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Gary Coleman
GaryColemanE3May05.jpg
Coleman in 2005
Born
Gary Wayne Coleman

(1968-02-08)February 8, 1968
Died May 28, 2010(2010-05-28) (aged 42)
Occupation
  • Actor
  • comedian
Years active 1974–2010
Works
Full list
Spouse(s)
Shannon Price
(m. 2007; sep. 2008)
Partner(s) Shannon Price (2008–2010)

Gary Wayne Coleman (February 8, 1968 – May 28, 2010) was an American actor and comedian. Coleman was the highest-paid child actor on television throughout the late 1970s and 1980s. He was rated first on a list of VH1's "100 Greatest Kid Stars".

Coleman was best known for playing the role of Arnold Jackson in the sitcom Diff'rent Strokes (1978–1986), which he reprised in numerous other television series such as Hello, Larry (1979), The Facts of Life (1979–1980) and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1996), among others. For playing the role of Arnold, he received several accolades, which include two Young Artist Awards; in 1980 for Outstanding Contribution to Youth Through Entertainment and in 1982 for Best Young Actor in a Comedy Series; and three People's Choice Awards; a consecutive three wins for Favorite Young TV Performer from 1980 to 1983; as well as nominations for two TV Land Awards.

Coleman's stardom resulted in several roles thereafter, including his film debut On the Right Track (1981), the comedies Jimmy the Kid and The Kid with the Broken Halo (both released in 1982), the cult film Dirty Work (1998), the satirical-comedy film An American Carol (2008) and the independent film Midgets vs. Mascots (2009). He was the star of The Gary Coleman Show (1982) where he voiced Andy LeBeau, and he additionally provided the voice of Kevin in the animated show Waynehead (1996–1997). He also starred in the video games The Curse of Monkey Island (1997) and did some voice acting and motion capture for Postal 2 (2003).

Early life

Gary Wayne Coleman was born in Zion, Illinois, on February 8, 1968. He was adopted by W. G. Coleman, a fork-lift operator, and Edmonia Sue, a nurse practitioner. Due to focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a kidney disease, and the corticosteroids and other medications used to treat it, his growth was limited to 4 ft 8 in (142 cm), and his face kept a childlike appearance even into adulthood. He underwent two unsuccessful kidney transplants in 1973 and again in 1984, and required dialysis.

Coleman was an avid railroad fan, and he later worked part-time at Denver-area, Tucson-area, and California hobby stores to be around his hobby. Coleman built and maintained miniature railroads in his homes in several states throughout the 1990s. Currently, at least one of Coleman's model railroads is being preserved in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Coleman lived in Santaquin, a small town about 50 miles (80 km) south of Salt Lake City, Utah, from 2005 to the remainder of his life.

Career

In 1974, Coleman's career began when he appeared in a commercial for Harris Bank. His line (after the announcer said, "You should have a Harris banker") was "You should have a Hubert doll." "Hubert" was a stuffed lion representing the Harris bank logo. The same year, he appeared in an episode of Medical Center. In 1977, Coleman appeared in a pilot for a revival of The Little Rascals as Stymie, which ultimately ended up not getting picked up as a series. His work on the Little Rascals pilot caught the attention of an executive, and in 1978 Coleman was cast as Arnold Jackson in Diff'rent Strokes, playing one of two black brothers from Harlem adopted by a wealthy white widower in Manhattan. After the premiere, Diff'rent Strokes became a hit, and ran for 8 seasons, ending in 1986.

Nancyreagandiffrentstrokes
The cast of Diff'rent Strokes with guest star Nancy Reagan in 1983

Coleman received recognition and praise for his work on Diff'rent Strokes; for his role he received five Young Artist Award nominations, of which he won two, and won the People's Choice Awards for Favorite Young TV Performer four years in a row, from 1980 to 1983. At the height of his fame on Diff'rent Strokes, he earned $100,000 per episode, and he became known by his character's catchphrase "What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?", uttered skeptically in response to statements by his brother Willis, who was portrayed by Todd Bridges. According to Bridges' autobiography Killing Willis, Coleman was made to work long hours on the set of Diff'rent Strokes despite his age and health problems, which contributed to his being unhappy and separating himself from the rest of the cast. A Biography Channel documentary estimated that Coleman was left with a quarter of the original amount of money he received from his years on Diff'rent Strokes after paying his parents, advisers, lawyers, and taxes. In 1989, Coleman sued his adoptive parents and former business advisor for $3.8 million for misappropriating his trust fund and won a $1.28 million judgment in 1993.

Coleman had appeared on The Jeffersons as Raymond, George Jefferson's nephew, and on Good Times in 1978 as Penny's friend Gary. Along with his work on Diff'rent Strokes, Coleman began working in films, first appearing in the baseball comedy television film The Kid from Left Field in 1979. In that same year, he made a guest appearance on the science-fiction show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a time-displaced whiz kid named Hieronymous Fox; a role he would reprise in a later episode in Season 2 of the series (in 1980). In 1981, Coleman made his feature film debut with the comedy On the Right Track, headlining as Lester, a young shoeshine boy who achieves fame for having a talent for gambling on horses. The film was received with mixed reviews, with critics stating that the film rode nearly entirely on Coleman's credibility and presence; however, the film was a commercial success, and his performance was praised. He next starred in Jimmy the Kid (1982). The film was financially successful, but received resoundingly negative reviews, with critic Roger Ebert writing "... movies like this don't really have room for brilliant performances. They're written by formula, cast by computer and directed by the book, and when a little spontaneity creeps in, it seems out of place."

