RIP Phillip McKeon — 'Alice' Star Dead At 55

RIP Phillip McKeon — 'Alice' Star Dead At 55

He's survived by his sister, 'Facts of Life' star Nancy McKeon.

Former child star Phillip McKeon has died at the age of 55. McKeon was best known for his work on the sitcom Alice where he played the title character's son Tommy. He was on the show from 1976 until the series ended in 1985.

His sister, Nancy McKeon, was also a 1980s child actor, starring in the sitcom The Facts of Life

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Alice was a popular show that starred Linda Lavin as a widow and aspiring singer who worked as a waitress at a diner. McKeon was cast as her son Tommy when he was twelve years old and he continued on with the series for its entire run. By the end of the show, his character had grown from a pre-teen to a college-aged boy. 

In his later career, McKeon did some work in films but focused a lot on radio as well. He worked for the news department of an LA radio station and eventually moved to Texas where he had his won show on a station in Wimberly. 

How did Phillip McKeon die? Keep reading for all we know about his life and death. 

1. Who was Phillip McKeon?

McKeon was born in Westbury, New York and started modeling and acting as a very young child. He and his sister Nancy were in over 65 commercials as children. He was cast in the sitcom Alice as the title character's son Tommy in 1976. His family moved to Los Angeles so he could take the part.

Linda Lavin played his mother, an aspiring singer who was working at Mel's Diner. The show followed the antics of the other diner employees, including Polly Holliday in her iconic turn as Flo. Her catchphrase "Kiss my grits" lives on as one of the greatest sitcom lines in TV history. 

2. His later career was more varied.

In addition to Alice, McKeon had done guest spots on some of the most famous shows of the 80s including The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and CHiPs. After Alice ended, he made a few movies, mainly slasher films including Return to Horror High and Ghoulies 4, before working in the news department of an LA radio station for a number of years. He eventually left California for Texas to be closer to family and he had his own radio show in Wimberly. TX. 

His final Hollywood credit was as a producer on the 2005 thriller The Jacket. The picture starred Adrien Brody and Keira Knightley. McKeon was a co-producer along with Hollywood heavyweights George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh.

3. His sister was TV star Nancy McKeon.

Phillip wasn't the only child star in the family. His younger sister Nancy is also an actress, best known for her work on the sitcom The Facts of Life. She played Jo, the rough-around-the-edges tomboy character. After the series ended in 1988, she continued acting, mainly in TV movies such as Poison IvyWild Hearts and In My Sister's Shadow.

Just last month, Nancy posted a birthday message to her brother. The picture was a throwback of the two of them with Phillip grinning broadly at the camera.

"A huge happy birthday to my big brother!!" she wrote. "It’s been a tough time lately... but as we’ve always said...we’ll get through it together...love you Dud....and as always... our humble thanks to all our veterans #homeofthebrave #courage #gratitude #family"

Nancy McKeon wished her brother happy birthday.

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4. How did Phillip McKeon die?

McKeon's family is only saying that he died after a long illness.

“We are all beyond heartbroken and devastated over Phil’s passing,” family spokesman Jeff Ballard said in a statement. “His wonderful sense of humor, kindness and loyalty will be remembered by all who crossed his path in life.”

Ballard also said that further details about where and how McKeon died are being kept private at the request of his family. 

5. Friends and colleagues posted their condolences on social media.

Charlie Sheen, who costarred with McKeon in an episode of Amazing Stories in the 1980s, posted a heartfelt remembrance on Twitter. "Shared some wonderful moments in the 'trenches' with Phil McKeon many moons ago," Sheen wrote. "Over the past few decades, he was always a perfect gentleman and an ebullient spirit. and his goofy af smile, was pure gold. r.i.p. young man. much much too soon, you cut out."

Nancy's co-star Kim Fields also tweeted her sadness about Phillip's death.

Fellow 80s child star Todd Bridges, who was on Different Strokes, wrote, "I will miss you my brother you were always fun to hang out with. We grew up with each other and had so much fun. You were like a brother to me. I will so miss you Philip McKeon R.I.P."

6. His TV mom Linda Lavin also shared kind words.

Linda Lavin, who played McKeon's TV mom on Alice, shared her feelings after his death in an email, writing, “Philip was the endearing, loving boy, always willing and eager to connect with others,” she said. “Although we were performing a show, the dynamic of creating that relationship made our connection very real and deep. He taught me how to be a good mom, just by being the wondrous boy he was.”

Phillip McKeon is survived by Nancy, and his mother, Barbara.

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.