LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former child star Gary Coleman, who shot to fame on TV sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” but suffered personal troubles as an adult, died in a Utah hospital on Friday, after suffering a brain hemorrhage. He was 42.
Coleman gained stardom as the sharp-talking Arnold Jackson, adopted son of a wealthy New Yorker, in the hit sitcom that aired on U.S. television from 1978 to 1986 and in syndication around the world. His line “What you talkin’ ‘bout Willis?,” addressed to his brother on the series, became a pop culture catchphrase.
But when the show was taken off the air, Coleman saw his Hollywood star fade, and he found himself suffering through financial, legal and domestic problems.
“We are very sad to have to report Mr. Gary Coleman has passed away as of 12:05 p.m. Mountain Time,” (6:05 gmt), his manager, John Alcantar, said in a statement.
Alcantar said Coleman was removed from life support, and “he passed quickly and peacefully” surrounded by his wife and other close family members.
The diminutive Coleman, who suffered from a congenital kidney disease that halted his growth, was hospitalized Wednesday night after suffering an intracranial hemorrhage at his home in Santaquin, Utah. Media reports said he had fallen and hit his head.
On Thursday, he was conscious and lucid in the morning, but in the afternoon his condition worsened. He slipped into unconsciousness and was placed on life support at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.
“Gary is now at peace, and his memory will be kept in the hearts of those who were entertained by him throughout the years,” Alcantar said.
Indeed, many Hollywood stars responded by taking to social networking site Twitter, with celebrities from Janet Jackson, who guest-starred on “Diff’rent Strokes,” to Ashton Kutcher and Kim Kardashian offering thoughts and prayers.
“I’m at a loss for words upon learning of Gary Coleman’s passing. I want to remember him as the fun, playful, adorable and affectionate man he was,” Jackson tweeted.
Born February 8, 1968, in Zion, Illinois, Coleman was an adopted son who suffered a condition known as focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, an autoimmune disease that alters the kidneys. As a result, Coleman stopped growing at a height of 4 ft. 8 in. and underwent two kidney transplants in his life.
But his size, coupled with his age, made him the perfect fit for the role of the funny, sassy and often emotional Arnold Jackson on “Diff’rent Strokes.”
The show revolved around a 12-year-old girl and her rich white father, who adopted the two black sons of his housemaid after she died. Arnold was 8 years old and his brother, Willis, was 12 when they came to live with the Drummonds in an upscale Manhattan apartment.
Coleman’s cute face and smart mouth — he played the role of young Arnold when, in fact, he was roughly 10 to 18 years old — quickly put him at the center of the show. He made millions of dollars from “Diff’rent Strokes” and from guest appearances on TV talk shows and other programs. U.S. cable television channel VH1 ranked him No. 1 among a list of “100 Greatest Kid Stars.”
But Coleman never recaptured his fame after the show ended. As an adult, much of his work went straight to video, and he became a symbol of faded Hollywood stardom.
In 1989, he sued his parents and former manager for mishandling his finances, and for a time he worked as a security guard. In 2003, he made a failed bid to become governor of California in a recall election that eventually saw Arnold Schwarzenegger become the chief executive of the state.
Coleman also suffered legal troubles. In 1998, he was charged with assault after hitting a woman who asked for his autograph in one of several instances of disorderly conduct.
Just this past January, he was arrested in Utah on a charge of domestic violence. But he and his wife remained married.
Additional reporting by Christine Kearney in New York, editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Sheri Linden