7 child stars who ruled the Afterschool Specials of our youth

What ever happened to Seventies idols Moosie, Sparky, Kristy, and Ike?

You may giggle at the sensational titles (My Dad Lives in a Downtown Hotel, Dinky Hocker, etc.) or chuckle at the melodramatic life-lesssons, but afterschool specials had Hollywood icons. Sure, they might not have won awards for those daytime television movies, but Jode Foster and Vince Vaughn got their start in multiple films for the ABC Afterschool Specials and CBS Schoolbreak Special, respectively.

The following name might not have lit up marquees, but they were superstars to any kid growing up in the 1970s and '80s. They were the frequent faces of afterschool specials. 

How many do you remember?

1. Moosie Drier


Gary "Moosie" Drier apparently earned his nickname from former Yankee Bill "Moose" Skowron — both were born in Chicago. Moosie's biggest afterschool run was the lead in Hewitt's Just Different, playing the boy who befriends Hewitt. He also had key roles in Runaways and Andrea's Story: A Hitchhiking Tragedy for ABC, as well as Student Court for CBS. On the big screen, he was the son of John Denver and Teri Garr (seen here) in the George Burns comedy Oh, God! Later in life, Moosie moved behind the camera, becoming a director and voice actor. But classic TV heads might be more interested in his love life — in recent years he was the significant other of Erin Murphy, a.k.a. Tabitha from Bewitched.

Image: The Everett Collection

2. Ike Eisenmann


Ike was the prince of teen entertainment in the late 1970s. He booked four ABC Afterschool Specials — My Dad Lives in a Downtown Hotel, The Magical Mystery Trip Through Little Red's Head, The Amazing Cosmic Awareness of Duffy Moon, and A Special Gift. Around the same time, he landed a big primetime gig in the NBC sci-fi series The Fantastic Journey (1977), alongside Roddy McDowall. (Trekkies take note — he was also Scotty's nephew in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.) But most will know him from Disney's Witch Mountain movies. (The 2009 reboot with The Rock even cast him as a cop.) Like Moosie, he transitioned to a career in post-production.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. Mara Hobel


"No wire hangers, ever!" Anyone who saw Mommie Dearest will never forget that immortal line from Faye Dunaway. You might overlook the little girl in the scene — Mara Hobel. She would later pop up in the afterschool stories A Family of Strangers, Seasonal Differences, and Summer Stories: The Mall - Parts 1–3. Not to mention Dirkham Detective Agency for CBS Children's Mystery Theatre (1983)  and Fair Game for Young People's Specials (1988). She never stopped acting. Not too long ago, she turned up in an episode of Blue Bloods.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. Alexa Kenin


Kenin could be found in both The Amazing Cosmic Awareness of Duffy Moon (as Boots McAfee) and Me and Dad's New Wife — two canonical afterschool specials that brought together most of the actors on this list. She also appeared in Make-Believe Marriage, A Movie Star's Daughter and Amy & the Angel, after getting her start in the made-for-TV movie House Without a Christmas Tree (1972). John Hughes gave Kenin her final role, as Jena Hoeman, Andie's school pal in Pretty In Pink. She's the sassy smoker who says, "I hope they shrivel up and fall off." Kenin would die before the film's release in 1985. The New York Times obit said only that she was found deceased in her Manhattan apartment of unknown causes. She was 23.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. Lance Kerwin


With his Mark Hamill looks, it was no wonder Kerwin became an it-teen in the late 1970s. ABC booked him for the wonderfully named Pssst! Hammerman's After You!, as well as The Bridge of Adam Rush, The Amazing Cosmic Awareness of Duffy Moon, Me and Dad's New Wife, and P.J. and the President's Son. CBS featured him in The Shooting. Working folks who could only watch primetime TV would know him best as the lead role in James at 16, the ambitious coming-of-age series that tracked a boy through each year of his life. (Well, two of them, before it was canceled.) He also costarred with Scott Baio in the made-for-TV drama The Boy Who Drank Too Much (1980).

Image: The Everett Collection

6. Sparky Marcus


With thick spectacles and bowl cut, Sparky Marcus made for one memorably little kid in the afterschool flicks The Skating Rink, The Amazing Cosmic Awareness of Duffy Moon, Very Good Friends (in which he played "Tootie"), and The Pinballs. Slap some green paint and seaweed on him and you might recognize him as Shelby, the little "Sea Genie" nephew of Sheldon (Rip Taylor) on Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. Disney fanatics know him as the pesky little brother to Jodie Foster in Freaky Friday. Later, he would join The Bad News Bears sitcom (alongside a sort of similar young Corey Feldman). But Sparky's biggest role was likely unseen — he voiced the character Richie Rich for Hanna-Barbera. In recent years, he's been working as a physical therapist in a hospital in Northern California.

