On-screen personas can vary greatly from the real lives of the actors who play them. For most, their off-screen lives show some air of normality, but for others, their lives are plagued with unsavory habits, secrets, and more. This list looks at the dark lives of these celebrities, who earned their fame as wholesome characters on 1980s sitcoms.
First starring in Full House in 1988 and later becoming a permanent cast member referred to as “Aunt Becky,” Lori Loughlin became involved in a massive conspiracy that was publicly exposed in 2019. Known as “Operation Varsity Blues,” the FBI arrested 50 well-off and famous individuals believed to have paid off college admissions counselor William Rick Singer to boost the chances of their children getting accepted into prestigious universities. He would fast-track applications by claiming these children were athletes when they weren’t.
When all was exposed, both Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli were accused of paying $500,000 in bribe money so that their two daughters would be accepted into the University of South California (USC). While her daughters were removed from USC, Loughlin was convicted and received a two-month prison sentence, 100 hours of community service, and a fine of $150,000.
Jodie Sweetin was part of the Full House cast as Stephanie Tanner from its first episode in 1987, to its last in 1995. When the show ended, she was just 13 years old. She went to live a more normal life, attending high school, and then college, before getting married in her 20s. However, it wasn’t easy for her. Reflecting on transitioning from work life to regular life at such a young age, Sweetin said “It is kind of hard to figure out who you are when you’ve lost your job at age 13, when that was basically how you identified yourself.”
Shortly after the close of the show, Sweetin turned to drugs and alcohol. At her costar Candace Cameron’s wedding, she had to be carried out because she was so inebriated. “I probably had two bottles of wine, and I was only 14,” she later said, looking back on that time. “But that set the pattern of the kind of drinking I would do.” Not only was she drinking, but by high school was taking ecstasy, by college she was doing cocaine, and her drug use progressed to the point where she became addicted to methamphetamine.
It took some time and a couple of tries, but Sweetin finally got sober for good near the end of 2008 when she became a parent.
When The Wonder Years came to an end in 1993 after six seasons, many speculated that it had something to do with a lawsuit involving one of the show’s stars, Fred Savage. Costumer Monique Long, who was 31 at the time, filed the lawsuit alleging the 16-year-old star of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment. She said that he touched her without her consent and begged her to be intimate with him.
Unfortunately, this is not the only time Savage has been accused of inappropriate behavior. Youngjoo Hwang, a costumer on his 2015 sitcom The Grinder, filed a suit alleging that he created an “extremely hostile work environment” through “aggressive behavior, intimidation, and constant use of profanities toward female employees.” As well, after Savage joined as an executive producer and episode director on the ABC The Wonder Years remake, he was fired in 2022 after an internal investigation was held over alleged misconduct.
While she was famous for starring in One Day at a Time, Mackenzie Phillips was already pretty well known, being the daughter of John Phillips, one of the members of the folk-rock band The Mamas and the Papas. Her father taught her about the world of rock and roll at an early age, as she later explained that he had shown her how to roll a marijuana joint when she was just 10 years old, and she tried cocaine just a year later. She quickly developed a drug abuse problem, and when she was 17, she was arrested for disorderly conduct while intoxicated, resulting in her being fired from the show.
Phillips also claims that on the eve of her wedding, when she was just 19 years old, her father sexually assaulted her. In her book, she explained how “I woke up that night from a blackout to find myself having sex with my own father.” As they both struggled with addiction problems, her father was able to convince her that their sexual relationship, which carried on for 10 more years, was consensual. It wasn’t until she had aborted an unwanted pregnancy, one in which she wasn’t sure of the paternity, that she finally put an end to their relationship. “I never let him touch me again,” she said.
While on-screen, we all know Kelsey Grammer as the fussy psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane, both from the character’s appearance on Cheers and the titular sitcom Frasier, his off-screen life is much darker, filled with run-ins with the law along with alcohol and drug abuse. In 1987, he was arrested for drunk driving and agreed to enroll and finish an alcohol rehabilitation program. He didn’t follow through, and in 1990 was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 10 days of highway cleanup. Later that year, he was also arrested for possession of cocaine, which resulted in 90 days of house arrest.
After all of this, he tried to get sober but relapsed in 1996 when he was seen ordering drinks at a bar while also being visibly intoxicated. Just two days following this sighting, he crashed his Dodge Viper, which was a gift from the NBC network. After being arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, he checked himself into the Betty Ford Center for rehabilitation following his release and has been sober for over 20 years now.