During the 20th century, there were several sitcoms centered on large families growing up in everyday America. One of the most popular was Eight Is Enough. It followed the life of the Bradford family and was based on syndicated newspaper columnist, Tom Braden.
Eight is Enough ran from March 15, 1977, to May 23, 1981, for a total of five seasons and jump-started the careers of several young actors including Grant Goodeve, Willie Aames, and Ralph Macchio. Now, find out what happened to the Bradfords after all these years.
Dick Van Patten – Then
Dick Van Patten played the patriarch of the Bradford family on Eight Is Enough. Thomas “Tom” Bradford Sr. was based on a syndicated newspaper columnist named Tom Braden. Throughout the series, he became a widower and helped raise eight children.
Before working on Eight Is Enough, Van Patten was a child actor on the stage, screen, and radio where he was called Dickie Van Patten. He was known for roles in Freaky Friday, Mama, and Insight before he joined the cast.
Dick Van Patten – Later
As his career progressed, Van Patten went on to star in Spaceballs, Arrested Development, and much more. Some fans may not know that he was a big animal lover and he co-founded Natural Balance Pet Foods in the 80s. He also founded National Guide Dog Month, which raised awareness for guide dogs across America.
Van Patten remained married to his wife Patricia Pool from 1954 to his passing on June 23, 2015, after suffering a diabetic stroke. He earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1985 and had a Golden Palm Star in Palm Springs dedicated in his honor in 2008.
Diana Hyland – Then
Diana Hyland played the matriarch of the Bradford family for the first season. She was based off the wife of the newspaper columnist named Joan. Hyland made her acting debut at the age of 19 in an episode of Robert Montgomery Presents and would often be seen in guest roles in various shows such as The Twilight Zone and The Invaders.
Before landing the role of Joan Bradford on Eight Is Enough, Hyland starred in 5 films, 73 TV shows, and originated the role of Heavenly Finley in Tennessee Williams’ play, Sweet Bird of Youth, on Broadway.
Diana Hyland – Later
A year before she landed the role of Joan Wells Bradford on Eight Is Enough, she played John Travolta’s mother in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. The two ended up falling in love and stayed together until her passing from breast cancer on March 27, 1977. She was 41-years-old.
Her passing was written into the show and caused Tom to become a widower in the second season. Eight Is Enough ended up being her last role, but she did win a posthumous Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.
Betty Buckley – Then
After Diana Hyland’s untimely passing, Eight Is Enough needed to find a new love interest for Dick Van Patten’s character. The show decided to go with Betty Buckley as Sandra Sue “Abby” Mitchell Abbott Bradford. Her character was a widowed schoolteacher who tutored one of the kids at the Bradford house.
Abby and Tom fell in love and got married in the fourth season. Her character ends up getting a Ph.D. in education and becomes a counselor at the local high school. Buckley got the role because of her portrayal of the sympathetic high school gym teacher in the hit teen movie Carrie (1976).
Betty Buckley – Later
Not only is Betty Buckley a film and TV actress, but the 73-year-old is also an iconic Broadway star. She originated the role of Grizabella in Cats, which earned her the Tony Award for Featured Actress in a Musical in 1983. Her other Broadway credits include Sunset Boulevard, 1776, Pippin, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
Buckley has also released 18 solo albums and has toured across the world. She currently lives on a ranch in Texas with several rescue animals, participates in NCHA cutting horse competitions, and teaches master classes in song interpretation.
Grant Goodeve – Then
Fans of Eight Is Enough may notice that Grant Goodeve didn’t appear in the pilot episode. That’s because his part of David Bradford, the eldest brother, was originally played by Mark Hamill. Hamill stepped down after the pilot to appear in Star Wars, so the part went to Goodeve.
Beginning in the third season, the show’s theme song was slowed down and sung by Goodeve. He soon became a teen idol of the late 70s and early 80s, along with several other male cast members from the show.
Grant Goodeve – Later
Goodeve is now 68-years-old and has continued his career in entertainment. After Eight Is Enough he starred in One Life to Live, Twin Peaks, Crimes of the Past, and many more TV shows and movies. He also has voiced several characters in six different video games.
In 1989, he and his family moved to the Pacific Northwest where he completed several acting jobs. Fans of HGTV may remember him as the former host of If Walls Could Talk and Homes of Our Heritage. Goodeve remains active in his Seattle church where he works in an itinerant music ministry.
Laurie Walters – Then
Laurie Walters was born in San Francisco on January 8, 1947, and played the second eldest daughter, Joan “Joanie” Bradford, on Eight Is Enough. In reality, she was older than all of the Bradford kids and the actress who played her stepmother.
Her first on-screen role was in 1973’s The Harrad Experiment and she also acted in Warlock Moon and Harrad Summer before getting her role on Eight Is Enough. Before she started acting, she planned on studying wildlife conservation in college.
