I was trying really hard not to kick off Memorial Day weekend on a sad note.
Gary Coleman, most famous for playing Arnold on the TV series “Diff’rent Strokes” in the late Seventies and Eighties, passed away yesterday due to a brain hemorrhage sustained during a fall at his home. He was 42 years old.
My first thought is, geez, how tragic. 42 years old is way too young for anyone to go. Not only that, but by most accounts the guy had alternately the best and worst hand possible dealt to him. As a kid, he was the toast of Hollywood. Then he grew up, couldn’t be taken seriously as an adult actor not only because of typecasting but because of his size, got raped financially by his parents, and had to deal with a lifelong health disorder that resulted in two kidney transplants by the time he was 18.
Folks are pointing to the curse of the “Diff’rent Strokes” kids, but these tragic endings seem to be prevalent among child stars in general. I can only imagine what a weird position being prodded by your parents to become a star can put you in. And by the time you’re smart enough to realize how manipulative the people closest to you are being or have been, you’re very likely already on the road to being discarded. I don’t know. Call me a bleeding heart, I kinda feel sorry for those folks.
I should also take a second and say that the amount of smart-ass comments and jokes being made about Gary posthumously are kind of tasteless and insensitive. Particularly amongst writers, there always seems to be a rush to see who can make the perfect obnoxious soundbite comment that’ll raise a fuss somewhere. The guy had a family and friends. He died under tragic circumstances. Show him a little respect. Golden rule and yada, yada, yada.
Anyway, off my soapbox. Gary gets my eternal props for being one of my first childhood idols. The first T-shirt I ever remember having with a famous person on it was an Arnold Jackson “What’chu talkin’ ’bout Willis” shirt. He was a talented guy who will be forever remembered as one of the biggest child stars in history. The world just got a little less funny with his passing.
These mini-sodes are pretty awesome, BTW.