Gary Null/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
The fall of the former child star is one of show business's oldest tropes—but that doesn't make each and every story of talent squandered or a life wasted any less heartbreaking.
Dana Plato, whose downward spiral helped propel the theory that the hit sitcom Diff'rent Strokes was cursed, would have been 55 years old today. Instead, she's been gone for 20 years, having died of a drug overdose in 1999, a day after insisting on The Howard Stern Show that she had been sober for a decade, except for painkillers she took four months prior when she got her wisdom teeth removed. She even offered on the air to take a drug test.
The 34-year-old actress was on the show in the first place to rebut the claims of a former roommate who had previously called in and said Plato was back on drugs.
"I'm tired of defending my character," said Plato, whose missteps since the height of her fame had included being arrested for trying to rob a video store and spending a month in jail after she was caught forging prescriptions for Valium. "I am what I am. What you see is what you get."
"My life is so good now," she added. "I've never been happier."