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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, September 6, 2003

Coleman in search of different strokes

By Ann Oldenburg
USA Today


Most movie stars are only too happy to plug their films.

Not Gary Coleman. The former child star and Independent candidate for governor of California wishes he had never agreed to appear in "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star."

"That's one of those jobs I did for the money and the studio execs. Maybe because I'm running for governor, it will get pulled from theaters," says Coleman, who has a cameo as the end credits roll.

Coleman, 35, is so bitter about those cute kid years of fame on the 1978-1986 NBC show "Diff'rent Strokes" that even the phrase "child star" makes him bristle.

"I don't talk about child stars in general. I don't talk about my past. It has been such a hindrance to my developing any kind of career. I would take it back in a minute if there were a time machine." In fact, if he had it to do over: "None of this lifetime would have happened."

Maybe Coleman's bitterness is understandable. For every Jodie Foster who carves out a successful adult acting career after being a child star, there are dozens of young wannabes who wind up in trouble or in obscurity.

"Former child actors as a whole have definitely been put through the wringer," says Corey Feldman, 32, who started out doing commercials at age 3, was arrested for drug possession in the 1990s and went into rehab. Feldman, sober 12 years now, is in "Dickie Roberts," too.

Coleman says he wouldn't mind acting more. "I still like making people laugh; I just don't like it as much as I used to. I enjoy working on a quality product. Quality doesn't come my way very often."

He lives by himself in an apartment in Los Angeles, is a spokesman for a Web network called Ugo.com and requires weekly dialysis for kidney problems that stunted his growth.

As for the political race, fewer than 1 percent of voters back him, according to the latest polls. He doesn't know if he is being taken seriously and doesn't seem to care. "I don't even worry about that," he says. "As long as my ideas are heard."

His ideas: lower property, income and sales taxes. Overspending, from local to federal levels, is out of control, he says. He's running because he wants to clean house. "I believe everyone up to the president should be recalled."

As for star opponent Arnold Schwarzenegger? "I think he needs to just quit. His decisions and conversations have been so arbitrary."

Even though Coleman thinks California is a mess, his acting career is stalled, and he longs for a simpler life back home in Illinois, he can't seem to leave. "I have this nasty habit. I never go back. I'm always looking forward. If I did leave, I would be getting away from the one job that pays me any income."

The job of being Gary Coleman.