What Became of These Beloved '80s Icons After the Spotlight Faded?


| LAST UPDATE 07/26/2023

By Malikah Mcintosh

From unforgettable music to iconic TV moments, the 1980s were a decade to remember. So, what happened to some of our favorite '80s stars after they disappeared from the spotlight? Let's take a closer look...

Jeff Cohen

Hey you guys! Here's an 80s star who decided to take a different path in life. The former child actor Jeff Cohen is most known for his iconic role as Chunk in the action-adventure film The Goonies.

Chunk Goonies Jeff CohenChunk Goonies Jeff Cohen
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Leaving his acting days behind him, Cohen pursued a career in entertainment law. The former child star started his own firm, Cohen & Gardner. He negotiated his fellow Goonies castmate, Ke Huy Quan, contract for his latest movie, Everything Everywhere All At Once, for which Quan won an Oscar. 

Jami Gertz

Jami Gertz was one of the It girls of the '80s. She made her big film debut in the 1981 film Endless Love. This role helped spawn many others, including on the sitcom Square Pegs and opposite Kiefer Sutherland in the supernatural movie The Lost Boys. 

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She continued acting past the heyday of the 80s. However, no role seemed as big as that decade of her career, but that didn't seem to bother her. Gertz is happily married to billionaire Tony Ressler, and they have three children together. She is also a part owner of the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Brewers.

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Andrew McCarthy

Every girl in the 1980s had a crush on Andrew McCarthy. The Brat Pack member was in some of the decade's biggest movies, from Pretty in Pink to St. Elmo's Fire. McCarthy also starred in the classic Weekend at Bernie's. It seemed like his star would never extinguish.

Andrew McCarthy Brat Pack
Andrew McCarthy Brat Pack
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While McCarthy still acts in more minor roles, he's never reached the exact height of fame he once had. He found a new passion in travel writing and spent many years working for National Geographic Traveler. He has also dabbled in directing, going behind the camera for shows like Orange is the New Black and The Blacklist

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Phoebe Cates

Phoebe Cates was destined to find herself in the entertainment industry. Both of her parents were involved on Broadway. After modeling and dancing, Cates finally landed a role in the movie Paradise. Audiences would come to know and love her from her roles in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Gremlins, and Drop Dead Fred. 

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At an audition, she met her future husband, actor Kevin Kline. The two fell in love, got married, and had two kids. They settled on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Cates took an indefinite break from acting to focus on raising her children. In 2005, the former '80s star opened up a boutique in NYC.

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Alan Ruck

Alan Ruck, you're our hero! The actor said one of the most memorable lines of the '80s flick Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Ruck played the best friend of mischievous Ferris Bueller, famously portrayed by Matthew Broderick. Even past the '80s, Ruck was still working hard as an actor.

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He appeared in guest roles on shows like Psych, Boston Legal, Grey's Anatomy, and Justified. Ruck didn't stop there, either. He created a family and continued working. The former '80s star recently earned himself an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Connor Roy in the HBO hit show Succession. There are no days off for Ruck.

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Lea Thompson

The 1980s were Lea Thompson's time to shine. She starred in some of the biggest movies of the leg warmers and side ponytail decade. One of her most famous roles was as Lorraine-Banes McFly in Back to the Future. She also appeared in Howard the Duck, The Little Rascals, and The Beverly Hillbillies

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Thompson continued acting even after leg warmers went out of style. She starred in the ABC Family sitcom Switched at Birth and competed on the 19th season of Dancing with the Stars. She is happily married to director Howard Deutch, and their two daughters have followed in their parents' steps by working in Hollywood.

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Ralph Macchio

This next '80s star is no outsider to the spotlight. Ralph Macchio was the kid everyone wanted to be back in the 1980s. The child star landed his first major role in the classic The Outsiders. Afterward, he skyrocketed into fame as Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid.

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Over the years, Macchio has not been able to shed his Karate Kid identity. He appeared as himself on HBO's Entourage and in CBS's How I Met Your Mother. The former Karate Kid also joked around about his role in a Funny or Die short video. Lastly, he reprised his role as Daniel LaRusso for the follow-up series, Cobra Kai

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Emilio Estevez

Another member of the Brat Pack has made it onto the list, Emilio Estevez. Inspired by his father, actor Martin Sheen, Estevez developed a love for acting and the camera at a young age. He broke into the biz and starred in '80s classics like St. Elmo's Fire, The Outsiders, and The Breakfast Club. 

