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whatchu talkin bout willis...? Gary Coleman dead at 42
May 28, 2010 12:08 PM   Subscribe

Child actor, former California gubernatorial candidate, and former security guard Gary Coleman passed away today.
posted by kaszeta (160 comments total)

 
Whatcha talkin bout Willis?
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posted by ericb at 12:09 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


!
posted by From Bklyn at 12:09 PM on May 28, 2010


Little dude's been sick for ages. Not sure why he never got a kidney transplant.
posted by Gungho at 12:11 PM on May 28, 2010


Well, I never cared for that show, or his catch phrase, or the ironic resurgence in his popularity these last few years, but it is always sad when someone dies so young and from what sounds like a simple accident. RIP Mr. Coleman.
posted by m0nm0n at 12:11 PM on May 28, 2010


How could someone with such a sunny personality die so young?

Seemingly a very unhappy person. Hoping he finds peace.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:11 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by Mach5 at 12:12 PM on May 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


Opps, sorry I see that he had two before he was 14. Guess they were kinda old though, having lasted nealy 30 years.
posted by Gungho at 12:13 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by ghharr at 12:13 PM on May 28, 2010


Wow. That's too bad.
Little dude's been sick for ages. Not sure why he never got a kidney transplant.
He did, according to one of the linked articles. When he was 14.
posted by chococat at 12:13 PM on May 28, 2010


I wonder how the producers of "Avenue Q" are going to handle this. Making fun of Gary Coleman is a large part of the show.
posted by ColdChef at 12:13 PM on May 28, 2010 [10 favorites]


From Wikipedia:

He underwent two kidney transplants, one in 1973 and one in 1984, and required daily dialysis.

Dude had FGS, which doesn't actually have a viable cure. They can keep putting new kidneys in, and the scarring will keep happening.

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posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:14 PM on May 28, 2010


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He'd had at least two kidney transplants in the last ten years, Gungho.
posted by ursus_comiter at 12:14 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by chillmost at 12:14 PM on May 28, 2010


FSGS, sorry.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:15 PM on May 28, 2010


Goodnight, funnyman.
posted by fixedgear at 12:15 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by Halloween Jack at 12:15 PM on May 28, 2010


Aww bummer. Shit, no joke him and Todd Bridges were the only black kids I "knew" growing up in my white bread enclave. I always loved that show. RIP GC.
posted by vito90 at 12:16 PM on May 28, 2010


What's really strange is that now Conrad Bain has a decent chance of outliving all of his co-stars. It's just down to him and Todd Bridges.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:16 PM on May 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


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posted by whatnot at 12:18 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by brundlefly at 12:19 PM on May 28, 2010


There was an ancient sitcom star
Who stoppest on the way
And in his sad and cruel demise
We gather here to pray.
The shortened stature of the man,
His denim-clad neurosis:
The sad result of forty years'
Glomerulosclerosis.
He held us with his glitt'ring phrase
That classic interrogative,
And lest we should forget, recall:
Our fun was his perogative.
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posted by The White Hat at 12:19 PM on May 28, 2010 [25 favorites]


Loved the show when I was a kid, sad to hear about this. I knew he had some hard times like a lot of child actors do, but I didn't know he had so many health problems his whole life.

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posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:20 PM on May 28, 2010


Now, the world don't move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you, may not be right for some.

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posted by applemeat at 12:20 PM on May 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


Now i have the theme song for Different Strokes stuck in my head!
RIP Arnold.
posted by ramix at 12:20 PM on May 28, 2010


That's a lot of medical stuff to go through. Wish life had been a little easier on him.
posted by angrycat at 12:21 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


The internet is forlorn.
posted by turaho at 12:21 PM on May 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


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@Mach5: I see what you did there.
posted by schmod at 12:22 PM on May 28, 2010


I'll always remember Gary as the guest star of the last truly memorable Simpsons episode, Grift of the Magi.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 12:23 PM on May 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


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It is my fondest hope that he isn't remembered for the last film he was in, but for the first.

