EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: INSIDE SUSAN RICHARDSON’s LIVING HELL

Published on: February 4, 2013
Photography by: tne
NationalEnquirer.com

EIGHT IS ENOUGH” cutie Susan Rich­ardson is desperately ill and living in a broken-down trailer that she can’t even afford to heat!

“It’s 14 degrees out, and I’m sitting here in sweatpants and gloves – and I’m still cold!” Susan, 60, told The ENQUIRER from her frigid Pennsylvania home.

The down-on-her-luck actress – who played fourth oldest sibling Susan Bradford on the beloved series from 1977 to 1981 – is also battling a host of serious medical problems.

She’s diabetic, suffered a series of strokes and lost all her teeth to an incurable digestive tract condition.

But the once-bouncy redhead insists she’s soldiering on – getting by on a small TV pension and fashion­ing canes for military veterans out of birch branches she collects in the woods.

“I don’t want to complain too much, but I’ve had more than my share of problems,” said Susan.

“I had a series of mini-strokes. Then I discovered I had a rare disorder that made my esophagus go spastic.”

The condition caused her to regurgitate stomach bile, which eroded her teeth and caused infection, she explained.

“The dentist had to pull all my teeth,” she said. “Fortunately, I have false teeth now that my daughter bought for me. But my doctor has told me that I’ll need to have a balloon inserted in my esophagus just so I can eat.”

The disorder also triggered such stabbing pain that Susan stopped eating, and dropped from 167 to 107 pounds.

“I’ve gained some of that weight back, but it’s still hard for me to get food down,” she said.

During her “Eight Is Enough” heyday, Susan was also a favorite on TV game shows, including “Family Feud” and “Password Plus.” But she battled addiction problems and her last acting gigs were in two “Eight Is Enough” reunion movies in the late ’80s. Now she’s living off a paltry $2,000 monthly pension. “It’s just enough to get by on,” she said. “And with the pension, I’m not allowed to do any TV work.”

Meanwhile, her home – a 28-foot 1960 Avion trailer in the Birchview Farm Campground in Wagon­town – is a dilapidated dump.

“There’s always some­thing wrong with it,” she said. “It’s frigid inside most days. The water hasn’t been working, so I can’t make coffee, and the floor is rotting around me. I desperately need a new trailer, but I can’t afford it.”

Choking back tears, she said: “It’s really embarrassing to say, but I’ve never been in such dire straits.”

With an upbeat note in her voice, she added: “We’ve just gone into DVD sales for ‘Eight Is Enough,’ so I’m hoping to get a little money from that.”

Susan said she’s “too proud” to ask her mother, who lives nearby, for money, and she won’t tap her daughter Sarah, 32, in California for a loan either.

“They’ve both done too much for me already,” she said.

Susan spends most of her time huddled under blankets with her mixed breed pooch, Honey Bunches of Oats, making canes that she donates to veterans.

“I do it for therapy,” said Susan, who was hospi­talized for a nervous breakdown in 1999.

“It’s also my way of giving back. The wives of some of the vets tell me their husbands  were buried with the canes I made for them.”

Susan even made a cane for her TV dad, Dick Van Patten, after his 2006 stroke.

Mr. Van Patten was the last person from the cast I’ve spoken to, and that was six years ago,” she said.

Susan couldn’t join fellow cast members for an “Eight Is Enough” reunion on the “Today” show in 2010 because she was recovering from esophagus surgery.

News of her sad plight touched the heart of Van Patten.

“I’m so sorry to hear about Susan,” Van Patten, 84, told The ENQUIRER. “I’m the godfather to her daughter, you know. Susan was a good friend and a good actress. I wish her all the best. I hope her situation improves.”