Killing Willis: From Diff'rent Strokes to the Mean Streets to the Life I Always Wanted

( 33 )

Overview

The former child star—best known as Willis Jackson on Diff’rent Strokes—shares the shocking but inspirational details of his struggles with addiction, brushes with the law, and fierce fight to carve a path through the darkness and find his true identity.

For Todd Bridges early stardom was no protection from painful childhood events that paved the road to his own personal hell. One of the first African-American child actors on shows like Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, ...

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Killing Willis: From Diff'rent Strokes to the Mean Streets to the Life I Always Wanted

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Overview

The former child star—best known as Willis Jackson on Diff’rent Strokes—shares the shocking but inspirational details of his struggles with addiction, brushes with the law, and fierce fight to carve a path through the darkness and find his true identity.

For Todd Bridges early stardom was no protection from painful childhood events that paved the road to his own personal hell. One of the first African-American child actors on shows like Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, and Roots, Bridges burst to the national forefront on the hit sitcom Diff’rent Strokes as the subject of the popular catchphrase, "What’chu Talkin About Willis?" When the show ended, Bridges was overwhelmed by the off-camera traumas he had faced. Turning to drugs as an escape, he soon lost control.

Now, for the first time, Bridges opens up about his life before and after Diff’rent Strokes: the incredible reversals of fortune brought on by fame and the precipitous—and very public—descent that followed; the persecution from police; the drug addiction that nearly consumed him; the criminal charges that almost earned him a life sentence; and his successful legal defense led by Johnnie Cochran. Through it all, Bridges never relented in his quest to fight his way back from the abyss, establish his own identity—separate from Willis Jackson—and offer his ordeal as a positive example for those struggling to overcome similar challenges. His triumphant story of recovery and redemption is recounted here as well.

Todd Bridges has lived a life of remarkable twists and turns—from the greatest heights to the lowest lows imaginable. In this shocking but ultimately hopeful memoir, he proves that what he was really talking about was survival.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439148990
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 3/8/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 642,715
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Todd Bridges

Todd Bridges was born in San Francisco, California in 1965. He became the first African-American child actor to have a recurring role on a successful TV series, The Waltons. He also appeared on Little House on the Prairie, and in the landmark miniseries Roots. He was a regular on the Barney Miller spinoff Fish, before landing his best-known role as Willis on Diff'rent Strokes.

Bridges has a brother and sister who are both actors, Jimmy Bridges and Verda Bridges. His father, James Bridges, Sr., became one of the first prominent black Hollywood agents, while his mother, Betty A. Bridges, was also an actress and later became one of Hollywood's greatest managers and acting coaches.

Today, Todd is a working actor, director, and producer and he and his brother James Jr., have partnered to establish their own production company, Little Bridge Productions. Todd is married and has a son, Spencir, and a daughter, Bo.

Sarah Tomlinson is a Los Angeles– and Brooklyn-based writer. Her writing has appeared in publications including Marie Claire, the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, Salon.com, and Vol1Brooklyn.com. She has ghostwritten nine books, including two uncredited New York Times bestsellers. Visit her online at SarahTomlinson.com and follow her alter ego, Duchess of Rock (@DuchessofRock), on Twitter.

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Table of Contents

Preface: Everybody's Got a Special Kind of Story 1

1 Suicide by Cop 3

2 "I Want to Be Just like Him When I Grow Up" 21

3 Sky's the Limit! 37

4 Hollywood Teen 55

5 Everything Changes 67

6 There's Only Stars in the Sky 87

7 What's an Officer like You doing in a Uniform like That? 107

8 Life after Willis 125

9 Billy the Kid 143

10 Life in the Hood 163

11 The Fall 179

12 Justice and Its Aftermath 201

13 Methamphetamine Blues 219

14 Back on the Chain Gang 239

15 Seventh Heaven 253

Afterword 276

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 33 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(19)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 33 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 15, 2010

