Before “former child star” became synonymous with “totally screwed up,” there was Bobby Driscoll. After winning small parts in some early 1940s movies, nine-year-old Driscoll landed the leads in Disney’s Song of the South and Treasure Island, and he was the live-action model and voice in Peter Pan, among other major roles.
Driscoll was the boy child star of his day, and he even won a special “outstanding juvenile actor of the year” Oscar in 1950.
Of course, child stars hit puberty, and they typically lose the cuteness that made them so sought after. Reportedly Driscoll was cut loose from Disney in the 1950s when he developed bad acne as a teen. Trying to fit in with regular kids in high school, he got into drugs, and in subsequent years was arrested for possession of marijuana and other minor offenses.
In 1965 he came to New York, falling in with Andy Warhol’s Factory crowd and eventually drifting around the East Village. On March 30, 1968 he was found dead in an abandoned building at 371 East 10th Street, between Avenues B and C. He was 31 years old.
The East Village building where Bobby Driscoll spent his final days.
The cause of death was cardiovascular disease brought on by hard drug use. No ID was found on Driscoll’s body, so he was buried in Potter’s Field on Hart Island. Close to two years went by before officials were able to identify who he was.