5.29.2010

Gary Coleman (1968-2010)



Growing Pains

Late last night before I went to bed, I saw a headline that Gary Coleman had been rushed to the hospital. Knowing the kidney related health challenges that he'd had to endure his entire life, I expected there would be a follow-up reporting that the once-beloved child star was dead.

I saw that headline when I got to work this morning. But my full expectation of the news did little to lessen the small sense of sadness that came afterward.

Most people in America knew Gary Coleman from his wise-cracking role as Arnold Jackson on the television sitcom Diff'rent Strokes. But some knew him from earlier star-turning appearances on the sitcoms Good Times and The Jeffersons. People from Chicago like myself, however, knew Gary from his first TV appearance as a pint-sized pitchman in a commercial for Harris Bank.

At the time of the Harris commercial, I was all of age nine and Gary was just a year older. For several years after, the chubby cheeked boy from Zion, Illinois, would be the face of my generation. It was an impossibly large pair of shoes for anyone to try to fill -- especially someone as small as Gary.

In remembrance, I wanted to find an upload of that commercial to share in this blog post. Amazingly, though, it isn't anywhere on the web – not even on YouTube. I thought that everything ever broadcast on TV might be found posted there.

Thanks to Ebony magazine (Jun 1978), I was at least able to find an image of the bespeckled Coleman holding the Hubert the Lion doll with whom he once shared the screen.

Though I haven't seen the actual commercial in more than three decades, I can still easily recall the baritone voice of the cartoon lion mascot saying, "You should have a Harris Banker," and Gary replying in an elfish twang, "You should have a Hubert doll!"

Despite the litany of embarrassing 'growing pains' that he had to undergo in the bright light that comes with celebrity, I've always maintained a fondness for Gary Coleman.

At the young age of 42, his pains, both physical and emotional, have finally come to an end.

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