Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Merritt Butrick

In 1989, with a promising career ahead of him, actor Merritt Butrick died from AIDS at the young age of 29. Some say it was drug use, others say it was his lifestyle. However, the only true fact worth arguing over, is that if he had not been sick, his career may have gone far.

He's most remembered for the critically acclaimed, but little seen high school themed sitcom from 1982, Square Pegs, as the new wave geek, Johnny Slash. In that series, Merritt Butrick consistently upstaged his co-stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Tracy Nelson and Jami Gertz. Had the show caught on, his character most likely would have gained mainstream status and like Fonzie on Happy Days, just might have turned into the star of the series.

He also appeared as Captain Kirk's physicist son, David Marcus in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, as well as the hillbilly son of Barbara Hershey in another critically acclaimed, but little seen project called Shy People.

At the time of his death he had recently received critical praise on stage for his role as a male prostitute in the play Kingfish. It's likely that he would have returned to films or television and eventually graduated to more adult roles. But like so many talented actors that have died at a young age - we'll just never know.


  1. Loved him in square pegs. Gone too soon.

  2. I wondered what happened to him. Enjoyed him in Star Trek.

  3. He was so handsome! It's a shame all the true "greats" are taken way too soon! :-/

  4. I went to CalArts with Merritt Butrick. He was a good guy with lots of heart. I was having a very hard time for personal reasons and he saw that I was torn up inside and angry about things having nothing to do with him. The next day, I found that he had gone out and bought a vinyl "single" of Foreigner's "Hot Blooded" and gave it to me. I never forgot that gesture. Thank you for remembering him. Had he never achieved any level of success as an actor, I would have remembered him as someone I admire.

  5. Miss you my beautiful friend ,.....always in my thoughts

  6. The comment about Cal Arts is inccorect .He was busy and didnt finish his courses , but waseeventualy awarded his degree

  7. Isolte - the comment on Cal Arts says nothing about finishing or not finishing anything!!

  8. It’s good to see him again, even if only in photos.

    I knew Merritt in childhood through high school, and a bit beyond. The last time I saw him was in LA, soon after he’d moved there to go to CalArts and launch his career. Then we drifted out of touch.

    One day in the early 80’s I went to see the brand new “Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan.” I knew about his role in Square Pegs, but I had no idea I was going to see my friend on the big screen that day. When he appeared, my jaw must have hit the floor. I was dumbfounded with astonishment.

    When I learned of his death, we hadn’t seen each other in close to a decade. It still came as a nasty shock. Seeing old pictures of him is a bit of a wrench, even after all this time. What Billy said about him is right on.

  9. OMG! Finding this blog and discussion prompted me to look in a certain spot where I keep old and vital papers, and against all hope I found two documents written to me by Merritt himself in his very own hand! One is an I Ching divination he did for me on what I think must have been the very last time we saw one another. I am so glad I looked! Thank for posting this blog.

    1. That's so cool, Kevin. Thanks for sharing.