Jump to content

Christopher Lawford

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Christopher Lawford
Lawford in 2008
Christopher Kennedy Lawford

(1955-03-29)March 29, 1955
DiedSeptember 4, 2018(2018-09-04) (aged 63)
EducationTufts University (BA)
Boston College (JD)
Harvard University
  • Author
  • actor
  • activist
Years active1988–2008
Jeannie Olsson
(m. 1984; div. 2000)
Lana Antonova
(m. 2005; div. 2009)
Mercedes Miller
(m. 2014; div. 2016)
Parent(s)Peter Lawford
Patricia Kennedy Lawford
RelativesSee Kennedy family

Christopher Kennedy Lawford (March 29, 1955 – September 4, 2018)[1] was an American author, actor, and activist. He was a member of the prominent Kennedy family, and son of English actor Peter Lawford and Patricia "Pat" Kennedy Lawford, who was a sister of President John F. Kennedy. He graduated from Tufts University in 1977 and earned a Juris Doctor degree from Boston College in 1983. He later earned a master's certificate in Clinical Psychology from Harvard University and was a lecturer on drug addiction.

After struggling with addiction for 17 years, he became an actor, performing in several movies and television shows for over 20 years. He wrote several books, based on his own experience, about addiction and recovery. He also traveled around the U.S. speaking about his experiences with addiction for 20 years, and was a public health campaigner, working with organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN), and for the U.S. federal government.

Early life and education[edit]

Lawford was born on March 29, 1955, at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California . He was named for Saint Christopher and because his mother liked the name.[2]: p. 1  He was the eldest child and only son of actor and "Rat Pack" member Peter Lawford (1923–1984) and Patricia "Pat" Kennedy Lawford (1924–2006), who was President John F. Kennedy's sister. His three younger sisters were Sydney Lawford McKelvy (born 1956), Victoria Pender (born 1958), and Robin Lawford (born 1961).[1][3] Lawford described himself as a "second-string Kennedy" because he did not get as much attention as his cousins.[4] His parents divorced in 1966;[5] Patricia Lawford moved from California to New York City with her son and daughters.[6]

Before his parents' divorce, Lawford attended St. Martin of Tours Elementary School in Los Angeles, where at the age of 8, he was informed about his uncle John F. Kennedy's assassination.[7] After moving to New York City with his mother, he attended the Middlesex School, a prep school in Concord, Massachusetts.[6] He graduated from Tufts University in 1977 and earned a J.D. degree from Boston College Law School in 1983.[8] He later earned a master's certificate in Clinical Psychology from Harvard University, and lectured on drug addiction at Harvard, Columbia University, and other colleges.[9]

Drug and legal issues[edit]

In 1969, the year after his uncle Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, when Lawford was 14, he was introduced to LSD by his peers at school.[2]: p. 110 [6] He was addicted to alcohol, cocaine, uppers, downers, and "any other drugs he could buy"[9] for the next 17 years. During that time, he was "in and out of hospitals and arrested three times",[7] including in 1980, for impersonating a doctor in Aspen, Colorado in order to purchase prescription medication. The charges were later dropped when Lawford completed his probation.[10] In 2000, Lawford was diagnosed with hepatitis C, which he contracted due to his years of drug use.[11][7]

Lawford briefly attended Fordham Law School, but dropped out after a few months due to his dependency on heroin. In April 1984, the same year his father Peter Lawford died at the age of 61, after years of alcohol and drug abuse, Lawford's cousin and best friend David Kennedy, and third oldest son of Robert Kennedy, who also battled substance abuse issues, died of a drug overdose at the age of 28. David's death prompted Lawford to seek professional help for his issues.[6][7][8] In 1986, at the age of 30, Lawford entered rehab and got treatment for his drug addiction.[10] Lawford remained clean and sober until his death in 2018.