Laurie Walters – Later
After Eight Is Enough ended, Walters continued acting through the 80s and 90s and can be seen in Columbo, Highway to Heaven, Cheers, and more. At the turn of the century, Walters retired from professional acting and went back to her first passion of wildlife conservation by becoming an environmentalist.
Walters hasn’t left acting behind entirely because she continues to do theatre work across Southern California. Also, she’s in charge of film acquisitions for Ironweed Films, a subscription-based film service focused on independent documentaries and short films.
Susan Richardson – Then
Fans of Eight Is Enough may remember actress Susan Richardson who played the fourth eldest child, Susan Bradford Stockwell. Her character famously had a double wedding with her father and stepmother in the fourth season. Richardson started acting in plays in high school and moved to Hollywood when she was 19-years-old.
Some of her early roles included small parts in American Graffiti, A Star Is Born, Happy Days, and The Streets of San Francisco. She had a daughter in early 1980 and her pregnancy was written into the show.
Susan Richardson – Later
Richardson kept acting throughout the 1980s in shows such as The Runaways, One Day at a Time, CHiPs, Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat. After the birth of her daughter, she gained almost 100 pounds and was afraid she would lose her acting jobs.
Dianne Kay – Then
Dianne Kay almost didn’t get the part of Nancy Bradford, the fifth child in the Bradford family. Kimberly Beck played Nancy in the pilot episode, but she was fired after ABC wasn’t happy with her performance. Kay replaced Beck in the following episode.
Before landing the role of Nancy on Eight Is Enough, Kay had bit parts in The Kids From C.A.P.E.R., Starsky & Hutch, and Dog and Cat. Also, Kay had a leading role in Steven Spielberg’s unsuccessful 1971 film called 1941.
Dianne Kay – Later
Although she hasn’t acted in the 21st century, she continued to find jobs throughout the 80s and 90s in projects such as Reggie, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, and Andy Colby’s Incredible Adventure. Now at 67-years-old, she continues to live in Los Angeles with her husband with whom she shares a son.
Kay received good news in 2011 when she found out she was in remission following a battle with kidney cancer. That same year she was featured in a documentary called The Actor’s Journey.
Willie Aames – Then
Aames was born on July 15, 1960, in Newport Beach, California, and worked as a child actor in the late 60s in shows such as Gunsmoke, The Wonderful World of Disney, Adam-12, and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.
One of Willie Aames’s most iconic roles was as the seventh child, Thomas “Tommy” Bradford Jr. on Eight Is Enough. An actor named Chris English played Tommy in the pilot, but he was let go after ABC didn’t like his performance. The most memorable thing to happen to his character was that he became a singer in a rock-and-roll band.
Willie Aames – Later
Aames hasn’t slowed down since his days of being a child star. He is also remembered for playing Buddy Lembeck on Charles in Charge and the title character in Bibleman. Fans of the Hallmark channel may recognize him from his various roles in their TV movies including Harvest Moon, Dater’s Handbook, Every Christmas Has A Story, and Love on the Menu.
He is now an award-winning, platinum-selling writer, producer, and director. Also, he spent five years becoming a 6-star cruise director and visited over 127 countries.
Adam Rich – Then
Adam Rich was born on October 12, 1968, and is mainly known for his role of the youngest child Nicholas Bradford on Eight Is Enough. Rich grew up in Granada Hills, a suburb of Los Angeles, and played tons of sports including swimming, skateboarding, football, and baseball.
One of his distinct physical characteristics was his “pageboy” haircut. The look became so popular when he was on the show that it inspired tons of parents to give their young sons the same hairdo. Rich was one of the show’s top stars and became known as “America’s little brother.”
Adam Rich – Later
Eight Is Enough was only the third role for Rich and he continued to regularly act throughout the 1980s in projects such as The Devil and Max Devlin, Tukiki and His Search for a Merry Christmas, and Dungeons & Dragons.
As he grew up, he started making some poor decisions including dropping out of high school and robbing a pharmacy. Rich has mostly stayed out of the spotlight as an adult, but will occasionally make personal appearances and ideate script ideas for film and television.
Connie Newton-Needham – Then
The actress who played Elizabeth Bradford, the sixth oldest Bradford child, started out using her maiden name of Connie Newton. She switched her last name to Needham after she got married at the start of season four. This was her first acting role and she wasn’t even 18 when she was cast.
She was born on December 5, 1959, in Anaheim, California, and is a trained ballet dancer. During the show, she dated Willie Aames who was her TV brother. She ended up marrying David Needham, one of the show’s set designers.
Connie Newton-Needham – Later
Similar to the rest of her castmates, Needham retired from acting long ago. Before she retired, she appeared in TV shows such as Fame, L.A. Law, and Ellen. Needham went through a divorce to David Needham in 2005, but the two had two daughters named Kimberly and Taylor.
In 2009, Needham found out she had ovarian cancer. Luckily, she made a full recovery. Since she’s also a trained dancer, she spends her time teaching dance classes in Costa Mesa, California.
