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Gary Coleman's Biography

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What a Loveable Little Shit

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Child star Gary Coleman grew up in Zion, Illinois, where his father worked for a pharmaceutical firm and his mother was a nurse. Before reaching the age of 5, Coleman had undergone three operations for a congenital kidney defect known as nephritis. As a result of his medical condition, he would never grow any taller than 4'8". His smallness proved to be a professional advantage when he began appearing in Chicago-area TV commercials; even at the age of 9, he could still pass as a precocious five-year-old. In 1978, Coleman auditioned for a proposed television revival of the old Little Rascals comedy series. Though the project fell through, ABC chief executive Fred Sliverman was enchanted by the talented tyke. Silverman cast Coleman as Arnold Jackson on the upcoming sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, which moved to NBC along with Silverman in the fall of 1978. It was this extraordinarily popular series, coupled with the precocious Coleman's spirited TV talk show appearances, that catapulted the 10-year-old to stardom. Within a year of Diff'rent Strokes' debut, Gary Coleman Productions was formed, for the purpose of starring the youngster in theatrical features like On the Right Track (1981) and made-for-TV movies like Scout's Honor (1980) and The Kid With the Broken Halo (1982) This last project was spun off into the Saturday-morning cartoon series The Gary Coleman Show (1983), with Coleman providing his own voice. An instinctive comic performer and extremely quick study, Coleman rapidly grew weary with the rigors of show business. As he grew older, Coleman's spontaneous cuteness faded. After the cancellation of Diff'rent Strokes in 1986, Coleman found the going decidedly rough. Occasionally he'd play a "stunt" part like a villainous gang leader on the TV series 227, but his short stature and ever-diminishing acting range made him difficult to cast. He still remained in the public eye, albeit as the central character in a bitter legal squabble between himself and his parents. Gary Coleman's TV appearances are largely confined to a series of late-night commercials for a "psychic" telephone service.  In addition, The Simpsons casted him as a security officer (his current real job) in one of their episodes.