Gary Coleman was an American actor, best known for being a child star on the television sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes”. He was born on February 8, 1968 in Illinois. He was adopted at birth by Edmonia Sue and W.G. Coleman. Coleman suffered from kidney disease from his childhood, and the steroids and medications used to treat it affected his physical development and left him stunted at a height of 4 feet and 7 inches. However, this became the most striking and distinguishing aspect of his personality. To overcome his kidney problems, Coleman went through two kidney transplants in 1973 and 1984. Unfortunately, both were unsuccessful and he required dialysis on a daily basis.
He began his acting career in 1974, appearing in commercials and making small appearances in television shows. Soon, he received the biggest and most important part of his life. This was the character of Arnold Jackson in the television sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes”. Arnold and his brother Willis (played by Todd Bridges) were two African American children adopted by a rich Park Avenue businessman named Phillip Drummond (played by Conrad Bain) and his daughter Kimberly (played by Dana Plato). The series launched the careers of all three child stars. The show was a huge hit and ran from 1978 to 1986.
Coleman was an integral part of the show and at one point, is reported to have earned up to $100,000 per episode. His character had a popular catchphrase on the show, and the show’s popularity made it a part of pop culture. His other roles included TV movies such as “On the Right Track” and “The Kid with the Broken Halo”. He was also the basis for Hanna-Barbera’s animated series The Gary Coleman Show in 1982. He made videogame appearances such as in “The Curse of Monkey Island” in 1997 and “Postal 2” in 2003. He also appeared in a music video by the wrestler John Cena for his song “Bad, Bad Man”. Coleman was a candidate for governor in the 2003 California elections, but himself voted for the actor Arnold Schwarzenegger who eventually won.
Coleman had a troubled personal life including family, health, legal and marital problems. He first sued his adoptive parents and business manager for misappropriating his trust fund money. He won the lawsuit and received $1.3 million in claims. However, he was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1999. One of the reasons for his cash crunch was medical bills to treat his kidney disease. He auctioned off some of his personal belongings to raise money and even took a job working as a mall security guard, which became the inspiration behind a Simpson’s episode featuring Coleman as himself. Coleman had several brushes with the law, including charges of domestic violence and assaulting fans.
Gary Coleman was a model train enthusiast and sometimes worked at stores specializing in model trains so he could fulfill his hobby. He was married to actress Shannon Price, whom he met on the set of “Church Ball” where she was working as an extra. The couple were married in 2007 but the marriage was rife with issues such as domestic violence and abuse, and they divorced shortly after. Coleman has admitted to attempting suicide twice by overdosing on pills. His health was precarious and he suffered not only from kidney disease but also underwent heart surgery, suffered from pneumonia and often had seizures. He died on May 28, 2010 at the age of 42.