At least Mr. North had his money. His mother had socked away his "Dennis the Menace" salary in a trust account, later investing it wisely in real estate. Mr. North is well-off financially to this day as a result.
Yet financial security can't make the past go away. By the time he was 21, Mr. North was a washed-up child star who was just starting to encounter a severe delayed reaction to his on-set trauma.
"All of the ghosts started to haunt me and just stuck around," he said.
He got married, then quickly divorced. He served an enlistment hitch in the Navy. He worked in a health food store. He even dabbled in a little dinner theater, and, briefly, served as a prison guard.
"I was still a child who had never grown up in my 20s," Mr. North said. "I'd never been allowed to mature, so I didn't have a clue about how to relate to real life. I'd never been permitted to date as a teen-ager, so I couldn't relate to women."
Finally, in the 1980s, Mr. North dropped out of society completely. He plunged into an abyss of despair that found him virtually going into hibernation, shutting himself off from family, friends and women and watching old films all day.
It was the 1990 suicide death of friend Rusty Hamer, a child star on "The Danny Thomas Show" in the 1950s and '60s, that broke Mr. North out of his shell and inspired him to get into therapy and confront his demons.
Mr. North decided he had a story to tell that could help current and future child actors deal with their unusual lives. So Mr. North has spent the past few years opening up, traveling the talk-show circuit. He's back among the living, doing some counseling work with a group that counsels young performers -- and ex-child stars -- in dealing with the Hollywood system of use and rejection.
Mr. North likes to think he's finally gotten his act together. He's excited about trading Los Angeles for a quieter suburban life in the Southeast.
"But I'm finally starting a new life and burying Dennis Mitchell. I need very badly to again be Jay North -- whoever that is."