Another star falls: Gary Coleman dies at age 42
Gary Coleman, the child star of the TV's Diff'rent Strokes whose later career was marred by medical and legal problems, has died after suffering an intercranial hemorrhage. He was 42.
The actor reported fell at home earlier this week and was rushed to the hospital where he underwent surgery. Following the operation, Coleman was placed on life support. Utah Valley Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Janet Frank says life support was terminated and Coleman died at 12:05 p.m. MDT.
Coleman became a star after Diff'rent Strokes debuted in 1978. He played the younger brother in a pair of African-American siblings adopted by a wealthy white man. (Tragically, other stars in the show ran into tough times of their own. Dana Plato committed suicide in 1999. Todd Bridges had legal woes early on, but works on TV today.) It was on this show that he developed the catch-phrases always associated with him: "Whatchoo talkin' bout?"
His popularity faded when the show ended after six seasons on NBC and two on ABC. VH1 ranked Coleman No. 1 on their list of "100 Greatest Kid Stars." The cable network E! ranked him 10th among cutest child stars all grown-up.
THE EARLY DAYS: He was reportedly discovered by Norman Lear who signed him to appear in a revival of The Little Rascals, which was never produced. Coleman first appeared on TV on Medical Center in 1974. But his star rose after appearances on The Jeffersons and Good Times. At the height of its popularity, Coleman earned $100,000 an episode. He also appeared in a few feature and made-for-TV movies, including The Kid with the Broken Halo and On the Right Track. He also guest-starred on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Silver Spoons, Amazing Stories, Facts of Life, Simon & Simon and Married with Children.
HIS SMALL STATURE: Coleman suffered from a congenital kidney disease that halted his growth at an early age. He never grew taller than 4-foot-8. Early in his life, he went through two kidney transplants and required daily dialysis.
THE BEGINNING OF HIS TROUBLES: Coleman sued his parents and former manager over misappropriation of his $3.8 million trust fund in 1989. Even though he won the case, he filed for bankruptcy 10 years later. In the mid-90s, he told Geraldo that he twice tried to commit suicide by taking sleeping pills. In 1998, when he was working as a security guard, he was charged with assault after punching a female fan. Despite his troubles, he ran for governor of California in 2003 after Gray Davis was recalled. He finished eighth.
AN UNUSUAL MARRIAGE: In 2007, Coleman married his 22-year-old girlfriend, Shannon Price. A year later, they both appeared on Divorce Court. Police in Utah were called several times to mediate domestic disputes between the two. They were still married at the time of his death. According to the National Ledger, Price was by his side when he died.
HIS FAMILY'S STATEMENT: This statement was issued by his family today, according to the AP: "At times it may not have been apparent, but he always had fond memories of being an entertainer and appreciates his fans for all their support over the years." Aside from his wife Shannon, Coleman is survived by his parents W.G. Coleman and Edmonia Sue Coleman of Zion, Ill.