What’chu talkin’ ‘bout Willis? I loved Gary Coleman when he first came on the scene in the late 70’s. He was so adorable and had great comedic timing. I loved watching him on Diff’rent Strokes.
Gary Wayne Coleman was born on February 8, 1968 in Zion, Illinois. His birth mom was homeless and had to give Gary up. He was adopted by Willie (fork lift operator) and Sue (nurse practitioner) when he was just a few days old. They discovered early on that he had medical issues with his kidneys. The medication that was used to treat his kidney disease made him appear childlike. His face retained his prepubescent chubby cheeks and his growth was stunted to 4’8”.
While Gary is best known for his role as Arnold Jackson on Diff’rent Strokes, he did do other things before and after. He did a commercial and a few small parts on shows before getting his Arnold Jackson role. Diff’rent Strokes ran from 1978 to 1986. He did a few movies after the show ended. Then life kind of sucked for him. He said in a 2001 interview, “I would not give my first 15 years to my worst enemy.” It’s sad, because I think those were his best years.
Gary Coleman was thrilled when Diff’rent Strokes ended because he was looking forward to starting the rest of his life. He said, “I want to escape that legacy of Arnold Jackson. I’m someone more. It would be nice if the world thought of me as something more.” It’s hard to not be typecast when you look the same and invented a catchphrase.
- Gary Coleman had two liver transplants. The first was in 1973 and the second in 1984.
- Howard Stern once asked him if he had experienced oral sex. His response was, “No! That’s not a place for a young woman’s face to be.”
- Gary Coleman was ranked #1 in VH1’s list of the “100 Greatest Kid Stars”.
- In 2005, he was ranked #10 in E’s cutest child stars all grown up.
- Coleman sued his parents and was awarded 1.28 million dollars in 1993.
- He briefly owned a video game arcade in Fisherman’s Village in Marina Del Ray, California. It was called Gary Coleman Game Parlor. He says he lost $200,000 with that business venture.
- He moved to Denver, Colorado in the 90’s and hosted a radio show called Gary Coleman’s Colorado High.
- Gary Coleman appeared on The Geraldo Rivera Show in 1993 and admitted he had tried to commit suicide twice by taking sleeping pills.
The Beginning of the End
- Gary Coleman filed for bankruptcy in 1999. He then started working as a security guard to earn money.
- Coleman appeared on Court TV in 2000. He was being charged with assault and battery from when he worked as a security guard.
- Gary Coleman was a candidate for governor in the 2003 California recall election.
- He moved to Utah (outside Salt Lake City) in 2005 where he resided until his death.
- Was married to Shannon Price from 2007-2008.
- He was cited for misdemeanor disorderly conduct in 2007 when he was in a heated discussion (code for yelling) in public with his wife.
- Gary Coleman and Shannon Price appeared on Divorce Court in 2008 in an attempt to save their marriage.
- Coleman was cited again in 2008 when he backed his truck into a guy he was arguing with at a bowling alley.
- He was cited once again in 2009 for disorderly conduct when arguing with his ex-wife.
- Gary Coleman underwent heart surgery in 2009 and then developed pneumonia.
- He was arrested in 2010 on an outstanding domestic assault warrant and spent the night in jail.
- He was hospitalized in January and February of 2010 after suffering seizures.
- In May of 2010, Coleman was hospitalized after falling down the stairs in his home (possibly after another seizure). He died on May 28, 2010 at the age of 42.
I remember seeing Gary Coleman on a talk show (Dinah Shore’s show, I think) when Diff’rent Strokes was just starting. He made everyone laugh and was just so darn cute. After the interview, they presented him with a train set. It’s been over 40 years, but I still remember the absolute joy and gratitude he showed. He cared way more about his new train than being on TV. I’m sad he didn’t always have that joy. I hope he’s happy and in a better place.