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Carrie Hamilton, 38; Drug Fight Publicized

Obituaries

January 21, 2002|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Carrie Hamilton, daughter of entertainer Carol Burnett and the late producer Joe Hamilton, whose drug problems prompted a family crusade two decades ago and who recently completed a play based on her mother's autobiography, has died. She was 38.

The actress, musician and writer died Sunday of cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to the family publicist, Deborah Kelman.

At Hamilton's suggestion, she and Burnett wrote the play, "Hollywood Arms," based on Burnett's best-selling memoir, "One More Time." The play, directed by the influential Broadway producer-director Hal Prince, is scheduled for its world premiere April 29 at Chicago's Goodman Theater.

Carrie Hamilton was only a teenager when she burst into national news--not because of acting or writing songs or plays or films but because of her addiction to marijuana, Quaaludes and cocaine and what her parents chose to do about it. The revelation was made in a 1979 People magazine article titled "Carol Burnett's Nightmare" and detailing the two-year effort to get Hamilton off drugs.

By then the girl was in a Houston drug rehabilitation program.

"I'm compulsive and I'm extremist, and I did have a big ego. I wanted to be Big Something," Hamilton told The Times shortly after the magazine article was published. "If I couldn't be the big wheel, at least I could be the big dope fiend."

Burnett and Joe Hamilton, who later blamed a marital separation partially on their daughter's drug problems, said they chose to speak out about their experiences to help other families cope with a growing problem among well-to-do teenagers. They became fund-raisers for the clinic where Carrie was treated.

As she matured, Hamilton followed her parents into the entertainment industry, making her first big acting splash in the television series "Fame" in the mid-1980s.

She hosted specials, "Superstars & Their Moms" in 1987 and 1988 and sang on such programs as "Beverly Hills Brats" and in the telecast of the 1989 Academy Awards.

Hamilton acted in episodes of several popular television series, including "Beverly Hills 90210," "Murder, She Wrote," "Walker, Texas Ranger," "Brooklyn South," "Touched By an Angel," "The Pretender" and "The X-Files."

Among her feature film credits are "Cool World," "Tokyo Pop" and "Just Desserts." She also worked with a profit-sharing film company, for which she wrote and directed short films. One, "Lunchtime Thomas," earned her the Women in Film Award at the 2001 Latino Film Festival.

Hamilton was interviewed for the 1998 television special about her mother, "Intimate Portrait: Carol Burnett."

Survivors include Burnett and two sisters, Erin and Jody Hamilton.

The family said that services will be private and asked that any memorial donations be sent to the American Lung Assn. at 5858 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048.

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