Saturday, May 29, 2010


Legendary actor/writer Gary Coleman died in a Utah hospital after suffering from a brain hemmorage. The legendary actor had fell in his Utah home and was taken to the hospital where he was at first listed in stable condition, but started to lose conscioness resulting with having to be place on life support. Sadly he never made it and he died leaving behind a legacy. Coleman was known for playing on the hit television show "Different Strokes" as Arnold Jackson, the son of a house keeper, who had asked her boss Mr. Phillip Drummond (Conrad Bain) to adopt him and his older brother Willis ((Todd Bridges) after she dies. The show had dealt with issues of race, class, and issues of childhood and acceptance, which became a hit along with Coleman's famous line 'Whatchoo talkin' bout Willis?"
While from 1978-1986. Coleman had won the hearts of millions with his comic timing, his acting skills and charm, but while he was bringing people joy, he was dealing with his own pain and heartache,
Coleman was born on February 8, 1968 in Zion Illinois and was adopted by by Edmonia Sue, a nurse and W.G. Coleman rep for a Pharmacy. Coleman was also diagnosed with a
congenital kidney disease caused by focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (an autoimmune destruction and alteration of the kidney), which halted his growth at an early age, leading to a small stature and resulted in him having two kidney transplants and receiving daily dialysis. Shortly before his tenth birthday, Coleman began to start in many commercials, but his big break came when he landed the role of Arnold Jackson on the hit award winning series "Different Strokes" as Arnold Jackson, the fun loving, outrageous and outspoken kid who along with his cool, outspoken and suave brother Willis is adopted by Phillip Drummond a wealth White Businessman and his teenage daughter Kimberly, after their late mother, Drummond's housekeep asked him to look after her sons if anything were to happen to her.
One the show Coleman's character was known for his urban swagger and catch phrase "Whatchoo Talking About Willis?" (He would also say that with other cast and in different situations) and while his character was lively, fun, and full of energy, he did have moments where he would speak his mind about issues that showed "Don't let my looks and age fool you. I do have common sense."
For his role, Coleman became a hit with young kids and received numerous awards and nominations for his role.
In his autobiography "Killing Willis" Gary's co-star Todd Bridges writes about how he and Coleman used to have fun on the set and the close bond they had during the first few seasons. He also writes about how Coleman was the little brother he never had.
While each of the cast had their own amount of fans, Coleman became very popular and began making guest appearances in on many television shows including "The Jeffersons" and "Good Times" as well as many hit television movies including "The Kid With The Broken Halo" with Robert_Guillaume and Thelma Hopkins. He played Andy Lebeau an Angel who was sent on Earth to help kids solve conflicts which later became the basis for the cartoon "The Gary Coleman Show" which became a hit. He also starred in the hit NBC television movie "Playing With Fire" where he played a African-American teenager in the suburbs, who had issues accepting his parents divorce would start fires in his home as a way to gain attention and to express his pain. Many fans and critics praised Coleman's performance in this classic saying that it was a great stretch for to showcase his acting skills by playing a serious and dramatic role.
Coleman had also wrote an episode for Different Strokes where his character was mugged, which resulted in him carrying a knife for protection.
After a 8 year run, the show was canceled, after taking time off to relax, Coleman began to write screenplays as well as making guest appearances on talk shows. He also made a guest appearance on the hit series "227" as a gangster once again winning rave reviews by the pubic, but he had a hard time making the smooth transition from child actor to adult star due to his height, and Hollywood casting directors and the fans refusal to accept and see him as a adult.
"I liked "Diff'rent Strokes" up until about the last three or four years. I was bored," he told CNN's Larry King in 1999. "I was disinterested, and I was jealous because I was missing my childhood and I was missing normalcy. I knew what normalcy was, and I wasn't having it."
In the television documentary movie "Behind The Camera: The authorized story of Different Strokes," the movie detailed the struggles the cast went through behind and off the scene with Coleman's parents being more focused on his career than his physical health as well as Coleman fighting with executives to make Arnold's character mature and deal with issues surrounding teenagers.
Bridges has admitted how his own issues with family and drugs was one damper that hindered their friendship, but in his autobiography, he writes how Coleman's parents (especially his father) was becoming egotistic, making demands and and they didn't like associating with too many Blacks when his fame began to rise.
Todd is on the money; Coleman's mother had tried to petition to court to be in charge of his finances.in 1989, Gary had begun to check his business affairs and despite receiving close to $100,000 an episode, he saw that he had less than a quarter of what he had earned, so in 1989, he sued his parents and business associate for misusing his funds and in 1993, he was awarded $1, 280.000.00, but had to file for bankruptcy a few years later due to legal fees. To supplement income for the guest appearances he began to make, he briefly took a job as a security guard and while shopping for an bullet-proof vest, he was he was arrested for attacking a autograph seeker, who claimed that he attacked her.
In several interviews and court footage shown on the E True Hollywood Story, Coleman stated that when the female asked for his autograph, he obliged and signed his mane and instead of being grateful, she was perturbed that he didn't write a special message and began to verbally abuse him and when he tried to ignore her, she started to get in his face and block his presence and with his height he rightfully became fearful that she was gonna attack him so he punched her.
He pleaded no contest and in addition to receiving a reduced sentence, was ordered to pay her $1,665 dollars. He also had settled a civil suit with a man who he had an altercation with at a bowling alley who took a photo of Coleman despite his objections. The case didn't get too serious due to both parties refusing to speak about the incident that took place in the bowling alley leading the altercation that happen in the parking lot that lead to his arrest.
He also had ran to be the Governor of California in 2003 and while he lost, he loved the challenge and opportunity to focus on the concerns of overs and being able to become an intelligent man.
"This is really interesting and cool, and I've been enjoying the heck out of it because I get to be intelligent, which is something I don't get to do very often," he said in the Associated Press.
Coleman had reunited with co-stars Dana and Todd in a parade in the late 1990's bringing smiles to everybody faces, and when Dana died from an accidental overdose of pain killers in 1999, both he and Todd provided comfort to her son, who died a few weeks ago. Gary and Todd had briefly reunited in the NBC movie documentary about "Different Strokes" where they narrated certain aspects of the show and appeared together in front of Dano's grave.
Gary had also made an appearance on "Divorce Court" where the judge had spoke encourage him and his wife actress Shannon Price to work on their marriage and despite issues they remained married until his recent death.
Many are sadden by the loss of this Icon including Icon Janet Jackson, who played his brother's girlfriend on the hit show. "He left an lasting legacy" the Icon Tweeted. "I know he's finally at peace."
"We are very grateful for all the wonderful support everyone has been extending to Gary's family. Coleman's wife Shannon said in a statement read by her brother. "Thousands of e-mails have poured in to the hospital. This has been so comforting to the family to know how beloved he still is. Thank you so much for all that you guys have done and for the support and prayers that you guys have given us.
In addition to his wife, Gary is survived by his parents, brother in law, cast members Conrad Bain, Todd Bridges, Janet Jackson, Shavor Ross, and Charlotte Rae.
When asked how did he fell about his career and about what people felt about him playing himself this is what he had to say.
"I parody myself every chance I get," he said. "I try to make fun of myself and let people know that I'm a human being, and these things that have happened to me are real. I'm not just some cartoon who exists and suddenly doesn't exist."

