Adam Rich, the pageboy child actor who charmed television audiences as “America’s little brother” on “Eight is Enough,” has died. his publicist wrote in a statement Sunday. He was 54 years old.
Rich died Saturday at his home in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, said Lieutenant Aimee Earl of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. The cause of death was investigated but not considered suspicious.
Rich had a limited acting career after playing Nicholas Bradford, the youngest of eight children, at the age of 8, in the hit ABC drama which 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 eluded treatment and was trying to erase the stigma of talking about mental illness, publicist Danny Deraney said. For years he tried experimental drugs without success.
Deraney said he and others close to Rich had been concerned in recent weeks when they were unable to contact him.
“He was just a very kind, generous, loving soul,” Deraney said in a statement. “Being a famous actor wasn’t necessarily what he wanted to be. … He had no ego, not an ounce.”
Deraney also shared memories of Rich on Twitter, writing: “Adam and I were talking about baseball on the phone. We both loved the Yankees, but he loved the Dodgers a little more… Something you didn’t know… He was in New York in December 1980 and I met John Lennon the day he died.”
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, multiple stays in rehab, several overdoses and “countless detoxes (and) relapses” – and urged his nearly 19,000 followers to never give up.
“Human beings were not made to endure mental illness,” Rich tweeted in September. “The very fact that some people think they are weak or lack willpower is totally ridiculous…because it is the complete opposite! It takes a very, very strong person… a warrior, if you will… to fight diseases like this.”
Rich posted a photo of himself in his heyday with former child star Mickey Rooney.
“Everyone was telling me, ‘You’re the modern day Mickey Rooney,'” he tweeted. “But when Mickey Rooney told me himself, it meant so much more to me!”
Almost 27 years ago, Rich was involved in a hoax that Might magazine published about an actor who was killed in a Los Angeles nightclub robbery in 1996. An article in an obscure magazine was intended to be a satire on America’s obsession with celebrities, but backfired when the forgery was exposed.
“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 younger brother of a generation of television viewers as the son of a newspaper columnist played by Dick Van Patten, who is left to raise eight children alone after his wife on the show – and the actress who played her – died during the filming of the first season.
According to IMDB.com, Rich starred in the TV series “Code Red” from 1981-82 and voiced the character Presto the Magician on “Dungeons & Dragons” from 1983-85. He reprized his most famous role in the two TV movies “Eight is Enough”.
But the balance in his acting career came down to one-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”. His most recent credit on IMDB was playing Crocodile Dundee on Reel Comedy in 2003.