It’s a cliche now- an adorable child, chubby-cheeked and bright eyed, is introduced to the world on a movie or TV screen. The kid dances or sings, prances and giggles, and steals scenes… along with hearts.
Then somewhere in their teens, things take a turn. Baby fat and innocence are lost. There are reports of wild behavior, drunkenness or drugs. Speeding tickets turn into DUIs. Cringey appearances on red carpets or late night talk shows occur regularly. There are tabloid covers, meltdowns in front of nightclubs, and some court appearances. Fans are left wondering, “What happened?”
Some of the troubled young stars straighten out in their 20s (Miley and Justin), while others continue to battle demons for decades (Britney). To be fair, some former child stars never really spiral out at all (Raven-Symone). Others… don’t make it (Dana Plato, Corey Haim, River Phoenix, Brad Renfro…).
As someone who grew up watching, The E! True Hollywood Story, I know there’s a ridiculously long history of tragic child stars. Ever see what happened with the cute tots of The Little Rascals? I mean that messiness went down in the 1930s. But I can’t recall hearing about the sad tale of Bobby Driscoll until rather recently. He is mentioned in Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This podcast series on Disney’s controversial film Song of The South, but his story really didn’t jump out at me until I read Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson by Randall Sullivan. From the book:
Michael’s love of Peter Pan is well-known, but not so much his love of Driscoll’s perky nostrils. Sullivan makes the case that MJ actually got a prosthetic shaped like Bobby’s nose and wore it in the early aughts.
For more on Bobby Driscoll, see below.