Emilio Estevez Breakfast ClubEmilio Estevez Breakfast Club
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Estevez continued to have a successful career. However, the former Brat Pack member did not keep his focus solely on acting. Estevez expanded his horizons and branched out into directing, going behind the camera on television shows, including Criminal Minds and Cold Case.

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Tiffany Darwish

If you were driving around your DMC DeLorean in the 1980s, then there was a good chance you would hear Tiffany Darwish on your radio. Best known for her hit, I Think We're Alone Now, the singer rose to stardom in the famed decade. Other hits of hers include Could've Been and I Saw Him Standing There

Tiffany Darwish 80s SingerTiffany Darwish 80s Singer
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As people traded in their neon workout gear for flannel jackets and scrunchies, Tiffany found herself reinventing her sound. She continued releasing music. The singer also appeared on Celebrity Wife Swap and What Not To Wear. She also made a cameo appearance in CBS's How I Met Your Mother.

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Her birth name is Gabriele Susanne Kerner, but anyone around in the '80s knows her by her nickname, Nena. The German singer skyrocketed to worldwide fame with the song, 99 Red Balloons. It was the only band her song translated into English, and it was a resounding success. 

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She began her solo career at the end of the decade. However, by the mid-90s, record sales were down, and her record deal wasn't renewed. Ten years later, Nena made a comeback and has been working steadily since. The singer has also appeared as a coach on the German version of The Voice

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Rick Moranis

Rick Moranis was at the height of his career in the 1980s. He starred in fan favorites like Ghostbusters, Spaceballs, and Little Shop of Horrors. His popularity lasted well into the '90s when he starred in the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids movies, which got their attractions at Disney World!

Rick Moranis Ghostbusters SpaceballsRick Moranis Ghostbusters Spaceballs
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Moranis had two children with his wife, Ann Belsky. Then, in 1991, Belsky passed away due to cancer. Moranis became a single parent and eventually took an indefinite hiatus from acting to raise his children and take care of his family. Although he recently signed on to reprise his Honey, I Shrunk role in a new film. 

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Debra Winger

Before becoming an actress, Debra Winger was briefly blind for ten months. During that time, she decided to pursue acting if she got better. She regained her eyesight and became one of the prominent actresses of the 1980s. Winger is well-known for her parts in Urban Cowboy and An Officer and a Gentleman.

Debra Winger 80s ActressDebra Winger 80s Actress
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However, Winger developed a reputation for being difficult to work with and acted less over the years. Although she has appeared in shows and movies over the years, she hasn't risen to the stardom she used to maintain in the '80s. Keep scrolling to see what other '80s stars are on this list!

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Lark Voorhies

Audiences everywhere fell in love with Lisa Turtle, the Saved by the Bell character portrayed by Lark Voorhies. The series was beloved by '80s kids and helped to define the decade. After the series ended, Voorhies continued acting, landing roles in Days of Our Lives and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

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However, her career started to take a different path. The actress decided to pick up the pen and begin writing. She authored three books and self-published the works. The star returned to television with her Bayside High School classmates in 2020 for the Saved by the Bell revival series on Peacock. 

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Kirk Cameron

California boy Kirk Cameron rose to fame when he was cast in the ABC television sitcom Growing Pains. His future wife, Chelsea Noble, starred as his love interest on the show. How's that for a meet-cute? During his seven seasons playing Mike Seaver, Cameron became a teenage heartthrob and earned two Golden Glove nominations.

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After the show ended, Cameron devoted himself to religion. He has continued to act in faith-based films, like Fireproof and Saving Christmas. He and Chelsea have six children together. Cameron also appeared on Fuller House, the show where his sister played D.J. Tanner.

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Jennifer Grey

Nobody puts Baby in the corner! The actress who portrayed the famous character in Dirty Dancing does not need the corner, either. Jennifer Grey rose to prominence as the sister of Ferris Bueller in the John Hughes' hit film Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Afterward, she portrayed Frances "Baby" Houseman in Dirty Dancing.

