OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Todd Bridges of 'Diff'rent Strokes' joins Dustin Diamond in Gary Saturday

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2012-10-26T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Todd Bridges of 'Diff'rent Strokes' joins Dustin Diamond in Gary SaturdayPhilip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

After actor Gary Coleman died at age 42 in May 2010, his TV brother Todd Bridges, who played his older sibling Willis, became the lone survivor of the NBC sitcom that propelled them to fame.

That is, with the exception of actor Conrad Bain, who turns 90 next year in February, and played their adoptive wealthy father Mr. Drummond on "Diff'rent Strokes." Bain, who was already familiar to viewers as a regular on the CBS series "Maude," is now retired and lives in an independent care facility in California. (His twin brother actor Bonar, who played the character of his twin brother on "Maude," is also still living.)

On Saturday, Bridges, 47, is coming to Gary to perform two comedy shows at 7 and 9:30 p.m. FYI: (888) 225-8259 or majesticstarcasino.com. Tickets are $15. And since the shows are in the casino, all guests must be 21 and older with ID. This new comedy space is located on the fifth floor in the special events space of Majestic Star Casino Boat II.

Bridges is on a performance bill that also includes Dustin Diamond, who played the silly character Screech on NBC's popular Saturday morning kids' series "Saved by the Bell." Julie McCullough is the third comic also featured as part of the stand-up comedy show.

I'm betting Bridges, whose own personal life has been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, will have plenty of interesting stories to share from the stage.

When the sitcom series "Diff'rent Strokes" aired on Nov. 3, 1978, at the time, the NBC network had few comedies on its schedule and the overall ratings of its lineup of shows were lagging.

To the surprise of TV executives, it was 10-year-old pint-sized Coleman, hailing from Zion, Ill., and playing 8-year-old orphan Arnold Jackson, who helped resurrect ratings and became responsible for NBC making lots of money and dreaming up plenty of spin-offs.

Like Bridges, Coleman became an example of how setbacks, even medical, can be conquered. Born with a congenital kidney problem, Coleman had a kidney transplant at age 5 that caused his growth to stop. But what he lacked in height, as a child star, he made up for in talent.

And during the eight-year run of "Diff'rent Strokes," which ended in 1986, Coleman and Bridges worked opposite some big names of the day who appeared with them on the series, from Mr. T to First Lady Nancy Reagan.

The last time Bridges was in our area, it was to appear with Coleman in 2009 in Rosemont, Ill., for what was to have been a special reunion that never happened, since Coleman fell ill and had to cancel.

The two had been slated to join other nostalgia and pop culture personality favorites from TV and movies at the 2009 Wizard World fan event at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.

 

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

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