Lawford chose to become, like his father, an actor in the mid-1980s, after realizing that a law career would not suit him. He performed in commercials in Boston for two years, and then he and his wife moved to Southern California in 1988 so that he could pursue an acting career.[6] He worked in film and television for over 20 years. His acting credits included the sitcom Frasier and the drama The O.C. .[12][1] In 2003, he had a brief stint on the soap opera General Hospital, but was best known for playing Philip "Charlie" Brent, Jr. on All My Children from 1992 to 1995.[13]

Lawford had small roles in films such as The Russia House, a 1990 spy thriller co-starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Sean Connery, and the 1991 rock-music film The Doors, which was directed by Oliver Stone. Lawford played a Navy officer in the 2000 film Thirteen Days, a drama about the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.[8][9] In 1997, Lawford had a role in the independent comedy Kiss Me Guido as the gay lover of the main character.[14] He also had a small role in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, co-starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, who directed Lawford in a 1990 episode of the HBO anthology series Tales from the Crypt ("The Switch") and was married to Lawford's cousin Maria Shriver at the time.[6] In 2005, Lawford appeared in the motorcycle racing film The World's Fastest Indian, co-starring Anthony Hopkins.[15]


Lawford wrote several books "that described his efforts to recover from drug addiction".[1] In 2005, he published his memoir, Symptoms of Withdrawal, in which he recounted decades of "better living through chemistry".[16] In 2009, he wrote Moments of Clarity, a compilation of first-person recollections by famous addicts, including Ed Begley, Jr., Alec Baldwin, Buzz Aldrin, Richard Dreyfuss, Martin Sheen, Judy Collins, and musician and federal prisoner Dejuan Verrett. The book was dedicated to Lawford's cousin David Kennedy, and another cousin, Patrick J. Kennedy, wrote the introduction.[17][18] Lawford told interviewer Connie Martinson that although writing Moments of Clarity was "difficult" and he did not want to do it, the book was "meant to happen".[19]

In 2013, Lawford published Recover to Live: Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction, in which he interviewed 100 addiction specialists and described treatments for alcohol and drug dependence, gambling, sex and porn, eating disorders, smoking, and hoarding.[20] In 2014, he published What Addicts Know: 10 Lessons From Recovery To Benefit Everyone; Dr. Drew Pinsky wrote the foreword.[21] Lawford's final book about addiction and recovery was 2016's When Your Partner Has an Addiction, "a how-to manual for people who want to stay with their addicted partners", which he co-authored with psychotherapist Beverly Engel.[22]

Lawford also wrote a book about dealing with hepatitis C, called Healing Hepatitis C, which he co-wrote with Diana Sylvestre in 2009.[11][7][23]


Lawford traveled around the U.S. speaking about his experiences with addiction for 20 years. He was a public health campaigner, and worked with the World Health Organization (WHO), the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, and was a public advocacy consultant to Caron Treatment Centers, an organization that ran treatment programs.[1] In 2001, Lawford founded and was CEO of the Global Recovery Initiative, a not-for-profit organization that "seeks to remove barriers and provide opportunities for people in recovery".[12]

Lawford also worked with the United Nations (UN). In March 2010, he traveled to Ukraine on behalf of the UN, to participate in a discussion with health officials and advocates about "issues related to hepatitis C (Hep C) prevention in Ukraine",[23] and to raise awareness. In 2011, was named a Goodwill Ambassador on Drug Dependence Treatment and Care, in 2012, was involved in a campaign against opiate use in Afghanistan, and served on the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime.[1][7][12] His cousin, former Rhode Island congressman Patrick J. Kennedy, said about Lawford: "Chris was one of those people who had a way of telling stories that lifted people's perceptions and judgments of those who suffer from the disease of addiction".[1]

Personal life[edit]

Marriages and children[edit]