If you want to see him at his worst, it's that last film. I won't even mention the name. It's rather like the producer of Bumfights hired Coleman and then did everything except put black face on and call him nigger while poking him with a stick. (This may actually be in the film.) If you want to see him justifiably angry, see it, but be warned, it's not funny at all.
posted by Catblack at 12:23 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


This feels like a Very Special Episode of Metafilter.
posted by bondcliff at 12:23 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by jsavimbi at 12:23 PM on May 28, 2010


I truly cannot overstate what a huge "Diff'rent Strokes" fan I was growing up. If you're familiar with Coleman's biography at all, he really got a raw deal from his parents who (allegedly) took/stole much of his "Diff'rent Strokes" fortune. Sad.
posted by The Gooch at 12:23 PM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


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I loved Diff'rent Strokes. It was my favorite thing to watch on Nick at Night.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:24 PM on May 28, 2010


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(... man, the child actors on that damn show have had such, such rough lives)
posted by Auden at 12:24 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


. for one of the first "celebrities" I could identify as a kid. I remember thinking the Diff'rent Strokes/Webster gimmick* was pretty creepy but thought he was awesome and entertaining enough that it didn't matter. His breaking of the fourth wall at the end of one Simpsons episode was a high point of one of my best Xmasses ever but that's another story

* which also made me freak out a bit over the connection between our pleasure, the performers' pain, and who was profiting in what way. Now I work in pro wrestling :\

posted by jtron at 12:25 PM on May 28, 2010


whatyoutalkinaboutwillis.com was the first domain name I ever registered. The best picture ever really was, to me. Damnit, this is a sad day.
posted by Brak at 12:26 PM on May 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


man, the child actors on that damn show have had such, such rough lives

I think you could say this about child actors in general, really. Or is it mostly child actors from the 80s? Maybe I just notice it more because they're the child actors of my own childhood.

Either way,

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posted by elizardbits at 12:27 PM on May 28, 2010


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Don't walk into that bike shop Gary!
posted by sourwookie at 12:28 PM on May 28, 2010


Back in 2006, my then boyfriend worked at an antique billiards store, where I often helped out answering phones. Gary Coleman loved Backgammon. One day he came in wearing a holey navy blue t-shirt and some shorts. He looked like he had been out in the yard working.
I was behind the counter answering phones while my boyfriend was in back loading a poker table for a customer. I greeted Gary like I greet everyone that walks in the store. I told him that the someone would help him shortly. He told me that I was beautiful and asked if I had a boyfriend. I told him thank you and yes I do have a boyfriend. He proceeded with, "Does your boyfriend buy you clothes, cars, jewelry, anything you want?" I was a little taken back from the question. I told him money can't by love and he smiled at me and agreed with me. He then told me that if I ever wanted a man to spoil me rotten then to contact him. WOW!

I will live with that memory forever. Gives me a good laugh. My thoughts are with his wife and family.
posted by zombiehoohaa at 12:29 PM on May 28, 2010 [39 favorites]


I wonder how the producers of "Avenue Q" are going to handle this. Making fun of Gary Coleman is a large part of the show.

Indeed, although there are probably enough former actors living in obscurity that they could pick someone else and re-write the jokes accordingly. As I recall, other than a "Whatchootalkinbout Willis?" gag, the jokes aren't so much about Coleman per se as the idea of a celebrity-has-been.
posted by briank at 12:29 PM on May 28, 2010


(... man, the child actors on that damn show have had such, such rough lives)

One of the interesting parts of the E True Hollywood story documentary was the difference between the casts of Diff'rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. The studios were right next to each other, and on one side, you had sex and drugs and crazy stage parents, and on the other side, Mrs. Garrett and the girls were totally normal, friendly and familial. No stories about Blair and Jo in a catfight. Natalie wasn't wasted. Tootie didn't turn up in a sex video. Weird.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:31 PM on May 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


I used to work at an In-N-Out in LA that had a lot of celebrities coming through, and he used to come through drive-thru all the time. He always wanted his fries precisely between "normal" and "well-done". One time he warned me that there were some guys in a van out back he was sure were up to no good and that I should probably call the cops. He came off as a little bit of a busybody, but I just figured he wanted to be useful. I always wanted to say something to the effect of "I'm sorry for the raw deal you have gotten in life, and you have my sympathy and support", but I thought he'd probably just get mad, and figured that the best I could do for him was just be polite and attentive to his fast food needs.

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posted by anazgnos at 12:31 PM on May 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


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I was hoping one day he'd perform in a production of Avenue Q.
posted by cmfletcher at 12:31 PM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Slide Shows:

Oakland Tribune: Remembering Gay Coleman

Washington Post: Gary Coleman: 1968 - 2010


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posted by zarq at 12:32 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


posted by The Gooch

I hope the Gooch and Arnold had a chance to put their differences behind them before he passed on.
posted by chillmost at 12:34 PM on May 28, 2010


I loved Diff'rent Strokes. It was my favorite thing to watch on Nick at Night.

