'Diff'rent Strokes' dad Conrad Bain dies at 89

  • Updated: January 16, 2013 - 6:24 PM

Conrad Bain, a veteran stage and film actor who became a star in middle age as the kindly white adoptive father of two young black brothers in the TV sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes," has died. Bain died Monday of natural causes in his hometown of Livermore, Calif., said his daughter, Jennifer Bain. He was 89.

Bain went into "Diff'rent Strokes" from another comedy, "Maude," which aired on CBS from 1972 to 1978. As Dr. Arthur Harmon, the conservative neighbor often zinged by Bea Arthur's liberal feminist, Bain became so convincing as a doctor that a woman once sought out his medical advice.

But the show that made him famous was "Diff'rent Strokes," which debuted on NBC in 1978, an era when television comedies tackled social issues. The show touched on such serious themes as race and class relations, but was known better as a family comedy that drew most of its laughs from its standout child actor, Gary Coleman. Bain played wealthy Manhattan widower Philip Drummond, who promised his dying housekeeper he would raise her sons, played by Coleman and Todd Bridges. The series lasted six seasons on NBC and two on ABC.

In the show's heyday, Bain didn't mind being overshadowed by the focus on the show's children. But "Diff'rent Strokes" is remembered mostly for its child stars' adult troubles. Coleman, who died in 2010, had financial and legal problems in addition to continuing ill health from the kidney disease that required transplants. Bridges and Dana Plato, who played Bain's teenage daughter, both had arrest records and drug problems, and Plato died of an overdose in 1999 at age 34.

Bain said in interviews later that he struggled to talk about his TV children's troubled lives because of his love for them. After Bridges started to put his drug troubles behind him in the early 1990s, he told Jet magazine that Bain had become like a real father to him.

Shakira hosts baby shower - for other kids

What does the baby of the world's most famous Latin American singer need? Nothing. Expectant parents Shakira, 35, and soccer star Gerard Pique, 25, are inviting friends and family to join an online baby shower to benefit underprivileged children. A UNICEF-hosted website, uni.cf/baby, invites participants to buy a $5 mosquito net to ensure a baby stays safe from malaria, a leading cause of child deaths worldwide. Guests can spend $10 for polio vaccines to protect 17 children, or $37 for a baby scale. "To celebrate the arrival of our first child, we hope that, in his name, other less privileged children in the world can have their basic needs covered through gifts and donations," they said.

WOMAN OF THE YEAR: Academy Award-winning actress Marion Cotillard, 37, has been named the 2013 Harvard University Hasty Pudding Theatricals' Woman of the Year. She will be honored on Jan. 31.

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