Gary Coleman, troubled TV star
PROVO, Utah - Actor Gary Coleman, 42, who became a child star in the sitcom Diff'rent Strokes but faced medical and legal woes throughout his later life, died Friday.
PROVO, Utah - Actor Gary Coleman, 42, who became a child star in the sitcom
but faced medical and legal woes throughout his later life, died Friday.
Mr. Coleman was taken off life support and died with family and friends at his side, Utah Valley Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Janet Frank said.
He suffered a brain hemorrhage Wednesday at his Santaquin home, 55 miles south of Salt Lake City. Frank said Coleman was hospitalized because of an accident at the home, but she said she had no details on what the accident was.
Mr. Coleman was born Feb. 8, 1968, in Zion, Ill. His mother told Ebony magazine that he first attracted attention when he took part in some local fashion shows and people suggested he should get work performing in commercials.
With his sparkling eyes and perfect comic timing, Mr. Coleman quickly became a hit with viewers when Diff'rent Strokes made its debut in 1978. He played Arnold Jackson, the younger of a pair of African American brothers adopted by a wealthy white man.
"It's a sad day," said Todd Bridges, who played Mr. Coleman's brother on the show.
"He was the reason we were such a big hit," costar Charlotte Rae, who played the family's housekeeper on the show, said of Mr. Coleman. "He was the centerpiece and we all surrounded him."
When the show ended after six seasons on NBC and two on ABC, Mr. Coleman's popularity faded, but his health problems didn't. He continued to suffer the effects of the kidney disease, diagnosed at age 2, that stunted his growth - he would reach only 4 feet, 8 inches as an adult - and forced him at age 5 to have the first of at least two transplants.
He also encountered a host of financial and legal problems.
The series lives on, thanks to DVDs and YouTube. But its equally enduring legacy was the trouble in adulthood of the show's former child stars.
Dana Plato, who played the boys' white, teenage sister, committed suicide in 1999. Bridges was tried and acquitted of attempted murder.
Mr. Coleman continued to get credits for TV guest shots and other small roles over the years, but he told the Associated Press in 2001 that he preferred earning money from celebrity endorsements.
He also was among 135 candidates who ran in California's 2003 recall election to replace Gov. Gray Davis, whom voters ousted in favor of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He came in eighth, with 12,488 votes, just behind Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt.
"I want to escape that legacy of Arnold Jackson," he told the New York Times during his gubernatorial run. "I'm someone more. It would be nice if the world thought of me as something more."
Legal disputes dogged Mr. Coleman. In 1989, when he was 21, his mother filed a court request trying to gain control of her son's $6 million fortune, saying he was incapable of handling his affairs.
In a 1993 television interview, he said he had twice tried to kill himself by overdosing on pills.
He moved to Utah in fall 2005, and according to a tally in early 2010, officers were called to assist or intervene with him more than 20 times in the following years. They included a call where Mr. Coleman said he had taken dozens of OxyContin pills and "wanted to die." Some of the disputes involved his wife, Shannon Price, whom he met on the set of the 2006 comedy Church Ball and married in 2007.