R.I.P. Gary Coleman

In remembrance of Gary Coleman, many FB and Twitter statuses were updated to “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” I felt a sense of relief that if I died today, I wouldn’t have to be remembered by any of the stupid things I said as a kid. I wonder if Gary Coleman would have wanted the same thing. Now, clearly I wasn’t paid $100K a week to say those stupid things so maybe that changes the game somewhat. I just said all my stupid shit for free…and perhaps that’s why no one can remember what I said last week, let alone 30 years ago.

Gary Coleman was 42 years old when he died. At death, just over 25 years had passed since his last day on the set of Diff’rent Strokes. But he spent the rest of his life trying to live down his celebrity and in some instances notoriety.

We remember, we were there. All of the incidents in the news: his arrests, his challenges, his shortcomings. We should be grateful that our own mistakes don’t require press conferences to announce to the world. (Although, why on earth, there’s no press conference now baffles me. I mean is no one investigating that wife? Wasn’t she arrested last year for domestic violence?…but perhaps that’s someone else’s battle) Perhaps celebrity lives are harder than we all might think. All people are terribly flawed, in this sense we are truly equal. But celebrity can make folks get blind to their flaws. Ever notice how these flawless people with fairy tale lives can’t keep a relationship for shit? And how they move effortlessly from one failed relationship to another? Each new relationship bringing a brand new soul mate for the same broken soul? How quickly they blow through their good fortune? Look at how they medicate with drugs and alcohol…and each other. Compared to you and me, Gary’s life was unusual but compared to other celebrities? He could be a role model.

In spite of the mainstream media’s constant resuscitation of Arnold Jackson, Gary Coleman had long since moved on with his life. He went to on to other roles and guest appearances, won product endorsements, secured a role as a political analyst on a comedy network, successfully sued his adoptive parents and the staff that mismanaged his trust fund, worked as a security guard, he ran for governor of California, he eventually got married. He was a gifted comedian who appreciated a good joke.  He was known by others to have a positive attitude, an infectious laugh, a warm spirit and a big heart…well, except for that broad he clocked at the mall.  Her take might be  slightly different.

So, R.I.P Gary Coleman. I hope somewhere in your life you found happiness and peace. I hope that you knew love. I hope you found someone to trust. I hope you had some reprieve from the pain in your body and in your heart. Last but not least, I hope you had one or two good laughs at Todd Bridges’ expense. I know it’s gotten ME through some tough times.

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4 thoughts on “R.I.P. Gary Coleman

  1. Beautifully written article! I do think relationships are challenging for most people, and fame, money, and certain fields in the entertainment business make them even that much more difficult. Also, the personalities who often become stars are often not the kind which lend themselves well to blending with other people in relationships – they usually are the kind to take attention and require a lot of attention just to keep them interested in being there (‘there”) often just being the relationship itself. Not everyone, but many.
    Lastly, it’s hard to maintain a relationship with one person when you move around a lot and grow a lot with each role you play. People, especially artists and in particular actors, change a LOT. This is why you rarely see actors stay married to the same person for 10 or more years. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. But that’s just me 🙂 Lastly, the press always focuses on the negative. It’s how they make their money – so far. As the tides turn, however, I’m anticipating over the years we’ll see more good news focus and spiritually enhancing news. Less focus on fires, deaths, and murders, and more focus on what people actually want more of – good things like people getting along, success stories, things being created and repaired, things growing healthy and strong. Thanks!

    • You raise an excellent point. I’m kinda imposing my own value judgement that lifelong monogamy is a good thing. But perhaps to constantly changing forms and energy, it’s not something that feeds the spirit, it’s something that, in fact, starves it. For me, I’ll stick to my traditional roots and aspire for the lifelong soulmate but I’ll respectfully acknowledge that this is not the desired scenario for everyone…and the one thing I’ve learned in my life is that everyone is entitled to his or her own path.

  2. I’ve always wondered what it is about the limelight that turns people upside down. I think you pegged some of it: people who seek the limelight need a huge load of attention. But the attention they get in the limelight is shallow. We use them. We project our own fantasies and shortcomings upon them. We expect them to live up to our images of them — some of them fabricated by PR, some just our own inventions. Life is hell in a fishbowl — and the fish is feeding on the same s— the public is: unreality. A little booze to sleep at night. So rich you’ve got too much time to think. Gerbils running around in that wheel in your head. Hmm … maybe just one more drinkie. Pow … got a problem? And the paparazzi is there to document every time you drop your fork.

    So maybe we shouldn’t ask why some of them go bonkers, but why some (or any) of them survive. And, just to wrap this up “on topic” (for a change — LOL) …

    Coleman’s resilience, not his various problems, should be his legacy. Many people with his medical condition would live a life far smaller. He did everything he could, with what he had. Despite the pressure cooker that was his life, and aside from a meltdown here and there, Coleman was a trooper who did justice to his gifts.

    Gary, you kept trying. RIP.

    • I was saddened to hear that he died, my immediate thought was that he didn’t have the opportunity to redeem himself, to prove that he was more than a childhood acting job. Your last line reflects my arrogance right back at me! He had nothing to prove and he redeemed himself by continuing the fight long after most of us would have quit. He kept trying. I hope that those who love him will repeat it at his memorial service.

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