Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi The Rise and Fall of Gary Coleman

By Devin D. O'Leary

AUGUST 17, 1998:  Gilligan on dope. Shaggy and Scooby transporting bales of marijuana in the back of the Mystery Machine. How many more TV gods of my childhood must fall before my very eyes? Now comes word that Gary Coleman, the chipmunk-cheeked cherub from "Diff'rent Strokes," has been arrested for attacking a female fan! Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Last Friday, Coleman surrendered to police in suburban Hawthorne, Calif., and will shortly be arraigned on charges of assault and battery. Most shocking, of course, is the fact that someone would admit to being beat up by Gary Coleman. So what drove the star to commit such a lowly act? Weekly Alibi has been able to piece together this brief chain of events: On Thursday, July 31, the 4-foot, 7 Coleman--who has been reduced to working as a security guard at the Fox Hills Mall--was shopping for a bulletproof vest at the California Uniforms store. A female "fan" approached Coleman and requested an autograph. Coleman complied, but when the woman asked him to personalize the signature, the 30-year-old ex-actor reportedly became angry and tore it up. When the woman--rather astutely--suggested that perhaps Coleman's attitude might be the reason he has not had any acting jobs in the last 13 years, Coleman flew into a rage. Several witnesses watched as Coleman aimed high and drove his tiny fist into the woman's eye. Police eventually questioned, photographed and fingerprinted Coleman, who was released on his own recognizance until his court appearance on Aug. 25. The starstruck woman is now suing Coleman for a million dollars.

The tragic outcome of this little encounter is dwarfed by a single, nagging question: Where did Coleman's dangerously short fuse come from? Coleman played the smart-talking Arnold Jackson on TV's "Diff'rent Strokes" from 1978 to 1986. In the show, Coleman was one of two Harlem brothers adopted by rich philanthropist Mr. Drummond. "Diff'rent Strokes" co-stars Todd Bridges and Dana Plato (Drummond's other two children, Willis and Kimberly) have also had run-ins with the law. Both have spent time in drug rehab centers as well.

Come to think of it, we never did find out the source of Mr. Drummond's wealth. Was he, as the evidence suggests, an upscale drug lord, running cocaine from Central America to street dealers in NYC? What ever happened to the Jackson boys' parents? Were they, in fact, drug dealers on Drummond's payroll? Were they killed in an unfortunate Harlem drive-by? Was Drummond grooming Arnold and Willis to take over the "family business"? I'm afraid we can only imagine the horrors that those poor children faced in the Drummond penthouse.

Perhaps we can't blame Coleman for his displaced rage. When he attacked that woman, maybe it wasn't her face he saw. Could it have been the evil visage of Mr. Drummond?

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