    Raw, Honest, and Inspiring

    Knowing only that he had been on my favorite show as a kid and had been arrested as an adult, I was not prepared for the rollercoaster of emotion this book provided. Todd lets the reader into the deepest, darkest parts of his mind, thoughts, emotions, confessions, and life: the parts most of us are afraid to look at in ourselves, much less admit to others. The voice is so raw and honest, I felt as if I was snooping in someone's personal diary and that I should not be privileged to the information I was reading. The reality of his story is harsh, and at times I felt as if I were a child who should cover my ears while someone told a story I couldn't handle or shouldn't hear. He lays it all out on the table and holds NOTHING back. As painful as it was to read, I couldn't put it down and read it all in one day!
    I cried so much reading this book that I was sick. I felt so terrible for him, and all the kids like him still in these situations, that there were times I had to stop and walk away. He makes intelligent and self-aware connections to how abuse and racism can lead to self-hatred which then leads to depression and other problems.
    He makes no excuses for his mistakes, but shows how the mistreatment and abuse children receive in this world today, especially child stars, can scar them for life, and, as children, they are unable to deal with those events and unprepared to make the difficult decisions that are placed in front of them. He also shows how quickly depression can take its toll and how fast life spirals out of control once drug use begins. Readers get a true look into the lives of many who faced racism during that time period, as well as glimpse into the nasty world of many drug addicts. He shows no fear in telling it exactly like it was.
    He learned a lot of life lessons the hard way, and all while still a young adult. He tells some disturbing, gut-wrenching stories about his recovery. But, he also describes the tough climb back up, and the humbling experience of starting over with his past as an obstacle.
    In the end Todd completely changed his life, himself, and his outlook on the world. He also discusses his mission to educate others in hopes that teens can learn from his mistakes and make better choices for their lives. Reliving his pain day after day and admitting his faults to strangers cannot be easy, but in this book, he really inspires people to step up and be better to themselves and to their children and to face those difficult questions and situations in our lives head-on. He is not just a child star gone bad, he is a real person with real experiences and problems in his life just like everyone else. Fortunately, he is one of the survivors.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2011

    Good story

    He does not hold back and takes full responsibility for his actions as a drug dealer and user evethough it was caused by sexual,emotional, and physical abuse.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 22, 2010

    A Well-Written and Honest Memoir

    I am not sure what book these other reviewers are reading but the book I read was well-written (which is hard to find with these celebrity memoirs) and honest. Mr. Bridges pulls no punches in his analysis of his life. He was not "ghetto". In fact he was raised in a middle-class household. The turning point for him was the sexual abuse he suffered as a child and his father's failure to believe him when he looked for rescue from something he knew felt so wrong. As a survivor of child sexual and physical abuse myself these passages were all too real to me.

    Many others would allow that occurrence to be a justification for drug dealing and drug taking. Mr. Bridges did not. Yes, he sold drugs but with others who were also drug addicts like him and to support his own habits. This is an all too frequent common story. However, the difference is he owns up to his own responsibility in this part of his life. He does not use being a "child actor" as an easy excuse. That is why he was able to turn his life around and remain sober for almost 18 years and raise 2 beautiful children. This is what makes his book different. Too many times these celebrities use all these excuses but never confront their own responsibility. Mr. Bridges does not and I found his book uplifting and hopeful as opposed to whiny and narcissitic.

    Mr. Bridges is an actor and yet the press constanting refers to the mistakes he made years ago as if the incidents he speaks about in his book happened yesterday. I hope those who read this excellent memoir realize this is a man who had (no pun intended) career highs and personal lows that crashed into a stew of drugs and hopelessness. Most people in that situation would have died or continued until they were in prison for life. Mr. Bridges rose above it with a new perspective about himself as a man and a human being. I hope he is given the second chance to be the artist and actor he is and the entertainmnet industry no longer holds his 18 year old transgressions against him.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 20, 2010

    This is like the ghetto male version of Mackenzie Phillips "High on Arrival"

    I am telling you, while I was reading this book it just kept reminding me of "High on Arrival" by Mackenzie Phillips. The only exception is that Mr. Bridges was not only a drug abuser, but a dealer as well. I do empathized with his plight with prejudice and abuse during his childhood, but that was really no excuse for the way he ultimately turned out in his adulthood.

    Thankfully, he did turn his life around for the better and set his priorities straight. He exemplifies that old saying: "The longer you suffer, the greater the rewards."

    Overall, I have mixed feelings about this book, because I didn't know if I should be disgusted or enlightened by what I was reading. This is definitely not for everyone, especially if you are sensitive about either drug or sexual abuse.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Powerful Story

    Behind the bright lights, sometimes you just never know what is truly going on. This is a story that cast a new light on the age old expression that everything that glitters isn't always gold. With Bridges, I can only pray that he takes a page from one of my favorite books, "When God Stopped Keeping Score" and know that now that he knows the moments where people and events have failed him, he can truly begin to find forgiveness and move forward in his life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2010

    great book

    great book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2013

    Compelling read

    Great book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2012

    Killing willis

    Give akid too much fame and it kills them once afool always a fool whers the acting roles illis what ajackassw

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2012

    What a great read

    This book is well written by one of america's greatest underrated child actors. This book should be a must read for young people who want to break into entertainment . Superb!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2011

    Highly Recommend

    Great book, Todd Bridges was very brave to write about his life. Most people would take all this hurt with them to their grave.

