Gary Coleman died today from head injuries. He was 42.
At one time one of television’s most popular performers, Coleman struggled to find a place for himself after “Diff’rent Strokes” left the air. The show was about a wealthy single white father of a young girl who became the guardian for two black children. Coleman, who looked much younger than his real age due to kidney disease and its treatment, captivated audiences with his smart aleck-y bravado. The show was controversial for its patronizing portrayal of race and class differences but was a mainstream success and was selected by then-first lady Nancy Reagan for an appearance on behalf of her “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign, one of several “very special” episodes.
After the show ended, all three of the young stars had difficulties. Todd Bridges and Dana Plato both developed drug problems. Plato died of a drug overdose and her son recently committed suicide. Coleman sued his parents for taking the money he had earned. He had difficulty finding work. He filed for bankruptcy and was charged with assault.
May he find peace at last, and may his memory be a blessing.