On Friday, actor Gary Coleman died at the age of 42 after suffering a
brain hemorrhage. Coleman was best known for his starring role as
Arnold Jackson on the sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, which ran from 1978 to
1986. (Arnold's catchphrase--"What'choo talkin' bout, Willis?"--has
since become a part of the American pop culture lexicon.) In the years
after Diff'rent Strokes, Coleman made regular appearances on TV and in
film; he also suffered a number of highly publicized legal and
financial problems, including a lawsuit against his parents and an
arrest earlier this year for domestic assault. The news of his sudden
death has left fans stunned.
- Remember the Good Times Gawker's Brian Moylan gives a capsule history of Coleman's adult-life woes. However, he concludes that "instead of remembering Coleman as a sad cautionary tale about child stars gone bad, let's have a look at some of the reasons America fell in love with him in the first place"--followed by a few YouTube montages of Coleman as Arnold Jackson.
- The Consummate Professional Matt Schudel at The Washington Post writes that Diff'rent Strokes "was a comedic showcase for Mr. Coleman, who looked younger than his actual age because his growth had been stunted by a congenital kidney condition. On the set, he proved to be a thorough professional who could memorize his dialogue in a single reading and deliver it with perfect timing."
On Twitter, it was possible to find the expected mix of solemn sentiment and winking one-liners. From Columbia professor Marc Lamont Hill:
My heart goes out to Gary Coleman, whose life was filled with so much unmerited suffering, exploitation, and abuse.
From comedian Seth Herzog:
Gary Coleman's Dead? Whatchu talkin' 'bout TMZ?
From The Washington Post's Dave Weigel--first loopy, then snarky, then penitent:
In a parallel universe, Gov. Gary Coleman (I-Ca.) is in critical condition. (Yes, he ran in the recall.)
BREAKING: Emmanuel Lewis wins.
Look, guys, I joke about everything -- I'm glad Coleman, who had a rough life, ended it as a pretty beloved celebrity.
- Had a Sense of Humor About Himself A number of publications note that Coleman was always willing to joke about the turbulence in his personal life. "I parody myself every chance I get," Coleman is quoted as saying in an obituary published in USA Today this week. "I try to make fun of myself and let people know that I'm a human being, and these things that have happened to me are real. I'm not just some cartoon who exists and suddenly doesn't exist."