herald

Friday 17 November 2017

Jackson leads tributes to Diff'rent Strokes star Gary

Singer Janet Jackson paid tribute today to former child star Gary Coleman, the pint-sized child star of 1970s TV sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, who died following a brain haemorrhage.

Coleman (42), who spent the rest of his life struggling on Hollywood's D-list, died yesterday with family and friends at his side after he was taken off a life-support machine.

He suffered the brain haemorrhage at his Utah home on Wednesday and was admitted to Utah Valley Regional Medical Centre.

Janet Jackson, who appeared on several episodes of Diff'rent Strokes, said on Twitter: "I want to remember him as the fun, playful, adorable and affectionate man he was.

"He has left a lasting legacy. I know he is finally at peace."

Best remembered for Diff'rent Strokes character Arnold Jackson and his "Whatchu talkin' 'bout?" catchphrase, Coleman chafed at his permanent association with the show but also tried to capitalise on it through reality shows and other TV appearances.

But his adult life was marked with legal, financial and health troubles, suicide attempts and even a 2003 run for California governor.

"I want to escape that legacy of Arnold Jackson," he said during his governorship run. "I'm someone more. It would be nice if the world thought of me as something more."

A statement from the family said he was conscious and lucid until midday on Thursday, when his condition worsened and he slipped into unconsciousness.

"It's unfortunate. It's a sad day," said Todd Bridges, who played Coleman's older brother Willis on Diff'rent Strokes.

"It's sad that I'm the last kid alive from the show."

Diff'rent Strokes debuted on NBC in 1978 and drew most of its laughs from Coleman, then a tiny 10-year-old with sparkling eyes and perfect comic timing. Diff'rent Strokes lasted six seasons on NBC and two on ABC and lives on thanks to DVDs and YouTube. But its equally enduring legacy became the troubles in adulthood of its former child stars.

Coleman was born in Zion, Illinois, near Chicago. His short stature added to his child-star charm but stemmed from a serious health problem -- kidney failure. He had his first of at least two transplants at five and required dialysis.

Even as an adult, his height reached only 4ft 8ins.





Pneumonia

After the show was cancelled, Coleman never regained more than a shadow of his old popularity. At one point he worked as a security guard.

Last year he had heart surgery complicated by pneumonia and in February he suffered a seizure on the set of The Insider.

hnews@herald.ie

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