RIP Gary Coleman
Gary Coleman in 2008 (Associated Press file photo)
Gary Coleman, the child star of the hit 1970s TV sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” whose later career was troubled by medical and legal problems, died today after suffering a brain hemorrhage. He was 42.
According to the Associated Press, Coleman suffered the hemorrhage Wednesday at his Santaquin, Utah, home, 55 miles south of Salt Lake City. A statement from the family said he was conscious and lucid until midday Thursday, when his condition worsened and he slipped into unconsciousness. Coleman was then placed on life support.
Utah Valley Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Janet Frank told the AP life support was terminated and Coleman died at 12:05 p.m. MDT.
With his sparkling eyes and comic timing, Coleman became a star at age 10 after “Diff’rent Strokes” debuted in 1978. He played Arnold Jackson, the younger of a pair of black brothers adopted by a wealthy white man.
Race and class relations became major topics on the show, along with the trials of growing up. Coleman’s skeptical “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout?” — usually aimed at his brother, Willis (Todd Bridges) — became an enduring catchphrase.
Coleman’s popularity faded when the show ended after six seasons on NBC and two on ABC. However, it lives on thanks to DVDs and YouTube.
Coleman suffered continuing ill health from the kidney disease that stunted his growth and had a host of legal problems in recent years.
Coleman told the AP in 2001 that he would do a TV series again, but “only under the absolute condition that it be an ensemble cast and that everybody gets a chance to shine.”
“I certainly am not going to be the only person on the show working,” he said. “I’ve done that. I didn’t like it.”
Coleman wasn’t the only former child star on the series to face troubles in adulthood. Dana Plato, who played the boys’ white, teenage sister, committed suicide in 1999. Bridges was tried and acquitted of attempted murder.
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