The Broadway Show Avenue Q begins with a song that introduces Gary Coleman, the former child star, as the superintendent of a building in an outer borough of New York City. The song, titled, It Sucks To Be Me, includes these lines:
Yes I am!
I’m Gary Coleman
I made a lotta money
That got stolen
By my folks!
Now I’m broke and
I’m the butt
Of everyone’s jokes,
But I’m here –
On Avenue Q –
Try having people
stopping you to ask you
”What you talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?”
It gets old.
And so it must have been for Gary Coleman, who died on May 28, 2010, at the age of 42.
That he was quick and talented there is no doubt. And his accomplishments as a child star were exceptional in that he accomplished what he did despite being very ill, undergoing dialysis and having eventually two kidney transplants.
And, of course, 42 is a very young age to die.
Yet it seems that people are more moved by his death than is explained by his having been a child actor or by the fact that he had a troubled life subsequently. He won a lawsuit against his adoptive parents and managers for misappropriation of his earnings and, in fact, he wound up filing for bankruptcy.
It is hard to know what motivated the degree of interest in Gary Coleman, but we suspect it was his short stature, only 4 feet 8 inches. The stature always made him look younger than he actually was.
And that youth made us hope that he would yet redeem himself. He might be working as a security guard or in trouble of one sort or another. But we hoped he would yet see it through and turn it around.
His death, then, was a slap of reality. There would be no redemption, no turn-around, no one more chance.
No wonder so many were disturbed about the loss of a childhood star.
Here is Gary Coleman on Diff’rent doing the line that made him famous.