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Surprising New Careers of '80s Celebrities

image for Paul Bradbury / Getty Images
Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

While many celebrities of the 1980s saw their fame fizzle out long ago and still others continue to seek stardom, there are at least a few '80s celebs who've tapped into their entrepreneurial side and created new careers for themselves.

One such star, rapper and reality TV star Flavor Flav, is the latest '80s star to take a stab at entrepreneurship, having opened his second restaurant, Flavor Flav's House of Flavor, in Las Vegas last month. 

Flav gained stardom in the 1980s as a rapper with the group Public Enemy, which in 2004 ranked 44th on Rolling Stone magazine's "Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time" list.

While Flav's first experience as a restaurateur wasn't much of a success – his Iowa chicken restaurant closed after just three months last year – he's hopeful his newest venture, which features recipes and spice rub mixtures that he developed himself, brings the same taste of success as his music career.

Here are four more '80s stars who have established themselves as profitable businessmen and women.

Then: Child stars at just six months old, the adorable twins starred as baby-of-the-family Michelle Tanner on ABC's Full House. The two had a successful nine-year run on the show, confirmed by a popularity rating that was second only to the legendary Bill Cosby at the time, according to IMDB. Following their years on TV, the two went on to star in a number of children's movies. By the time they were 17, the twins had made Fortune magazine's list of the richest people under age 40, with an estimated combined wealth of nearly $270 million.

Now: The duo wasted little time becoming entrepreneurs. In 2004, the twins took control of their production company, Dualstar Entertainment Group, which produces movies, TV shows, magazines and video games. In recent years, the Olsens have shifted their attention to the fashion industry, building a reported $1 billion empire with a portfolio of lifestyle fashion labels, including The Row, Elizabeth and James, Textile Elizabeth and James, Olsenboye and StyleMint.

Then: The singer was the controversial replacement for David Lee Roth in 1985 as the lead singer of the chart-topping rock group Van Halen. During his 11-year stint with the group, Hager was on microphone for four consecutive No. 1 albums and scored a Grammy. Hagar also had a successful songwriting career, penning songs that were covered by a number of other artists, including fellow '80s stars Bette Midler and Rick Springfield.

Now: While still cranking out hits, Hagar has established himself as a prosperous entrepreneur in recent years. His foray into business started in the early 1990s, when he launched a chain of California-based mountain bike stores. At the same time, the rocker opened the first Cabo Wabo Cantina, a restaurant and bar in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Since then, Hagar has opened two more locations in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe and created his own brand of tequila, Cabo Wabo, that was generating $60 million in sales in 2007. Later that year, Hagar sold his stake in the liquor brand to Gruppo Campari for a reported $80 million.

Then: At just 8 years old, Soleil Moon Frye starred as the lead character in the popular "Punky Brewster" sitcom. Frye shined in her role as the quintessential '80s kid during the show's four-year run. The sitcom also gave birth to "Punky Brewster" a cartoon version of the show, for which Frye provided her voice. Following her Punky stint, the child actress appeared in guest roles on numerous other popular children's shows, including "Saved by the Bell," "The Wonder Years," and "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch."

Now: Today, Frye is a successful eco-retailer, having created her own socially responsible clothing line. The Little Seed is a lifestyle brand of eco-friendly and organic products for children. Launched in 2008 as a one-stop eco-boutique in Los Angeles, it now reaches customers around the world. The clothes have become so popular that retail giant Target has begun including the line as part of its collection.

Then: While her filmography includes more than 50 television and movie appearances, Smith is best known for her role on the hit television show "Charlie's Angels." Starring as Kelly Garrett, Smith was the only female lead character to remain with the show throughout its six-year run, which ended in 1981. Following that show, Smith earned a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of the first lady in the TV miniseries Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, and in 1989 was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Now: Smith is now in her third decade as a successful businesswoman. In 1985, she introduced a collection of women's apparel and accessories for Kmart stores that to date has sold more than 100 million pieces. In recent years, Smith launched a line of bed and bath décor and outdoor living and home furnishings, and developed a family of cleansers and moisturizers and protective skincare products.

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at chadgbrooks@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76

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