite!” It takes a very, very strong person… a warrior if you will… to fight such diseases.
Rich posted a photo of himself from his prime with child star Mickey Rooney.
“Everyone was like, ‘You’re the modern day Mickey Rooney,'” he tweeted. “But when Mickey Rooney told me that himself, it meant so much more to me!”
Nearly 27 years ago, Rich participated in a prank published by Might magazine about the actor killed during a robbery outside a Los Angeles nightclub in 1996. The article from the little-known magazine was intended as a satire of American celebrity obsession, but fell through when the parody was revealed.
“I think we were a bit too subtle. People didn’t get the joke,” Rich later told the Chicago Tribune. “I don’t want to be dead.”
Rich was the little brother to a generation of viewers as the mop son of a newspaper columnist played by Dick Van Patten, who has to raise eight children on his own after his wife on the show – and the actress who played – died during filming of the first season.
Rich starred in the “Code Red” series from 1981 to 1982 and voiced the character Presto the Wizard in “Dungeons & Dragons” from 1983 to 1985, according to IMDB.com. He reprized his best-known role in two “Eight is Enough” TV movie reunions.
But the rest of his acting career consisted of one-episode appearances on some of the most popular TV shows of the day: “The Love Boat,” “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “Silver Spoons,” and Baywatch. His most recent credit listed on IMDB was playing Crocodile Dundee on “Reel Comedy” in 2003.