X Child Stars: Where Are They Now by Kathy Archer and Fred Ascher explores the lives of numerous child actors who appeared on some of our favorite television shows beginning in the 1950’s through the 1990’s. Kathy is the perfect person to attempt such a book since she herself was a child actor (Cissy in Family Affair) who successfully transitioned into acting as an adult. A co-worker and often friend to many of the actors mentioned, she has a personal insight into the pitfalls child actors face after their series has been cancelled. While some continued in the business, many seemed to have difficulty finding work and ended up angry, bitter adults. Well adjusted former child actors were able to find work in other fields, many attending college. Unfortunately, too many early success stories developed substance abuse problems which overwhelmed their lives and often led to an early demise. Not only did Kathy and Fred give a detailed account of each child actor, including dates of birth, information about their marriages and children, the roles they played and, all too often, the date and cause of death, they also had a running commentary of personal items which many of us will find of interest.
An accounting of each television series included debut and finale dates, the name of the network(s), whether it was in black and white and/or color, the number of seasons it was on the air as well as the specific number of shows, and a description of the show including the names of relevant adult actors and a description of the character they played.
While there were many sad tales, there were also numerous inspirational stories, whether the individual ended up pursuing a life in show business or found success in other fields.
All this information is sure to enthrall those of us who were avid television watchers and curious to discover what happened to the little tykes who entertained us back in the day.
Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the trip down memory lane, there were many ways this book could have been so much better. First off, more photographs – especially photos of the casts of the featured television show plus before and after pictures of each child star. While I can get a lot of this information off the Internet, having everything all in one book is rather appealing, but I definitely wanted more pictures than the few the authors included. The write ups also had a biased slant, difficult to avoid when one is writing about their friends or associates, but distracting just the same. The personal commentary should have all been saved for the summation at the end of the book. This is the appropriate place for personal reflections, not as a part of some of the stars bios.
Definitely a book to pick up if you are always clicking on those “Where Are They Now” apps found on the net. With the coverage of about seventy five shows, there were still some of my favorites which were not mentioned. (Do I hear “sequel”?)
Three and a half stars and a thank you to Netgalley and Rowman & Littlefield for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. (Send me a copy with more photos and I’ll up it to a four).