Look at her now, at 66 years old. She was the poster queen in the 1980s.

A Glimpse into the Past
Heather Thomas, known for her role opposite Lee Majors in The Fall Guy, turned 66 on September 8. She was poised for a successful Hollywood career, but an unexpected event transformed her life. After filming the show’s finale, her mother appeared on set, leading Heather to rush to the hospital, fearing an emergency involving her father. Instead, her family and friends revealed their concerns for her well-being, marking the start of a new chapter for the then 28-year-old actress.

Early Career and Talent
Gifted with talent and movie-star looks, Heather Thomas began her career early. At 14, she hosted the NBC series Talking with a Giant, interviewing celebrities. Seeking to expand her career as an actor, director, and writer, she studied film and theater at UCLA. Before graduating, she appeared in the comedy series Co-Ed Fever (1979).

In 1980, Heather landed her first leading role in The Fall Guy, playing Jody Banks, a stuntwoman-bounty hunter. Her role made her a sex symbol, a title she had mixed feelings about. “There’s obligatory condescension that goes with that,” Thomas told People. “You fill that archetype, the blonde bimbo. But at that point, I was just having fun.”

Struggles with Substance Abuse

Unfortunately, Heather’s fun included drugs, a habit that started in sixth grade to maintain top grades. “I was taking acid and making straight A’s. I thought it was mind-expanding,” she said. At UCLA, she started using cocaine, and by 1981, her drug problems escalated. Struggling with her sex symbol image, she became obsessed with weight, taking Lasix, a diuretic, and more cocaine to counteract lethargy. “Cocaine is not approved of on sets. It’s not clubby to do it anymore. It is just a private hell,” she claimed. Despite her claims, sources said her drug use derailed her career.

Heather’s weight dropped from 125 to 105 pounds, and she often fell asleep between takes. After passing out in front of Majors, her manager and mother intervened. Her mother appeared on set, saying her father was in the hospital. Rushing to St. John’s Hospital, Heather was met by family and friends, ready to admit her to a three-week drug program. “It was a big relief to me,” she said. She had pneumonia, scarred lungs, and inflamed kidneys. “If my family hadn’t intervened, I probably would have gone on my merry way until I lost my job or I died.”

Recovery and Transformation

Committed to recovery, Heather surrounded herself with supportive people. She married Allan Rosenthal, co-founder of Cocaine Anonymous, but divorced in September 1986. That same month, she suffered serious leg injuries when struck by a car. After detox, divorce, and surgery, she returned to smaller TV roles and films like Cyclone (1987) and Red Blooded American Girl (1990).

In the 1990s, with her troubles behind her, Heather married entertainment lawyer Skip Brittenham. She became a stepmother to his two daughters and gave birth to her daughter, India Rose, in June 2000. Focusing on writing, she left acting, partly due to persistent stalkers. “I was getting so stalked… I had these two little girls and they desperately needed raising,” she told Reuters.

Legacy and Activism

Heather made a brief acting comeback in 2017 with Girltrash: All Night Long. She now focuses on writing and activism, serving on the board for the Rape Foundation and Amazon Conservation Team. Identifying as a feminist, she explained, “When I was young, I did what people told me to do but when I was older, I didn’t compromise myself. There is nothing horrible in letting people see your body. I don’t think being a feminist means you should be ashamed of your body.”

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