Lawford was married and divorced three times.[1] He had three children, David Christopher Kennedy Lawford (named after his cousin David Kennedy),[2]: pp. 319–320  Savannah Rose Lawford, and Matthew Peter Valentine Lawford with his first wife Jeannie Olsson, an ad-sales assistant for New York Magazine. They divorced in 2000. In 2005, he married Russian actress Lana Antonova; they divorced in 2009. In 2014, Lawford married yoga instructor Mercedes Miller in Hawaii; they divorced in 2016. At the time of his death in 2018, he had been in a relationship with his girlfriend Kyla Resch since August 2017.[6][24]


On September 4, 2018, after experiencing a medical emergency while at a yoga studio, Lawford died of a heart attack in Vancouver, British Columbia. At the time, he had been living with his girlfriend in Vancouver where he was working toward opening a recovery center.[10][25] Patrick Kennedy told the Associated Press that Lawford had been doing "hot yoga, which he did often, but the strain of it 'must have been too much for him at that point'".[26] Lawford's cousins Maria Shriver, Patrick Kennedy, and Kerry Kennedy took to Twitter after his death, honoring Lawford's work in addiction recovery.[27]



Year Title Role Notes
1988 The Suicide Club Boyfriend
1988 Mr. North Michael Patrick Ennis III
1988 Spellbinder Phil
1990 Impulse Steve
1990 The Russia House Larry
1991 Run Martins
1991 The Doors New York Journalist
1993 Jack the Bear Vince Buccini
1994 Blankman Mayor Marvin Harris
1995 Drunks Rich
1997 Kiss Me, Guido Dakota TV movie, Executive Producer
1997 Fool's Paradise Sen. Brill
1998 Dead Broke Joshua
1998 Not Even the Trees
1998 Ask for Becky Whiteworth
1999 The Confession D.A. Elliott Cunningham
1999 The Waiting Game L.A. Director Credited as Chris Lawford
1999 The Sex Monster Dave Pembroke
2000 R2PC: Road to Park City Christoper Lawford
2000 Chump Change Studio Executive #1
2000 The 6th Day Police Lieutenant
2000 Thirteen Days Commander William Ecker
2001 Fourplay Davis
2001 Red Zone
2001 Exit Wounds The Vice President
2002 Hitters Cassidey
2003 Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Brewster's Aide Credited as Chris Lawford
2005 The World's Fastest Indian Jim Moffet Credited as Chris Lawford
2007 Slipstream Lars
2008 Eavesdrop Claude (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1990 Exile The Magical World of Disney, Season 34, Episode 13
1990 Tales from the Crypt Manager "The Switch"
1990 Midnight Caller Richard Clark 2 episodes
1991 Silk Stalkings Chick Westfall 1 episode
1992-1996 All My Children Charlie Brent Unknown episodes
1996 The Abduction Dan Solano TV movie
1998 Witness to the Mob Prosecutor John Gleeson TV movie
1999 Chicago Hope 1 episode
1999 Mary, Mother of Jesus Reuben TV movie
2001 100 Centre Street Rich
2001 Walking Shadow Jimmy Christopholous TV movie
2002 Counterstrike Vice President Chet Ridgeway TV movie
2003 General Hospital Senator Jordan
2003 Frasier Bill 1 episode
2005 The O.C. Ross 1 episode


  • Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption, 2005
  • Healing Hepatitis C, 2009
  • Moments of Clarity: Voices from the Front Lines of Addiction and Recovery, 2009
  • Recover to Live: Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction, 2013
  • What Addicts Know: 10 Lessons from Recovery to Benefit Everyone, 2014

