I saw Todd Bridges a few years back on one of Dr. Drew Pinsky’s shows on HLN. Todd is one of my many crushes from childhood. He went through a lot in his younger years and hopefully came out okay. He impressed me when he was on Dr. Drew’s show. Anyway, my blog today is about one of his shows that he was on in the 70’s.
Diff’rent Strokes was a sitcom about some old rich white dude and his daughter who take in two young black boys from Harlem. I guess the boys’ mom used to work for the rich dude. When she died, he adopted them. The show ran for eight seasons which was maybe a few too many, but I didn’t really watch the later years. The show had a lot of very special episodes which were always about some serious topic, many of which the young actors went through themselves later on in life.
Conrad Bain starred as Phillip Drummond, the rich Park Avenue businessman, father, and all around good guy. Bain had previous success on Maude and continued acting after Diff’rent Strokes in many different projects. He was married for over 60 years to his wife (she died in 2009) and had a twin brother who died in 2005. His last acting credit was The Fresh Prince of Bel Air in 1996. Bain died in 2013 at the age of 89.
Dana Plato played Phillip Drummond’s daughter, Kimberly. Kimberly was the perfect girl. Dana was not. Dana did some nasty things with her TV brother. She got knocked up during the series (not by Willis) and was written out in 1984. She did porn and posed in Playboy after she had her son. After that, she worked at a dry-cleaning store to make ends meet. Dana was arrested after robbing a video store of $164. She was arrested again for forging a prescription for Valium. Sadly, Dana died of an overdose in 1999 at the age of 34. Her son committed suicide 11 years later (almost to the day) by shooting himself. Sad.
Todd Bridges played older brother Willis Jackson. I had a crush on him as a kid when I saw him on some show my Dad used to watch. I think it was Fish, which was a spin-off of Barney Miller. After Diff’rent Strokes ended, Todd battled a crack cocaine addiction and got into all kinds of trouble. He was arrested for shooting at some guy and trying to kill him. Bridges later stabbed a guy in the chest but the charges were dropped because I guess he acted in self-defense. He released a book called Killing Willis and talked about his life as a child star and all the crap that came with it. I can’t remember what he said on Dr. Drew, but I think he had been sober for close to 20 years. Bravo. He’s a good guy and I’m rooting for him.
Gary Coleman played Arnold Jackson who became the most popular person on the show. Coleman suffered from a kidney disease and required daily dialysis. Because of his disease, he only grew to be 4 feet 8 inches tall. He led a bizarre and sad life once Diff’rent Strokes ended. He sued his parents, filed bankruptcy, tried unsuccessfully TWICE to commit suicide, punched a chick in the face when he was working as a security guard, tried to run over some dude at a bowling alley, and many other nasty things. Coleman died at 42 from a “fall”. There was something weird going on there with his wife or ex-wife or whatever she was. I hope he’s in a happier place now where he’s standing big and tall. Click here to read my blog on him.
Diff’rent Strokes Trivia
- Arnold’s goldfish was named Abraham.
- Mr. Drummond paid $3,500 a month for his Park Avenue apartment. That’s a lot to me now in 2019. The $3,500 was back in the 80’s. Yikes.
- The original title for the show was 45 Minutes From Harlem.
- Janet Jackson played Willis’ girlfriend on the show.
- “Hello, Larry” with McLean Stevenson was a spin-off of Diff’rent Strokes.
- The Facts of Life, one of the best shows ever, was also a spin-off of Diff’rent Strokes.
- The name of the show came from a line out of Sly & The Family Stone’s 1968 hit “Everyday People”. Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks.
- Gary Coleman was a character in the musical Avenue Q. I think the song about him was something like “It sucks to be you”. Nice.
There have been talks about how Diff’rent Strokes was cursed. What do you think? I previously wrote about how I thought the show Eight is Enough was cursed. Click here to read that blog. With only Todd Bridges still alive from the main cast of Diff’rent Strokes, it makes you wonder….
What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?