Gary Coleman 1968-2010

Tonight, the world of classic TV has lost one of its most recognisable faces. Gary Coleman, most famous for playing wise-cracking Arnold Jackson in Diff'rent Strokes and for his infectious, and unforgettable catchphrase "Whatchoo Talkin' Bout Willis?" has died.

The former child starpassed away at 12:05 p.m local time, today at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center having been on life support after suffering a brain hemorrhageat his home on Wednesday, according to a statement released earlier tonight. He was just 42. Some commentators might point to Coleman's death as the latest development in the so-called "Diff'rent Strokes Curse", which had supposedly already claimed co-star Dana Plato, as well as her son Tyler Lambert who both committed suicide (11 years apart), and had made sure Willis himself- Todd Bridges- had been in and out of trouble following the end of Diff'rent Strokes. But others might say that Coleman's premature death is just the latest in a line of personal tragedies that were highly publicised and occassionally made the child-star the butt of some callous jokes, from his 1990 law-suit against his parents, to his banruptcy in 1996 and arrest for alleged assault in 1998, and the final strange circus that was his marriage to sometimes actress Shannon Price. Whatever his personal problems, Coleman will be forever remembered as the epitome of the American child star, his wit and hugely recognisable face making him a staple part of the American TV diet throughout the Diff'rent Strokes run, and ensuring some impressive subsequent moments of celebrity (including fondly rememberd appearances on The Tonight Show and his own cartoon show). Aside from Diff'rent Strokes, Coleman starred in the big-screen comedies Jimmy the Kid and On the Right Track, and made a huge amount of largely forgetable TV-movies like Scouts Honour,The Kid with the Broken Halo and Like Father, Like Santa. Coleman never really got away from his Diff'rent Strokes role, which was a tragedy of his physical appearance, his youthful features and diminutive height seemingly frozen by treatment related to his near-lifelong struggle with failed kidneys. It was as if his body was a perpetual snapshot reminding him of the successes that were behind him. Recently Coleman took to essentially just appearing as himself for TV and film cameos, while away from the screen he hosted a radio show, opened (and closed) a video arcade, worked as a security guard and auctioned off a pair of his own pants on eBay. In a similarly atypical developmnt, Coleman also ran as a candidate for governor of California, eventually finishing eighth behind Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003. The most tragic aspect of all comes from the mouth of the troubled star himself, in an interview given to E! News in January, shortly after he had suffered two seizures that winter:
"I haven't had the highest highs and the lowest lows yet. I'm still looking for that...I got 40 years in me yet. I ain't going nowhere.
For fans, the words will ring true, and it is a small mercy that Coleman will be remembered more for his on-screen work than for the troubles of his private life.
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