Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?
Yes, I totally loved “Diff’rent Strokes”. Sure, he was a short, wise-cracking little brother but Arnold Jackson, played by Gary Coleman, was the best part of that show. He had charisma, charm and was so incredibly cute that the show became an immediate hit. I remember reading that he was getting $50,000.00 an episode a few years after the show’s debut. That sounds like nothing now, but back then that was a huge sum.
Just like “The Facts of Life”, this show dealt with some super heavy issues, including racism, drug use and the perils of hitch hiking. During one memorable episode, Kimberly and Arnold were kidnapped by a predator who nearly raped Kimberly before Arnold escaped and returned with help. I’ll never forget the fear I felt while watching that episode.
A number of cast members did not have the happy endings found in the TV show, however. Todd Bridges, who played Willis Jackson, and Dana Plato, who played Kimberly, both struggled with drug addiction. Sadly, Dana Plato committed suicide in May 1999, but Todd Bridges found recovery later in life. Gary Coleman had a plethora of health problems and died from an epidural hematoma in May 2010. Still, that show made an impact on my life and I will be forever grateful.
Best of the 80’s