Todd Bridges, child star of Diff’rent Strokes, talked today on CNN about having been sexually abused and the need for background checks in Hollywood. He and former child actor Corey Feldman are making a highly public case for California legislation that they hope will protect child actors from sexual predators, a problem they say continues to plague the entertainment industry.
Bridges has said the legislation would help shield children from what he describes as “a lifetime of shame and anger.” In his autobiography, Killing Willis, Bridges described the man who sexually abused him as a musician and gospel singer who claimed to have worked for Michael Jackson’s family. The man was introduced to Bridges’ parents by the acclaimed “King of Gospel,” the late Rev. James Cleveland.
At the time, Bridges was 11 and already appearing on television, in episodes of Police Story and Barney Miller.
In his comments on CNN on Friday, he said that a publicist “talked me into doing things that I didn’t want to do” and “seduced me,” starting at age 11 or 12. When he confronted the man in front of his parents his mother believed him, but his father took the alleged perpetrator’s side.
Bridges said that he tried to figure out when he was 12 and 13 years old whether he was gay as a result of the experience and added that, while he doesn’t blame his alcoholism on having been abused, he wonders whether it was a contributing factor.