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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kristy McNichol : Why she gave up her career


Kristy McNichol is a name we seldom hear anymore.  She certainly has turned away from the spotlight.  In fact, she hasn’t been seen on the screen since 1995.  Kristy retired from acting after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the early 1990s.  In the 1970s, however, she was one of the biggest stars on American television.  From 1976 until 1980, Kristy starred in the popular prime time drama Family.  She played Leticia “Buddy” Lawrence, the youngest member of the Lawrence family of Pasadena, California.  The late James Broderick played lawyer Doug Lawrence, the father of the family.  Broderick, who died of cancer in 1982, was the real-life dad of actor Matthew Broderick (Matthew and his wife, Sarah Jessica Parker, named their son James after him).  Sada Thompson portrayed the matriarch of the family, Doug’s stalwart wife, Kate.  Sada is now 83 years old. 
There were three Lawrence siblings.  Gary Frank played Willie, the middle child, and two actresses portrayed the divorced older sister, Nancy Lawrence Maitland.  Elayne Heilveil initiated the role of Nancy in 1976.  She was soon replaced by Meredith Baxter-Birney who would later shoot to fame on Family Ties in the 1980s.  Quinn Cummings joined the cast in 1978 as Annie Cooper, the Lawrences’ adopted daughter.
During the four-year run of the series, the characters faced several kinds of challenges and difficulties.  The show dealt with such issues as cancer, alcoholism and many teen-related problems.  For her performance in the role of Buddy Lawrence, Kristy McNichol received four Emmy Award nominations and earned two Emmys (1977 and 1979) for Best Supporting Actress in a Dramatic Series.
Kristy was born Christina Ann McNichol on September 11, 1962 in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Jim McNichol, a carpenter, and Carollyne, an actress and business manager.  Her parents divorced when she was a young child.  At an early age, Kristy and her older brother Jimmy appeared in television commercials.  In 1973 she appeared in a segment of Love American Style entitled “Love and the Unsteady Steady.”
By the age of 12, Kristy was a regular on the short-lived CBS TV series Apples Way.  This drama focused on the lives of architect George Apple and his clan.  George, his wife Barbara and their four children decide to leave the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and move to George’s hometown of Appleton, Iowa where the city-bred children must adapt to life in a small rural community.  The show only ran for 13 episodes, but from 1974 to 1975, Kristy played the role of Patricia Apple, one of the four siblings. 
After the demise of Apple’s Way, Kristy was cast as the introspective teenager, Buddy Lawrence, in Family.  The show debuted in 1976 and was warmly received by fans and critics.  Kristy became a fixture on the cover of teen magazines and a genuine star.  In 1978, at the pinnacle of her stardom in Family, Kristy recorded an album with her brother Jimmy.  The album was titled Kristy & Jimmy McNichol and featured the Chiffons' 1963 hit single "He So Fine."  To promote the album, Kristy appeared on The Merv Griffin Show and The Carpenters Christmas Special. 

To listen to Kristy and Jimmy McNichol singing "He's So Fine," click on the link below.

During the 1970s, Kristy also made appearances on Starsky and Hutch, The Love Boat and The Bionic Woman.  In 1978, she won acclaim for her role as Patty Bergen in the television movie The Summer of My German Solder.  Kristy played a young Jewish girl living in Arkansas during World War II who befriends a German prisoner of war.
When Family ended, McNichol set her sights on a movie career.  She had already appeared in the 1978 dark comedy The End with Burt Reynolds.  In 1980, Little Darlings, a coming-of-age story, was realeased in which she starred with Academy Award winner Tatum O’Neal and an up-and-coming young actor named Matt Dillon.  

Kristy's  big screen career really began to blossom with the role of Polly in Only When I Laugh (1981) alongside Marsha Mason, for which she won a Golden Globe nomination.  In 1981, at the height of her movie stardom, 19 year-old Kristy received over a $1 million dollars for her appearance in the film The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia with Mark Hamill and Dennis Quaid.  This was an unprecedented amount for an actress of her age at that time.
In the late 1980s, with her film career in severe decline, Kristy McNichol found a new occupation – hairdressing.  She attended beauty school and worked at a friend’s Beverly Hills salon.  In 1988, however, she returned to television in the family comedy Empty Nest.  Kristy portrayed police detective Barbara Weston in the series.  Although Empty Nest was a success, Kristy left the show in 1992 after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  The stress of acting was not conducive to her emotional well-being and she realized she had to give it up.  She did, however, appear in the final two episodes of the series in 1995. That was her last screen appearance, although she voiced characters in the animated series Extreme Ghostbusters (1997) and Invasion America (1998).
In 2001, Kristy McNichol issued a public statement explaining her decision to relinquish her acting career.  She said, “A lot  of people have wondered what I’ve been up to.  I retired from my career after 24 years.  My feeling was that it was time to play my biggest part – MYSELF.  I must say that it has been the best thing that ever happened to me.  So many fans are disappointed that I’m not currently acting, however some may not realize that the process I’m in at this time is necessary and vital for my personal happiness and well-being."