Jennifer Grey Dirty DancingJennifer Grey Dirty Dancing
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To this day, her iconic dance with Patrick Swayze has remained part of pop culture. Grey decided to get plastic surgery on her nose to help bolster her career. However, it ended up doing the opposite. Although she continued to land roles, Grey opted for more of a quiet life in Venice, California.

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Peter Weller

In the late '80s, a new sheriff was in town. Peter Weller starred as the murdered police officer turned crime-fighting robot in RoboCop. The movie was a box office hit and made Weller a star. The actor has appeared in over 70 television and film projects. 

Peter Weller RoboCop actorPeter Weller RoboCop actor
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However, his focus hasn't remained solely on acting. After rising to fame in the 1980s, Weller decided to pursue a Masters of Arts in Roman and Renaissance art at Syracuse University. He continued to earn his Ph.D. in Italian Art History. Weller periodically taught classes. He also went behind the camera to direct.

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Jenette Goldstein

Jenette Goldstein's acting debut was in the James Cameron sci-fi movie Aliens. How's that for a start to a career? Goldstein immediately catapulted into '80s stardom and continued to enjoy a lot of success throughout the rest of the decade. She appeared in Lethal Weapon 2Near Dark, and more.

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However, her star eventually faded, and she wasn't as in demand as she once was. Goldstein found another passion to keep her busy. She began her own business, Jenette Bras. Now the businesswoman has six stores around Los Angeles and Atlanta. How's that for a plot twist?

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Claudia Wells

Claudia Wells landed the part of a lifetime when she was cast as Jennifer Parker, Marty McFly's girlfriend in Back to the Future. She was almost unable to do the part, but scheduling changes helped her nab the role. Afterward, Wells replaced fellow '80s star Phoebe Cates in her role for the Fast Times television series.

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However, Wells' mother was diagnosed with cancer, and Wells took a hiatus from acting to care for her mom. Elisabeth Shue replaced her in the remaining Future movies. Wells opened up her own store, Armani Wells, which she still operates today. She did return to acting in 2011, but nothing will match the heyday of the '80s.

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Rebecca De Mornay

Being an actress in Hollywood is definitely a "risky business" at times. Rebecca De Mornay certainly knows that. Her breakthrough role was opposite Tom Cruise in the '80s classic Risky Business. De Mornay continued to enjoy success in her acting and music career throughout the decade.

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However, her focus changed, and De Mornay took on more minor roles at the start of the 2000s. She can be seen in Wedding Crashers and a few episodes of The Practice. De Mornay also became a mother, having two daughters with actor-turned-sportscaster Patrick O'Neal. 

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Rick Astley

His voice was the sound of the decade. Rick Astley was everywhere in the 1980s. His hit songs Never Gonna Give You Up, Together Forever, and Whenever You Need Somebody were heard on every boombox, radio, and Walkman. He was at the top of his game, and everyone wanted to be Astley.

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Despite success in the '80s, Astley lost his popularity and retired briefly. However, Astley was certainly not going to give up. He rose back to fame when Never Gonna Give You Up became part of the rickrolling meme in 2007. He recently performed at the Glastonbury Music Festival.

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Barret Oliver

Every child growing up in the 1980s watched the VHS of The NeverEnding Story on repeat. Barret Oliver became a child star after he portrayed Bastian, the outcast turned hero in this epic fantasy story. Oliver continued acting, including in the short film Frankenweenie for acclaimed director Tim Burton.

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However, the child actor had a change of heart. After working for a few years after his breakout role, he stopped acting entirely. Oliver later became interested in photography and printing, specifically focusing on nineteenth-century processes. He wrote a book regarding the subject, and his works have been featured in museums.

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Jenny Lewis

Reporting for duty next is Jenny Lewis! The former child star rose to fame in the 1989 comedy Troop Beverly Hills. Before landing her breakthrough role, Lewis starred in many commercials for major brands like Barbie, Jell-O, and Kellogg's Corn Pops. She also had minor roles in dozens of television shows.

