Adam Rich, who rose to fame as a child star on ABC’s “Eight Is Enough,” has died at age 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’s publicist Danny Deraney remembered Rich in a statement as “simply a wonderful guy.”
“He was kind, generous and a warrior in the fight against mental illness,” Deraney tweeted. “Adam did not have an ounce of ego. He was unselfish and always looked out for those he cared about. Which is why many people who grew up with him feel a part of their childhood gone, and sad today.”
Rich’s representative concluded: “He really was Americas Little Brother.”
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TMZ was the first to report Rich’s death, citing a family member.
Willie Aames, Rich’s “Eight is Enough” co-star, wrote he was “gutted” by the news in a recent Facebook post.
“Adam was more than a colleague. He was very much my only little brother. A lifelong friend,” Aames said. “These last few years Adam had dreams of renewing his career. He was one of those kid actors that our generation will always remember. I can’t tell you how many parents have told me they named their first child ‘Nicolas’ after his ‘Eight Is Enough’ character.”
Deraney told The Associated Press that Rich suffered from a type of depression that defied treatment and that he had tried to erase the stigma of talking about mental illness. 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.
Rich, known for his wide grin and pageboy haircut, found TV fame portraying youngest son Nicholas Bradford on “Eight Is Enough” from 1977 to 1981. The show revolved around Dick Van Patten, who played a newspaper columnist (inspired by the life of journalist Tom Braden, who died in 2009) and father of eight kids.
Rich also starred in the series “Code Red” from 1981-82 and voiced the character of Presto the Magician on “Dungeons & Dragons” from 1983-85, according to IMDB. He reprised his best-known 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.” His most recent credits listed on IMDB was playing Crocodile Dundee on “Reel Comedy” and a cameo in David Spade’s “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” in 2003.
Rich’s last tweet was a retweet of his own post in September, discussing mental health. “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!” he wrote. “It’s takes a very, very strong person … a warrior if you will … to battle such illnesses.”
He also tweeted the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number 988 in response to DJ and dancer Stephen “tWitch” Boss’ death in December. “The only thing those suffering from a mental illness know how to do is pretend to be ok,” Rich tweeted. “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!”
Throughout Rich’s life, he faced legal issues. In October 1991, he was arrested and accused of pocketing a drug-filled syringe at a hospital in Los Angeles where he was being treated for a dislocated shoulder, police told The Associated Press.
After Rich was charged in the pharmacy break-in, his bail was posted by Van Patten, his TV dad.
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Months earlier, in April 1991, Rich allegedly broke the store windows of a pharmacy in West Hills. Prosecutors said he planned to steal morphine.
Also in October 1991, Rich appeared in Beverly Hills Municipal Court on charges of allegedly violating terms of a previous drunken driving conviction, said Deputy District Attorney Mark Vezzani at the time.
Rich failed to prove he enrolled in a class required of him after he pleaded guilty to first-time drunken driving and was placed on five years probation, said sheriff’s Deputy Bill Clark.
He was treated for drug addiction several times throughout his life, including a stay at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California.
In 2002, he was arrested for driving under the influence after nearly striking a parked California Highway Patrol cruiser in a freeway lane closed for maintenance.
Rich referenced his history with the law on Twitter in October to mark being sober for seven years. “I’m not perfect! Arrests, 20’ahem rehabs(not all voluntary;), 3-4 OD’s(depending on who you ask!), a couple 5150’s… & countless detoxes & relapses,” the actor shared. “It takes what it takes! 😉 So don’t ever give up! #Sobriety beats hell!”
Contributing: Brian Melley, The Associated Press