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Thursday, August 19, 1999 Published at 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK


Diff'rent Strokes actor declared bankrupt

Gary Coleman at court in February: He now wants a fresh start

Former Diff'rent Strokes star Gary Coleman has filed for bankruptcy, six months after being convicted of attacking an autograph hunter.

Coleman blamed financial mismanagement, the cost of treating his lifelong kidney problems and the settlement of a 1993 lawsuit over his earnings for his money problems.

The four feet, seven inches (1.37m) tall actor once earned $70,000 for each episode of the sitcom, which ran in the US from 1978 to 1986.

But he said: "Today is not a day to focus on the past, but rather to look forward to a productive, happy and constructive future."

[ image: Todd Willis, Gary Coleman and Dana Plato in 1997]
Todd Willis, Gary Coleman and Dana Plato in 1997
The court action at Los Angeles federal court is the latest twist in the unfortunate, often tragic story of the stars of the series, shown in the UK on ITV.

It told the story of Phil Drummond - a rich white widower played by Conrad Bain - who took in his former housekeeper's two black children, Arnold and Willis - played by Coleman and Todd Bridges.

Last month was Coleman paid a $400 fine for punching an autograph hunter while he was working as a security guard in a Los Angeles store. He pleased no contest in February to disturbing the peace, and was ordered to attend anger management classes.

He was orginally sentenced to 90 days in prison, but it was reduced by plea-bargaining.

His growth had been stunted by his kidney condition, and he underwent his second kidney transplant in 1984.

[ image: Dana Plato: Died from a drug overdose in May]
Dana Plato: Died from a drug overdose in May
In May, Dana Plato - who played Drummond's daughter Kimberley - died aged 34 following an overdose of painkillers and muscle relaxants.

In 1991 she was put on five years probation for robbing a Los Angeles video store, and in 1992 was given an additional five years for forging prescriptions for Valium.

It was thought she had died accidentally, but it was later ruled she had committed suicide. However, fans who have set up a Website to her memory are pressing for the case to be re-opened, claiming "too many questions remain unanswered".

Although her career had been in the doldrums for some time, friends said she was due to go into rehearsals for a New York stage show. She left a 14-year-old son.

The third star, Todd Bridges, 34, was acquitted of assault with a deadly weapon in 1990 following the shooting of a drug dealer in Los Angeles. He once testified that he became depressed and turned to drugs after the programme was cancelled.

Recently, his life has been more peaceful. He now works as a film-maker, and is married with a small son.

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