Whatever Happened to Kristy McNichol?

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

What is your Favorite Kristy McNichol Role?

  • Barbara Weston from "Empty Nest"
  • Leticia "Buddy" Lawrence from "Family"
  • Angel from "Little Darlings"
See results without voting
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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kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 19 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama


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

Laura 19 months 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!

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