Man, I'm old.
posted by empath at 12:35 PM on May 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


Stay classy, UGO.
posted by MegoSteve at 12:35 PM on May 28, 2010


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I saw him at Allied Model Trains in Culver City the summer of 2003. I was with my girlfriend of the time and she told me to go to the next aisle over to see Gary Coleman. I went over and we locked eyes and he gave me one of the dirtiest looks I'd ever received once he knew that I knew whom he was.
posted by wcfields at 12:35 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by Joey Michaels at 12:36 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by Mitheral at 12:36 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by shakespeherian at 12:36 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by kuppajava at 12:37 PM on May 28, 2010


This opening for The Gary Coleman Show animated series is a little sad now.
posted by MegoSteve at 12:38 PM on May 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


What's really strange is that now Conrad Bain has a decent chance of outliving all of his co-stars. It's just down to him and Todd Bridges.

It is always sad when a TV parent outlives their TV kids. I'll miss ya, Mr. Coleman.

"Three prawns are hardly a galaxy!"
posted by chemoboy at 12:42 PM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


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posted by stoneweaver at 12:44 PM on May 28, 2010


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Countdown to when the "widow" starts making the talk show rounds...
posted by fuse theorem at 12:45 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by jonp72 at 12:45 PM on May 28, 2010


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This means that two of the people Ookla the Mok wrote songs about on oh okay LA are now dead. I hope Cher is all right.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:51 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by item at 12:54 PM on May 28, 2010


It's just down to him and Todd Bridges.

Charlotte Rae is still alive.
posted by badger_flammable at 12:55 PM on May 28, 2010


badger_flammable: "It's just down to him and Todd Bridges.

Charlotte Rae is still alive.
"

As is Mary Jo Catlett, aka Pearl the maid, aka Mrs. Puff.
posted by peep at 12:58 PM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


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I was somewhat surprised to hear the woman he married at 40 was the first woman in his life. I know he had his troubles and issues, but I hope that means he got to experience love at least once.
posted by Jeeb at 12:58 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


posted by wcfields I saw him at Allied Model Trains in Culver City the summer of 2003.

I saw him there, too, sometime in the early 80s!
posted by mattdidthat at 12:59 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by candyland at 12:59 PM on May 28, 2010


Mortal after all.
posted by Avenger at 1:00 PM on May 28, 2010


RIP Gary.

A friend of mine recently had a birthday party for Charlotte Rae.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:01 PM on May 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'll always remember Gary as the guest star of the last truly memorable Simpsons episode, Grift of the Magi.

Coincidentally, Bart wrote "I will not sell my kidney on eBay" on the chalkboard in that episode.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:13 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't thought about Gary Coleman since the time I shot him in the face in Postal 2.

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posted by Pope Guilty at 1:16 PM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


People they come together.
People they fall apart...


I'm always surprised to see him in that video by Moby.
posted by the Real Dan at 1:20 PM on May 28, 2010


RIP, Gary Coleman: Let's hope you're remembered for the right reasons
posted by The Gooch at 1:21 PM on May 28, 2010


Vanity Fair: Remembering Gary Coleman Without Irony
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:23 PM on May 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


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really? why?
posted by JoeXIII007 at 1:33 PM on May 28, 2010


What was his first movie? Also, I don't get why he always looked as a kid - was there something done to him to keep him on the show? Was it a medical condition that he already had going in to it? Just how old was he on Different Strokes?

It can be fun to make fun of Gary Coleman, and he indulged in it himself a little at times, but here's hoping he's remembered as a person and not as a punch line.
posted by heathkit at 1:36 PM on May 28, 2010


I was somewhat surprised to hear the woman he married at 40 was the first woman in his life. I know he had his troubles and issues, but I hope that means he got to experience love at least once.
posted by Jeeb at 3:58 PM on May 28 [1 favorite +] [!]


