Gary Coleman Timeline
by Kim Potts, posted May 28th 2010 6:57PM
From adorable kid TV actor and sometimes tragic former child star to a money-related estrangement from his parents and a tumultuous marriage, one thing was consistent in Gary Coleman's life: He lived it all out in front of a public that never, sometimes to his chagrin, could forget the sweet-cheeked little boy who'd won their hearts in 'Diff'rent Strokes.' Here, a timeline of the major events in the actor's life:
Feb. 8, 1968 -- Gary Wayne Coleman is born in Zion, Illinois. Like his most memorable TV character, Coleman was adopted, by Edmonia Sue, a nurse practitioner, and W.G. Coleman, a pharmaceutical company employee. He never met his birth parents.
1973 -- Born with a congenital kidney disease that found his right kidney atrophied and his left kidney close to failing, Coleman undergoes his first kidney transplant.
1974 -- Because Coleman's fragile health limits his physical activity, and because people responded so much to his cherubic face and outgoing personality, his parents decide to let him pursue work as a model and actor. His early jobs include roles on 'Good Times' and 'The Jeffersons,' where he plays George and Louise's ornery nephew, and commercials for McDonald's, Hallmark and Betty Crocker.
1978 -- TV uber-producer Norman Lear sees Coleman in a TV commercial for a Chicago bank and decides to cast him as Stymie in a 'Little Rascals' remake. That show never gets off the ground, so Lear develops 'Diff'rent Strokes' for Coleman.
Nov. 3, 1978 -- 'Diff'rent Strokes' premieres on NBC and Coleman, as precocious, fast-talkin' Arnold Jackson, who, with his brother Willis (Todd Bridges), is adopted by the wealthy white man who had employed his mom, becomes a child star icon. His "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?" catchphrase becomes a classic that is oft-repeated by TV fans and frequently pops up on T-shirts.
Nov. 9, 1978 -- In his first appearance on 'The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson,' Coleman charms the host so much that Carson quips, "What night are you available (to) guest host?"
1978-1986 -- During his years as Arnold Jackson (which he also played in guest appearances on 'The Facts of Life' and 'Silver Spoons'), Coleman's salary grows, to a height of around $70,000 an episode. He will later claim in a lawsuit that his parents, who were acting as his professional representation, were taking more than three-quarters of his earnings for themselves.
1980-1983 -- For four consecutive years, Coleman wins the People's Choice Award for Favorite Young TV Performer.
April 1982 -- Coleman moonlights as an angel in the made-for-TV movie 'The Kid With the Broken Halo,' which leads to the animated TV series 'The Gary Coleman Show,' in which he voices the character of kiddie angel Andy Le Beau.
1984 -- Coleman undergoes another kidney transplant, and will require dialysis for the rest of his life. The surgeries, and the drugs required to treat his health issues, ensure that he never grows beyond 4'8".
1986 -- After adding new characters, including another kiddie star (Danny Cooksey) to try and recapture some of Coleman's earlier charm as Arnold, and failing to spike a ratings boost, 'Diff'rent Strokes' is canceled, finishing its eight-season run on ABC. Coleman later says he was happy to end the series. "I got tired of doing the show. I didn't wanna do it anymore. But there was nothing I could do about that, because the contract was already signed. So I was a little bitter about that, because I didn't wanna be there. The character wasn't growing, he wasn't interesting to me anymore. When (the show) got canceled, I was enormously thrilled and was very much looking forward to starting the rest of my life."
1989 -- Coleman sues his parents, claiming they had stolen more than $1 million from him. His mother countersues in an effort to wrest control of the then-21-year-old's $6 million bank account, saying he wasn't equipped to handle his fortune.
Feb. 23, 1993 -- A Santa Monica judge awards Coleman $1.28 million in ruling that his parents and a former manager had stolen money from him for five years while he was a minor. The fallout from the financial situation will estrange Coleman from his parents for the rest of his life, and his dad will even claim that Gary was so angry at him that he tried to run him over with a car.
1993 -- In a TV interview with Geraldo Rivera, Coleman says he had attempted suicide twice, sparked by his continuing, and worsening, health woes, as well as the split with his parents.
1998 -- With acting work, especially anything beyond the occasional guest TV role, drying up, Coleman begins working as a security guard. He'll also eventually operate a video game arcade and work as a celebrity spokesman.
July 1998 -- While shopping in a uniform store in a Hawthorne, California mall, Coleman gets into a scuffle with bus driver Tracy Fields, who sues him for punching her in the head after she asked him for an autograph. He's later ordered to pay under $2,000 to Fields for her hospital bills, and receives probation, anger management and a suspended jail sentence.
1999 -- Fellow former 'Diff'rent Strokes' child star Dana Plato commits suicide, furthering talk of the curse that supposedly befell the young cast members of the sitcom. Though tragic, her death, Coleman said, was also freeing. "It's very unfortunate that Dana is no longer with us ... she was a wonderful woman, but her death was a welcome, though sad piece of closure to 'Diff'rent Strokes.' The possibility of a reunion no longer exists now, and thank God."
