I feel sincere empathy for anyone who personally knew and cared about Gary Coleman. The way the tabloid media, with a strong assist from his ex-wife Shannon Price, is treating his death is shameful. On the heels of a truly disturbing 911 call in which Shannon apathetically sounded as if she couldn’t be bothered to help a seriously injured person (never mind the fact that he was her ex-husband with whom she was currently living), she actually took, then sold Gary’s deathbed pictures for $10,000. That’s cold-blooded. Now it has been revealed that Shannon claims she is the sole heir to Gary’s estate and should be the executor despite the fact that they have been divorced since 2008 and his will name’s his ex-manager as the sole executor. She even produced an unsigned addendum to his will detailing Gary’s love for her, as well as checked that he was still married to her at the time of his death on his death certificate. To make matters worse, without authorization, she removed all of his possessions from his house, including his collector’s items, flat screen televisions and pick-up truck. Shannon has mad skills.
This is a pitiful ending to what, by many accounts, appears to have been an unhappy life. Gary was adopted as an infant, and as a toddler it was discovered that he had a kidney disease that would eventually stunt his growth, require him to suffer through two kidney transplants and ultimately force him to undergo decades of dialysis treatments. Although he found fame and fortune first in commercials, then as the star of Diff’rent Strokes, it all came at a hefty price. He became estranged from his family after accusing them of embezzling his money, and once the show ended he was virtually unemployable in Hollywood. He spent most of his adult life broke and doing odd jobs, most notably spending some time as a security guard. Whenever he was interviewed he came across as extremely unhappy and mad at the world. In fact I caught one of his last interviews a few months ago where he pulled the microphone off and walked off the set because he was displeased with where the dialogue was headed. Ironically, a couple of years ago he and Shannon appeared on Divorce Court.
Gary’s adoptive parents have spoken out recently to say that when they contacted Shannon that she left them a very dismissive voice mail message and never bothered to give them any details surrounding Gary’s death so that they could have some measure of closure. Shannon even went so far as to tell them to contact her brother, who was handling the funeral arrangements. Wow.
Sadly, there is no one to blame but Gary himself for this debacle. By virtue of the fact that he dated and lived with Shannon for a while he clearly knew her better than most. Someone doesn’t just instantly develop the kinds of character flaws that Shannon has publicly displayed. She comes across as an opportunist, someone who has experience with taking someone else’s misfortune and capitalizing on it. I’m not saying she’s a gold digger, but it’s noteworthy how quickly she mobilized and went into action for her own benefit even before Gary had actually died. I have to wonder if in Gary’s final moments, when he was bleeding profusely from a head wound and she would not go near him to help, it dawned on him what he had gotten himself into by dealing with her. Poor thing. His portrayal of how they met and hooked up painted him as a lonely, needy and desperate man who was vulnerable. It seems that Shannon seized on the opportunity and worked it.
If there are any lessons to be learned from the tragic life and death of Gary Coleman, the primary one that stands out in my mind is to love yourself. Know when you are being used and abused and move on. Gary initiated the divorce from Shannon, and in retrospect one can surmise why. She certainly appears to be self-centered and heartless. If he had a strong sense of self worth then perhaps he would have moved on after the divorce was finalized instead of moving back in with her and continuing the relationship. The other lesson I gleaned is to never let anything, especially money, come between you and your family. Gary disowned all of his family members in a battle over money, and in the end he died broke, unhappy and virtually alone. The one person he considered family treated him like an animal in his time of need.
The universe has a way of correcting wrongs, so in the end I know that Shannon will get exactly what she deserves. It’s clear that she thinks she’s gaming the system but it’s only a matter of time before karma posts up on the top spot.