Gary Coleman dies at 42
Gary Coleman, who soared to fame in the late 1970s as the child star of the hit sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” and whose post-TV-series life included a stint as a shopping mall security guard and an unlikely run for California governor, died Friday. He was 42.
Coleman died of a brain hemorrhage at a Provo, Utah, hospital, Friday afternoon, according to a hospital spokeswoman. The actor fell ill at his Santaquin, Utah, home Wednesday evening and was rushed by ambulance to a hospital, Coleman’s spokesman had said in a statement earlier Friday.
He was then taken to another hospital–Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo–later Wednesday night.
A resident of Santaquin, Utah, he had been hospitalized Wednesday and lost consciousness the next day. He was taken off life support Friday afternoon with his family at his side, the hospital said.
Born with failed kidneys, Coleman had undergone two transplants by age 14 and his growth was permanently stunted by the side effects of dialysis medications.
He was a precocious, chubby-cheeked elementary school student living in Zion, Ill., when a scout for TV producer Norman Lear spotted him in a Chicago bank commercial.
In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Coleman was one of television’s brightest stars, the personality around which NBC’s “Strokes”–the story of two inner-city children who are taken in by a wealthy businessman, his daughter and their housekeeper–was built.
His natural charm and way with a line–the frequently uttered “Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”, directed at his older brother (played by Todd Bridges), became a catchphrase–helped make the show a breakout hit, a mainstay of the NBC schedule from 1978 to 1985 (and on ABC for a year afterward).
But in later years Coleman’s name became a punch line. He was denigrated because of his short stature–he never grew taller than 4 feet 8 inches because of nephritis, a kidney condition. He sued his parents over mismanagement of his finances; though he won a $1.3 million settlement in 1993, he had to file for bankruptcy six years later. He was occasionally in the news for scuffles. He appeared on TV court shows and had a brief run for governor of California.
As the lovably outspoken 8-year-old Arnold Jackson, he was the comedic centerpiece of the series about two Harlem sons of a black housekeeper whose white boss, a wealthy widower, takes them into his Park Avenue penthouse after her death and later adopts them.