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Tsang, Amie (September 5, 2018). "Christopher Kennedy Lawford, Actor and Author Who Battled Addiction, Dies at 63". The New York Times. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Lawford, Christopher Kennedy (2005). Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption. New York: Harper Collins Publisher. ISBN 0-06-113123-7.
  3. ^ "Kennedy Clan a U.S. Dynasty". The Courier-News. Bridgewater, New Jersey. Associated Press. April 26, 2004. p. 4. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  4. ^ Cantor, Jodi (October 30, 2005). "Symptoms of Withdrawal' and 'What Remains': Ask Not". The New York Times. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  5. ^ Rorabaugh, W.J. (2002). Kennedy and the Promise of the Sixties. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. p. 146. ISBN 0-521-81617-3.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Cohen, Charles E. (March 11, 1991). "Peter Lawford Was His Dad, Pat Kennedy His Mom, and Heroin His Undoing—Now Christopher Lawford Is Back on Track". People. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Jones, Gemma (March 2, 2012). "Breaking the curse of the Kennedys". The Advertiser. Adelaide, South Australia. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Schudel, Matt (September 6, 2018). "Christopher Lawford, Kennedy family member who wrote an addiction memoir, dies at 63". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c Thomas, Bob (October 8, 2005). "Lawford tells tale of privilege and pain". The Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. Associated Press. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  10. ^ a b c Mizoguchi, Karen (September 5, 2018). "Christopher Lawford Once Credited His Sobriety to Cousin David Kennedy's Fatal Drug Overdose". People. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  11. ^ a b Lawford, Christopher Kennedy; Diana Sylvestre (2009). Healing Hepatitis C: A Patient and a Doctor on the Epidemic's Front Lines. New York: Harper-Collins Publishers. pp. 1–7. ISBN 978-0-06-178368-5.
  12. ^ a b c Murray, Kelly (September 6, 2018). "Christopher Lawford, actor, author and nephew of John F. Kennedy, dies at 63". CNN.com. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  13. ^ Eades, Chris (September 6, 2018). "All My Children's Christopher Lawford Dead at 63". ABC Soaps in Depth. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  14. ^ Harvey, Dennis (January 16, 1997). "Kiss Me, Guido". Variety. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  15. ^ Fidler, Richard (April 4, 2006). "Roger Donaldson on making movies, and Christopher Lawford's family of famous Americans". Australian Broadcasting Network. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  16. ^ "Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption by Christopher Kennedy Lawford". Kirkus Reviews. August 15, 2005. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  17. ^ Collins, Lauren (January 19, 2009). "Cuz". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  18. ^ "Moments of Clarity: Intimate Portraits of Sudden Sobriety by Christopher Kennedy Lawford". Kirkus Reviews. August 15, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  19. ^ Martinson, Connie (July 23, 2010). "Christopher Kennedy Lawford - Moments of Clarity - Part 3". Connie Martinson Talks Books. Event occurs at 5:04. You Tube. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  20. ^ Brodeur, Nicole (March 17, 2013). "Christopher Kennedy Lawford: In recovery, life and a life's mission". The Seattle Times. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  21. ^ Cruz, Nancy (January 27, 2015). "Author & Activist Christopher Kennedy Lawford On New Book 'What Addicts Know'". KTLA.com. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  22. ^ Sjostrom, Jan (October 30, 2016). "Christopher Kennedy Lawford talks about new book in Palm Beach". Palm Beach Daily News. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  23. ^ a b Fletcher, Mervyn; Vashchenko, Veronika, eds. (March 10, 2010). "Christopher Kennedy Lawford visits Ukraine to advocate for Hep C prevention and treatment" (Press release). Geneva: UNICEF.
  24. ^ Birk, Libby (September 5, 2018). "Actor and JFK Nephew Christopher Lawford Dead at 63". Pop Culture.com. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  25. ^ Young, Julius (September 5, 2018). "Christopher Lawford, nephew of JFK and 'General Hospital' actor, dead at 63: report". Fox News. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  26. ^ Smith, Michelle R.; Dalton, Andrew (September 5, 2018). "Author, actor, Kennedy scion Christopher Lawford dead at 63". AP News. Associated News. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  27. ^ Mizoguchi, Karen (September 5, 2018). "Christopher Lawford's Kennedy and Shriver Family Members Mourn His Death: 'He Was a Fighter'". People. Retrieved March 3, 2019.

External links[edit]