Fame is a fickle friend, and as swiftly as it rushes in, it runs out the door without even saying goodbye. It doesn’t matter if you’re a child star or broke into the entertainment industry as an adult, if your time is up, all those flashing lights of the paparazzi will vanish and you’ll be left wondering where all those adoring fans disappeared to. Nothing lasts forever, but for these celebs who were sitting on top of the Hollywood world, they didn’t expect their limelight to go away so quickly.
Some people who fade away from the spotlight turn to trouble such as bizarre behavior or substance abuse to cope with transitioning away from fame. When the rug is ripped right from under a celebrity, they’re often faced with the decision to continue chasing after the next big role or to wave their white flag of defeat and go back to the real world. There are many reasons why stars who once shined now find it difficult to land a role. It’s hard to put food on the table as a struggling actor so sometimes you have to bow out gracefully because you’re sick of eating ramen and baked beans — and it’s even worse when you’re eating them together. These familiar faces became waiters, spin class instructors, and you’ll never guess which 1980s dreamboat is now making furniture. And careful who you call a dummy because many of these actors are smarty pants.
15. Taran Noah Smith – Home Improvement to Restauranteur
He starred in “Home Improvement” when he was just seven-years-old, and by the time the show ended, he was 16. Taran Noah Smith spent his childhood on a hit television show but when he was 18, he wasn’t as active in the entertainment industry as people expected. He finally was able to gain control of his $1.5 million trust fund, but found that his parents may have been dipping into his piggy bank to buy themselves a mansion.
When he was 17-years-old he married Heidi van Pelt in 2001 who just happened to be 33-years-old, 16 years his senior. Together they formed a non-dairy cheese manufacturing company and restaurant named Playfood. They specialized in vegan and organic food, but it closed down in 2009. The couple’s relationship didn’t even last that long; they divorced in 2007.
14. Chris Owen – The Shermanator is Now a Photographer
He’s known for being the awkward redheaded kid in films such as the American Pie franchise, Major Payne, Can’t Hardly Wait, Black Sheep, and She’s All That. Nearly every character he played was just a slight variation from one another, and Chris unfortunately became typecast in all of his roles. As extensive as his IMDB list is, he was never able to become that leading man and snag that role that would cross him over from being the gangly best friend to the heartthrob.
He was spotted by fans at a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles — and no, he wasn’t enjoying a meal at the table next to them. Chris’s career took a tumble and he got a job as a waiter, but now he spends his time working as a photographer.
13. Josh Saviano – The Wonder Years
Kevin Arnold’s best friend was Paul Pfeiffer, his nerdy partner in crime who sported glasses and braces on “The Wonder Years.” The show ran from 1988 to 1993 and goes down in history as one of the most iconic sitcoms about adolescence that has ever graced the small screen.
After the show ended, Josh Saviano, the real actor who played Paul, faded out of the spotlight. There were rumors of what happened to dear ol’ Josh, the most popular being that he was the man behind the Marilyn Manson makeup or that he was killed in a car accident. Unfortunately for conspiracy theorists, Marilyn Manson is really Brian Hugh Warner and Josh is still very much alive. He graduated from Yale University with a Political Science degree before studying to become a lawyer.
12. Al Franken – From SNL to The Senate
As one of the original writers of “Saturday Night Live,” Al Franken was well established in the entertainment industry. He’s known for his positive pep-talking character Stuart Smalley whose mantra is unforgettable: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” It got many of us through high school.
He left the show in 1995 and dabbled in film and became an author, but in 2008 he shocked fans when he announced he was running for the United States Senate. Instead of just making fun of the system, he wanted to change it, and he won his Minnesota senate seat by just a few hundred votes. He was reelected by a larger margin in 2014.
11. Charlie Korsmo – He Was in Hook, But Now Teaches Law
The North Dakota native burst onto the acting scene playing opposite legendary actors Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman in the Hook, but that seems to be where Charlie Korsmo’s acting career ended. He did have a role in 1998’s Can’t Hardly Wait, but his stardom just wasn’t the same as when he was a kid.
He later earned his physics degree from MIT and his law degree from Yale. Charlie worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and has been active within the Republican Party. When he’s not making his mark in the political arena, Charlie spends his time as a professor teaching corporate law and finance at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law. Talk about serious turn around.
10. Vanilla Ice – Dabbles in Real Estate
Rob Van Winkle and his catchy, classic hit “Ice Ice Baby” will go down in hip hop history, but after the fanfare around the 1990 hit faded, Vanilla Ice was faced with a problem: trying to make another hit record.
“When ‘Ice, Ice Baby’ was selling a million records a day, I bought several properties: a home next to Michael J. Fox in L.A., a palace in Miami, and a mountain cabin in Utah; then, a few years later, I took a break from touring, saw that my properties had cobwebs, so I sold them, and to my surprise, I made a huge profit,” Vanilla Ice said.
9. Kirk Cameron – From Growing Pains To Doing God’s Work
Kirk Cameron went from being the star of “Growing Pains” to doing God’s work. After becoming a Christian, Kirk dedicated himself to evangelical work. He wasn’t raised in the church but found his faith as an adult. He’s spent most of his career writing and producing Christian films and books such as Fireproof, Mercy Rule, Monumental, and Saving Christmas. The father of six has stirred up controversy with his comments about homosexuality, evolution, and Darwinism. The father of six married his “Growing Pains” costar Chelsea Noble in 1991 and is completely focused on his ministry by spreading Christianity through entertainment.
