Top DISNEY teen star TOMMY KIRK was personally fired by WALT DISNEY after he learned “The Shaggy Dog” would rather shag boys than costar ANNETTE FUNICELLO!
As a teen, Tommy Kirk became a huge Disney movie star, but by his 30s – after being fired from the family-oriented studio over his gay secret and battling drug demons – he quit Hollywood to run a rug and upholstery business.
Now age 71, Kirk, who was inducted as a Disney Legend on Oct. 9, 2006, despite being given the boot by Walt himself, is now retired and living a quiet, sober life far from Tinseltown.
“I’m happy as heck,” says the former icon, who recently appeared at a Hollywood autograph show. “I’m living on a nice-size property in Northern California in a beautiful setting.”
But as a kid, Tommy was a megastar.
His career began at age 13, when Disney hired him to play Joe Hardy in the “The Hardy Boys” TV detective serial which aired as part of the original Mickey Mouse Club show.
He then toplined Disneybox office blockbusters like “Old Yeller” (1957), “The Shaggy Dog (1959), “The Swiss Family Robinson” (1960) and “The Absent-Minded Professor” (1961).
But all the while, he was hiding a gay double life that drove him to booze and drugs, mainly amphetamines, starting at age 14, he revealed.
“I was very high on pills,” he once admitted. “One time I blacked out and fainted during a scene.”
As he got older, the conservative bigwigs at Disney began “to suspect my homosexuality,” he says. “I consider my teenage years to be incredibly unhappy. I had some affairs but they were desperate and miserable. Eventually I was let go.”
He was in his early 20s in 1963 when Walt Disney personally fired him right after lensing The Misadventures of Merlin Jones when “I became involved with somebody,” Tommy divulged.
“But Walt asked me to return for the final Merlin Jones movie, The Monkey's Uncle, because the Jones films had been moneymakers for the studio."
His life soon spiraled out of control with drugs despite working briefly for American International Pictures and reuniting with old pal Annette Funicello in several beach movies. His career further spiraled to Grade Z pictures with schlockmeister Larry Buchanan’s “Mars Needs Women” and “It’s Alive” prompting Tommy to lose his SAG card.
“I wound up completely broke,” he admits. “I had no self-discipline and I almost died of a drug overdose a couple of times. It’s a miracle that I’m still around.
“Finally, I said to hell with show business. I’m gonna make a new life for myself. I got off drugs, completely kicked that stuff.”
He quit acting for the most part in the early 1970s, and went on to run a carpet and upholstery business in the San Fernando Valley.
“I don't blame anybody but myself and my drug abuse for my career going haywire. I'm not ashamed of being gay, never have been, and never will be. For that I make no apologies. I have no animosity toward anybody because the truth is, I wrecked my own career.”