Adam Rich, who became a phenomenon with his starring role as the youngest member of the Bradford family on TV’s “Eight Is Enough,” was found dead Saturday. He was just 54 years old.
TMZ reports the former actor’s cause of death has not been revealed, but that someone arrived at his home to find him “lifeless.” A law enforcement source asserted it does not appear to be a case of foul play.
Rich had, in recent years, been active on social media. On Twitter, he had over 18,000 followers, who were treated to his show biz memories, his pointed observations about fellow child-star icons like Ricky Schroder and Kirk Cameron, and his thoughts on addiction and mental health.
Rich had been largely absent from Twitter the past few months. In September, he tweeted, “Human beings weren’t built to endure mental illness. 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.” He was writing in response to the suicide of Stephen “tWitch” Boss.
In December, he retweeted those sentiments with a phone number for the Suicide Crisis Line, writing on December 15, “The only thing those suffering from a mental illness know how to do is pretend to be ok. Enough! The stigma is killing people. Be yourself. Ok, or not ok, is the only way to create change, & stomp the stigma! Heal your truth!”
Rich’s pinned tweet was an image of himself with late movie star Mickey Rooney. “Everyone used to say to me… ‘You are the modern day Mickey Rooney,'” he captioned it. “But when Mickey told me that himself [mind blown emoji],… it meant a helluva lot more to me!!! :)))”
Though proud of his accomplishments, Rich logged some serious issues with the trappings of fame, ultimately leaving acting after making a huge splash in the ’70s.
“America’s little brother” was born October 12, 1968, growing up in L.A. After a couple of TV roles, including his 1976 debut on “The Six Million Dollar Man,” and establishing himself as a top commercial pitchman, he was cast as Nicholas on “Eight Is Enough” at age 8. The show, which ran from 1977-1981, centered on a couple with eight children, modeled after the life story of journalist Tom Braden.
With his exaggerated pageboy haircut, Rich became a sensation and the show’s MVP, immediately appearing in teen magazines even though he wasn’t a teen.
He made an appearance on “The Love Boat” (1979), in the Bill Cosby film “The Devil and Max Devlin” (1981), and also guested on “3-2-1 Contact” (1980), two episodes of “Fantasy Island” (1978 & 1982), and two episodes of “CHiPs” (1979 & 1982).
Post-“Eight Is Enough,” he was a series regular on “Code Red” (1981-1982) and provided a voice on the animated series “Dungeons & Dragons” (1983-1985). Along with appearing on popular shows like “St. Elsewhere” (1986), “Silver Spoons” (1986), and “Small Wonder” (1986 & 1988), he reprised his role as Nicholas for the TV movies “Eight Is Enough: A Family Reunion” (1987) and “An Eight Is Enough Wedding” (1989).
In 1986, at the height of the Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” era, Rich participated in the video “Drug Free Kids: A Parents’ Guide,” in which stars including Elliott Gould, Jane Alexander, Marla Gibbs and Melissa Gilbert role-played situations in an effort to give families resources to help keep their children off drugs.
In real life, Rich battled addiction from early on. He tried drugs by 14, left school, nearly ODed on Valium in 1989, and endured a humiliating arrest for attempting to burglarize a pharmacy. He was arrested in 2002 for a DUI and spoke about going through rehab numerous times.
In light of aging out of his former image and his personal struggles, Rich worked far less after the ’80s. He made one appearance on “Baywatch” in 1993, did limited voice work, and then parodied himself in the film “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” (2003) and on the series “Reel Comedy” (2003), his final credit.
Rich spoke at length about depression in an interview with Ringside Report Web TV Channel in 2022, during which he discussed his presence on social media and his mission in life. He said, “Twitter is a motherf**king trip, that place — right? I mean, it can be so toxic… At one point, I was, like, getting into feuds with some of the MAGA celebrities and I was, like, enduring all this hate and whatever, and I just finally, I was, ‘I don’t wanna do that,’ and I stopped following them, or whatever, and I was like, ‘What do I wanna really do here?’ And I sort of just found my purpose with talking about my illness because I realized how many people out there were also [affected by] the same thing that were on there… It can also be so positive.”