African-American child star Gary Coleman grew up in Zion, IL, where his father worked as a forklift operator and his mother was a nurse. Before reaching the age of five, 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 nine, 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 Silverman 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 ten-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, in addition to appearances on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Drew Carey Show and other programs,
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 later TV appearances were largely confined to a series of late-night commercials for a "psychic" telephone service, though he made headlines in 2003 when he ran in the Recall Election for Governor of the State of California, placing 8th behind winner Arnold Schwarzenegger and 6 others. Coleman died of cranial bleeding following a fall in late May 2010. He was 42 years old.