According to a recent interview on Howard Stern, Gary may have died a virgin. He was a bit evasive, but the gist of it was he couldn't 'perform' because of his many medical problems.
posted by Gungho at 1:36 PM on May 28, 2010


Just a few days ago:
"Tyler Lambert, the 25-year-old-son of late “Diff’rent Strokes” actress Dana Plato, has committed suicide, according to several reports. (...) Lambert’s suicide, on May 6, was just two days shy of the 11th anniversary of his mother’s death."
posted by iviken at 1:38 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by Skygazer at 1:42 PM on May 28, 2010


Also, I don't get why he always looked as a kid - was there something done to him to keep him on the show? Was it a medical condition that he already had going in to it? Just how old was he on Different Strokes?

He started on the show when he was ten. I've linked information on his specific kidney disorder above, but reduced kidney function in kids often results in short stature.

Despite everything else you might've heard about Hollywood, I'm pretty sure no one in the industry was having things "done" to child actors to keep them looking like kids back in the '80s.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:43 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are two important things I've learned from popular entertainment that are diametrically opposed to all that popular entertainment teaches us. They are both hard to keep to, and I believe they are absolutely vital to human survival in western society.

The first is about anger. In Lawrence Block's terrific book of short stories, Hit Man, the eponymous hitman is approached by a potential client who has been wronged in some awful fashion, I forget what. The client outlines the source of his rancor and asks hypothetically what the world-weary hitman thinks he should do about it. "Forgive and forget?" the hitman suggests. Obviously, the advice goes unheeded, or there'd be no story. But really: Who do you want to be in this story, the red-faced asshole with a laundry list of grievances, or the totally chill assassin? Because he's not kidding: He knows how this movie ends. So. Lesson one.

The second is about fame. We're all supposed to want it. Do you want it? I can't imagine why. What you should, by all rights, want is money. Fame without money is an ugly thing indeed -- fame without money is basically infamy. If people just forgot about you, you might be okay. But if you can't lead a normal life, and also can't afford to lead a life of wealth and shelter, you are vulnerable to all kinds of awful shit. So. Lesson two.

I never really thought the way Coleman's life played out was funny, or saw anything cute or ironic or what have you about it at all. I'm just glad he didn't end up selling any of his own teeth on eBay or something. His death seems like something that could have happened to anybody. I wish the poor guy had been allowed more dignity in life.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:45 PM on May 28, 2010 [23 favorites]


What you talking 'bout everybody.
posted by weezy at 1:51 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by Iridic at 1:53 PM on May 28, 2010


Well hell. That's too bad.

Tonight, I will attempt to watch Dirty Work in his honor, if for no other reason than that he was probably one of the best parts of the film.

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posted by quin at 1:57 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by h0p3y at 1:58 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by rahnefan at 1:59 PM on May 28, 2010


R.I.P. Gary.

Let me be the first to propose the conspiracy theory that Nancy Reagan is a black widow. First, Michael Jackson dies, now Gary Coleman, and I'd watch my back if I were Mr. T!

(if you're too lazy to click the links, they are all pictured with Nancy Reagan)
posted by Frank Grimes at 1:59 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by condour75 at 2:00 PM on May 28, 2010


whatyoutalkinaboutwillis.com was the first domain name I ever registered. The best picture ever really was, to me. Damnit, this is a sad day.

I've had that picture hanging on my wall at work for a decade. It's pretty much the only thing hanging on my walls that isn't depicting a cell signaling pathway. Truly the best picture ever.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 2:04 PM on May 28, 2010


My cousin's wife had similar issues with her kidneys but lived longer than Gary. It makes for a difficult life.

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posted by tommasz at 2:06 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by Pecinpah at 2:09 PM on May 28, 2010


I was just watching the "very special" kidnapping episode online, and caught myself chuckling out loud at Gary Coleman's one-liners. As contrived as it all was, he was a funny actor.
posted by evilcolonel at 2:10 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by hoodrich at 2:10 PM on May 28, 2010


The Summer of Death starts earlier every year.
posted by Flashman at 2:11 PM on May 28, 2010


I wonder how the producers of "Avenue Q" are going to handle this. Making fun of Gary Coleman is a large part of the show.

I did not read it that way. I doubt that they asked permission, but I also felt that their imagining of him was sort of affectionate and funny and not mean. It MUST have sucked to be him.

To whit.
posted by Danf at 2:15 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


What you talking 'bout everybody

I totally spent the last twenty minutes trying to find a clip of that.

