Gary Coleman
Gary Coleman made a cameo appearance as himself in The Wayans Bros. series pilot, titled Goop! Hair It Is!!.


Gary Wayne Coleman


(1968-02-08)February 8, 1968


Zion, Illinois, U.S.


May 28, 2010(2010-05-28) (aged 42)[1]

Deathplace and death cause

Provo, Utah, U.S. (Epidural hematoma)



Years active


The Wayans Bros. appearance

as himself in the episode Goop, Hair It Is!

Wayans Bros Long script logo-1062px

Gary Coleman[3] (February 8, 1968 – May 28, 2010) appeared as himself on The Wayans Bros, appearing in the pilot episode titled Goop, Hair It Is!. Gary is best known for his childhood role as Arnold Jackson in the NBC-TV sitcom Diff'rent Strokes (1978–1986) and for his small stature as an adult. He was described in the 1980s as "one of television's most promising stars". After a successful childhood acting career, Coleman struggled financially later in life. In 1989, he successfully sued his parents and business advisor over misappropriation of his assets, only to declare bankruptcy a decade later.

Early lifeEdit

Coleman was born in Zion, Illinois, outside Chicago. He was adopted by Edmonia Sue and W.G. Coleman, a nurse practitioner and fork-lift operator, respectively.[4] He suffered from focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, an autoimmune kidney disease. Because of his chronic illness, combined with the [[corticosteroids and other medications used to treat it, his growth was limited to 4 ft 7 in (1.40 m),[5] and his face retained a childlike appearance well into adulthood. He underwent two unsuccessful kidney transplantation|kidney transplants in 1973 and 1984, and required daily dialysis.[6]


Coleman's career began in 1974 when he appeared in a commercial for Harris Bank. His line, after the announcer says "You should have a Harris banker" was "You should have a Hubert doll". "Hubert" was a stuffed lion representing the Harris bank logo.[7][8] The same year, he appeared in an episode of the CBS-TV medical/drama series Medical Center.[7]

While best known for his role on Diff'rent Strokes, Coleman had appeared earlier on in television in The Jeffersons as Raymond, George Jefferson's nephew, and on Good Times as Penny's friend Gary. He also appeared in a 1979 pilot for a revival of The Little Rascals as Stymie.[9] VH1 rated Coleman first on a list of "100 Greatest Child Stars" on television.

Diff'rent StrokesEdit

Coleman was cast in the role of Arnold Jackson in the NBC television sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, portraying one of two young black brothers adopted by a wealthy white widower in Manhattan. The successful show was broadcast from 1978 to 1986.

Coleman became the most popular fixture of the show, enhanced by his character's catchphrase "What'choo talkin' 'bout, Willis?" At the height of his fame on Diff'rent Strokes, he earned as much as US$100,000 per episode. A Biography Channel documentary estimated he was left with a quarter of the original amount after paying his parents, advisers, lawyers, and taxes.[10] He later successfully sued his parents and his former advisers for misappropriation of his finances and was awarded $1.3 million.[11] According to castmate Todd Bridges' autobiography Killing Willis, Coleman was made to work long hours on the set of Diff'rent Strokes despite his age and health problems, and this contributed to his being unhappy and separating himself from the cast.

Later character appearancesEdit

Coleman became a popular figure, starring in a number of feature films and made-for-TV movies including On the Right Track and The Kid with the Broken Halo. The latter eventually served as the basis for the Hanna-Barbera-produced animated series The Gary Coleman Show in 1982. Coleman also made video game appearances in The Curse of Monkey Island (1997) and Postal 2 (2003). In 2005 Coleman appeared in WWE Superstar John Cena's music video for his single Bad, Bad Man (from the album You Can't See Me), Coleman played the part of himself as a bad guy taking the 1980s pop stars Madonna and Michael Jackson hostage. The music video was a spoof of 1980s culture, focusing on the A-Team television series.[12][13]

Candidacy for Governor of CaliforniaEdit

Coleman was a candidate for Governor of California in the 2003 California 2003 California recall election. This campaign was sponsored by the free newsweekly East Bay Express as a satirical comment on the recall. After Arnold Schwarzenegger declared his candidacy, Coleman announced that he would vote for Schwarzenegger. Coleman placed 8th in a field of 135 candidates, receiving 14,242 votes.[14]

