Willie Aames was once the original teen idol, the 15-year-old who was one of the biggest and most recognized stars on television.
But now, after decades of struggles that included drug addiction and homelessness, Aames has found a new life as a cruise ship director.
Willie Aames talked about the second act of his career in a television special, “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” The show brought cameras aboard the Oceania ship where he makes his home on the high seas.
“Cruise director is -– I always laugh and say, ‘he’s the ship’s liver,’ because almost everything you can think of filters through you at some point,” Aames said. “We’re in charge of all the activities, entertainment, daily newspapers, receptions, wedding vow renewals, and we interface with all of the departments regularly.”
After being one of the biggest stars in the 1970s, Aames said he now has a measure of anonymity. On the occasions he is recognized, Aames said he likes to joke about it.
“I make a joke now where I say, ‘Hi, I’m your favorite ex-teen idol,” he says. “Being a teen idol or being a heartthrob on all the magazines, with Shaun Cassidy, Leif Garrett, and Scott Baio –- it was embarrassing! I never understood it. I mean, why me? I never really got it.”
After a rough patch that included drug addiction, Willie Aames said he is ready to put the past behind him. But the former star recognizes how lucky he is just to be alive.
“There are dozens of me, dozens of actors that went through Hollywood and did the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll thing. I was fortunate that I came out alive,” Aames told The Showbuzz back in 2008. “I’ve watched a lot of my friends die, everyone from John Belushi, River Phoenix to Chris Farley. It just keeps going on and on. I was so fortunate that I didn’t die, but at the same time, I look at some of the younger people now, like Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton and I see a lot of myself in them.”
Willie Aames said he is satisfied in his work aboard the cruise ship, and “enjoying my life in a way that I never expected possible.”