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posted by domographer at 2:16 PM on May 28, 2010


The guy went through a LOT, even for a child actor, and decades later was still publicly upbeat and able to laugh at himself and his strange career. I'm old enough to have seen him on first-run eps of Diff'rent Strokes when I was a kid, it was one of the first sitcoms I remember wanting to watch every week, and Gary Coleman was basically the main reason. He had a lot of problems but he was a talented actor and he seemed like a really decent guy, at least from this distance.

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posted by chaff at 2:17 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by phaedon at 2:17 PM on May 28, 2010


hm... not so "Diff'rent" after all.

sorry, I'm a very bad person today.
posted by drfu at 2:19 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by Ink-stained wretch at 2:28 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by eunoia at 2:28 PM on May 28, 2010


Shame. I loved him in Office Space.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 2:30 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by gomichild at 2:33 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by New England Cultist at 2:34 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by disclaimer at 2:39 PM on May 28, 2010


chaff said what I had been thinking.

I hope he is at peace now.

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posted by killy willy at 2:43 PM on May 28, 2010


Dixie Carter passes away, then a few weeks later so does Coleman, her co-star on "Diff'rent Strokes" for a year or two. Hopefully Conrad Bain can pull it out so we can put the "law" of threes to rest.
posted by inturnaround at 2:47 PM on May 28, 2010


i remember liking him way back when he did the harris bank ad here in chicago. couldn't find link to the commercial.

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posted by lester's sock puppet at 2:54 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by tuck_nroll at 3:02 PM on May 28, 2010


It's a sad day. RIP Gary.

"Watcha talkin bout" has gotta be the catch phrase from 80s TV that will live on with that audience for decades. I love the idea of saying it to my grandchildren, laughing loudly, and having them thinking crazy.
posted by about_time at 3:02 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by liza at 3:06 PM on May 28, 2010


Avenue Q pays tribute to Gary Coleman

Posted by: Official_Press_Release 05:23 pm EDT 05/28/10
In light of the death this afternoon of actor Gary Coleman, the musical
AVENUE Q --in which Gary Coleman is depicted as one of the show's characters --
have issued the following statement.

"The creators, producers, and company of 'Avenue Q' are terribly saddened
to hear of the death of Gary Coleman, whose tremendous gifts brought delight
and inspiration to audiences around the world. While everything in life may
be only for now, we suspect that Gary's legacy will live on for many years
to come. Gary's memory will certainly endure in the hearts and minds of those
of us who live on 'Avenue Q.'"

Tonight (5/28) when the show concludes at 10 pm, AVENUE Q at New World
Stages, Danielle K. Thomas who portrays Mr. Coleman in the musical will pay a
tribute to him from the stage.

New World Stages is located at 340 W. 50 St. in Manhattan.

AVENUE Q -- a musical about 20-somethings who move to NY with big dreams
and tiny bank accounts -- will soon enter its 7th straight year of its run in
NYC.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:18 PM on May 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


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I loved Diff'rent Strokes as a kid. Somehow, I had no idea that it started five years before I was born. Strange.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:50 PM on May 28, 2010


Whatchutalkin' 'bout, life?

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posted by bwg at 4:15 PM on May 28, 2010


It's a silly thing but Gary Coleman's catchphrase inspired my husband's nickname for me (and consequently mine for him). I misheard him when he asked me over twenty years ago, "whatchatalkingabout Willis?" and wanted to know why he called me Louis, which he still does, and which I also call him, which is nothing like our real names. I didn't know until today that Gary and I were only 6 months apart in age, but I have often felt for him.
posted by b33j at 4:23 PM on May 28, 2010


I love Avenue Q but it seems just a touch cynical for the producers to be sad at his passing when the show belittles him, especially when he never received any compensation for it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:33 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really sorry to hear about this

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posted by dabug at 4:37 PM on May 28, 2010


No that's not enough...I'm actually really upset by this, I feel like I've grown up with him, we're practically the same age so I've "known" him forever.

...
posted by dabug at 4:40 PM on May 28, 2010


I was somewhat surprised to hear the woman he married at 40 was the first woman in his life. I know he had his troubles and issues, but I hope that means he got to experience love at least once.
posted by Jeeb at 3:58 PM on May 28

According to a recent interview on Howard Stern, Gary may have died a virgin. He was a bit evasive, but the gist of it was he couldn't 'perform' because of his many medical problems.
posted by Gungho at 3:36 PM on May 28


I hope he experienced love, as well, but I don't give a shit if he could have sex or not. Not everyone thinks sex and love is the same thing.

