He was 4’7”, a child star, and we knew every twist and turn of his existence. At different times I was amused by, bored by, and felt bad for the little man who had been “Arnold” on Different Strokes. When a celebrity dies, you think back to something they did or said that made an impression on you — when the announcement of Coleman’s death came out this week, I remembered that he had revealed on a daytime talk show (I’m pretty sure it was Geraldo) that he had a condition whereby he hadn’t “sat down” on the toilet (somesuch delicate phrasing) for years, and instead voided himself in another manner (presumably a colostomy bag). That’s the point where you realize the colorful little person on TV isn’t leading such an amusing life in private.
So many of Gary’s public and private run-ins were recounted on tabloid TV, with probably one of the lower moments being his stint as a mall security guard, when he was accosted by an autograph seeker who got pissed off and he wound up punching her. He did have a temper, but then again if you were constantly in the public eye and your show biz fortunes found you starring in the mockumentary Midgets vs. Mascots, I think you’d be pissed off too.
But let us have some levity (please!). Here he is doing some shtick for the WWF with Jeff Jarrett, master of the “guitar shot”:
A much-circulated ad he did a for loan service that included an outtake of him laughing:
Along with the clip where he spoke to the camera excoriating “bone-headed idiots!”, this particular clip of him earlier this year cursing out someone on the panel of the horrific tabloid-TV crapfest The Insider is the most popular Coleman show of anger (actually he’s rather composed):
One of the best Seventies shows that has been out of distribution for a long time is Fernwood 2-Night. Here is a scene from the show’s second incarnation (America 2-Night) with Gary as “Little Wayne Coleman” (someone yells “Hey, Gary!” when he comes out, and Martin Mull ad-libs “isn’t it sad when cousins marry?”). Gary played a local California boy that Barth Gimble (Mull) was trying to adopt; he later hosted the “kids version” of the show (which appeared on the show proper) in Barth’s place.
And the two single best clips you’re gonna find. Italian TV host Sabrina Salerno journey to L.A. to talk to “Arnold.” The show is Matricole & Meteore, and included are scenes from Different Strokes dubbed in Italian, a Euro view of L.A. (which still seems to include disco), and Gary saying his tagline in Italian:
But the kitsch mother lode is this “career change” moment when Gary was making the talk show circuit with Michael Jackson impersonator Dion Mial to promote a single they’d released called “The Outlaw and the Indian.” It’s pretty special: