Sunday, November 07, 2004

Diff'rent strokes

Today would have been Dana Plato's 40th birthday, had she not been...well...Dana Plato.

You recall the story, I'm sure. Plato was the young actress who played the older adoptive sister of the characters played by Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges on the '80s sitcom, Diff'rent Strokes. Like many child actors — including both of her costars — Plato fell on hard times after the spotlight dimmed. She got involved with drugs, and had several much-publicized run-ins with the legal system. She robbed a video store in Las Vegas in 1991, was sentenced to probation, then was arrested again the following year for forging a prescription for Valium.

Struggling to make a comeback, she starred in a softcore flick entitled, not coincidentally, Different Strokes, in which she played a lesbian who has an affair with a married woman. A year after the film became a late-night pay-cable staple, Dana Plato was dead of an overdose of Lortab, a narcotic related to codeine. Her death was ruled a suicide. She was 34 years old.

Sad story. Hollywood history is filled with others not unlike it.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be child stars.

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