Avenue QEdit

Coleman is parodied in the hit Broadway musical Avenue Q, which won the 2004 Tony Award for best musical. A character presented as Coleman works as the superintendent of the apartment complex where the musical takes place. In the song, "It Sucks to Be Me", he laments his fate.[6] On Broadway, the role was originally played by Natalie Venetia Belcon.[15]

The show's creators, Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez, have said that the Coleman character is a personification of one of Avenue Q's central themes: that as children we are told we are "special", but upon entering adulthood we discover that life is not nearly as easy as we have been led to believe. They added that they originally considered asking Coleman himself to play the Gary Coleman role, and he expressed interest in accepting it. However, he never showed up for a meeting scheduled to discuss it.[16]

In 2005, Coleman announced his intention to sue the producers of Avenue Q for their depiction of him, although the lawsuit never materialized. At the 2007 New York Comic Con, Coleman said, "I wish there was a lawyer on Earth that would sue them for me."[17]

The Coleman character lives on in the show, despite the death of its inspiration, after minor dialogue adjustments.

Personal lifeEdit

File:Gary Coleman cropped.jpg

In a 1993 television interview, Coleman said he had twice attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on pills.[18] Around the same timeTemplate:Clarify he was living in Denver, Colorado, where he hosted a show at local radio station KHIH on Sunday nights called "Gary Coleman's Colorado High", where he played light jazz and new age music. He gave his salary to the Colorado Kidney Foundation.

In 2005, Coleman moved from Los Angeles to Santaquin, Utah, a small town south of Salt Lake City, where he lived for the remainder of his life.[19] In early 2007 he met Shannon Price, 22, on the set of the film Church Ball, where she was working as an extra,[20] and married her several months later.[21] On May 1 and 2, 2008, they made a well-publicized appearance on the show Divorce Court[22] to air their differences in an attempt to save their marriage. Nevertheless, they divorced in August 2008, citing irreconcilable differences,[23] but according to a court petition later filed by Price, continued to live together as husband and wife until his death.


Year Title Role Notes
1979 The Kid from Left Field Jackie Robinson "J.R." Cooper Television film
1980 Scout's Honor Joey Seymour Television film
1981 On the Right Track Lester First feature film
1982 The Kid with the Broken Halo Andy LeBeau Television film
1982 Jimmy the Kid Jimmy
1983 The Kid with the 200 I.Q. Nick Newell Television film
1984 The Fantastic World of D.C. Collins D.C. Collins Television film
1985 Playing with Fire David Phillips Television film
1994 Party The Liar Short film
Associate producer
1994 S.F.W. Himself in Cameo appearance
1996 Fox Hunt Murray Lipschitz, Jr.
1997 Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's Himself Documentary
1998 Dirty Work Himself Cameo
1998 Like Father, Like Santa Ignatius Television film
1999 Shafted! Himself Cameo
2000 The Flunky Himself
2002 Frank McKlusky, C.I. Himself Cameo
2003 Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star Himself Cameo
2003 A Carol Christmas Christmas Past Television film
2004 Chasing the Edge Himself Cameo
Short film
2004 Save Virgil Himself/The Devil
2005 A Christmas Too Many Pizza Delivery Guy
2006 Church Ball Charles Higgins
2008 An American Carol Bacon Stains Malone
2009 Midgets vs. Mascots Gary In final film appearance


