With his success on Diff’rent Strokes, Gary Coleman earned more than any other child actor of the ’70s or ’80s. He was heralded as the next great thing in comedy by industry icons like Bob Hope and Lucille Ball. But, Gary Coleman’s untimely demise and decades of deterioration eventually overshadowed his early achievements.
During his life, the former child star who made the phrase “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” famously battled substance abuse, legal issues, and marital strife. Later in life, Gary Coleman ran into several problems that landed him in court and the tabloids, including financial difficulties that led to his working as a mall security guard.
After falling down the steps at his house in Santaquin, Utah on May 24 and falling into a coma, Gary Coleman passed away on May 28, 2010. The circumstances surrounding Gary Coleman’s death have been questioned by others, though.
Gary Coleman Death
Even after losing both of his parents, Gary Coleman continued to have problems. In the first five years after his relocation to Utah in 2005, officers responded to over twenty calls related to him.
Around this time, Coleman allegedly made another suicide attempt by taking an overdose of Oxycontin. PEOPLE reported in 2008 that Coleman was embroiled in a conflict with his wife, Shannon Price, and a fan who claimed Coleman had attacked him at a bowling alley.
Sadly, 2010 was not a good year for Coleman. After undergoing cardiac surgery, he had two seizures earlier this year. The set of the talk program The Insider was the site of one such seizure.
Then on May 26, 2010, inside his Utah home, Coleman fell down the stairs, hitting his head and passing out.
When Price discovered him, she contacted 911 to report that blood was “everywhere.” Coleman had a large gash on the back of his skull, but he came to for a while. When the police came on May 26, he was cooperative and told them he couldn’t recall the events.
A gurney was waiting for Coleman when he got to the garage, and he was able to go there with assistance. After spending the night in the hospital, his condition deteriorated later that day.
On the morning of May 27, reports indicated that Coleman was alert and coherent, suggesting that he may make a full recovery. His health deteriorated further that afternoon, and he went into a coma.
On May 28th, Gary Coleman’s life support was turned off. The circumstances of Coleman’s death were also contentious. Several tabloids instantly speculated that her choice to discontinue life support amounted to murder given his tumultuous relationship with Price (despite their divorce, she was still a frequent presence at his house).
Price didn’t help matters when she claimed that she and Coleman had been living as common-law husband and wife notwithstanding the divorce and that she was thus entitled to his wealth. According to People, Coleman’s will stated that he did not want anybody with a financial interest in him to attend his burial. However, the dispute over his wealth was so contentious that his family decided against holding a funeral for him.
In The New York Times obituary, just before Gary Coleman’s death, he was quoted reflecting on how rough his life after child stardom had been.
“I would not give my first 15 years to my worst enemy,” Coleman. “And I don’t even have a worst enemy.”
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Gary Coleman Becomes A Breakout Star Thanks To ‘Diff’rent Strokes’
Coleman, the adoptive son of nursing practitioner Edmonia Sue and forklift operator W. G. Coleman, was born in Zion, Illinois in 1968. Coleman debuted as an actor in a commercial for Harris Bank in 1974. In the same year, he guest-starred in the CBS drama Medical Center. Coleman was a regular guest star on The Jeffersons and Good Times.
Coleman had an appearance on the first episode of The Little Rascals in 1977. While the revival wasn’t followed up, it was nonetheless a watershed event for Coleman’s career. An executive took note of Coleman, and he was eventually cast as Arnold Jackson in the Diff’rent Strokes television series. The drama was about a white widower from Manhattan who adopted two black youngsters from Harlem.
Coleman allegedly earned $100,000 each episode during his stint on Diff’rent Strokes. Coleman had five Young Artist Award nominations, of which he won two. He also received the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Young TV Performer four times in a row, from 1980 to 1983.
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