Adam Wealthy, a former child actor who starred within the hit television series “Eight Is Enough” within the Nineteen Seventies and ’80s, then dropped out of show business, handled serious depression and later re-emerged as a commentator on mental health, died on Saturday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 54.
Danny Deraney, Mr. Wealthy’s publicist, confirmed the death. The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner didn’t immediately list a cause on its website.
“Eight Is Enough,” combining gentle comedy with moments of drama, aired on ABC from 1977 to 1981. Dick Van Patten played Tom Bradford, a newspaper columnist with eight children, with Mr. Wealthy because the youngest of the brood, Nicholas. His helmet of shiny golden brown hair and innocent demeanor won him the love of the audience.
The show, set in Sacramento and based on a memoir by Tom Braden, a newspaperman with eight children, depicted real family drama, just like the death of the youngsters’s mother (played by Diana Hyland) from cancer after only 4 episodes. (The daddy later remarries.) But “Eight Is Enough” more often concerned on a regular basis matters. In a single episode, a minor-league baseball player whom Nicholas looks as much as becomes drawn to considered one of his older sisters.
In 1977, The Latest York Times wrote that “Eight Is Enough” was considered one of “the higher productions” on television and a significant factor in ABC’s becoming “the brand new prime time champion.”
A 1991 profile of Mr. Wealthy in People magazine called him an “audience favorite” and quoted Mr. Van Patten as describing his “magnetism” as an actor.
Yet, as Mr. Wealthy said in a YouTube interview posted in 2021, he got here to resent the typecasting parts available to him on TV compared with meatier roles being offered to other actors around his age, like River Phoenix.
Mr. Wealthy, by his own account, was drinking and experimenting with drugs before he turned 13. In 1986, he dropped out of Chatsworth High School in California, where he had studied acting. He stopped accepting job offers and would tell his agent, “I’m on vacation,” People magazine wrote.
In 1991, Mr. Wealthy was arrested on suspicion of smashing the window of a Los Angeles pharmacy with a tire iron and slipping inside to steal morphine, People reported. Prosecutors said that moments earlier he had been denied painkillers at a close-by hospital emergency room.
Mr. Wealthy called Mr. Van Patten, his TV father, who posted bail, but inside 24 hours Mr. Wealthy was arrested again, charged with shoplifting sunglasses and socks from a department store.
By the point he was 22, Mr. Wealthy had been in rehab five times. An overdose put him in a coma for 2 weeks. Within the press, he was often grouped along with other sitcom child stars who as adults had spun into drug use and petty crime.
In 2000, Mr. Wealthy appeared in several scenes of Dave Eggers’s popular memoir “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.” In a single passage, Mr. Eggers describes the uncanny experience of seeing Mr. Wealthy, whom he considered a celeb, working the room in a dingy San Francisco nightclub.
Recalling his youth, Mr. Wealthy described his heedless philosophy of life on the time in an interview with People: “Yesterday’s a canceled check, and tomorrow’s a promissory note, but today is money. Today is all you possibly can really bank on.”
Adam Wealthy was born on Oct. 12, 1968, within the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. His mother, Francine, acted as “the enforcer” during Adam’s child acting days, Mr. Wealthy said; his father, Robert, was a mechanic for the Ford Motor Company. The family moved to California during Adam’s early childhood. He soon began acting and have become a well-liked alternative for commercials.
Details about his survivors was not immediately available.
Mr. Wealthy was in his early 30s when he began treatment for depression. He struggled to search out the suitable medication, but in 2020 he began posting about mental health on Twitter, where he gained a modest following.
Within the YouTube interview, he emphasized that clinical depression was not a mood but an illness that might be traced to brain chemistry.
“I feel like this disease may kill me,” he said, “but I feel like if I’m going out, I would like to exit type of fighting for any person which will come behind me.”
Christine Chung contributed reporting.