Friday, May 28, 2010

Nosetalgia Says Goodbye to Art Linkletter and Gary Coleman

Within a matter of days, two classic television stars have passed. One at the venerable age of 97 (Reality TV pioneer Art Linkletter) and the other at a relatively young 42 (former child actor Gary Coleman). At first glance it would appear that these two actors had very little in common. Mr. Linkletter was a TV star from the 50's and 60's. His gentle comedy programs (House Party and Kids say the Darndest Things) were pioneer efforts to show how entertaining regular people (but especially children) could be when they talk about their lives.

Gary Coleman is most associated with the TV sitcom Diff'rent Folks, which ran for 6 seasons in the 70's. He played one of two African American kids adopted by a rich white guy (I guess that was a pioneer effort too...hello Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock). His spunky demeanor and comic timing turned him into a huge star, and he spawned the catch phrase "Whatchu talkin' about Willis?"

Both of these celebrities provided TV audiences with countless laughs, and both had experienced personal moments of extraordinary sorrow. Art Linkletter lost a daughter to suicide in 1969. She jumped from a 6 story window in Hollywood, most likely under the influence of LSD. Gary Coleman suffered from severe kidney disease for most of his life (it contributed to his stunted growth...even as an adult he was only 4'8"). He also suffered from depression and like most of the child stars from Diff'rent Strokes, had a difficult time navigating through life after the series ended. I remember seeing Mr. Coleman with his mom at a supermarket in Hollywood, during the height of the series. He seemed to have a very contentious relationship with his parents, even then.

One very long life and one short. Both both were giants in their time and contributed greatly to the vast archives of TV comedy. This clip of Art Linkletter with kids will still make you laugh, even 50 years after it first aired.

1 comment:

LAGal said...

Jane, this is a lovely tribute.