Adam Rich, the former ’70s and ’80s child star best known for his page-boy haircut and role on the ABC dramedy Eight Is Enough, has died. He was 54.
TMZ reported he died Saturday in his Los Angeles home, and Danny Deraney, a rep for Rich, confirmed the death, without citing a cause, in a social media statement posted Sunday morning.
“Adam was simply a wonderful guy,” he wrote. “He was kind, generous and a warrior in the fight against mental illness. 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 like part of their childhood gone, and sad today. He really was America’s little brother.”
Rich was known for his numerous roles throughout the ’80s on sitcoms and dramas, including five seasons of ABC’s dramedy Eight Is Enough, which was based on real-life syndicated newspaper columnist Tom Braden’s experiences as a father of eight children. The actor won the role of Nicholas Bradford at 8, kicking off a nearly three-decade screen career.
For more than 100 episodes, Rich portrayed the youngest child of the Sacramento family headed up by Bradford, who was played by Dick Van Patten, a widower in the series following the death of star Diana Hyland, who portrayed his wife, Joan. The actress, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, passed during filming of the first season. Rich would originate his role alongside pilot co-star Mark Hamill, who ultimately left the series to play Luke Skywalker in Star Wars.
Born in Brooklyn on Oct. 12, 1968, Rich would get his first screen role on the fourth season of ABC’s ’70s action series The Six Million Dollar Man in an episode that saw him playing Bob, the son of a man with a Scrooge-like uncle who is assisted by Lee Majors’ Col. Steve Austin.
He would soon get cast in the pilot of Eight Is Enough, and while on the show, would go on to appear in one-off episodes of The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, The City and 3-2-1, along with the role of Toby Hart in the 1980 film The Devil and Max Devlin, starring Elliott Gould and Bill Cosby.
After the conclusion of the ABC series, he continued his small-screen career, most notably voicing Presto the Magician in the 1983 animated adaptation of Dungeons & Dragons and recurring as Danny Blake in the single-season family firefighter drama Code Red in 1981.
Throughout the late ’70s and ’80s, he would appear on game shows, including Hollywood Squares and star on episodes of Gun Shy, St. Elsewhere and Silver Spoons, alongside two Eight Is Enough reunions. Shortly after work on the second special, in 1989, he was comatose for more than a month after the flu virus settled in his brain.
In the early ’90s, Rich was arrested on suspicion of burglarizing a West Hills pharmacy and earlier received five years probation after pleading guilty to drunk driving. He entered a rehabilitation program in 1992 before having another substance-related run-in with police during the early 2000s, and he spent his remaining adult life in recovery.
Rich, who participated in his own death hoax published by Might magazine in 1996, would have only one notable role in the ’90s, on Baywatch, in addition to voice work for a Goosebumps audiobook, before he would count a 2003 cameo as himself in the David Spade-led Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star as among his final two roles.