Gary Coleman Dies…

Written by on May 28, 2010 in News - Comments Off on Gary Coleman Dies…

Child Star, ’70s Icon Gary Coleman Dies At 42

by NPR Staff and Wires

Richard Drew/AP

Gary Coleman during a February 2008 appearance on the NBC Today program.

 Former child TV star Gary Coleman died Friday afternoon at a Utah hospital, shortly after lapsing into a coma following a hemorrhage that caused bleeding inside his skull.

Coleman, who came to national attention as the centerpiece of the 1970s sitcom Diff’rent Strokes, suffered the hemorrhage Wednesday at his home in Santaquin, Utah, 55 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Utah Valley Regional Medical Center released a statement on behalf of Coleman’s family that said Coleman was conscious and lucid until midday Thursday, when his condition worsened and he slipped into unconsciousness. Coleman was then placed on life support.

Coleman endured continuing ill health from a kidney disease he suffered as a child. He had at least two kidney transplants and ongoing dialysis.

On Wednesday, an ambulance was called to Coleman’s home. He was initially transported to Mountain View Hospital in Payson, the nearest medical facility, said Dennis Howard, Santaquin’s director of public safety.

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The family statement said Coleman was later moved to the regional medical center in Provo for additional tests and treatment.

The hospital did not give details on Coleman’s condition beyond calling it an intracranial hemorrhage, which is bleeding inside the head.

Coleman had continued to work in TV, commercials and film, but was most closely associated with his long run as the character Arnold Jackson on Diff’rent Strokes, which aired from 1978 to 1986. Arnold and his older brother, Willis — played by Todd Bridges — were inner-city black children adopted by a rich white man who was also the single father of a teenage daughter.

Improbable as the premise might have seemed, the show managed to win an audience, largely on the strength of Coleman’s on-screen magnetism.

Fixing a fierce, skeptical gaze on his older brother, Coleman’s Arnold would frequently deliver the signature line: “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”

Sadly, Coleman, Bridges and co-star Dana Plato all suffered significant off-screen problems. Bridges struggled with a cocaine addiction and ran afoul of the law, though he has rebounded to continue in TV roles. Plato died of a 1999 prescription drug overdose that was ruled a suicide.

Beyond his health issues, Coleman had a string of financial and legal problems, which his family acknowledged in its statement, citing “difficulties … with his personal and public life.”

“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,” the family said.

Coleman — who also ran for governor of California as one of 135 candidates in the state’s bizarre recall election — had moved to Utah in 2005 to star in the movie Church Ball. It was a comedy based on basketball leagues formed by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He met his wife, Shannon Price, on the movie set and married her in 2007.

Last fall, Coleman had heart surgery complicated by pneumonia, said his Utah attorney Randy Kester.

In February, Coleman also suffered a seizure on the set of The Insider.

Includes reporting from NPR’s Howard Berkes and The Associated Press