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She continued getting roles well into the '90s, but Lewis decided acting wasn't her calling. She pivoted her focus and started a band called Rilo Kiley. The former child star has continued to perform and work as a singer, eventually venturing on a solo career.

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Carrie Henn

When she was only 12 years old, Carrie Henn became a star. She was cast as Newt in the James Cameron sci-fi flick Alien. It seemed that the world was at her fingertips after starring in a major film at such a young age. However, Henn decided to take a different route.

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She opted not to pursue acting. In 2016, the former child star told Tulsa World, "It wasn't my dream. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Was it an amazing experience? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Of course. But it wasn't my passion. Teaching was." Today, Henn attends sci-fi conventions and works as a teacher.

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Aileen Quinn

Aileen Quinn beat out 8,000 other competitors over the course of eight auditions to land the titular role of Annie in the 1982 movie Annie. She was only nine when she got the part and won Best Actress at the Youth in Film Awards. Quinn was kept under contract to appear in sequels to the movie. However, none of them were made.

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Quinn continued to act and perform in regional theater productions but took a break afterward. She attended Drew University and graduated as a language major with a political science minor. After graduating college, she performed in theater productions, started a band, and worked as a professor.

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Wil Wheaton

Before his breakthrough role in the coming-of-age movie Stand by Me, Wil Wheaton had been acting for years already. However, once he starred in the Stephen King classic, he was bound for stardom. Wheaton's next gig secured him a spot in fans' hearts forever as Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

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After finishing his time on Star Trek, he took a break from acting and worked at a technology-focused company. He later returned to acting. Wheaton appeared on The Big Bang Theory as himself and has done a lot of voice work over the years. He is also an avid Dungeons & Dragons player.

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Tina Yothers

Tina Yothers started her career when she was only three years old. She got work in television ads and minor film roles. Yothers gained recognition and fame when she starred as Jennifer Keaton on Family Ties. The show aired for most of the decade, from 1982 to 1989.

Tina Yothers Family TiesTina Yothers Family Ties
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After the show wrapped, Yothers traded in her blonde locks for a dark black 'do. She started a band with her brother and wrote a book. Yothers took a nine-year-long hiatus from acting and has had small parts here and there since returning to performing. She also appeared in Celebrity Wife Swap and What Not To Wear.

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Danny Lloyd

Every horror fan will recognize this face. Danny Lloyd is best known for his role as Danny Torrance in The Shining. The Stanley Kubrick film is considered one of the greatest movies of all time. Despite the notoriety and fame, Lloyd decided that the acting life was not for him.

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According to Screen Rant, Lloyd kept auditioning well into his teens but got bored of the routine and quit acting. The former child star opted for a much calmer lifestyle, so he currently works as a professor. Lloyd did make one return to Hollywood in a cameo role for the movie Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining

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Jeremy Miller

Any kid who turned on the TV set in the 1980s will recognize Jeremy Miller. The former child star played Ben Seaver in the beloved ABC sitcom Growing Pains. He rose to fame in the role, and after the show ended, Miller continued to act in films like Milk and Fashion

Jeremy Miller Growing PainsJeremy Miller Growing Pains
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At a certain point, Miller decided that he needed to put himself first and take care of himself. He checked into a rehabilitation center in California to help him deal with his demons. Since then, he has served as a spokesperson for the treatment facility that helped him.

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Josh Saviano

Josh Saviano really had many "wonder years" as an actor. The New York native portrayed Paul Pfeiffer in the ABC series The Wonder Years. Pfeiffer was Kevin Arnold's best friend, who was played by Fred Savage. Besides the show, Saviano had a few other credits.

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He decided to stop his acting career for the time being and focus on other things. Saviano went to Yale, and eventually, he became a lawyer. Although, Saviano did make a brief return to television to play none other than a lawyer in three episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

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Chad Allen

Chad Allen was one of the most beloved teen idols of the 1980s. The California native rose to prominence when he nabbed the role of David Witherspoon on Our House. Although Allen was one of the great icons of the '80s, he all but disappeared at the end of the '90s. 

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Since coming out to the public, Allen has served as an LGBTQ activist. He continued to act and produce. However, in 2015, the former actor confirmed that he was pursuing something else entirely. Allen quit acting to pursue a career as a clinical psychologist.

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