Obit threads on MetaFilter often get contentious comments if they are about a polarizing figure; many who thought the deceased was a terrible person, and/or bad influence on society, say so, while others hold to the idea that one should not speak ill of the dead. But in my years here I've never seen someone show up in an obit thread--for no perceivable reason--to comment on whether the person in question could perform sexually.

What the hell.

On topic, thank you, Mr. Coleman. You were a good comic actor, you got a raw deal from your parents genetically, emotionally, and financially, and you died too young.

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posted by tzikeh at 4:58 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


blazecock - that's been bugging me too. gary coleman tried unsuccessfully (or at least made a lot of noise about trying) to sue avenue q. for them to be all "pay tribute! come see our show!" is really nothing short of gross. if they really wanted to pay tribute, they would rewrite that character, send compensation to his estate, and apologize - or admit that they don't really care about him or respecting him and continue on with the show.
posted by nadawi at 4:59 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by Carillon at 5:00 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by Wuggie Norple at 5:00 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by mike3k at 5:05 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by The Great Big Mulp at 5:06 PM on May 28, 2010


Hit "post" too soon. My point was that this thread is *not* the kind of thread where I would expect a crappy comment like that, since Gary Coleman wasn't exactly a personality who evoked extreme feelings that might inspire sneering, nasty, or immature responses to his death.
posted by tzikeh at 5:07 PM on May 28, 2010


Hollywood is not good for just about anyone.

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posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:08 PM on May 28, 2010


I queued up at E3 to play against Gary Coleman in some video game he was there helping to promote. Soul Calibur, I think? He didn't seem to want to be there. I could tell that he was distracted by all the folks gawking at him and taking photos and laughing behind his back. I eventually stepped out of line as I didn't feel comfortable about facing off against him in the state of mind he was in and adding to his humiliation. Poor guy.

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posted by cazoo at 5:21 PM on May 28, 2010


My little brother died in '84, also a kidney kid. They tend to be short. The picture of smiling picture Gary Coleman in HuffPo's obit shows another interesting physical characteristic they often have in common: low-set ears. Imagine a line drawn from the opening of one ear to the other. For most folks, that line will be very close to parallel with the one connecting their eyes. In Gary's (and Johny's case), the eye line is pretty close to the top of the ears.

R.I.P., little guy.
posted by phrits at 5:30 PM on May 28, 2010


My mom lives across the street from Mr. Coleman's parents. They are very polite, his father has mowed his neighbor's lawn for like the last 20 years, they live in a modest house and are very private down to earth people.

I don't know what happened with all the income issues and lawsuits, but whatever the case, it seems to me that Mr. Coleman had been taken advantage of his entire life.

I just picture some lawyers somewhere laughing all the way to the bank, because his parents certainly don't have money, and it is obvious he didn't have much either or he wouldn't have been making appearances at E3 shows, taking security guard jobs etc.

The animosity generated by those events, and the loss of simple parental guidance and love had an obvious effect on his life.

Rest in peace, sometimes death is a relief.
posted by Max Power at 5:49 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


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posted by cashman at 5:58 PM on May 28, 2010


badger_flammable & peep: yes, I meant the family though (although I guess Mrs. Garrett could be considered part of the "family" for the first season).
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:58 PM on May 28, 2010


My own favorite memory of Coleman isn't Diff'rent Strokes (which: you want an odd moment? listen to that song again – it's both written and sung by the dad from Growing Pains) ...

... it's "The Fantastic World of D.C. Collins." He did this sort of Walter Mitty-esque kid-spy-thriller movie. It really was a great little film; I still remember it fondly.

I hope Dana's showing him around right about now.
posted by WCityMike at 6:18 PM on May 28, 2010


Wow, to add to the suckage, I was reading Dana's Wikipedia article and saw this at the end:
On May 6, 2010, Plato's son Tyler Lambert committed suicide in Tulsa, Oklahoma, nearly 11 years to the day after his mother's suicide and three days before Mother's Day.
posted by WCityMike at 6:23 PM on May 28, 2010


I remember being around seven, watching TV with my folks, and we stumbled upon this show with two black kids, a white father and a goldfish and I immediately dug it, even though we tuned in after the credits, so I had to wait till the end to know what I was watching. But, I dug the little smartass (and his brother and sister, too). He was only a few years older than me, and as someone who's had kidney problems, It's impressive that he lasted as long as he did.

