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."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.