8. Freddie Prinze Jr. – Writing Cookbooks?
Before he married Buffy, Freddie Prinze Jr. played the leading man in every teen/young adult romantic comedy, no matter how old he really was in real life. He starred in movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer, She’s All That, and Scooby-Doo, but after rising to the top of the Stardom Mountain, he tumbled back down to regular life.
Freddie worked as a director and producer for the WWE for quite a while before releasing his cookbook in 2016 titled “Back to the Kitchen.” The actor turned chef has also occupied his time doing voice over work that includes the role of Jedi Knight Kanan in Star Wars Rebels and has been married to Sarah Michelle Gellar since 2002.
7. Jonathan Bennett – Spin Class Instructor
Mean Girls is an American teen comedy classic, and Jonathan Bennett, who played Aaron Samuel, will forever be remembered as that dreamy guy every girl wanted. Fans just knew they were going to see Jonathan’s face in blockbuster films, and even though he continued to be a working actor, he hadn’t snagged that role that was the equivalent to Mean Girls. He was spotted working as a spin class instructor at Flywheel in Los Angeles. However, his IMDB page shows that he has a handful of projects in pre-production and slated for released in 2017. Hopefully that means that he’s on his way to a comeback…dare we ask, Mean Girls reunion? Let’s start on October 3.
6. Tony Danza – The Boss Onset to The Classroom
This “Taxi” star tried showing us who exactly was in charge on “Who’s the Boss,” but after a lengthy career as an actor, he’s switched things up to become a teacher. In September of 2009, Tony Danza became an English teacher at Philadelphia Northeast High School for his reality television show, “Teach: Tony Danza.” The show premiered in 2010 and Tony later wrote a book in 2012 about his experience titled I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High.
“The emotional tug of war that goes on is just unbelievable,” Tony said about his teaching experience. “And then in the midst of that if you feel that the system doesn’t support you, that you’re job is at risk, then it’s a very, very difficult situation to be in.”
5. Danny Lloyd – From The Shining To Biology Professor
At only six-years-old, Danny Lloyd frightened millions fans when he starred as little Danny Thomas in Stanley Kubrick’s 1982 film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining. When he was filming the thriller with Jack Nicholson, the young Danny didn’t even know he was making a scary movie. According to the commentary, he just thought he was in a film about a family that lived in a hotel. Danny retired from acting in 1982 and lived a pretty simple life. In 2007 he became a professor of biology at a Kentucky community college.
He wasn’t the only Shining star that bowed out of the spotlight; those creepy Grady twins who have terrified people from hotel hallways for life also left the entertainment industry. Lisa Burns works as a lawyer while her sister, Louise, is a microbiologist.
4. Nikki Blonsky – Hairspray To Working in a Salon
She starred in the 2007 Hairspray remake opposite John Travolta, Christopher Walken, and James Marsden, but following its release, Nikki Blonsky didn’t make a splash in the industry. Everyone thought her Ricki Lake remake role would pave the way for more work, but Nikki instead disappeared from the limelight. Just a few years later photos of her popped up online and showed that she had found work at a Long Island, New York salon and she admitted that she even did a stint working in a shoe store in NYC.
Recently, Nikki’s been able to dip her toes back into the acting world by nabbing roles in Smash, Dog Years, and Pup Star. Sure, they aren’t Academy Award-nominated features, but at least she’s once again in front of the camera.
3. Michael Schoeffling – Owns Woodworking Shop
Sixteen Candles put Michael Schoeffling on the map as one of the hunks of the 1980s. This generation may not know what his name is, but when he was sitting in front of that cake with Molly Ringwald…*heart melting*. The model turned actor didn’t stay in the industry very long, no matter how much success he found with Sixteen Candles. He retired in 1991 because he needed to find real work to take care of his family and didn’t have much luck on auditions. Now in his 50s, Michael now works in Virginia as the owner of a woodworking shop that creates handcrafted furniture. Can you imagine getting a chair made by Jake Ryan?
2. Karyn Parsons – Fresh Prince to Businesswoman
“Now, this is a story all about how my life got flipped turned upside down…”
You’ll be singing that for the rest of day. You’re welcome.
Karyn Parsons is known as the stuck up yet lovable Hilary Banks on the Will Smith classic show “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” On the show she played a ditzy, money- and shopping-obsessed young lady who didn’t know what life was outside of Rodeo Drive, but in the real world Karyn Parsons became quite the businesswoman.
The married mother of two runs a nonprofit called Sweet Blackberry that produces short films for kids that highlight the biographies of black historical figures. It must be noted, however, that her career didn’t end with “Fresh Prince”; she also starred in Major Payne with Damon Wayans and The Ladies Man starring Tim Meadows.
1. Jack Gleeson – Joffrey Produces A Puppet Show
“Game of Thrones” has become a cultural phenomenon and Jack Gleeson’s less than favorable character as the king of Westeros has much to do with that. Even though he’s still reeling from the success of the series, Jack told Entertainment Weekly that he has decided to retire from acting because it was never something he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
“It was always something I did for recreation with my friends, or in the summer for some fun,” Jack said. “I enjoyed it. When you make a living from something, it changes your relationship with it. It’s not like I hate it, it’s just not what I want to do.”
Kudos to him for taking a summer job. Jack was interested in going back to school but strayed from that idea, and in 2015 and 2016 he worked on the puppet shows Bears in Space, produced by his theatre company.