When she was only six years old, Kim Richards came into America’s living rooms and captured viewers’ hearts as Prudence Everett on the 1970 sitcom, Nanny and the Professor. Thirty years later, in 2010, she returned to those living rooms as part of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and the contrast between those two very different views of Kim couldn’t be more startling. Tragic events in her personal life as well as her struggles with alcohol and substance abuse had clearly taken their toll.
She was born Kim Erica Richards on September 19, 1964, in Mineola, New York. The daughter of Kenneth Edwin Richards and Kathleen Mary, her sister is Real Housewives star Kyle Richards and her half-sister is Kathy Hilton. With Paris Hilton and Nick Hilton Rothschild as her nieces, all told that’s some family dynamic!
Whatever happened to Kim Richards?
Kim made her “acting” debut on Firth Carpet TV commercials when she was only a few months old. Of her commercial days, her mom, Kathy, related to the Courier-Post of New Jersey in 1974, “They were looking for a baby to model disposable diapers for a TV commercial, and Kim’s playfulness sold them. Kimmy didn’t know what it meant to be shy; she was a natural.”
It was when she was six that she first came to people’s attention as part of Nanny and the Professor. That show, starring Juliet Mills and the late Richard Long, focused on a single father of three who hires some help with the kids in the form of Phoebe Figalilly (preferring to be called “Nanny”), who seemed to have a bit of Mary Poppins-like magic to her.
Interestingly, Juliet, who worked closely with Kim, suspected at that time that there could be problems in the young actress’ future. “Little Prudence, Kim Richards, was a spoiled little girl, but still sweet,” Juliet reflects in an exclusive conversation. “In some ways what happened with her was surprising, but, you know, children brought into acting so young and everything, if they don’t have the right family environment, or a solid family life, which is what we [she and sister Hayley] had with my parents, it’s a problem. We had that with my family in that fame never went to our heads in the sense that daddy always said, ‘You treat it like a job, but we’re so lucky to be doing what we love to do and be paid for it, but don’t expect to be treated like a star.’ If you are, that is a big mistake. Especially if you’re only 6, as Kim was.”
Conversely, back in 1970, Kim herself commented to the Indianapolis Star, “It’s too much fun to call being an actress work.” Four years later she added, “I really enjoy working in TV and movies. I don’t work for the money, although some of my school chums think I do. I act because I like it. It’s fun meeting new people all the time and working with animals in films. I also like the teachers that tutor me at the studios, they’re keen. All I want to be is an actress. It’s so much fun; I can’t imagine ever doing anything else.”
Life with Disney
She certainly had the opportunity to fulfill that desire, her being recognized by the Walt Disney company, which cast her in a pair of two-part episodes of The Wonderful World of Disney, “The Whiz Kid and the Mystery at Riverton” and “Hog Wild.” The studio put her under a three-year contract (which they hadn’t done for quite some time), and Kim went on to star in such films as Escape to Witch Mountain (1975), No Deposit, No Return (1976) and Return from Witch Mountain (1978) — reprising her role of Tina Malone in 2009’s Race to Witch Mountain, which starred Dwayne Johnson.
Escape to Witch Mountain was released when she was 10, with the actress commenting at the time to the Great Falls Tribune, “I always wanted to be a witch. Then I wanted to be a movie star, a mommy and have children — and I want to meet Santy Claus.” In the same article, her mother provided this overview of her daughter: “Kim enjoys working, but she is very professional about it. We lead a conventional family life and Kim is a very natural, happy outgoing little girl.”
Additionally, Kim made quite a number of guest appearances on television series, appeared in 21 episodes of James at 15/16, starred in 35 episodes of the series Hello, Larry (reprising her Diff’rent Strokes character of Ruthie Alder), was featured in several TV movies and on the big screen in Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), The Car (1977), Project UFO (1978), Lottery! (1983), Meatballs Part II (1984), Tuff Turf (1985), Escape (1990), and Black Snake Moan (2006).
In 1979, while she was playing Ruthie Adler, Kim admitted that her preference was to hang around with adults rather than other teens. “I’ve always been with grown-ups,” she pointed out to The Fresno Bee. “I’m more at home with them. I’m a kid, and I act like a kid, but I prefer to hang around with adults. I find that most kids just aren’t with it.”
And she certainly intended to continue acting, with no self-perceived issues transitioning from child to adult star. Kim explained to the Austin American-Statesman, “Once you’re established, you’ll probably work right through. Somehow I skipped that awkward period in my life. I’m really too old now to play kids.”
But, unfortunately, for the most part, the roles did stop being offered to her, with virtually no acting credits between 1990’s Escape and a pair of episodes (first in 2004 and then in 2007) of niece Paris Hilton’s reality show, The Simple Life. In her personal life, Kim was married to Monty Brinson between 1985 and 1988, and together they had a daughter, Brooke Ashley.
The Real Life of Kim Richards
From 1988 until 1991 she was married to Gregg Davis, and together they had a daughter, Nicole Davis, and a son, Chad Austin Davis. Shortly thereafter she was involved with commodities salesman John J. Collett, who, on October 28, 1991, was executed by a hitman while on the phone with Kim — who heard both shots that killed him. It was a story she would later share on The Real Housewives.
From 1992 to 1996, she was in a relationship with John Jackson, giving birth to their daughter, Kimberly Collette Jackson. Next up was businessman Wynn Katz from 2012 until 2018, but their relationship ended following their appearance on the reality series Marriage Boot Camp. Kim has two grandchildren through oldest daughter Brooke and her husband.
Over the years, Kim has waged a personal struggle with alcohol and substance abuse, though few were aware of it — until she decided to become a cast member (along with sister Kyle) on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills beginning in 2010. She was featured in the show’s first five years and became a guest star in the second half as her personal issues multiplied terribly with the cameras on her all the time. But on some level, she actually realized it was a problem from the start.
“In the beginning,” she related to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in October of 2010, “I said, ‘I don’t care what anybody thinks — I am who I am.’ But then, when some of the drama and conflict and humiliation and embarrassing moments came up, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what have I done?’ When push comes to shove, there were moments that I just thought, ‘Oh, I wish people just didn’t see that. I wish we could redo that. I wish I could take that back.’ But you can’t.”
Sadly, things spiraled out of control. On April 15, 2015, Kim was arrested and charged with trespassing, public intoxication, resisting an officer, and battery on an officer at the Beverly Hills Hotel, resulting in her spending the night in the Los Angeles County jail. Flash forward to August 2, 2015, and she was charged with shoplifting at a Target store in the San Fernando Valley, finding herself booked and released following the posting of bail. She’s also been in and out of rehab, though by all reports she seems to be doing better these days.
As she herself has noted, Kim seemed to have avoided the pitfalls that many young performers experienced when their careers stopped. The difference was that while her career may have gone longer than most, in the end, it couldn’t prevent her personal demons from rising and sending her life down a very different path.