Remember Arnold from 'Diff'rent Strokes'? He Struggled Financially and Was Feuding with His Parents
Gary Coleman became a TV darling in the 1980s with his portrayal of “Arnold” in “Diff’rent Strokes,” but was also a troubled man with legal, financial, and health woes that eventually led to his untimely death.
From 1978 to 1986, Coleman made viewers laugh with his comical character, playing a black American orphan who was adopted, along with his older brother, by a rich, white man.
What'chu talkin bout Willis lol 😂 sorry I couldn't resist lol 😂 I know you probably get that a million times a day lol 😂 I miss Gary Coleman and Dana Plato they should still be here with us God rest there souls and God bless you @ToddBridges thank you for your kind words 🤘🙏 pic.twitter.com/94a8u5JD9n— James Thomas McCaffery (@James_McCaffery) March 15, 2019
Coleman was only ten at the time the show made its debut but quickly became a fan-favorite, thanks mainly to his popularized catchphrase, “What'choo talkin' 'bout, Willis?”
The Illinois-born actor played “Arnold” for eight years, as well as several other film roles, but it appears his life began to unravel when “Diff’rent Strokes” was canceled.
RIP IN PEACE ALL OF MY CAST MATES. I MISS YOU ALL. pic.twitter.com/tS52TfryKo— Todd Bridges (@ToddBridges) August 6, 2018
TAKING HIS PARENTS TO COURT
Coleman had started his company around the same time he began to play “Arnold” and his parents, who managed his career full-time, reportedly wrote themselves into the contract as his paid employees.
Coleman’s acting career suffered a decline after “Diff’rent Strokes,” and when the actor decided to turn to his trust fund, estimated to be about $18 million, he got a rude shock: He had only $220,000 to his name.
Coleman took legal action against his parents, taking them to court over misappropriation of his trust fund. The messy court battle ended with Coleman gaining victory, but even at that, he could only recover $3.8 million.
"What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?" Actor Gary Coleman was born on this date back in 1968. Coleman gained massive popularity as Arnold Jackson on the hit tv show Diff'rent Strokes ('78–'86). Coleman passed away at just 42 years of age in 2010. #80s pic.twitter.com/7lfoCtnEqP— LandOfThe80s (@landofthe80s) February 8, 2019
The money woes meant a lot to Coleman because he was also struggling with his health and had tons of medical bills. He was diagnosed at birth with multiple health issues and a congenital kidney defect, the complications of which left him stunted at 4 feet 8 inches.
So broke was Coleman that he eventually took a security guard job and declared bankruptcy in 1999. The man who was once the highest-paid child star on TV (earning $80,000 per week) also tried auctioning off his personal effects online, telling The Guardian in November of the same year:
“I've learnt that any help is good, as long as you've first tried to help yourself, and to help other people. Which, believe me, I have. …I've always been an optimist, you know? I've always believed that if you keep fighting, and keep on believing in yourself, sooner or later it will turn around."
Appreciation: Gary Coleman— Bushman (@MrBushman1) March 9, 2019
"Different Strokes" comedy late 70's to 1980s pic.twitter.com/uNA6Ah5PZI
LEGAL AND MEDICAL BATTLES
Things did turn around, but only for the worse. Coleman had suffered depression and attempted suicide multiple times following the legal battle with his parents; his continuous financial woes and quick temper were not helping either.
In 1998, he was charged with assault after punching a female bus driver who asked for his autograph, and in July 2007, he was arrested for disorderly conduct after engaging in an altercation with then-girlfriend Shannon Price.
Gary Coleman was 10 when “Diff’rent Strokes” premiered and was a ball of pure energy. Such incredible comic timing. pic.twitter.com/uWUKaVSJk1— Todd Vaziri (@tvaziri) December 26, 2018
AN UNTIMELY END
Coleman would later marry Price -- whom he met on the set of the 2006 film "Church Ball" -- in 2007, but the marriage only lasted a year.
The two, however, remained close and maintained a tumultuous relationship. They were living together in Coleman’s home in May 2010 when the actor fell at their Utah home.
Happy #NationalPetDay! At the 31st #Emmys in 1979, Gary Coleman presented the award for Outstanding Children’s Program with the cute pup that co-starred (and was saved by Arnold) in “The Dog Story” episode of DIFF'RENT STROKES: pic.twitter.com/6t5QFTf5jk— Television Academy (@TelevisionAcad) April 11, 2018
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