07/17/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT
There's no place like home, and Willie Aames has found his in Dorothy's state. In 1991, fed up with Hollywood, the Eight Is Enough star suggested to his wife that they move to the heartland. She cried. "Kansas was a word I hadn't even said before," recalls Maylo McCaslin Aames, who met Willie in 1984 on the set of Rocky Road, the cable sitcom in which she starred. "I pictured living in a bean field with people wearing braids."
She wasn't far off about the beans. For the past four years, the Aames family, which includes daughter Harleigh, 5, has lived in rural Olathe, in a ranch house with a picket fence and a vast vegetable garden. "We're so happy here," says Aames, 35, who produces and directs for a video company in nearby Kansas City. "It's clean, and people are friendly."
After cancellation disbanded his TV family in 1981, Aames, who played insecure teen Tommy Bradford, fell into aging-kid-actor limbo: he started a rock band, costarred in the syndicated series Charles in Charge, did cocaine. In 1984, after the breakup of a brief first marriage (his son Christopher, 14, lives in Costa Mesa, Calif., with his mother, Victoria Weatherman), Aames saw the light while reading Wired, the John Belushi biography. "I realized I might end up dead if I didn't change," he says. By the time he met Maylo, he had been clean six months. "He talked about wanting to live on an island," says Maylo, 32, who kicked her own drug habit with Willie's help before their 1986 marriage. Aames stumbled upon their island of calm while visiting Kansas City to discuss producing a fishing video. "Life," he says now, "doesn't get any better than this."