Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gary Coleman: Victim of Parental Greed

There have been many child stars whose lives have been ruined after they are no longer desired by Hollywood. Some of them are known for turning to drugs or getting arrested. Some have committed suicide due to their being unable to cope with their inability to get roles in films or on television. Some have been unable to quietly retire because they have spent all of the money they earned when they were popular.

One of the most famous situations involving a child star was when Gary Coleman’s fortune was spent by his parents. He successfully sued them and his business advisor, but could not get back the majority of the money that was lost. Years later he was working as a mall cop.

The parents of Gary Coleman are usually discussed as how parents can make bad decisions (purposely or an accident) when dealing with the finances of child actors.

Unlike many other child actors, Gary Coleman’s small size has made him remain very recognizable years after Diff’rent Strokes was off the air. Standing only four feet and eight inches tall, his height also helps people recognize him as little Arnold from the show. While his short stature make have helped him get the role of Arnold, it may have hurt his ability to gain future roles after Diff’rent Strokes ended.

There are not many actors who are very short who have had long careers in Hollywood. I’m not talking about Sylvester Stallone or Tom Cruise, who are not tall. I’m talking about guys who are under five feet and five inches. The only actor who comes to my mind as having a long and very successful career in Hollywood is Danny DeVito. Many times, Danny DeVito took roles in which height was not an issue. In many films, he was a supporting character. Why did Danny DeVito have a long, successful career but Gary Coleman did not? I’m not sure, but I think that Gary Coleman was viewed as a child star while Danny DeVito’s entire career occurred during adulthood.

I want to close with this thought. Gary Coleman still seemed like someone who could have been used by Hollywood more frequently over the last 24 years. He still look like Arnold from Diff’rent Strokes and still has that personality. He was also willing to make fun of himself. Look at the photo that I have included (but added the Halo and caption at the bottom). He’s standing on a box to compete in height. Instead of hating the way he was, he was willing to use his short stature to get a laugh. Unlike the article about Dio, the sadness of this article is due to the fact that Gary Coleman never had the career that he wanted. Dio had a long career and was celebrated until the end. Gary Coleman had a short career and 24 years of difficulty finding work. His career was an uphill battle from 1986 until his death. Instead of celebrating his career, I feel bad due to the difficulty that he faced for the majority of his life. When a celebrity dies, I ask myself, “Would I have wanted the life that person had.” Sure we don’t want to give up the life that we live, but if you were not you, would you be willing to live the life of certain people? Just like in the case of Michael Jackson, I would have no desire to live the life that Gary Coleman had. Unlike many former child stars, Gary Coleman was extremely funny. I think ideally he would have been excellent in a role similar to those played by Sherman Hemsley in The Jeffersons or Amen. Had someone wanted to remake The Jeffersons, I don’t think that a single actor in Hollywood would have been better for the George Jefferson role than Gary Coleman.

Not only did the Entertainment Industry lose someone who was a hilarious as a child actor, they lost someone who could have been used in film and television so much more over the years. He was not misused by Hollywood. He was underused.


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