In the 90s, comedian Brett Butler was one of the biggest stars on television. Her sitcom Grace Under Fire was a massive hit, routinely ranking in the top ten shows on TV.
Butler won viewers over with her brash, tell-it-like-it-is humor and the show was praised for tackling topics like addiction and recovery.
However, after five successful seasons, Grace Under Fire came to an abrupt end in 1998 amid reports of erratic behavior from its star. Butler dropped out of the public eye shortly thereafter, leaving many fans wondering “whatever happened to Brett Butler?”
Brett Butler was born on January 30, 1958, in Montgomery, Alabaman and is the eldest of five sisters. Her early life was marked by challenges. At the age of four, her family moved to Houston, Texas, due to her father’s job as an oil company executive.
However, her mother, Carol, eventually left her abusive alcoholic father, Roland Decatur Anderson Jr., and relocated the family to Miami, Florida.
The family faced financial hardships, and there were times when they had to resort to eating Tootsie Rolls for dinner.
Before her success in the entertainment industry, Butler worked as a cocktail waitress.
She married her first husband, Charles Michael Wilson, at the age of 20, but their relationship was tumultuous, marked by abuse.
By 1981, she left him and returned to Miami, where she began performing in comedy clubs.
Her journey to stardom began in earnest when she moved to New York City in 1984.
Her breakthrough came with a “Tonight Show” appearance in 1987, where she humorously discussed her Southern background. This appearance set her on a path of regular TV appearances, leading to her role in “Grace Under Fire.”
Grace Under Fire
In 1993, Butler landed the title role in “Grace Under Fire,” where she portrayed Grace Kelly, a divorced single mother and recovering alcoholic.
The show, created by Chuck Lorre, was initially a hit, but tensions between Lorre and Butler led to Lorre’s departure after the first season. Despite the challenges, the show resonated with viewers, becoming the highest-rated new series on TV during its debut season. The show was a hit, earning her two Golden Globe nominations and a People’s Choice Award.
However, behind the scenes, butler’s behavior on the “Grace Under Fire” set was reportedly challenging. She frequently clashed with the show’s executives, leading to the employment of five executive producers over five years. Her demands ranged from chartering a private jet for a short flight to Las Vegas to causing production delays.
By 1996, Butler publicly acknowledged her battles with alcoholism and prescription painkiller addiction. Despite multiple rehab stints, her struggles persisted. In January 1998, following an explosive incident, ABC suspended the show mid-season, effectively ending it.
Addiction and Personal Struggles
Butler revealed that she had almost seven years of sobriety under her belt before the show’s (Grace Under Fire) inception. This sobriety, she believed, was instrumental in her landing the role.
Battles with Addiction
Despite her initial sobriety, Butler admitted to using drugs during the filming of “Grace Under Fire.” She described the experience as not needing every brain cell to perform her role, but acknowledged the immense regret she feels for her actions.
Her addiction escalated to consuming 35 to 50 pain pills daily, combined with cocaine use. She humorously referred to herself as a “Jedi” for her ability to consume such large amounts without immediate fatal consequences.
Butler’s addiction led to significant personal and professional losses. She lost her husband, was fired from her show, and felt isolated.
She described this period as a “low bottom,” where she genuinely believed she was on the brink of death.
The initial allure of drugs, she explained, was the euphoria they provided. However, over time, she learned that the same endorphins could be achieved through healthier means.
After the show ended, she moved to a farm in Rome, Georgia. Over the years, she made sporadic appearances in films and TV shows.
After its end, she left Hollywood for Georgia, purchasing a property she found online. However, financial difficulties led to the loss of her farm. Contrary to a 2011 “Entertainment Tonight” segment, Butler clarifies that she was never homeless but always had shelter. She believes the homelessness detail was exaggerated for ratings.
Butler’s journey to sobriety was challenging. She became sober in July 1998 and has remained so since. The path to recovery was fraught with difficulties, and she had to make amends to many she had wronged during her addiction.
She faced challenges even in sobriety, including bouts of severe depression.
Post “Grace Under Fire” Life and Career
Post “Grace Under Fire,” securing roles was challenging. There were projects that didn’t materialize and others that didn’t gain traction. In the early 2000s, she returned to Georgia, moving to a less-than-ideal location. During this period, she developed a deep bond with animals, particularly horses.
Financially, she made around $25 million from “Grace Under Fire,” but lost much of it due to spending and financial mismanagement.
She had hoped for revenue from a “Grace Under Fire” DVD deal, which she believed would amount to $1 million. However, the deal fell through. Approximately a decade ago, broke and having lost her farm, Butler returned to L.A. to attempt a comeback.
A lifeline came in the form of Charlie Sheen, a close friend in the industry. Sheen offered her a role in “Anger Management,” where she played his bartender.
This opportunity, according to Butler, saved her life. It served as a reminder that she still had a place in the industry and that she shouldn’t continue punishing herself for her past mistakes.
Sheen’s gesture was particularly poignant for Butler, given his own struggles with addiction. She described him as a multi-layered and fascinating individual, expressing her hope that he too finds a path to redemption.
GoFund Me Campaign
Despite her past successes in the entertainment industry, Brett Butler’s financial situation took a turn for the worse. By early July 2021, she found herself grappling with the harsh reality of her financial predicament.
Having fallen six months behind on her rent, the threat of eviction from her Los Angeles apartment loomed large. It was a stark contrast to the mid-1990s when she was at the pinnacle of her career, earning a staggering $250,000 per episode for her role in the ABC sitcom “Grace Under Fire.”
Recognizing the severity of her situation, Butler confided in one of her closest friends, Lon Strickler. Strickler, known for his blog that chronicles real-life supernatural encounters, was deeply concerned about Butler’s dire circumstances.
She expressed to him her feelings of profound shame and the weight of her financial struggles. Moved by her plight, Strickler took the initiative to set up a GoFundMe account to assist her.
Butler was initially hesitant about the crowdfunding campaign. It wasn’t just a matter of pride; she was also concerned about the potential backlash and the satisfaction it might give to those who bore animosity towards her.
However, Strickler persuaded her, emphasizing that she shouldn’t let fear of detractors dictate her decisions. When discussing the fundraising goal, they aimed to strike a balance between genuine need and avoiding any perception of greed.
They eventually settled on a target of $15,000. The campaign resonated with many, raising $12,583 from 246 donors. Recognizing the ongoing challenges Butler faced, Strickler later adjusted the target to $20,000, hoping to provide her with a more substantial safety net.
What is Brett Butler Doing Now?
From 2018 to 2019, she was part of the AMC horror series, “The Walking Dead,” and in 2019, she played a recurring role in the Apple TV+ drama series, “The Morning Show.”
Most recently, in 2023, she appeared in an episode of “Fantasy Island.”
Brett Butler’s journey in Hollywood has been a roller coaster of triumphs and challenges. Her story serves as a testament to resilience, the complexities of fame, and the hope for redemption.