It was 1978 and the small screen offered a different proposal: Philip Drummond, a millionaire white man (played by Conrad Bain), adopted the children of his deceased housekeeper, changing his destiny forever. Thus Kevin Arnold and Willis Jackson (Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges), two African American brothers from Harlem, left the suburbs of New York and moved to a luxurious apartment on the exclusive Park Avenue in Manhattan, to live with Mr. Drummond and his daughter teenager Kimberly (Dana Plato).
In a country (still today) crossed by racial hatred, Black and White was a pioneer in integration and an example of how love heals everything. The sitcom soon became a worldwide success. The equation was simple and explosive: familiar content, infallible gags, recorded laughter that marked the rhythm of humor throughout the script and above all, endearing characters.
Who does not remember little Kevin Arnold, a child so expressive that with just one look he managed to laugh and tenderness alike. Even today, 40 years later, many of us continue repeating the phrase that Arnold used to say to his older brother, rolling his eyes whenever something did not completely close him: “What are you talking about, Willis?” And so we could spend a good time remembering scenes that were remembered. There were 8 uninterrupted years (from 1978 to 1986) and the sitcom went through several controversial issues: racism, bullying, drugs, teenage conflicts, child abuse and alcoholism, among others.
The series was actually called “Diff’rent Strokes”. The creators were Jeff Harris and Bernie Kukoff and the music was provided by Alan Ticke. Broadcast on NBC and ABC, the series had 189 episodes.
But while the audience always accompanied them, nothing was easy outside the set. In fact, in its last seasons, history began to enter dangerous terrain, like any proposal that seeks to perpetuate itself over time. The last chapters were filmed by contract, but no one enjoyed them anymore: the last broadcast was on March 7, 1986, and there began the beginning of the end for the three brothers.
Gary Coleman, the one who suffered the most
While Arnold conquered everyone’s heart and became the undisputed star of the series, for the actor that character was a cage that choked him to the point of making him even sicker. Coleman was born in 1968 in Illinois and as in fiction, he was also adopted. Due to kidney disease, his growth stopped when he reached 1.42 meters, leaving him forever with the height of a child.
It was because of this disease that, as his body did not change, the character was stagnant in his eight years, something difficult to sustain because although he began to feel adult, he had to pretend to be a child every day. Although he fantasized about resigning, there was so much money he earned ($ 100,000 per chapter) that his parents did not allow him to abandon his role in “Black and White.”
In parallel, he participated in some films in minor roles, until at age 18 he was able to get rid of acting, counting on the income he had generated throughout his childhood. But as is often the case with several premature Hollywood stars, when he accessed his accounts he discovered that his parents had squandered his fortune. In his bank account there was only $ 200,000. In 1989, he sued his parents and, although he won the trial, he only recovered $ 500,000 from his fortune. In 1999, he filed for bankruptcy.
Far from the lights and with the whole industry turning his back on him (the producers maintained that it was very difficult for the public not to see in him the character of “Black and White”), he went from a millionaire to unemployed. He did everything to survive, he was a security guard at a Los Angeles shopping mall (receiving all kinds of ridicule); He auctioned off the personal belongings that had belonged to his character and even ran as governor of California in 2003, being defeated by, what a wry irony, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
two years later he died. He was 42 years old and had a sad record: he had never been happy. Some time ago he had publicly confessed: “I did not want my worst enemy to live my first 15 years.” “Data-reactid =” 47 “> Regarding his health, he had to undergo surgery on several occasions for transplants and even overdose His last years were riddled with scandals: he went to trial for hitting a woman who had asked for his autograph; he hit a fan with his car and in 2010, in a confusing episode with his wife, actress Shannon Price, Gary suffered He fell and fell into a coma from a stroke. He was never able to recover and two years later he died. He was 42 years old and had a sad record: he had never been happy. Some time ago he had publicly confessed: “I didn’t even want my worst enemy to live my first 15 years. “
Todd Bridges, between drugs and debauchery
Todd Bridges, who played Willis, also fell into the spell of the series. After the program, he lived on the streets, became addicted to crack and alcohol; He weighed 50 kilos and was charged with the murder of a Los Angeles dealer. He was imprisoned for nine months and was acquitted after two trials and thanks to the defense of lawyer Johnnie Cochran, lawyer in media cases such as that of O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson’s.
The actor confessed that he started taking drugs at a very young age and that in fact he was going to work under the effects of the substances he consumed. “I was only 12 years old and my representative abused me, but my father took his side. What hurt me the most in life is that he called me a liar. When they canceled the show, my whole life fell.” told in an interview on Fox News.
Todd Bridges testified to how much he suffered while filming the series.
In 2008, he published an autobiography, “Killing Willis: From Black and White to the Real Life I Always Wanted.” On those pages, he was able to download years of suffering. In addition to recounting her childhood abuse, she revealed that she had an affair with her sister in fiction: “It was so much fun spending time with Dana. We went out, had a drink, listened to music, and smoked marijuana.” Also with her he lost his virginity. “I was so happy when I finally realized that I liked girls. I will always thank Dana for that,” she wrote.
On the other hand, Bridges told how it was that he decided to channel his life. While driving his car through California the police found him drugs and a loaded 9mm. Although he was released after paying bail, he understood that he was either rehabilitated or would end up in prison again. And clung to religion. “I decided to go and recover. I was not quite ready even at that time, so when I was admitted I was very angry. I went crazy in the hospital,” he said and confessed that he spent three days tied to a bed. Today he is 54 years old, has two children, and is the only survivor of the Drummond family.
Their problems had already started during the recordings of the show. In 1983, at the age of 20, Dana became pregnant and since Kimberly was a teenager, the producers decided to send her to study in Paris. In the end, he returned for the past two years. But this is a minor detail: the life of this young woman was crossed by tragedy even after her death.
After the series, she participated in erotic movies without success. He was imprisoned on several occasions, for theft and falsification of medical prescriptions, and for his addiction to cocaine, he lost custody of his son, Tyler Lambert. Without being able to make a foothold in her life, neither personally nor financially, the actress was also cheated by her representative, who fled with her savings. In 1989 she was summoned to be a Playboy cover and beyond the money she collected she could not find peace: after the production of photos, she assaulted a video store with compressed air and took a booty of $ 164. The surprise came from the local employee who, when he asked 911 for help, kept repeating: “The young woman who played Kimberley in‘ Black and White ’just robbed me.” After paying bail, he went to live in a mobile home.
On May 8, 1999, at age 34, he died of an overdose of pills. The tragedy did not end with her death: Her son committed suicide in 2010, at age 25, just days before the anniversary of his mother’s death. Long before the tragic end, in an interview, he was asked about the fateful fate of “the brothers” and Plato came out with a joke: “I posed nude for Playboy, Gary is on trial with his family, Todd was arrested. That Phillip Drummond was indeed a lousy father. “
in 2013, at 89 years of age, he died of natural causes. Although those who were close to him assure that he could never overcome seeing so much suffering in his boys, whom he loved as his true children. “Data-reactid =” 86 “> And what exactly happened to Conrad Bain? As if it were the plot of “Final Destination”, he could beat the misfortune that surrounded the fiction: in 2013, at 89, he died of natural causes, although those who were close to him say that he could never overcome seeing so much suffering in his boys, to the ones he loved as his true children.
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