Aug. 18, 1999 -- Coleman files for bankruptcy in Los Angeles. Though he still blamed his parents for much of the loss of his fortune (which, at one point, had been estimated at $18 million), he admitted to a People magazine interviewer that he also had spent like a star. "I have lifestyle requirements," he said. "Photos, meetings, lunches, dinners, facial care, tooth care. It requires an exorbitant amount of money." At the time of the bankruptcy, he said he had lost several luxury homes, and had to cancel his cable TV.
2003 -- The Broadway musical 'Avenue Q' includes a character called Gary Coleman, played by a female, who sings a song called 'It Sucks to Be Me.' Coleman would later say he wanted to sue the show's producers, but never did.
Aug. 2003 -- Coleman -- along with celebrities like Arianna Huffington, porn star Mary Carey, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and comedian Gallagher, as well as eventual winner Arnold Schwarzenegger -- declares himself a candidate for governor of California. Coleman earned more than 12,000 votes, enough for eighth place. "My slogan is, I'm the least qualified guy for the job, but I'd probably do the best job," the actor said. He also told The New York Times, "I want to escape that legacy of Arnold Jackson. I'm someone more. It would be nice if the world thought of me as something more."
2005 -- He moves to Utah, and becomes notorious among local law enforcement officers, who say that, in the next five years, they'll be called to his home more than a dozen times, including domestic dispute calls and an incident in which he told them he had swallowed dozens of Oxycontin pills in an effort to end his life.
June 2005 -- In a five-night miniseries titled '100 Greatest Kid Stars,' VH1 names Coleman the all-time greatest young star, topping the Olsen twins, Macaulay Culkin, all the 'Cosby Show' kids and the whole 'Brady Bunch.'
2007 -- He marries Shannon Price, who he met on the set of the movie 'Church Ball.' In the summer of 2007, he's charged with disorderly conduct in Provo after a cop witnessed him having a fight with Price.
2008 -- Coleman is sued by a fan who claims Coleman tried to run him over in his truck after the fan snapped a cell phone photo with Coleman and then, according to Coleman, refused to pay for it. In Jan. 2010, he settles for an undisclosed amount of money.
May 1-2, 2008 -- Coleman and Price appear on 'Divorce Court,' where Judge Lynn Toler lets them air their grievances with each other, in an effort to save their marriage. She says he's angry, violent and has no friends. He ... admits it's true. "I don't have any friends and don't have any intention of making any," Coleman tells Toler. "People will stab you in the back, mistreat you, talk about (you) behind your back, steal from you. And they're not really your friends. (They're) only there because you're a celebrity or because they want to get something from you."
July 2009 -- Coleman and Price have a fight, which leads to her arrest for domestic violence, and both of them being cited for disorderly conduct.
Fall 2009 -- Coleman undergoes heart surgery, which is complicated by the fact that he also has pneumonia.
Jan. 2010 -- Coleman is reportedly hospitalized after experiencing a seizure
Jan. 24, 2010 -- Coleman spends a night in jail for failing to appear in court, and is released only after a fan pays his bail.
Feb. 8, 2010 -- On his 42nd birthday, Coleman pleads guilty in a Utah court to a domestic violence charge involving his wife. He avoids jail time with a fine and an order to complete a domestic violence course .
Feb. 26, 2010 -- Coleman suffers a seizure while taping an episode of 'The Insider' in Los Angeles and has to be rushed to the hospital.
May 26, 2010 -- After a fall at his Santaquin, Utah home, Coleman is rushed via ambulance to the Mountain View Hospital in Payson, then moved to a hospital in Provo, where he was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage.
May 27, 2010 -- Coleman begins the day awake and lucid, but deteriorates by the afternoon, when he is put on life support.
May 28, 2010 -- Coleman is taken off life support and passes away at 12:05PM MDT at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. His 'Diff'rent Strokes' dad, actor Conrad Bain, told TMZ.com that he had been "hoping and praying for his recovery," though they hadn't talked in several years; 'Diff'rent Strokes' brother Todd Bridges, whose 2010 autobiography 'Killing Willis: From Diff'rent Strokes to the Mean Streets to the Life I Always Wanted' details his own "former child star" difficulties (a cocaine addiction and attempted murder charge among them), says, "It's unfortunate. It's a sad day. It's sad that I'm the last kid alive from the show"; and co-star Charlotte Rae, who played 'Diff'rent Strokes' housekeeper Mrs. Garrett, told TMZ.com, "I said a prayer for him this morning after hearing about his condition. Gary was so loving, so charming. He was the big star of the show. He was the reason the show was a hit." As for Coleman's parents, with whom he never reconciled, his mother told the Chicago Tribune, "One of the things that I had prayed for was that nothing like this would happen before we could sit with Gary and Shannon and say, 'We're here, and we love you.' We just didn't want to push him."