Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born in Zion, Illinois, Coleman is most famous for the role of Arnold Jackson on Diff'rent Strokes, an American sitcom which ran on NBC from 1978 to 1986. He was particularly famous for his catch phrase, "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?", delivered to his character's older brother Willis Jackson (Todd Bridges). Coleman was born with a congenital kidney disease causing nephritis (an autoimmune destruction of the kidney), which halted his growth at an early age, leading to a notably small stature (4' 8") which became his most distinguishing feature. Coleman has had two kidney transplants, one in 1973 and one in 1984, and requires constant dialysis.
During the run of the show Coleman was a popular figure, starring in a number of feature films and made-for-TV movies including On the Right Track, and The Kid With the Broken Halo. At the height of his fame on Diff'rent Strokes, Coleman earned $70,000 per episode. As he grew older, however, he fell from public favour and, after the cancellation of Diff'rent Strokes, his acting career declined sharply; his career path was common to many child stars and other icons of the period, such as Mr T and Henry Winkler.
Coleman famously sued his own parents over misappropriation of his $3.8 million trust fund, and won a $1,280,000 ruling on February 23, 1993. He briefly owned a video game arcade in Fisherman's Village in Marina del Rey, near Santa Monica, California. Despite this, Coleman filed for bankruptcy in 1999. In 2001 he was employed as a shopping mall security guard in the Los Angeles area (a video of him trying to stop a vehicle from entering a compound while the driver ridiculed him was a popular Internet phenomenon). He occasionally appears in cameo roles, most of which refer to his earlier acting career. As with Knight Rider, Rubik's Cube, Care Bears and other artifacts from the early 1980s, Coleman's popularity coincided with the childhood of a particularly productive demographic of internet users, and he is, as of 2004, a minor cult figure.
Coleman appeared in court on November 2, 2000, charged with assault. He was ordered to pay bus driver Tracy Fields $1,665 for hospital bills resulting from a fight, stemming from an attempt by Fields to get Coleman's autograph whilst he was shopping for a bulletproof vest in a California mall. Coleman said he felt "threatened by her insistence" and punched her in the head.
Coleman was a candidate for governor in the 2003 California recall election. This campaign was sponsored by the free newsweekly the East Bay Express as a satirical comment on the recall. After Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy, Coleman stated that he would be voting for Schwarzenegger. Coleman placed 8th in a field of 135 candidates, receiving 14,242 votes.
- When asked by Howard Stern if he has had oral sex, Coleman said: "No! That's not a place for a young woman's face to be."
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