Carlo Allegri/Getty Images
by Joal Ryan | Fri., May. 28, 2010 5:30 PM
Carlo Allegri/Getty Images
Gary Coleman has died.
The Diff'rent Strokes star succumbed at 12:05 p.m. (MST) today at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center to a brain hemorrhage suffered at his home Wednesday, a statement from his management firm said. He was 42.
"Conscious and lucid" yesterday morning, per the statement, the former child star was on life support by Thursday afternoon.
"Family members and close friends were at his side when life support was terminated" today, the statement said.
From 1978 to 1986, Coleman cracked wise as perennial kid Arnold Jackson on the sitcom Diff'rent Strokes. His timing, chubby cheeks and catchphrase ("Whatchu talkin' 'bout?") helped make Coleman the highest paid child actor of his era.
A one-kid powerhouse, Coleman fronted his own Saturday morning cartoon show, bantered with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, worked with Lucille Ball, and hosted first lady Nancy Reagan on a famous 1983 anti-drug episode of Diff'rent Strokes. He starred in the big-screen comedies Jimmy the Kid and On the Right Track, the latter of which traded on his real-life love of trains, and cranked out TV-movie (The Kid from Left Field) after TV-movie (The Kid with the Broken Halo) after TV-movie (The Kid with the 200 I.Q.). For four straight years, from 1980-1983, Coleman was named Favorite Young TV Performer at the People's Choice Awards.
Coleman's acting career all but ended with the onset of adulthood. He, along with his prime-time siblings, Todd Bridges and Dana Plato, who suffered their own post-sitcom troubles, became the symbol, and punchline, of former child stardom, sparking talk of the so-called "Diff'rent Strokes Curse."
Plato died in 1999 at age 34 of a drug overdose that was ruled a suicide. Her only child, son Tyler Lambert, took his own life earlier this month, near the 11th anniversary of Plato's death.
Bridges, in and out of trouble for so many years, settled down, and settled into a career as a working actor, with a recurring role on Chris Rock's Everybody Hates Chris. Now 45, he published a memoir in March. The book was named after his Diff'rent Strokes alter ego: Killing Willis.
Coleman never did kill Arnold Jackson. Even in middle age, he still looked like his classic Diff'rent Strokes self, his height long ago stunted by treatment related to his near-lifelong struggle with failed kidneys. Unable to break free, Coleman basically played himself in TV and film cameos. Outside of Hollywood, he hosted a radio show, opened (and closed) a video arcade, worked as a security guard and auctioned off a pair of his own pants on eBay. He arguably achieved his greatest post-Strokes success as a candidate for governor of California. In the state's 2003 free-for-all recall election that saw Arnold Schwarzenegger rise to power, Coleman finished a strong eighth, with more than 14,000 votes.
In 1990, Coleman sued his parents and an ex-manager for allegedly bilking him of his Diff'rent Strokes fortune. In 1993, he was awarded $1.3 million, only a portion of what he was said to have earned at his peak; he filed for bankruptcy six years later. In 1998, he was arrested for punching a fan who allegedly had insulted him.
In 2007, Coleman, who once outed himself as a thirtysomething virgin to a magazine, wed Shannon Price, a "fabulous eBayer," as he described her, whom he'd met on the set of a low-budget spoof comedy. The marriage seemed a volatile one. Both were arrested, she in 2009, he this past January, on domestic-violence charges. The two aired their grievances on Divorce Court in 2008.
Born Feb. 8, 1968, in Zion, Ill., Coleman launched his prime-time career at age 9 after catching the eye of producer Norman Lear. He made guest spots on The Jeffersons and Good Times before landing Diff'rent Strokes.
In January, shortly after Coleman suffered the first of two seizures that struck him this past winter, he spoke to E! News of a future he saw as vast, even hopeful.
"I haven't had the highest highs and the lowest lows yet. I'm still looking for that," Coleman said. "I got 40 years in me yet. I ain't going nowhere.
(Originally published May 28, 2010, at 12:02 p.m. PT)
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