Friday, May 28, 2010

Gary Coleman 1968 - 2010

A couple of months ago, I tried to get Big Anklevich to go on a road trip to me to a comic book convention in Anaheim. It was fairly cheap, not a long drive, and didn't take place the same week that his family invariably sets their reunions (for the sole reason of thwarting our plans). He didn't have any money, but I figured since I was already driving there and had already gotten a motel room, he wouldn't have to spend very much. Plus, it was on a weekend, so he wouldn't have to take off any work.

He seemed interested, at first. I looked at the guest list and said, "Hey, Gary Coleman's gonna be there, you gotta go for sure." When I mentioned this to my sister, she said, "He won't go, he's too sick." "What do you mean?" "Gary Coleman is dying," she told me.*

Well, I spread this news to Big, hoping that his job was cool enough to have one of those death pools* and that he'd use the knowledge to clean up. But his job is a petty, penny-pinching, constrictive one, with employees jumping ship like rats from the Titandenburg, and they had no such game going. And I ended up going to Anaheim without him.

Gary Coleman did not appear at the convention.

And sure enough, this morning, Big instant messaged me to tell me Coleman was in the hospital, in intensive care, and it didn't look good.

I don't actually know Gary Coleman, and only encountered him once (he was driving an immense SUV which drew attention to itself enough that any talk of not wanting to be noticed lost a bit of credibility). He was a conflicted, unhappy guy, and hated the spotlight, yet had the child star need to be special and singled out. It didn't help that he moved into a neighborhood that's 95% white, has zero celebrities, and absolutely no little people in it. But people of my generation grew up alongside Gary, feeling that we knew him watching "Diff'rent Strokes" every week, and even when he was beating people up at local bowling alleys (or trying to run over them over in the parking lot), people often waved or said "Hi" to him in the grocery store or the gas station (where I ran into him the one time).

I wish he could have been happier. He really was an icon from my childhood, and I certainly would have liked to have been his friend.*** As far as I know, he never wrote a book, but man, he would have had some stories to tell. His was a unique life, and his experience was both magical and tragic.

Gary died of a brain hemorrhage. He was 42.I hope he's gone to a better place, where he is taller than average, and absolutely no one asks him to say "Whachoo talkin' about, Willis."

Rish "Arnold Jackson" Outfield

*One of my sisters is rather friendly with Gary's wife, and the other is a nurse, so I guess that's a sort of tag-team for this kind of gossip.

**A death pool is a friendly competition where coworkers or friends pick five (or ten) celebrities, gambling that they will die in the next year. Generally, the point system is based on how old they are, with the younger the celebrity on your list, the more points they're worth (Lindsay Lohan is always toward the top of my list every year), but other rules, such as health history and lifestyle can enter into it in more competitive environments. Whoever ends up with the most points at the end of a calendar year wins the pool. Clean, morbid fun.

***My Uncle Ali invited him to our family New Year's Eve party a year or two ago. Gary didn't show, but his wife came and regaled us with interesting stories he really should've been telling. But ah well.

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