Whatever Happened to Kristy McNichol?

Updated on July 20, 2017
Kristy McNichol
Kristy McNichol

Rise to Fame

Born on September 11, 1962, in Los Angeles, California, Kristy McNichol got her start in commercials as a child actress.

McNichol was the darling of mid to late 70's and 80's television. She blew up playing Buddy Lawrence on the intense television drama, Family, in 1976. She was only 14 years old when Family hit, and the series threw her into the spotlight, as the world watched her grow up in front of the camera.

Then in early 1980, she was catapulted into super stardom when she was cast alongside Tatum O'Neal and Matt Dillon in the 80's film classic, Little Darlings, in 1980. Not only was McNichol a celebrated young actress, now she was a bona fide teen idol, as she constantly graced the pages of bubble gum pop magazines like Bop and Tiger Beat.

By the time the end of the 80's was rolling in, Kristy had gone through rumors of substance abuse, lesbianism, failed B movies, and bankruptcy. But, our little Kristy persevered, and was given a new show called, Empty Nest, a spin off of the crazy popular, Golden Girls.

In Empty Nest, she starred opposite Dinah Manoff and Richard Mulligan. Success would be short lived for McNichol, as she battled private demons that she had secretly battled for years.

"Family" Intro

A Diagnosis

For years, Kristy had been battling bouts of severe clinical depression, this made her erratic to work with and unreliable. Her mental health issues caused her to drop out of a film and drop a television show.

Eventually, McNichol was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she shared her diagnosis and politely bowed out of the acting world in the early 1990s. She states that she retired from acting for her own sanity and peace of mind.

Poor Kristy was battling bipolar disorder at a time when people didn't really understand what the disease is. All she knew then was that she was popular, she made lots of movies and films, and it didn't make any sense to her why she wasn't the happy girl she often portrayed in her roles.

Kristy's Former Partner, Actress Elisabeth Brooks
Kristy's Former Partner, Actress Elisabeth Brooks

Persistent Lesbian Rumors

For the longest time, there had been rumors that Kristy McNichol was a lesbian. She never comment on those rumors during her heyday, but she has since come out as a lesbian, and it has been uncovered that she has been living with her lesbian partner, Martie Allen, for more than 20 years.

Kristy's former partner had been actress Elisabeth Brooks. Brooks' most famous role was playing the leather clad werewolf, Martha Quist, she's the chick who seduces and then bites the protagonists husband in the film, The Howling. Unfortunately, Brooks died of brain cancer in 1997.

Kristy has since stated that she decided to come out of the closet in order to help lesbian women who are struggling with their identity.

Kristy McNichol Fan Poll

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Kristy McNichol Today
Kristy McNichol Today

Life Since Retirement From Acting

The death of her former lover, Elisabeth Brooks was a heavy blow to Kristy, but she persevered. As far as work goes, well Kristy has taught acting in a private school, and she spends much of her time doing charity work..I guess those bankruptcy rumors were just rumors.

In 2001, her official statement about retiring from acting is as follows:

"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."

Kristy McNichol and Martie Allen are still living together, and hopefully, they are living happily ever after.

Kristy, you deserve to be happy, thanks for the memories!

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      JANICE B 3 days ago

      Although people of the past celebrity world could not be their selves and "come out" what is important is that someone reports it now!......it is not necessary to berate the writer on what has not been reported from the pastor on their own personal life...you missed the point Rachelle. It is NOW that counts.

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      Anthony Perry 4 weeks ago

      In my opinion kristy, you always were and still are the most beautiful lady ever. I married my first wife because of her striking resemblance to you. After all of these years you an

    • Rachelle Williams profile image
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      Rachelle Williams 5 weeks ago from Tempe, AZ

      Well it's too bad you weren't around to pound that same sentiment into Cary Grant, Rock Hudson, Agnes Morehead, Roddy McDowall, Jodie Foster (oh wait, I think she took the "true to herself" route back in 2015, probably what...ummm, say 30 years after the height of Kristy's prime) Paul Lynde, Nancy Culp, Greta Garbo, Raymond Burr, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Perkins, Freddie Mercury, Robert Reed, Liberace (yes- believe it or not, he stayed in the closet), and the list goes on... You could have really helped a lot of people with your "be true to yourself" mantra...