Now 48 years old, Kristy McNichol has never married and lives a very private life in Los Angeles.  She has taught acting at a private school and devotes time to charitable endeavours.

Jimmy McNichol, now 49, gave up acting sometime in the 1990s.  In 1996, he recorded as a singer under the name Jimmy James. Jimmy married his wife Renee in 1997 and is the father of two children, a son named Nash and a daughter named Ellis.

Editor's Update (January 25, 2013):

* Sada Thompson died on May 4, 2011 of lung disease at the age of 83.

* Kristy McNichol "came out" as a lesbian on January 6, 2011.  She stated that she had been living with her partner, Martie Allen, for 20 years.


- Joanne

25 comments:

  1. I hate growing old and seeing the people I watched on t.v. ageing with me. I miss my younger years. I miss the way things were.

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    1. This a little late since its almost 2013 why dosent everyone forget that Kristy was diagnosed with bi-polar and think about the happy times she gaves us while on tv or movies it dosent matter gay straight or whatever she brought joy to us...

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  2. Kristy i miss your acting and I wish you'd come back and do amother movie.

    Your fan,
    Kevin

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  3. I agree with the growing old and the people I watched on TV growing old too! I always loved Kristy McNichol and hoped she is happy with her life. Getting older really sucks!

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  4. I was one of your biggest fan's! Miss you Kristy!

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  5. Kristy McNichol was my first crush. After all these years, I'm still crazy about her.

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  6. I would do a interview with Barbara Walters if I were you. A one on one is always better. The world needs a familiar face to remind it of how wonderful it is. It is year...

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  7. Kristy I thought you were an awesome actress and miss your acting...you were great in little darlings favorite all time movie when I was a teen growing up!! Miss those times...

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  8. I loved growing up watching Kristin do the same. I hope she is doing well and having a wonderful time living her life.

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  9. All I can say is, I hope your Happy or at least content in your life. You were a WONDERFUL actress & I wish you nothing but the BEST !!!!!!

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  10. Sada passed away a few months ago.

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  11. Joanne, Jimmy was divorced in mid 2000's.

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  12. Kristy hasn't been shunning the spotlight since she attempted to get a spot on Dancing with the Stars in 2008 as her comeback because she needs the money. She was potentially slated for the 1970's stars segment with Florence Henderson of the Brady Bunch, but the network decided not to do it. There was also an attempt to get American Idol brother and sister Indian duo (can't think of his name right now) to do a TV movie on the Kristy/Jimmy life that never came to fruition.

    The McNichol's were driven out of Hollywood and there is little hope for a recovery from the destruction of their careers. Their stage mother abused their finances from what I could deduce from the public record.

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  13. It's sad the wealth of Aaron Spelling who lived in a $150 mansion prior to his death who used child talent of Kristy McNichol as such, while the stars suffer comparatively broke in their adult lives.

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  14. Kristy and I are about the same age and growing up I thought she was so smart and cool, even though as a guy I couldn't admit it to my sisters. Like Maureen McCormick and Kim Richards, (chicks my friends and I said we "wouldn't mine doing" when were back in high school sitting around drinking beer and watching reruns circa 1980), I am so glad she was able to find herself and hapiness within.

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  15. Also a big fan hadn't thought of you in years, til recently Little Darlings aired on Showtime 10/2011....wonderfully happy memories resurrected. Miss u KM...wished dramas were the same as they were then. This reality crap reeks something awful.

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  16. I was one of several girls that had a huge crush on Jimmy too! Hope he and Kristy are doing well these days.

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  17. I turned 48 this year and have 2 year old twins. stories like this remind me of my youth and how fast it passed - hence why I have toddler twins and not grandchildren at my age haha. I hope you are doing well Kristi, I looked you up because today I thought of a really good time in my life (besides now of course) you and your shows came to mind - pretty cool huh?

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  18. Wishing you all the best in life. You were great then and even better now. Good luck with your life.

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  19. Kristy was such a sweetheart back then , I'm sure she still is...

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  20. Kristi, from someone who has lived with bipolar all my life, good for you for facing it head on. It was truly a pleasure growing up with you on tv. I still have a crush on you. Youll always be beautiful to me. I wish you the best and pray for a return to tv for all your fans

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  21. There is only once in a life time that there will be a talent like KM" I grew up watching you and wish you the very best in happiness"

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  22. Kristy Mcnichol is a beautiful person, loved her in little darlings and the night the lights went out in georgia. She is so cute, miss her acting alot. My name is Don I live in Texas.

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  23. I had all of Kristy's movies at one time (vhs). Now I think the only one I have is The Pirate Movie that I enjoy every time I watch it. I wish she could act again she was a major crush for me and I would love to see her work again. but you can't recapture your youth no matter how hard you try. I am glad she is doing well and understand she has done what she needed to do. John-Kentucky

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  24. I think if she truly wanted to comeback to acting, she definitely could. Her and Jimmy both, talented actors.

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