  • Medical Center (1974)
  • The Little Rascals (1977), TV film
  • The Jeffersons (1978, guest star)
  • Good Times (1978, guest)
  • Diff'rent Strokes (1978–1986)
  • The Facts of Life (1980)
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (episode "The Cosmic Wiz Kid", also has a cameo in a later episode)
  • The Gary Coleman Show (1982) (voice)
  • Silver Spoons (1983, guest)
  • Amazing Stories (1986) Season 1: Episode 13 – "The Sitter"
  • Couch Potatoes (1989) – cameo
  • 227 (1990)
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (guest) (as Arnold Jackson, with Conrad Bain as Phillip Drummond) (1996)
  • The Ben Stiller Show (1993) as himself
  • Married With Children (Series 08 episode 16) (1993) as the Building Code Inspector/himself
  • The Wayans Bros. (Pilot Episode: "Goop, Hair-It-Is" – January 11, 1995, guest; as himself)
  • Sale of the Century - Guest contestant and announcer, circa 1995
  • Blankety Blanks (Australian game show, 1996) - Celebrity panelist
  • Martin "High Noon" (1995), as Mad Dog No Good
  • The Simpsons, "Grift of the Magi" (December 19, 1999)
  • The Simpsons, "A Tale of Two Springfields" This was a "sound bite" (November 5, 2000)
  • Russian Roulette (2002)
  • The Drew Carey Show, "What's Wrong with this Episode? IV" (March 28, 2001)
  • Drake & Josh (guest; as himself)
  • My Wife and Kids (guest)
  • The Jamie Foxx Show (guest as Cupid)
  • Married... with Children (guest)
  • The Surreal Life (guest)
  • Star Dates [guest]
  • Unscrewed with Martin Sargent (2003–2004, guest)
  • Nitro Circus
  • Simon & Simon, "Like Father, Like Son"
  • The Parkers as himself
  • Penn & Teller: Bullshit! "The Apocalypse" as himself (July 16, 2009, guest)
  • Son of the Beach (Season 3 Episode 11: The Long Hot Johnson, 2002) as Saltine Cracker
  • Robot Chicken (Season 5 Episode 9: No Country For Old Dogs February 27, 2011) as himself (Posthumous)

Video gamesEdit

Coleman was a villain for the game Postal 2 as himself. He provided the voice and motion capture.

Music videosEdit


  1. Diff'rent Strokes Star Gary Coleman Dies at 42. People.
  2. "The Five Lowest Moments of Gary Coleman's Career",, March 21, 2008. Retrieved on October 2, 2011. 
  3. "Scotsman obituary",, May 31, 2010. Retrieved on August 11, 2010. 
  4. Gary Coleman Biography (1968–). Retrieved on May 28, 2010.
  5. Gary Coleman Explodes on The Insider. Retrieved on 2012-03-05.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Horowitz, Lisa. "Gary Coleman Dead at 42", The Wrap, May 28, 2010
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hayward, Anthony. "Gary Coleman: Child star of the television sitcom 'Diff'rent Strokes' who faced legal and personal problems in later life - Obituaries - News", The Independent, 2010-06-01. Retrieved on 2012-01-04. 
  8. 'Diff'rent Strokes' child star, Zion, Ill. native Gary Coleman dead at 42 - Chicago Tribune. (2010-05-28). Retrieved on 2012-01-04.
  9. Template:" 'Diff'rent Strokes actor Gary Coleman dies at 42." CNN May 28, 2010 article added May 28, 2010.
  10. Template:Cite episode
  11. "Judge tells parents to pay young actor", February 24, 1993. Retrieved on May 28, 2010. 
  12. John Cena & Tha Trademarc. You Can't See Me - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  13. John Cena Bad Bad Man. YouTube (2006-12-15). Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  14. "Gary Coleman on California ballot", CNN/inside politics, August 7, 2003. Retrieved on May 28, 2010. 
  15. Natalie Venetia Belcon on the Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved on May 28, 2010.
  16. Dobbs, Aaron (December 17, 2004). Jeff Marx & Robert Lopez, Creators Avenue Q. Gothamist. Retrieved on May 30, 2010.
  17. Gary Coleman – New York Comic Con 2007 – YouTube. Retrieved on May 28, 2010.
  18. Dobner, Jennifer. "Former child star Gary Coleman dies at 42", May 28, 2010. Retrieved on May 30, 2010. 
  19. "Diff'rent Strokes star Gary Coleman critically ill in hospital", The Daily Telegraph, May 28, 2010. Retrieved on August 11, 2010. 
  20. Death & Celebrity: When Gary Met Shannon (June 15, 2010). Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
  21. Afternoon Fix: Celebrity Birthdays, the 'Jumper' Movie Minute, the latest news, and more.. MTV News (February 14, 2008). Retrieved on June 7, 2010.
  22. Sandy Cohen. "Newlywed Gary Coleman brings marital woes to `Divorce Court'", (New York) Daily News, April 25, 2008. 
  23. Daniel Bates. "Gary Coleman's ex-wife denies 'cruel' rumours she pushed him down the stairs in first interview", The Daily Mail, March 6, 2010. Retrieved on August 11, 2010. 

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