Janis Paige – Then
Hollywood star Janis Paige appeared in five episodes of Eight Is Enough as the family’s Aunt Vivian. After graduating high school, she moved to Hollywood and worked as a singer and a pin-up model. Fans of Paige will likely remember her from her early days of stardom from films starring Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson, and Doris Day.
In the 50s, she had her own sitcom called It’s Always Jan. Broadway enthusiasts will likely remember Paige from iconic shows such as The Pajama Game, Here’s Love, Mame, Gypsy, and Desk Set.
Janis Paige – Later
Since she was born in 1922, Paige is one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood. In the early 2000s, Paige noticed that her voice was cracking, which led to severe vocal chord damage. It got so bad that she was barely able to talk.
Luckily, she worked with a voice teacher who helped her regain her singing voice. Paige was last seen in the 2021 documentary Journey to Royal: A WWII Rescue Mission. Also, she is an alternate board member of the Songwriters Guild of America.
Michele Greene – Then
Michele Greene had a recurring role on Eight Is Enough as a character named Jill. This was her third role as an actress after filming two episodes of Dorothy and an episode of Laverne & Shirley. Greene grew up in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
She decided to get into acting while she was attending Fairfax High School in Los Angeles after taking a drama class to overcome her shyness. This led her to attend the University of Southern California to train as an actor in their drama program.
Michele Greene – Later
About five years after her role on Eight Is Enough, Greene was cast as Abby Perkins in L.A. Law. Her work was so well-received that she earned a Best Supporting Actress Emmy nomination. After the show, she tried her hand at a music career and acted on other TV series such as Bones, JAG, Nip/Tuck, and Big Love.
Greene’s fans may not know that she is bilingual and that she has released two bilingual albums. She is also working as an author and has written several young adult novels.
Ralph Macchio – Then
In the show’s last season, Ralph Macchio played Abby’s orphaned nephew Jeremy Andretti for 19 episodes. This was his first on-screen acting role and he was about 19-years-old at the time. Macchio grew up in Long Island, New York, and got into show business at an early age.
He started taking tap dancing classes by the time he was three and was eventually discovered by a talent agent when he was 16-years-old. Playing Jeremy Andretti on Eight Is Enough led to some unique acting opportunities.
Ralph Macchio – Later
The 1980s launched Macchio into superstardom. After Eight Is Enough, he was cast as Johnny Cade in The Outsiders, Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid franchise, Billy Gambini in My Cousin Vinny, and many other projects.
Macchio continues to act and can most recently be seen in the Cobra Kai TV series, which is a continuation of The Karate Kid films. Fans of The Karate Kid might find it interesting that Macchio has the yellow 1947 Ford convertible used in the film sitting in his garage.
Mark Hamill Had A Role But Walked Away
Mark Hamill is a huge Hollywood star, thanks to playing Luke Skywalker in George Lucas’ epic film franchise Star Wars. But as mentioned previously, before Hamill appeared on the big screen wielding a lightsaber he was tapped to play the role of David Bradford on Eight is Enough! He even filmed the pilot for the show and signed a five-year contract.
He wasn’t terribly thrilled about the show to begin with, and then got into a car accident the same night the pilot aired. His facial injuries were reason enough to leave the show. Hamill then signed on to Star Wars, and the rest is history.
Willie Aames Was In A Real-Life Band
During the time that Eight Is Enough was filming, Willie Aames was also playing in a band as the guitarist and lead singer. He called the group “Willie Aames & Paradise,” and they appeared on the show.
They made other appearances as well, including on American Bandstand, The Mike Douglas Show, The Easter Seals telethon, United Cerebral Palsy Telethon, and Kids Are People, Too. The band’s biggest song was “You’re The Only One That I Ever Needed.”
Dick Van Patten Learned Of The Show’s Cancelation From Reading It in the Newspaper
Even though Eight is Enough was a success, ratings eventually dropped and the show was canceled. Oddly enough, one of its biggest stars only found out about the cancelation after reading it in the newspaper!
Dick Van Patten heard the news just like fans at home — by seeing it in print.
The Show’s Real-Life Inspiration Was A Columnist Named Thomas Braden
Although it might be hard to believe, Eight is Enough was based on a real person’s life, a syndicated newspaper columnist named Tom Braden. His autobiography, Eight Is Enough: A Father’s Memoir of Life with His Extra-Large Family, was published in 1975.
Braden certainly had an interesting life. He was also a former combat soldier in the British Army, an official in the American CIA, and later, a co-host of the CNN show Crossfire.
Many Reality TV Appearances For Willie Aames
Willie Aames has racked up quite an extensive list of reality television appearances over the years. He was in Season 2 of Celebrity Fit Club, Season 8 of Celebrity Fit Club: Boot Camp, and Season 1 of MacMillan River Adventure.
He also appeared in a 2000 episode of the Bob Saget-hosted game show 1 vs. 100. Other celebrities to appear on the episode with Aames were Todd Bridges, Allison Sweeney, and Nadia Comaneci.