So, if there's a heaven I hope you're at the gates saying "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout St Peter?"
posted by jonmc at 6:26 PM on May 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


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posted by contessa at 7:19 PM on May 28, 2010


He had really funny one liners on Buck Rogers. RIP. And Different Strokes was one of the worst television ideas of all time.
posted by Flex1970 at 7:47 PM on May 28, 2010


Flex1970: Different Strokes was one of the worst television ideas of all time.

Listen, man, the world don't groove to the beat of just one drum. What might be wrong for you might not be wrong for some.
posted by WCityMike at 7:59 PM on May 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


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posted by Smart Dalek at 8:01 PM on May 28, 2010


Dude had FGS, which doesn't actually have a viable cure. They can keep putting new kidneys in, and the scarring will keep happening.

isn't this what NBA players like Alonzo Mourning and (to a lesser degree) Shaq have been developing, apparently due to their staggering use of NSAIDs? yeah, we need better pain and injury management solutions for athletes and everyone else too.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:10 PM on May 28, 2010


I think he was quite a good comic actor, but he was definitely somewhat challenged in the social skills department.

I've never forgotten an appearance Molly Shannon made on Conan O'Brien back in the 90's, and the story she told of how Gary Coleman made some, um, advances toward her.
posted by orange swan at 8:35 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


God this sort of thing makes me sadder and sadder as I get older. Not even the death, so much, as that has to come for all of us sooner or later, but the retrospection about what we all have done to these people. Coleman had a tough, tough life, but in some ways I suspect that the fame may have helped him as much as it hurt. Without it I doubt he would've been able to keep going as long as he did, for one, and hopefully it brought him in touch with people who loved him, where otherwise he may have jsut gone unnoticed and lost in the world's cruel shuffle.

I wish I knew more details about the Avenue Q stuff. I love the show, and never felt like it acted mean-spiritedly towards him. They also claim that they contacted him about playing the role, and that he expressed interest but never showed up for a meeting. Coleman's quote of "I wish there was a lawyer on Earth that would sue them for me," is odd to me, though, if only because there would have been scads of lawyers willing to do so if he'd honestly been looking. It seems more to me like another sad footnote towards the end of a very sad life.

He was a great comic actor, and reportedly a nice guy. One of my friends also played against him at E3, where Coleman was kicking everyone's asses at Dead or Alive. Sucks to be reduced to that walking side-show kind of existence, though.

The moral is that fame sucks if you're not prepared for it. And children are rarely if ever prepared.

Rest easy now, good sir,

.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:38 PM on May 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aww, poor guy. He had a tough life.

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posted by Mael Oui at 9:53 PM on May 28, 2010


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posted by dirtdirt at 10:54 PM on May 28, 2010


And another piece of my childhood is gone. (I loved Diff'rent Strokes!)

RIP, Gary.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:26 PM on May 28, 2010


I grew up watching his show with my step-brother. We loved the show, but it was difficult looking back on it and finding much ironic humor in the way things ended up for him and the other kid stars on that show. He never seemed to find peace with himself, but at least he was able to salvage something out of it and didn't end up like Dana Plato.

Gary Coleman was only two years older than I am. Sorry for laughing at you, dude. I was just a kid, and I guess that's how he got the job. But it probably didn't help.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:21 AM on May 29, 2010


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posted by zaelic at 1:23 AM on May 29, 2010


Different Strokes was one of the worst television ideas of all time.

It was about a rich white man who had two pet black kids. It's actually hilarious in the "how low can humanity sink" sense.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:23 AM on May 29, 2010


Far from seeing himself in the governor's chair, Gary Coleman instead imagines an altogether alternative universe, how his life might have been blissfully perfect as a nobody.
posted by availablelight at 4:33 AM on May 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Lindsay Naegle: I'm sorry, Gary. There's no longer a place for you here.
Gary Coleman: Whatcha talkin' 'bout, Miss Naegle?
Lindsay Naegle: That is so adorable! You're rehired.
Gary Coleman: Sucker! I knew exactly what she was talkin' 'bout.


RIP, Gary.
posted by Palquito at 5:07 AM on May 29, 2010



I wonder how the producers of "Avenue Q" are going to handle this. Making fun of Gary Coleman is a large part of the show.

I did not read it that way. I doubt that they asked permission, but I also felt that their imagining of him was sort of affectionate and funny and not mean. It MUST have sucked to be him.


