May 28, 2010

Gary Coleman, 1968–2010

No, I am not a big fan of Gary Coleman—really, who is? Then again, perhaps I was back in the day, when Diff'rent Strokes was probably my favorite show on TV. But Coleman (not to be confused with former Vice President Bob Russell) was a trivially fascinating character, so I do a feel a tremor of…something, upon hearing about his death today at age 42.

Memories/observations of the G.Col…

— As I say, Diff'rent Strokes was my No. 1 show for some time in my childhood, though I'm having trouble putting my finger on why. Sure, Dana Plato was my kind of girl as an eight-year-old, but it had to have been the antics of Arnold Jackson. Remember when he poured water on his bed to fake a bed-wetting problem and attract attention? Or when he outsmarted the jewel thief who broke into their apartment? Or when he flushed his goldfish down the toilet? (Or was that The Cosby Show?) How about when he traveled to Earth-2 to team up with Ricky on Silver Spoons? Doesn't sound like high comedy, I know, but I got to give it up: Coleman was not only cute, he was a pretty fair actor, for a little kid on a cheesy sitcom. Enjoy this "minisode" in which the little scamp's monkeyshines finally catch up with him, courtesy of his future-murder-suspect older brother:

— I think I fantasized of being buddies with Gary Coleman when I was young. I'd live in a big mansion, and he'd come hang out; we'd eat cereal and read comic books. I can clearly recall when I first heard about the concept of segregation, learning that once, in this country, white kids and black kids couldn't go to school together. My reaction: "You mean I couldn't have been in the same class as Gary Coleman?"

— Due to the success of Strokes, Coleman was cast in a series of TV movies that have some degree of cachet among weirdos like me. The Kid with the Broken Halo is the best remembered (it was spun off into the animated Gary Coleman Show), but I remember loving Jimmy the Kid, in which Coleman plays an unflappable genius who's held for ransom by a bunch of hapless crooks; they use a book called something like How to Commit a Kidnapping, and the twist (spoiler alert) is that Jimmy wrote the book himself and arranged the whole thing because he was bored. (Shit! I saw that movie once about 25 years ago and I wrote all that from memory!)

– In 2003, Coleman was one of the many, many lunatics who ran for governor of California in the state's recall election. Even though he'd already dropped out and endorsed the other Arnold, he came in eighth—just behind Larry Flynt, just ahead of the guy who attracted support only because his name looked like Schwarzenegger. He got 12,690 votes, which sounds like a whole hell of a lot to me, considering how many people like the BQT on Facebook.

– At the time of his death, he'd been living in Utah. Really?

—Finally, this might be the funniest, dumbest thing I've seen in a long time: