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Actor Gary Coleman dies in Utah hospital

May 28, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Former child TV star Gary Coleman, who suffered severe bleeding in his skull two days ago, has died. He was 42. Gary Coleman spent his final hours Friday at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. A hospital spokesman said the actor died at about 12:05 p.m. Mountain Standard Time. He had called Utah his home since 2005.

Coleman suffered severe bleeding in his skull at his home south of Salt Lake City on Wednesday. He was rushed to a hospital and was conscious and lucid by mid morning Thursday, but by afternoon, his condition worsened and was slipping in and out of consciousness. His spokesman said on Thursday night that Coleman was on life support.

Health was always an issue for Coleman, who suffered from kidney disease from the time he was a toddler. He had at least two transplants.

"There's always going to be health matter issues. You know, I just wasn't blessed with the best body, but I have the best mind and the best heart and that's all that matters," said Coleman in a 1998 interview with Eyewitness News.

Coleman's health problems went beyond kidney failure. Last fall, he had heart surgery complicated by pneumonia, said his Utah attorney Randy Kester. In February, he suffered a seizure on the set of "The Insider."

The actor's life changed with the 1978 TV show, "Diff'rent Strokes." Best remembered for "Diff'rent Strokes" character Arnold Jackson and his "Whatchu talkin' 'bout?" catchphrase, Coleman chafed at his permanent association with the show but also tried to capitalize on it through reality shows and other TV appearances.

"He was the centerpiece and we all surrounded him. He was absolutely enchanting, adorable, funny and filled with joy which he spread around to millions of people all over the world," said co-star Charlotte Rae, who played the family's housekeeper on "Diff'rent Strokes."

"It's unfortunate. It's a sad day," said Todd Bridges, who played Coleman's older brother, Willis, on the show.

After "Diff'rent Strokes" was canceled, Coleman continued to get credits for TV guest shots and other small roles over the years, but he never regained more than a shadow of his old popularity.

Over the past several years when the actor was in the news it was usually for a legal problem, disorderly conduct or marital issues. Utah police count 20 various incidents in a five-year span. One incident involved Coleman taking pills because he said he wanted to die.

In 2003, Coleman was among 135 candidates who ran in California's bizarre recall election to replace then-Gov. Gray Davis.

Running for office gave him a chance to show another side of himself.

Coleman met his wife, Shannon Price, on the movie set of the 2006 comedy "Church Ball." He married her in 2007.

In February - on his 42nd birthday - he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor criminal mischief charge related to an April 2009 domestic violence incident at his home.

The actor remained estranged from his parents, Sue and Willie Coleman, who said they learned about his hospitalization and death from media reports.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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