Coleman was born in Zion, Illinois. Born with a congenital kidney disease, his growth has been stunted from a young age. Intensely private, Coleman starred as the wisecracking Arnold Jackson on the popular sitcom Diff’rent Strokes from 1978 to 1986. His catchphrases and smart-kid demeanor made him a pop culture icon throughout much of the ‘80s, appearing in numerous films and TV shows, including Hanna-Barbera’s The Gary Coleman Show.
Sadly, Coleman’s post-sitcom life was marred by financial and personal grievances, with Coleman eventually suing his parents and lawyers for alleged misappropriation of his child star wealth. The actor had multiple run-ins with the law, and often paid off debts with appearances capitalizing on ‘80s nostalgia. Beginning in 2003, a fictionalized Coleman appeared as a character in the hit Broadway musical Avenue Q.
Coleman’s last high-profile public appearance was in 2003, when he ran a semi-satirical candidacy for Governor of California in the recall election of Gov. Gray Davis. Coleman made several appearances on cable news shows touting his positions, although he was sponsored by the East Bay Express as a statement on the strange nature of the recall election. Coleman finished eighth in a pool of 135 candidates.
Coleman is survived by his wife and parents.