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  • Posted May 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Must Read!!!

    When I purchased this book for my Nook on 5/8/2011, I thought it would take me at least a week to read it....well I finished in in ONE day. I could not for the life of me put this book down. Todd Bridges was brutally honest, transparent and even a bit humorous in his recount of his uprising and and downfall. I totally appalaud Mr. Bridges as being brave enough to recount your demons and share them with the world is "gutsy" to say the least. Thank you for that.

    If you have any doubt about buying this book, don't because you won't be disappointed.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2010

    I could not put this book down

    It is always amazing to me when you find out the "behind the scenes" story of someone's life. I have heard many things about child stars, but this story, this book, captured me in a way like no other. I found myself re-reading some passages over and over again, because i just could not believe this sweet little kid from sitcom history lived this crazy life. This book would be great for young men or boys living with the shame of sexual abuse and not allowing that DEMON to define you or hold you back from excelling. For this would give the oppressor more power over you. This young man suffered, but thru it all he triumphed. This book also pays homage to the love of a mother. That no matter what, her love is stronger than any drug, fame, shame, fear, etc. Todd's mother is a true testiment to the fact that "a real mom will always love you and have your back". I am so happy for Todd and proud of him for not using this book as a way to justify his actions, but to own up to them and help others. WONDERFUL!!!

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  • Posted July 28, 2010

    Interesting Book, But Not Well Written

    I saw Todd Bridges on Oprah Wynfrey and I could not wait to get the book because I was a fan when he was on Different Strokes. Although I am glad he had an opportunity to tell his story, and I believe it needed to be told, the book, in my opinion was not well written, or edited. It was rambly at best. I was very disappointed in the book, but happy that Todd Bridges has recovered. It seemed like a way for him to get some things off his chest, and vent, in an unedited way. It was equivolent to journal writing.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great book

    Wow, it's amazing that Todd lived through all that he did and came out at the other end. He did not hold anything back in this book and I give him credit for being able to admit to all the mistakes he made and learn from them. I actually got emotional at the end of the book, when he finally is getting his life back together again, because I think it speaks to every one of us. No matter how lost we are, or what mistakes we have made, we can always turn our lives around and live the lives we were meant to lead.

    I loved Todd when he was on Diff'rent Strokes, but I'm rooting for him even more now!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2010

    Felt Like I Was Reading Todd's Diary - Raw, Honest, Holds Nothing Back

    I really enjoyed watching Todd on one of my all time favorite TV shows Different Strokes and I knew that he had some trouble with law and drugs after the show had ended but WOW I had no idea just how bad his life had went out of control. I was in no way prepared to read what I was about to read. The sexual abuse as a child from his publicist, abusive father, dealing with racism, another publicist who stole money from him. He goes into A LOT of detail. As my title says, I felt like I was reading his diary. I just can't believe how open and honest he was about his life as most of us don't like to admit our faults and especially to strangers. He holds NOTHING and I do mean NOTHING back but I think what I enjoyed most about this book is he didn't get on the "child star" bandwagon and blame everyone especially Hollywood as he takes full responsbility for the bad choices he made in his life including how HE threw away his career but does explain how sexual abuse and racism led him to that awful life. Actually he blamed himself for so many years thinking that he didn't deserve a better life. While this book is a page turner it did however take me about a week cause I only read it on my break time at work because some of it was just really painful as it did make me cry and I actually started to feel sick at times because I felt so bad for him and many others who have gone through and are still going through similar things to what he went through. So I'll admit I did have to step away from the book. Just so grateful I've never known the life of drugs and what it can do cause he definitely lays it all out for you. Just so glad that he has not only turned his life around but helping other people with drug addictions because it definitely was a long hard road so to speak to get his life back together again. I definitely have a lot of respect for him not for the things he's done but him being so open, honest, and willingness to helping others not only with addictions but help people to stay away from that life all together. I've read some good books in my lifetime but nothing quite like this. It just really touched my life to be very grateful for what I have and that I've never known that life he once had. What I still can't believe and does make me sad as I've seen him on TV talk about it, even though he's been clean for like 17 YEARS now, some people still want to bash him for his past life. Um, I think he knows better than anyone what a mess of his life he had made as he lives with it every day. What's important is he did not only get his life together again but is helping others. As Judge Judy would say..."Let's put a period and move on already." I wish Todd nothing but the best.

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    Posted October 23, 2010

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    Posted October 29, 2012

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    Posted March 20, 2010

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    Posted May 8, 2010

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    Posted May 19, 2011

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