      A person's decision to stay in the closet for self preservation, whether real or perceived, is their own choice. Clearly she thought she had to keep quite about her sexuality at the time, no one should fault her for that. I'm all too sure if we examined your life we'd find times when you weren't "true to yourself"...and the same is true for everyone on the planet.

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      Wendy Eichhorn Cauley 5 weeks ago

      She was my favorite growing up and still is. I hope she is happy and healthy You will always have a special place in my heart. Wish I could meet you in person someday !

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      Jimmyshine 5 weeks ago

      She didn't "have" to keep quiet about her sexuality. That was her choice. If you counter, well...it would have ruined her career, my answer is: what's more important? Being true to yourself and your mental health, or being famous? Everyone is responsible for their own actions--no one else.

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      lebezel 5 weeks ago

      I saw where McNichol was gay when she played the character of Buddy in Family. She related to her brother Jimmy. Too bad she had to keep it quiet almost to madness. Shame on the industry. I do hope she's found comfort now.

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      Billee 5 weeks ago

      Live you, you were my favorite growing up.

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      Norma Jean Sultan 7 weeks ago

      I was glued to my TV all weekend walking the show "Family" on Decades. I didn't realize I had missed a few episodes?

      This was a great show!!!!

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      Tammy James 7 weeks ago

      Was so excited to see the show "Family" on Decades this weekend. I grew up watching Kristi on TV and following her in teen magazines as I grew up. I related well to her shows, as we are the same age I'm just a week older than Kristi born September 3rd, 1962. Guess that's why I always loved her and still do. I sure which her show was on more and not just for the weekend. I remember having the same haircut as her, and dressing like her, lots of good memories. 'thanks Kristi your wonderful

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      Derek 7 weeks ago

      Caught the binge Family airing this weekend, which my sisters and I loved back when it aired but haven't seen since. Still can't get over how much Kristy reminds me of my older sister who was just a year younger than her...haircut, clothes, brown eyes. Brings me back to that simpler, less hype-everything, no cell phones or PC's era when parents acted like parents and people actually grew up instead of ever trying to stay young and with it. Life i that quieter time really did feel the way the show depicted.

      Also used to loved Kristi in Little Darlings and Empty Nest. She was such a part of my generation's youth.

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      Lisa 7 weeks ago

      Watching Family on decades. Love this show. Thank you Kristy. I’ve been a fan of yours since I can remember. Wishing you the best.

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      David 7 weeks ago

      I always loved watching you play buddy and wish you were still acting but I’m very happy that you’re happy

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      Buds 7 weeks ago

      You were part of a period of time where I needed something honest. Family was just that, an up front, real show. Your character of Buddy, was one that I looked up to: you could simply be yourself. Thank you for the years you gave to us. Just watched an episode called the "Home Movie" on DECADES channel. Timely for today. Buddy/Kristy will live on.

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      cberbereia 8 weeks ago

      Heard you and your Brother's song today on XM Radio so I googled you to see what you are up to these days.

      Wish you the Best in all you do!

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      Kurt Rohlman 2 months ago

      Kristy I posted your picture on my grade school locker. You are a babe and always will be. I manage Bipolar 1 disorder and have an amazing story to tell. Love ya keep smiling, All the Best -Kurt David Rohlman

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      Cheryl S 2 months ago

      Thank you for this article. I miss Kristy on TV I Hope you are having a wonderful life. Thanks for the memories.

