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Brett Butler Is 65, Look at Her Now After She Lost All Her Money

Comedian and actress Brett Butler was once one of the reigning queens of American sitcoms. Her show, Grace Under Fire, which was based on her stand up comedy, was not only the highest rated new show of 1993-94, but it was the fifth most watched TV show that year. She was earning around $250,000 an episode, and sitting on top of the world. But things came crashing down when she began to struggle with drug addiction.

She had to take time off for recovery, the show’s rating plummeted, and it was cancelled while they shot their 5th season. But Brett’s fall was only beginning. Over the next years, she managed to squander $25 million, and struggled to pay the mortgage on her Georgia farm. In this video, we’re taking a look at the rise and fall of Brett Butler, and how she has finally managed to turn things around in Hollywood.

Brett Anderson

Butler hails from Montgomery, Alabama, and was named Brett Anderson by birth. She was the oldest of five girls to Roland Anderson Jr. and Carol Anderson. While Brett’s dad was a successful oil executive, he was also an abusive alcoholic. So to help the girls live in a safer situation, Carol moved them to Miami, Florida.

There, they struggled to make ends meet. Butler has talked about how they were so poor they sometimes had to scrounge together meals, or eat Tootsie Rolls as supper. But Butler managed to do well enough in school to get into the University of Georgia .She met and married a man named Charles Michael Wilson in 1978, when Brett was 20. Sadly, he abused her, but she managed to get out of the marriage within a couple of years. Upon returning to Miami, and moving back in with her mother, she began to dabble in stand up comedy at local clubs.

She slowly made a name for herself in the local stand up sceene, before moving to New York City in 1984. While there, she got hitched again, this time to a man named Ken Zieger. It wasn’t long before Butler’s stellar comedy act caught the eye of the bookers from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. She made her debut on the show in 1987, and wowed both Johnny and the viewing audience. That same year, she was hired onto the writing staff of a variety series Dolly Parton was doing, called “Dolly.” But that show was cancelled after a season.

Grace Under Fire

Everything changed for Brett when she was approached by the creators of Roseanne, who were looking to create a similar show that would based around her life and stand up routine. Brett agreed, and megaproducer Chuck Lorre was brought on to run the show. Grace Under Fire was an immediate hit. It starred Brett in the lead role, alongside veteran comedy stars like Dave Thomas, as well as adorable child actors like Kaitlin Cullum. It started off in the ultimate slot in the schedule, airing directly after the monster hit, Home Improvement.

That slot meant it was off and running from the get go. It was that rare case where both audiences and critics loved it equally. The NY Times wrote in its glowing review that Brett wielded a southern accent “like a lethal stiletto.” Grace Under Fire managed to appeal to multiple demographics. Brett even garnered Golden Globe nominations twice (1995 and 1997) for her performance. And it appeared as if it would have a long and successful run. Sadly it did not.

Brett’s Drug Issues

By the time Brett became a famous TV star, she had already been through the wringer when it comes to life struggles. But at that point, it appeared as if she was through those rough patches, and was primed for success. She had already kicked an alcohol dependence. She had also gotten out of her marriage to her abusive ex-husband.

And even before that, she’d suffered at the hands of her abusive, alcoholic father. But when Grace Under Fire began airing, she was no longer in the throes of these terrible issues. And yet, the demon that is addiction still found its way back to her. At one point, early on in Grace’s airing, she was prescribed Vicodin to help her deal with back pain from sciatica. It was only a short time before she became addicted to them. And this wreaked havoc on her life, and her work. The drgu dependence completely changed her personality, and made her incredibly difficult to work with.

This grew worse and worse as the seasons went on. And the quality of the show started to wane, as did its ratings. Her drug habit reached its peak during the fourth season, and the show plunged down in the ratings as well. She finally entered a rehab facility before the fifth season. That move cause the network to have to delay the start of shooting season five. When they finally did start shooting, Brett kept relapsing. That would cause her to miss taping days. Sensing it was a lost cause, ABC finally cancelled Graced Under Fire. They had only filmed 14 of the 25 expected episodes, but it appeared that the show was not salvageable due to Brett’s behavior.

Brett’s Recovery

Brett managed to fully recover from her addictions not long after the show was cancelled. The pressures of being the lead on a hit TV show might have made it harder to quit, but once she was free from that burden, she was able to focus on getting better. She has been sober since 1998. She made the requisite phone calls and meetings with people she felt she had wronged along the way, which helped her process.

Also, she has had enough time away from Grace Under Fire to be able to look with a more objective lens. And while she can’t bring herself to watch the show, she understands it was her behavior that took it down. In an interview for The Hollywood Reporter, Butler said, “I’ll definitely take the hit for the crash and burn.” She added that while there were a lot of mistakes done by a lot of people who worked on the show, she was the face and the lead star. So she accepts that it was up to her to keep things glued together, and she failed on that account. She also fully admits that she was a really difficult person to work with, especially towards the final seasons, even saying that ABC probably should have pulled the plug way sooner.

Brett’s Fortune

At the peak of Grace Under Fire, Brett Butler was earning $250,000 per episode. And yet only a decade later, she was flat broke! In total, she made around $25 million. But according to Butler, she didn’t know how to handle her finances. She says that it was a combination of a bunch of factors. One was that she just spent way too much. Another was that she was too trusting of people who worked with her, and she had a lot essentially stolen. She also gave away a lot of her money, because she felt a certain amount of guilt for having it in the first place. All in all, the money was soon all gone, and she had to struggle to make ends meet.

After Grace

Another reason she struggled is that she had trouble finding work in the years after Grace Under Fire ended. She had a few projects that were promising, like a daytime panel show, as well as a remake of an older detective show called McCloud. But these fell through, leaving her without work. Eventually she decided her best move was to head back to Georgia. Her sisters still lived there, so she’d be closer to them. She’d also get out of the glare of Hollywood.

So she bought a farm, and began living a drastically different, and simpler life. She collected rescued animals, ranging from dogs and cats to horses. But even the farm situation ended badly. She had expected she’d get about $1 million from a deal for Grace Under Fire DVD’s, but that deal fell through. As such, she was forced to sell her farm. She moved back to Hollywood to see if she could try acting again, and resurrect her career. We should also note that Butler has denied that she ever ended up homeless, despite a feature on Entertainment Tonight that claimed it. She says that the producer made that up for ratings, and that she’s always had a roof over her head.

The Years Since

Brett has glowing things to say about her friend Charlie Sheen, who lobbied hard for her to get a recurring role on Anger Management. She says the network didn’t want her, but Charlie went to bat for her and she got the part. That allowed her to start making money again as an actress, which has been followed by a string of roles and steady work. And yet even those roles have not provided as much income as you’d expect. 33 episodes of Anger Management only netted her enough to keep an apartment in LA and pay for basic expenses.

She’s managed to find work since, such as roles on The Walking Dead and The Morning Show. But then she was hit with a bout of severe depression that coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. Depression ran in her family, and Butler says that it started flaring up for her when she reached her 50’s. In her Hollywood Reporter interview she likened it to a monster that moved in with her, and that it has led to both agoraphobia and suicidal thoughts.

Brett’s Comeback

Brett continues to take it one day at a time, as she continues to find occasional roles and deals with her depression. And she says that part of her potential comeback is likely to include stand up comedy. Because of the ups and downs of her career in the past two decades, she hasn’t found herself wanting to write or perform jokes. But in recent times, she’s begun to jot down comedic ideas in her notebook. She notes that if she had a deadline for a special, she could probably come up with enough material to make it great.

Now it’s time to hear form you. Did you ever watch Grace Under Fire? Let us know in the comments section below!

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