Funeral plans are still pending at the time of this writing


Donald Peebles said...

You really typed an excellent blog about the life of the late Gary Coleman, whom I watched on television growing up as Arnold Jackson on "Different Strokes" on NBC, ABC, the Fox-5 reruns at 5 PM from Monday-Friday, and on Nick At Nite. He was a cultural icon to me and millions. I remember "The Gary Coleman Show" which was the Saturday morning cartoon airing on NBC from 1982-1984. He made me laugh very much. I am saddened beyond recognition because I cannot believe he is really gone. He should've gotten his closure as a child actor transitioning into adulthood. Much of the White media buffooned him as a has-been but he was still legendary in African-American and White households. He did not get caught up in the Hollywood drug scene like Corey Haim, Brittany Murphy, and even Todd Bridges, who has been sober for many years and wrote a recent autobiography, KILLING WILLIS. He did not go out of control like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Mary-Kate Olsen, Jodie Sweetin, Drew Barrymore, and other celeb kids or Hollywood kids as author Jackie Collins termed for one of her best-sellers. Gary was even looked upon as a joke when he ran for Governor of California in 2003 against Arnold Schwartzenegger and porn actress Mary Carey. He was not a joke at all. He was just trying to his life separate from his Different Strokes past. He never celebrated the fruits of his labor due to legal and personal issues he had as a former Black child star, which Hollywood does not really care about - the trials and tribulations of Black child stars like him, Jaimee Foxworth, Marc Copage, Brenden Jefferson, etc. I will miss him very much.


Thanks for your comment Donald.
I enjoyed watching Gary Coleman on "Diff'rent Stroke" as well as his cartoon and he was a talented actor and a talented writer.
Many don't know that he wrote an episode for Different Strokes which dealt with an issue that's still happening in many neighborhoods; kids and teens carrying weapons for protection.
It's really sad that many casting agents used his size and looks against him, which was totally unfair. They should have looked beyond his stature and saw his talent. He couldn't play a kid for the rest of his life. I really felt that his show should have developed his character more during the time he was entering high school; and made it more mature and realistic. I admire him for not letting his legal issues force him to turn to drugs and alcohol like many child stars end up doing. I hope that his parents realize their wrong doings because if they would have paid more attention to his health, well being and would have really kept an eye on his money he wouldn't have become as bitter. I applaud him for not bashing his co-stars when they were battling drug addiction. He was a class act.