WHAT’S HAPPENING!!” star Fred “Rerun” Berry died just as he had found personal happiness and was mounting a professional comeback.

That’s the heartbreaking secret behind the death of Berry, 52, who passed away in his sleep on October 21, following a stroke.

Berry was working on an autobiography, was shopping a movie version of his hit 1970s TV show around Hollywood, had returned to the silver screen in the David Spade movie “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” and had appeared on “Scrubs” and “Star Dates.”

“It’s tragic,” his former manager, Ken Shelton, told The ENQUIRER.

Married six times to four different women, Berry knew both the ups and downs of life, riding high on his earnings from “What’s Happening!!” but crashing to earth when the show ended in 1979.

“He freely admitted that when he was at his top it sort of went to his head, the Hollywood lifestyle,” Shelton said. “He told me that in an eight-month span he blew $1 million on drugs and gambling.

“But in later years he used that when speaking to schoolchildren. He was really motivated in trying to help kids, telling them not to do like he did.”

When the money stopped coming in, Berry’s life went into a downward spiral.

Berry was typecast as Rerun, the jolly, beret-wearing break-dancer, and couldn’t find work in other roles.

“He couldn’t overcome that stereotype,” Shelton said. “He finally decided to make the most of it and live with it, and after that it didn’t really bother him.”

In recent years, he started to make a comeback as Rerun.

After his appearances on “Scrubs” and “Dickie Roberts,” Berry was overjoyed because he felt like he was getting a second chance at stardom, said Shelton.

His ex-manager penned a script for “What’s Happening!! The Movie,” which Berry was shopping around Hollywood. Shelton also was helping Berry with an autobiography to be titled “Tears of a Clown: The Rerun Berry Story.”

But in July, tragedy struck.

Berry suffered a stroke that left his speech intact, but affected his motor skills. The actor, who had been one of the inventors of break dancing, suddenly couldn’t walk without a cane.

Still, Berry remained upbeat and optimistic – just like his character Rerun – until the day he died.

“He kept saying, ‘Oh, I’ll be all right,'” said Shelton. “‘I’ll be dancing in a couple of months.'” – JIM NELSON