ColemanSpencerFields80
Danielle Spencer, Coleman, and Kim Fields at the NAACP Image Awards at the Hollywood Palladium on December 7, 1980

Coleman starred in the television film The Kid with the Broken Halo. The film served as the basis for The Gary Coleman Show in 1982, where Coleman had the lead voice role as Andy LeBeau, an angel in training who comes to earth to help others and gain his wings. Coleman voiced the role Kevin in the animated show Waynehead, which ran from 1996 to 1997. He also voiced Kenny Falmouth in the video game The Curse of Monkey Island in 1997, which gained him attention, being one of the first few major mainstream actors to appear in a video game. He had ventured into politics, and in the 2003 California recall election he was a candidate for governor. His campaign was sponsored by the free newsweekly East Bay Express as a satirical comment on the recall. After Arnold Schwarzenegger declared his candidacy, Coleman announced that he would vote for Schwarzenegger. Coleman placed 8th in a field of 135 candidates, receiving 14,242 votes.

In 2003, Coleman portrayed a fictional version of himself in the video game Postal 2 (2003). The second game in the Postal franchise, it received a cult following following its release, and brought Coleman much attention. In 2005, Coleman appeared in John Cena's music video for his single "Bad, Bad Man" (from the album You Can't See Me) and played himself as a villain taking Michael Jackson and Madonna hostage. The video was a spoof of 1980s culture, focusing on The A-Team. Coleman's final television role was a voice role in the animated series Robot Chicken. His final film roles were starring as Charles Higgins in the sports comedy film Church Ball (2006), appearing as a slave in the satirical comedy film An American Carol (2008), and appearing as Gary in the comedy film Midgets vs. Mascots (2009).

Personal life

Gary Coleman cropped
Coleman in 2007

In early 2007, he met Shannon Price, 22, on the set of the film Church Ball, where she was working as an extra. Price and Coleman married several months later. On May 1 and 2, 2008, they made a well-publicized appearance on the show Divorce Court  to air their differences in an attempt to save their marriage. Nevertheless, they divorced in August 2008.

Death

Coleman died at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, Utah on May 28, 2010, aged 42. He had been admitted two days earlier after falling down the stairs at his home in Santaquin and striking his head, resulting in an epidural hematoma.

Legacy

Postal 2 E3 2003
Coleman promoting Postal 2 at E3 2003

Coleman is frequently listed as one of the most influential child actors in the world. He was rated first on a list of VH1's "100 Greatest Kid Stars" on television, and was noted by MTV for having an "Undeniable Impact on Pop Culture." Mike Hogan from Vanity Fair wrote on his career, saying "He was unquestionably a superstar, overshadowing them with his radiant charisma and boundless energy, but the kidney condition that enabled him, even as a teen, to play the world's most precocious little brother on TV also complicated his life in ways most of us will never understand." Actress Lucille Ball stated in a 1980 interview with People magazine that although she rarely watched sitcoms, "I love Gary Coleman. He puts me away. He puts everybody away."

Randy Kester—Coleman's attorney—told Dallas News in 2010, "The world's going to be a little less happy place without Gary. For being a small guy, he sure had a big impact on the world."

Works and accolades

Throughout his career, Coleman had garnered over sixty acting credits, and over eighty television appearances. For playing the role of Arnold Jackson in the sitcom Diff'rent Strokes (1978–1986), he received several accolades, which include two Young Artist Awards and three People's Choice Awards; the latter being a consecutive three wins for Favorite Young TV Performer from 1980 to 1983; and nominations for two TV Land Awards.

Year Award Category Work Result Ref.
1979 Young Artist Awards Best Young Actor in a Television Series Diff'rent Strokes Nominated
1980 Young Artist Awards Outstanding Contribution to Youth Through Entertainment Himself Won
1980 People's Choice Awards Favorite Young TV Performer Diff'rent Strokes Won
1981 People's Choice Awards Favorite Young TV Performer Diff'rent Strokes Won
1981 Young Artist Awards Best Young Comedian – Motion Picture or Television Diff'rent Strokes Nominated
1982 Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Actor On The Right Track Nominated
1982 Golden Raspberry Awards Worst New Actor On The Right Track Nominated
1982 Young Artist Awards Best Young Actor in a Comedy Series Diff'rent Strokes Won
1982 People's Choice Awards Favorite Young TV Performer Diff'rent Strokes Won
1983 Young Artist Awards Best Young Actor in a Comedy Series Diff'rent Strokes Nominated
2003 TV Land Awards Quintessential Non-Traditional Family (shared with cast) Diff'rent Strokes Nominated
2004 TV Land Awards Quintessential Non-Traditional Family (shared with cast) Diff'rent Strokes Nominated

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Gary Coleman para niños

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