Rusty Hamer: Child Star Tragedy

11 Dec

Rusty Hamer pictured with Danny Thomas on Make Room For Daddy television show on which he played Rusty Williams.

Rusty Hamer portrayed Rusty Williams on Make Room For Daddy from 1953-1964 and 371 episodes of the program were aired.

He was born in Tenafly, New Jersey on February 15, 1947.

Hamer was famous for his quips on Make Room For Daddy and he was very adept at it for his early age. He was on the show from the age of six to the age of seventeen which robbed him of a normal childhood.

Child Actors Not Rich Then

Child actors back then were not paid the huge salaries they are paid today and it is doubtful that he received any residuals from the show.

He moved to Deridder,Louisiana because that is where his brother John was living.  He settled on some land near Bundick Lake and took a job as a roustabout with an offshore oil company in 1981 but he resigned from the position a year later.

Thomas Offered To Pay Tuition For Hamer

Danny Thomas had offered to pay the way for Hamer to go to college but he refused the offer for some reason. If he had accepted that offer it may have changed his life and prevented his life from spiraling downward as he moved from job to job.

He worked for a time as a short order clerk in his brother’s cafe the Richlighter on Highway 394 southeast of Deridder.

It was downhill for Hamer from 1982 to 1989 as he became delusional and he ended his life on January 18, 1990 with a shot to his head with a .357 pistol.

Hamer’s Death Prompted Start Of Child Star Organization

His tragic death prompted another child star Paul Petersen of the Donna Reed Show to start an organization to help child stars adapt to life after their fame had ended.

The last 25 years of his life were very troubled after spending eleven years of his life before a camera. He was 42 at the time of his death.

Parents Need To Consider Consequences

Stories like this one should make parents think twice before taking their children to an audition for television and movie roles. They need to know the consequences they may be subjecting their child star to in later life.

Momentary fame can sometimes end in tragedy like it did for Rusty Hamer.


Posted by on December 11, 2009 in Classic TV, Comedy, Entertainment, Nostalgia



18 responses to “Rusty Hamer: Child Star Tragedy

  1. Andrew Godfrey

    February 27, 2014 at 6:21 PM

    Reblogged this on Nostalgia and Now and commented:

    Was watching Make Room For Daddy today and it reminded me of the tragic death of Rusty Hamer:

    • Alphonse Dattolo

      August 21, 2014 at 7:13 PM

      I tape all of the old Make Room for Daddy shows off my satellite dish. So sad about Rusty. Margery Lord is 96 years old.

      • Andrew Godfrey

        August 21, 2014 at 7:18 PM

        We can’t get Make Room For Daddy on satellite, but we do get it on Cozi channel on our outside antenna. Good to know Marjorie Lord is still alive. This show doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Hard to believe we can still watch it almost 60 years after it first aired on television.

  2. mark pfaff

    May 21, 2014 at 5:45 PM

    It’s really a shame.Rusty Hamer was a brilliant kid and I’m sure an intelligent adult.What a crime that a man of this magnitude of intellect would find it so difficult to deal with life itself. Rusty, you provided years of laughter to many people. May you forever rest in peace!!..Mark Pfaff

    • Andrew Godfrey

      May 22, 2014 at 7:54 AM

      Rusty Hamer did a great job on the Danny Thomas Show. We live near DeRidder, Louisiana where Hamer committed suicide and my wife knows the place, where he committed suicide, since she grew up in DeRidder.

  3. Donna

    June 14, 2014 at 1:15 AM

    There was a biographic show on TV right before his suicide which was about childhood stars and their lives. Rusty was on the show. The show never aired, but clips of it were shown and it was shown that his depression over this public showing of what he considered to be his failure in life was what directly led to his suicide. It was shown that the biographical show on childhood actors is what led to his suicide.

    • Andrew Godfrey

      June 14, 2014 at 7:56 AM

      Donna, Thank you for sharing this information with the readers of this blog. You might be exactly right, about the television program leading to him committing suicide. I live about 10 miles from the place where he committed suicide in DeRidder, Louisiana.

  4. Michelle Gussow

    September 11, 2014 at 5:50 PM

    Whenever I read of these tragedies befalling a former child star I see the articles as this one point to the fame, money etc… and plead with parents to think twice before involving their children in show business. These articles tend to forget that there are just as many if not more suicides, tragic outcomes for people who were not in show business. I knew many kids personally who suffered depression and on into adulthood who led what people would consider “normal lives”. It is fair to just blame show business.

    • Andrew Godfrey

      September 11, 2014 at 7:07 PM

      Michelle, I agree we can’t just focus on those in show business, since there are many bad outcomes in the general public also, who probably can’t afford to get the help they need.

  5. Carl

    December 18, 2014 at 10:38 PM

    Can’t stop wondering how different his life might have been had he accepted Danny Thomas’s college offer. But of course, I can understand not wanting to attend school… I couldn’t wait to get out!

  6. Andrew Godfrey

    December 18, 2014 at 10:59 PM

    Carl, I went straight into Army, after finishing high school, so understand why Rusty didn’t want to go to college, or he may have felt bad about Danny paying his way. Worst of all he committed suicide about 10 or 12 miles, from where we are living.

  7. marie

    February 16, 2015 at 10:40 PM

    He was a very talented actor. God rest his soul.

    • Andrew Godfrey

      February 17, 2015 at 12:09 AM

      Marie, I agree he was very good actor. Just wish he could have found work, after the Danny Thomas Show ended. Worst of all he committed suicide a few miles from where we now live.

  8. carolyn king

    June 15, 2015 at 7:24 PM

    We talk about how terrible it is for a child to be a star, but some of them seemed to turn out so well! What was the magic Ron Howard’s parents had to have a child star who stays successful and seems well adjusted throughout his life?

    • Andrew Godfrey

      June 15, 2015 at 8:20 PM

      Carolyn, Ron Howard has turned out to be very well adjusted like you wrote. Maybe because his father was in show business made it easier. The Rusty Hamer story is particularly sad for me, since he committed suicide in the same city that I live in now.

  9. Julie bowers

    July 10, 2015 at 5:49 AM

    I have enjoyed watching Rusty on Make Room for Daddy. I’m much younger but appreciate the style that TV shows used to have. And he is missed

    • Andrew Godfrey

      July 10, 2015 at 4:44 PM

      It is good to know that younger people like the shows I remember growing up with like Make Room For Daddy. It is extra sad for me thinking of the loss of Rusty Hamer, since he committed suicide in a city about 10 miles from where we live.

      • Glen

        July 24, 2015 at 5:44 AM

        Andrew. I think we get the point you live close to where he committed suicide!!
        Gee Whiz!!!


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