Gary Coleman dies at 42
'Diff'rent Strokes' actor was on life support in Utah hospitalGary Coleman, who shot to fame as the child star of the sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes" but suffered personal troubles as an adult, died in a Utah hospital on Friday after suffering a brain hemorrhage. He was 42.
Coleman gained stardom as the sharp-talking Arnold Jackson, adopted son of a wealthy New Yorker, in the hit series that aired from 1978-86 (the first seven seasons aired on NBC, and the final season was on ABC) and in syndication around the world. His line "What you talkin' 'bout Willis?," addressed to his brother on the series, became a pop culture catchphrase.
But when the show was taken off the air, Coleman saw his Hollywood star fade, and he suffered through financial, legal and domestic problems. The diminutive Coleman, who suffered from a congenital kidney disease that halted his growth, was hospitalized Wednesday after suffering an intracranial hemorrhage at his home in Santaquin, Utah. Media reports said he had fallen and hit his head.
"Gary is now at peace, and his memory will be kept in the hearts of those who were entertained by him throughout the years," his manager John Alcantar said.
Born Feb. 8, 1968, in Zion, Ill., Coleman was an adopted son who suffered a condition known as focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, an autoimmune disease that alters the kidneys. As a result, Coleman stopped growing at 4 feet, 8 inches and underwent two kidney transplants in his life.
But his size, coupled with his age, made him the perfect fit for the role of the funny, sassy and often emotional Arnold on "Diff'rent Strokes."
The show revolved around a 12-year-old girl and her rich white father, who adopted the two black sons of his housemaid after she died. Arnold was 8 years old and his brother, Willis, was 12 when they came to live with the Drummonds in an upscale Manhattan apartment.
Coleman's cute face and smart mouth -- he played the role of young Arnold when, in fact, he was roughly 10 to 18 years old -- quickly put him at the center of the show. He made millions of dollars from "Diff'rent Strokes" and from guest appearances on TV talk shows and other programs. U.S. cable television channel VH1 ranked him No. 1 among a list of "100 Greatest Kid Stars."
But Coleman never recaptured his fame after the show ended. As an adult, much of his work went straight to video, and he became a symbol of faded Hollywood stardom.
In 1989, he sued his parents and former manager for mishandling his finances, and for a time he worked as a security guard. In 2003, he made a failed bid to become governor of California in a recall election that eventually saw Arnold Schwarzenegger win.
Coleman also suffered legal troubles. In 1998, he was charged with assault after hitting a woman who asked for his autograph in one of several instances of disorderly conduct.
In January, he was arrested in Utah on a charge of domestic violence, but he and his wife remained married.