This is the first time I’ve posted twice in the same day but I felt this should be added. We lost another television personality from my younger viewing days this past week. Gary Coleman, known for his signature question of his big brother…”What you talkin’ about, Willis!” and for his diminutive stature, died from a brain hemorrhage suffered after a fall at his home in Utah. Said to be lucid and talking when taken to the hospital, his condition took a turn for the worse and he slipped into unconsciousness then had to be placed on life support. Coleman was just 42. At the time of his death he was married to Sharon Price and was said to still be estranged from his parents. The three young cast members of “Different Strokes” included Coleman along with Todd Bridges and Dana Plato as his two siblings. The lives of all were marred in the years after the series with problems.
While Ms. Plato’s problems with drugs and her eventual overdose were well documented in the news; Todd Bridges, who played the older brother of Coleman’s character, was tried and acquitted of murder charges and is also said to have endured years of drug abuse. Coleman, whose short stature was said to be the result of kidney problems suffered as a young child, had undergone at least two kidney transplants as well as dialysis. He had several run-ins with the law and even a failed run for governor of California. He was estranged from his parents for quite some time and had been bitter about his early fame making it hard for him to get other work in acting. Typecast, he was always asked to repeat his signature line and often refused.
Some have called it the curse of “Different Strokes”. In a somewhat related matter, Dana Plato’s son, Tyler Lambert, took his own life this year shortly before Mother’s Day. It was reported he struggled with drug use while trying to cope with his mother’s death.
Bridges, the only remaining living regular young cast member, has written his autobiography and continues to do minor work in television. He has also lectured to young people about the dangers of drug abuse.
Rest in Peace Gary,