JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Today’s SI.com column …

gary_coleman

is about the made-for-TV sports movie career of one of my all-time childhood favorites, Gary Coleman.

Man, so much to say about this one. I’ve always had a very soft spot in my heart for Coleman and Emmanuel Lewis, the two diminutive African-American child stars from the late 1970s-through-mid-80s. Both kids were basically plucked from obscurity and turned into minstrel acts, which sickens me to this day. Hell, think of both shows—Diff’rent Strokes and Webster. Parents of black kids die, and they’re saved by the white people. I’m not joking here … disturbing times.

Coleman was a piece of meat, and it sucks. His life was terrible; his parents terrible; his wife apparently terrible. Hell, she sold the final photograph of him, in a hospital, tubes running up his nose, to The Globe for $10,000. Had she approached me, I would have tried cobbling together the $10,001 to prevent her from doing so.

One of the people I interviewed for the column was Meeno Peluce, who you might remember from the 80s series Voyagers (he’s now an insanely talented photographer. Seriously, check out his site). When they were little kids, Meeno and Gary Coleman appeared in a made-for-TV movie called Scout’s Honor. Meeno told me the saddest Coleman story I’ve ever heard. He invited Meeno to his 10th birthday party, at a steakhouse somewhere in L.A. “I was excited,” Meeno said. “It was a party, and it was Gary Coleman. I’d never even been to a steakhouse before.” Meeno arrived with his mother, and was shocked to see he was the only guest. “He didn’t have friends,” he said. “It was just tragic.”

R.I.P.