NYTimes: ‘Avenue Q’ Deals With Death of Gary Coleman

Despite some very serious consideration that “Avenue Q” would require significant revision or have to drop the role altogether, Mr. Whitty said that Gary Coleman, the character, would live on in the musical.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:43 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


‘Avenue Q’ Deals With Death of Gary Coleman
posted by ColdChef at 8:44 AM on May 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Someone owes someone else a Coke. I can't say 'jinx' for you.
posted by ericb at 9:09 AM on May 29, 2010


There was a particular episode of Diff'rent Strokes where Coleman's character takes a shop owner to small claims court over a broken toy train. After some wisecracking the judge goes, "you can call me your honor". The response? "And you can call me your Arnold."

This sent me 9 year old brain reeling. Was it possible that Gary Coleman's character was named Arnold and the entire show up to this point was a setup for this one joke? All of this made me lose faith in the security that I thought adults provided me. It was my first real taste of the concepts of destiny and predestination as well as cynicism and futility. If our paths are already established and immutable, what's the point in doing -anything-? Do I LIKE cartoons or am I watching them because I'm supposed to be watching them? This was some heavy shit for a little kid.

So Gary Coleman frequently pops into my thoughts when I think about the situations that let me to the present, whenever and wherever that may be.

.
I hope, at some point in your life, you were able to break free of the script and choose your own path.

best line ever? To the Soviet ambassador: "You can walk up to a cliff, Andropov!".
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:39 AM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Palquito: Lindsay Naegle: I'm sorry, Gary. There's no longer a place for you here.


(In case anyone can't place where this is from.)
posted by WCityMike at 9:39 AM on May 29, 2010


It's curious, and sad I guess that, only now in death is Gary Coleman returned in the collective memory to the wise-beyond-his-years, smart alecky, cute little kid that we first knew him as...

There was no way that character was ever going to mature in any sort of healthy manner, short of becoming a reclusive spiritualist of some sort.

Also, it brings home that the man, was King, well Prince (Carson was the King), of the TV airwaves for a few years there and was as big as the Fonz or Vinnie Barbarino.
posted by Skygazer at 10:33 AM on May 29, 2010


In other news, the law of threes, invoked by the universe once again: Cultural icon, Dennis Hopper dead at 74.


I'd do an FPP, but I'm sure someone is putting together a much better one than I would come up with right this minute.
posted by Skygazer at 10:36 AM on May 29, 2010



posted by availablelight at 11:50 AM on May 29, 2010


Of all the bad hands people have been dealt in life, of the people who I have known up close, compared to the starving in Mongolia, Gary had as about a rotten combination as anything I’d seen. I won’t give the details, but there was very much a horrifying tragedy about his life, a desperation that I think at age 16, was too big for us his classmates to comprehend or take in.
posted by availablelight at 11:50 AM on May 29, 2010


Skygazer: In other news, the law of threes, invoked by the universe once again: Cultural icon, Dennis Hopper dead at 74. I'd do an FPP, but I'm sure someone is putting together a much better one than I would come up with right this minute.

It's the American Carol curse. Next up, Jon Voight.
posted by WCityMike at 12:50 PM on May 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Someone owes someone else a Coke. I can't say 'jinx' for you.

Having grown up in New England, my gut said JINX! But the heart is with the folks in Louisiana.
posted by R. Mutt at 3:04 PM on May 29, 2010


I always felt bad for him. I'm not saying maybe he didn't play the victim but at the same time, he was the victim of circumstance, the butt of a joke, and bad situations. His parents screwed him over --- baffling to me---everyone did the whole "whatchyou talkin' about" and not taking him seriously, etc. I would be one pissed off, angry person too.

Maybe death did him a favor so he could finally be at peace.
posted by stormpooper at 7:05 AM on June 1, 2010


There was a particular episode of Diff'rent Strokes where Coleman's character takes a shop owner to small claims court over a broken toy train. After some wisecracking the judge goes, "you can call me your honor". The response? "And you can call me your Arnold."

That same episode featured the hilarious (to my obviously very sophisticated youthful sense of humor) line where the judge asks Arnold to approach the bench, so Arnold walks over to a bench sitting in the courtroom and starts giving his testimony
posted by The Gooch at 7:15 AM on June 1, 2010


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posted by bjgeiger at 6:46 AM on June 3, 2010


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