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      Jkm 2 months ago

      I'm a very depress when I get involved in relationship I put all my heart and soul in it then it fall apart I get depress

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      Richard H 2 months ago

      Kristy, hope you're well. Fell in love you as Burt Reynolds daughter in " The End " way back when ... Take care. xx

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      Arlene w, 2 months ago

      Miss you

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      I always loved you Kristy! 2 months ago

      Tiger beat! I had all your pictures!

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      Sid 3 months ago

      Glad to know you are well and enjoying a happy life.

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      Shan 3 months ago

      I'm only a couple of years older than you, so I would sneak and stay up past my bedtime to watch You in family. I loved your character and risked punishment if caught just to watch you. Hope you are having a wonderful life. Thanks for the memories.

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      Jspiv 3 months ago

      I am happy for you!!! Thanks for all you have done!! Especially The Pirate Movie love love that movie.

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      RoseAnne 4 months ago

      You have such a beautiful voice.

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      bipolar man 5 months ago

      I understand Kristy. Bipolar makes you do stupid things because you hate yourself. From one screwed up bipolar wacko to another, love you in spite of everything, wish i could meet you.

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      Todd Mears 5 months ago

      Good luck Kristy you where everything to me when I was younger . I suffer from bipolar and felt like we grew up together just by watching you weekly on tv then movies then empty nest then you vanished . We miss you hope you are happy

    • Ross bonander profile image

      Ross bonander 6 months ago

      Nicely written article. I always loved McNichol; she had the tomboy look and feathered hair as a teenager that just knocked us all sideways.

      As an aside, I have to say, based on the intro alone "Family" looks like a sensationally dull television show.

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      Dave Ortega 6 months ago

      My favorite acting role of Kristy's is from The Night the lights went out in Georgia. I also purchased the soundtrack and love singing a couple of the songs that Kristy sang in the movie. May the Lord continue to bless Kristy and the writer of this article.

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      Mary Lupe Beltran 6 months ago

      God bless you always ,glad to hear you are doing great

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 6 months ago from The Caribbean

      Two years late, but I'm glad to read about Kristy whom I only knew and liked as Barbara Weston. Thanks for the information so well presented.

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      Gary 7 months ago

      Kristy, you are an inspiration to all. You are a superb actress and you have touched many with your charm and personality. Wish you happiness.

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      Brian 7 months ago

      Clearly, Kristy is a wonderful person. And although she would probably not agree, she is truly a role-model. I just love how she walked away from it all...

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      Amy Fisher 8 months ago

      I grew up watching thinking i act just like Kristy in her shows. I really looked up to her and her natural cute ways on Tv.

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      Elizabeth carle 8 months ago

      I went to elementary school(Rio vista) with her she was one of my bet friends hope she doing and is happy.

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      Drew 13 months ago

      Kristy....in a word you have "Moxie". That "force of nature" has been a pleasure to watch (and we miss seeing it!). By the way....great catch and touchdown on "Battle of the Network Stars"!!! You RULE!

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      Edwin Milan 13 months ago

      Kristy, you were a superb actress and a great model for young people. You have had to overcome a lot and are an inspiration for many of us who admire you for your talent, fortitude, and courage. God bless.

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      Carmelo. 14 months ago

      Carmelo Peña from Puerto Rico i am a crear admirer of you i loved that family program and i never missed a chapter when i was a little boy good luck.

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      Laura 2 years ago

      Thank you for this article. I miss Kristy on screen and TV, but completely understand her need for privacy. I have to admit, I was a bit obsessed with her. I would watch the Pirate Movie over and over. Lol. I finally came out myself in my 30's. Come to think of it, my wife of 12 yrs kinda looks like her. How creepy is that! I wish nothing but pure bliss and happiness for Kristy always!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Rachelle,

      This is a fine piece of writing. I loved the sensitive way that you talked about Kristy. I liked her a lot and I feel sympathy for any celebrity who gives in to substance-abuse or just plain stress.

      She, I am sure, still has a great talent.

      I voted up and all the choices on this hub.

      Keep up the great work.

      Your New Friend, KENNETH