As reported by ABC News, Rae survived a bout with pancreatic cancer in 2009, following the deaths of her mother, uncle and sister to the disease. She announced to People magazine in April 2017 that she had been diagnosed with bone cancer.
Rae played Edna Garrett on the groundbreaking NBC sitcom, the housekeeper for the Drummond family, whose adopted African-American sons were played by Gary Coleman and Bridges (as Arnold and Willis Jackson). Dana Plato played sister Kimberly and became known for the “very special episodes” in which serious issues such as racism, drug use, and child sexual abuse were explored.
After leaving the series, Plato struggled as an actress and at the age of 34, after years of living in poverty and battling with substance abuse, she died from an overdose of prescription drugs.
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— ABC News (@ABC) August 6, 2018
Coleman was a successful child actor, but he struggled financially later in life. In 1989, he successfully sued his parents and business adviser over misappropriation of his assets. He died of an epidural hematoma at age 42.
Actor and comedian Conrad Bain is best known for his roles as Park Avenue businessman and widower Phillip Drummond on “Diff’rent Strokes” and as Dr. Arthur Harmon on “Maude.” He died from complications following a stroke on January 14, 2013, three weeks before his 90th birthday.
Bridges would prove to be the craziest of all three of the child stars on the series. Within three years after the show ended in 1986, he was using and selling crack cocaine and meth and getting in trouble with the law.
As reported by Action News Jax reported, in 1989, 24-year-old Bridges was accused of shooting a drug dealer eight times, leading to two trials; one for attempted murder and the second for assault with a firearm. By August 1990, he was acquited of both crimes, thanks to famed attorney Johnnie Cohran.
In his 2010 memoir “Killing Willis,” he wrote of the time he considered suicide by cop when he was pulled over on his way from buying drugs in December 1992.
“I was worn out. It’d been a long time coming. I’d been using and dealing on and off for six years, and even though I’d been trying to get my act cleaned up, it clearly wasn’t working,” he wrote. “I decided to give the cops what I knew they wanted, the chance to say they’d taken down Todd Bridges, the former child star turned drug dealer, whether they got me with bullets or with bars.”
He was arrested again, but the judge happened to be a former addict so he sentenced Bridges to 90 days in prison – in hopes that it would motivate him to get clean once and for all.
Bridges has been sober for more than 25 years.
In 2016, during an appearance on “The Dr. Oz Show,” he said: “I love life now. Life is the best thing in the world.”