The 1980s provided Hollywood with some inspiring comeback stories: Dennis Hopper, Dean Stockwell, Cher, Sean Connery, Don Ameche, Jodie Foster, Farrah Fawcett, Richard Dreyfuss, Bette Midler, Mia Farrow. And the decade's Ultimate Comeback Kid--John Travolta.
Inevitably, the decade's end also leaves some performers contemplating comebacks. Here are a few that may have you scratching your head, wondering, "What have they done lately?"
JENNIFER BEALS: She welded by day, danced by night--and made torn sweatshirts a fashion craze when she starred in "Flashdance" (1983). Just 18, Beals appeared headed for superstardom. Instead, she headed for Yale--graduating with honors in 1987--and married independent film maker Alexandre Rockwell.
"A lot of people ask me where I've been," admitted Beals, speaking from West Berlin, where she's starring opposite Alan Bates in director Claude Chabrol's "Dr. M." "I don't find it bothersome. It's sort of a natural question. It's not like they're accusing me of mass murder or anything."
Since "Flashdance," she's been seen in only three films: "The Bride" (1985), "Split Decisions" (1988) and the recent flop "Vampire's Kiss."
But next year, she'll be back in director Sam Fuller's "The Madonna and the Dragon." And she's just been set to co-star with Marlee Matlin in the drama "A Reasonable Doubt."
ROBERT BLAKE: A major TV star ("Baretta") in the 1970s, Blake was last seen as a crime-fighting priest in NBC's short-lived "Hell Town" (1985).
"I decided I didn't want to fall over dead like some of my friends . . . so I decided to quit for awhile," he told us. "I felt awful, looked raggedy. I was doing jobs I didn't want, making money I didn't need, working for people I didn't respect."
Now 56, he added, "I'm getting ready to go back, as a matter of fact."
Any projects to announce?
"Talk is cheap. If I do it, you'll hear about it. If I don't, you won't. And that's the name of that tune."
CHRISTOPHER ATKINS: He shot to fame in a loincloth opposite Brooke Shields in "The Blue Lagoon" (1980), but slipped quickly to exploitative roles--like the part of a male stripper in "A Night in Heaven" (1983)--and low-budgeters that "he did for quick money--but shouldn't have," admitted his current manager, Nick Thomas. Then there was the 1983-84 season of "Dallas," which cast him as Sue Ellen's lifeguard lover--"always with his shirt off."
A two-year hiatus followed, with "some time (spent) at a rehabilitation center for alcohol and substance abuse," Thomas said.
Now 28, married, father of two, Atkins recently starred in a feature, "Fatal Charm," as "the boy-next-door--who's not as nice as he seems. . . ." It's due next year, while Atkins looks for more roles "that will allow him to do something besides take his shirt off," Thomas added.
MILES O'KEEFFE: He swung into view as Tarzan, opposite Bo Derek's Jane, in "Tarzan the Ape Man" (1981). Then the muscular actor headed for sword-and-sorcery terrain, starring in a string of mostly European-made pics like "Ator" (1983), "Sword of the Valiant" (1984) and "Iron Warrior" (1987). Plus a dramatic turn in the recent thriller "The Drifter" (1988).
He'll next be seen in "So Cool," an actioner with Lou Ferrigno, due out next year.
"I've been busy working, is all," he said of his career since "Tarzan," unwilling to elaborate.
CHAD EVERETT: "It hasn't been a wonderful decade, but it hasn't been that bad, either," said the one-time "Medical Center" star. "I don't delude myself, but after 30 years in this business, I'm pretty calm about it. I know that it works in cycles and mine is coming around again."
Everett's last series was NBC's "The Rousters" (1983). Since then, there have been a few TV movies and low-budget features. Everett's currently awaiting word from ABC on a possible series pickup of "Thunderbolt Row," a Stephen J. Cannell MOW that garnered good ratings last month (the network ordered six scripts). And he's talking other projects, he said.
MIKE DOUGLAS: Douglas, whose long-running, syndicated TV talk show went off the air in 1981, followed it with a two-year stint on CNN. Since, he's been playing golf and "doing a lot of speaking engagements--town halls, women's clubs, that kind of stuff," said his manager, Kal Ross. A couple of syndication possibilities are in the talking stage, including a five-days-a-week "strip" that would be produced in Canada, formatted "just like the old Mike Douglas show."
Also in the works: An album of Mike singing favorite tunes, to be sold with "heavy TV advertising" and an 800 number, "probably in the spring."
LARRY WILCOX: "You get an enormous feeling of insecurity when you go from making $50,000 a week to nothing."