Kristy McNichol, born Christina Ann “Kristy” McNichol was born September 11, 1962 and is a former child actress known for her roles as Leticia “Buddy” Lawrence on the television drama series Family and as Barbara Weston on the sitcom Empty Nest.
Kristy is also the sister of former child actor Jimmy McNichol. McNichol eventually retired from acting when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1992.
Her Early Life and Career
Kristy was born in Los Angeles, California, and is the daughter of Carolyn McNichol Lucas, a business manager and actress, and Jim McNichol, a carpenter. She has two brothers from that marriage: Thomas and Jimmy McNichol.
Kristy’s parents divorced when she was just six years old.
Early on, Kristy began appearing with her brother Jimmy in commercials and later, on her own, in guest appearances on such other series as Starsky and Hutch, The Bionic Woman, Love American Style and The Love Boat, thanks to family friend Desi Arnaz. Her first stint as a series regular came in the role of Patricia Apple in the short-lived CBS television series Apple’s Way in 1974.
In 1976, Kristy was cast as Buddy in the television drama series Family (1976–80), for which she earned two Emmy Awards for Best Supporting Actress in a Dramatic Series (1977 and 1979).
In December 1977, Kristy appeared on The Carpenters at Christmas TV special, performing several musical numbers with the duo.
In 1978, Kristy and her brother Jimmy made their own foray into music, recording an album, Kristy & Jimmy McNichol, for RCA Records. The album included the single “He’s So Fine” (a cover of The Chiffons’ 1963 hit), which peaked at #70 on the Billboard chart.
The McNichols promoted the album at New York’s Studio 54 discothèque. In December 1978, Kristy would appear in another Carpenters’ holiday special, The Carpenters: A Christmas Portrait, this time with Jimmy.
During this time, the late 1970s, Kristy was one of biggest teen stars of the era and appeared on various talk shows, including The Mike Douglas Show and Dinah!, as well as making several appearances on Battle of the Network Stars and other celebrity-based shows. Also in 1978, she starred in the acclaimed made-for-television film adaptation of Bette Greene’s Summer of My German Soldier.
Kristy began her feature film career in the Burt Reynolds comedy The End in 1978. She later co-starred with Tatum O’Neal, Matt Dillon, and Cynthia Nixon in the hit coming of age movie, Little Darlings, in 1980.
Her critically acclaimed performance in that film was considered to be of Academy Award caliber by many reviewers. She appeared with Dennis Quaid and Mark Hamill in The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (1981), for which, at age 19, she received an unprecedented six-figure salary. The same year, she co-starred in Neil Simon’s Only When I Laugh, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.
By 1982, Kristy’s fortunes began to decline. She starred in the multi-million-dollar-budget musical spoof The Pirate Movie alongside Christopher Atkins, but the film flopped at the box office.
Later that year, Kristy failed to return to the set of Just The Way You Are after the production had halted for Christmas vacation.
By this time, unfounded rumors of Kristy’s alleged drug use were rife and it was often speculated to be the cause of her increasingly problematic behavior later attributed to bipolar disorder.
Although Kristy eventually completed the film, her reputation was severely damaged by the incident. Just the Way You Are underperformed at the box office, despite a healthy opening weekend. After one more unsuccessful starring vehicle, 1986’s Dream Lover, Kristy was subsequently offered only B-film titles and television movies.
She supported lead actress Susan Sarandon in the 1986 TV movie Women of Valor, about American nurses incarcerated in a Japanese concentration camp during World War II, and also appeared in cameo roles in two theatrical films of 1988: You Can’t Hurry Love and Two Moon Junction.
In 1988, Kristy had a mini comeback and played Barbara Weston on the NBC sitcom Empty Nest, a spin-off of The Golden Girls, along with Richard Mulligan and Dinah Manoff.
But Kristy’s attendance once again became a problem, and she left the series in 1992 when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She returned to the series for its final episode in 1995, her last screen appearance as an actress to date, though she went on to voice characters in the animated TV series Extreme Ghostbusters (1997) and Invasion America (1998).
In March 1999, Kristy was the subject of an episode on E! True Hollywood Story, in which she spoke candidly about her career, alleged drug problems, and her mental health problems. In June 2001 she stated:
“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.”
Where is Kristy Now?
According to Wikipedia.org, Kristy currently resides in Los Angeles, California. Since retiring from the screen, she has taught acting at a private school in Los Angeles and devoted much of her time to charity work.
On January 6, 2012, Kristy came out as a lesbian, and announced she was living with her partner Martie Allen and had been for 20 years. She stated she chose to come out now, some 20 years after leaving acting, to help young LGBT people dealing with bullying.