Image: Everett Collection

7. Kristy McNichol


Where else to end but with Kristy McNichol? Beyond this list being alphabetical, she was the major teen idol of the time. She got her start with her brother, Jimmy, in commercials and bubblegum pop albums. Being a family buddy of Desi Arnaz helped. Speaking of "Buddy," she played a character of that name in the breakout drama Family. That role earned her three Emmy nominations and one win, making her the only true rival to Jodie Foster in Hollywood. But Jodie Foster never recorded a disco record with her brother and had a launch party at Studio 54. McNichol did. Hey, it was 1978. She could and would land feature films, but she worked in afterschool territory, too, namely leads in Fawn StoryMe and Dad's New Wife (of course) and The Pinballs. Her TV drama chops were also showcased in Like Mom, Like Me (1978) with Linda Lavin. Her fame carried into the 1980s, thanks to movies like Little Darlings and the sitcom Empty Nest. McNichol stepped away from acting around the turn of the millennium. 

Image: The Everett Collection

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WickedPrayers 19 months ago
I believe I read that Alexa Kenin was murdered (strangled) by an abusive boyfriend but that they lacked enough evidence for a solid arrest. Moosie was also in the hysterically funny "The Hollywood Knights". Other kid actors from the 70's - Brad Savage (Salems' Lot), Meeno Peluce (Voyagers), Tammy Lauren (Angie).
Deloz1957 34 months ago
Run the after school specials on MeTV, right after school!
Deloz1957 34 months ago
Run the after school specials on MeTV, right after school!
WGH 34 months ago
A couple notes.

Couldn't have found a better photograph of Kristie McNichols? Looks like she hasn't slept in a couple days and is having an allergy attack. It's not a flattering photo.

Also, THE BOY WHO DRANK TOO MUCH. Drink too much? Kids shouldn't be drinking at all. That title was pretty messed up.
WGH 34 months ago
Moosie played Howard Borden's son on multiple episodes of THE BOB NEWHART SHOW in the 1970s
AnnieM 34 months ago
I had such a crush on Ike Eisenmann back in the day!
prettyuglymonster 34 months ago
Must-see daytime TV in the late 70s/early 80s, when I was in the upper grades of elementary school and into junior high.
RichLorn 34 months ago
The only one who ruled after school when I was in 7th grade was behind the bleachers. Gina Stackatori.
EricFuller 34 months ago
Honorable mention... Jodie Foster. BTW. Sparky Marcus was on "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." He played child preacher Jimmy Joe Jeter.
LoveMETV22 34 months ago
IMDb has ABC Afterschool Specials- Series Cast -Lists all the actors that appeared- It's a long list.

vinman63 34 months ago
The only one that stands out is Chridty McNichols because she did sitcoms.
WGH vinman63 34 months ago
Kristie also did a movie with Tatum O'Neal (the name of the film escapes me) . THAT'S WHAT REALLY MADE HER A STAR. And I believe she dated Leif Garrett for a while … At least the tabloids and teen magazines talked about it. (I had a sister who was into him … Unfortunately. LOL) Could've been pure fantasy for publicity too.
Cassandrasun WGH 19 months ago
Little Darlings
rgutierrez1968 34 months ago
Rob Lowe was also on After School Specials.
MichaelFields 34 months ago
To bad they do not have these anymore, I remember watching these all the time, and most were pretty good (or has my memory really that gone)
WGH MichaelFields 34 months ago
Your memory is starting to fail you… As it is mine. LOL.

They were made for kids and we were kids so we enjoyed them. And apparently they worked because our generation is much better behaved than some of the younger generations.
HockeyMike 34 months ago
It would be cool to see a few of the "Afterschool Specials", plus some "ABC Movie of the Week" like "Bad Ronald". Also, some "Chiller Theater" movies.
quietone726 34 months ago
A marathon weekend of abc afterschool specials would cool and a special speaking to why they worked then and can't be done now.
Rick 34 months ago
"[Alexa Kenin] was found deceased in her Manhattan apartment of unknown causes. She was 23."

How terribly sad.
Cyn_Finnegan 34 months ago
Lance Kerwin now works with people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.
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