Yesterday, Diff’rent Strokes star Gary Coleman, 42, died after suffering a brain hemorrhage on Wednesday, May 26. On Thursday, he slipped into unconsciousness and was put on life support. Yesterday, Friday, his family took him off life support and stood by his side while he died.

As soon as I read about his death, I posted a link to the story on my Facebook page with a simple note that said, “Crap. I feel sad about this.”

Immediately, people started making jokes. My friend David suggested that all flags should be flown at 4’2″ for at least a week. My friend TJ asked, “With this tragic loss, how can you not feel a bit shorted?”

The jokes were funny and not mean spirited, and I didn’t feel bothered by them at all. Would my friends have been making these jokes if someone I’d known personally, who I was close to had died? No, probably not. I get that Gary Coleman was a television celebrity (a short one) who’d melted into relative obscurity in the last years of his life. There’s a bit of cognitive dissonance that occurs when a celebrity dies – you don’t know the person, so there’s a certain discomfort that may occur if you feel emotional about their passing. Jokes help create distance between you and the discomfort of death. I get that.

But then another friend posted the following:

“Really? Why does everyone get so broken up or emotionally affected by people who are complete strangers? Yes, we saw them on TV as fictional characters. As far as I am concerned this displaced behavior is just another reason why you all should KILL YOUR TV. People are more invested in characters than the real people in their lives.”

And that…well, that one bothered me.

Yes, Facebook friend, really.

When I was a kid, the men in my life were constantly sexually, physically, and mentally abusive. It was a horrific, terrible existence. I watched my mom beat bloody in front of me regularly until I was fifteen years old. My one escape from my reality was TV. Gary Coleman and Diff’rent Strokes were just one part of the alternate universe I lived in to find solace from the discord and disharmony that was my every waking moment. See also: The Keatons, The Huxtables, all the gals nursing on Mrs. Garret’s teat. They were my families, too. And so, yes, I feel a little sad to see his life end so suddenly, and so painfully, and after a life wrought with struggle – which is exactly opposite of what you want for anyone you ever cared about.

But that’s my defense. My excuse. Which I don’t really owe and which I shouldn’t have to offer up, because no one should have to defend when they take a moment to ponder the life of someone who has died, no matter who he is.

Another Facebook friend posted a long rant about how no one should care that Gary Coleman died, that no one should take a moment to hold their hat over their heart, because there are nameless soldiers dying for a cause she strongly believes in – soldiers whose names never even enter our consciousness. And I’m just fed up with the whole philosophy.

Really? I should stuff down my moment of sadness (which wasn’t debilitating or life altering, but significant for just a moment nonetheless) and even be ashamed of it because it is for a guy whose only virtue in this world (that we know of) was to offer entertainment to a lot of people my age once upon a time. To me that suggests that the value of a person’s life is contingent upon a finite set of rules – deemed, obviously, by someone other than me – and that life itself isn’t worth valuing or mourning.

I don’t watch TV. Yes, it is an evil implement for many and in many ways. That’s my opinion. Be that as it may, I still found comfort in certain humans – humans – who entertained me during a very tough time. And I still have a TV so that I can watch movies and I still watch Jeopardy! from time to time. And I guarantee you, when Alex Trebek dies, I will shed a tear.

And none of this takes me away from my incessant worrying about the war and the Gulf oil spill and the state of our world and other, less popular people who may or may not have performed more noble tasks. But I won’t for a second suggest that people who entertain us are any less valuable, because god damn it, with all the suffering in the world, there had better be some things and some people who make me smile once in a while.

R.I.P. Gary Coleman.

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GLORIA HARRISON is a writer whose work has been featured on The Nervous Breakdown, Fictionaut, and This American Life. Gloria was the lead editor for The Portland Red Guide: Sites & Stories of Our Radical Past by Michael Munk, which was published through Ooligan Press in 2007. She was also a contributing editor to Pete Anthony's book, Immaculate, for which she received a high five and a ten dollar gift card to Stumptown Coffee. Gloria graduated from Portland State University with her B.A. in English in 2006 and now focuses on her own writing. She had a work of flash fiction published in The Bear Deluxe Magazine (No. 26). You can follow her on Twitter here.

Gloria lives in Portland, Oregon with her school-age twin boys. She is currently working on both a memoir and her first novel. You can contact Gloria via her Facebook page.

68 responses to “In Defense of Mourning Gary Coleman’s Death”

  1. Tree says:

    Well said, my dear friend. Well said.

  2. Tawni says:

    Perfect. Love it. Love you. xoxo.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      Thank you, Tawni. I wouldn’t have posted it without your encouragement.

      Now, off with you! Whales await!

  3. We’re all touched by the media in different ways. Different strokes, eh? But it’s true. I was affected by the end of Lost where I couldn’t sleep that night. MJ’s death for some odd reason made me cry. I didn’t know the guy. But still, “Dirty Diana” for the next few weeks had me in tears.

    Your own feelings are legitimate. Naysayers always want to shit on real feelings that just because they aren’t having them, they won’t empathize. Empathy is important. Our society lacks so much of it.

    With that said, my Gary Coleman story is this:

    Back in the late 1980s I took a trip in an RV with the ex-wife’s family. We saw all the sights on the way to Denver, Colorado. We saw Royal Gorge, Mesa Verde, Black Canyon of the Gunnison and the Grand Canyon.

    But we also saw Gary Coleman’s house.

    It was a huge house set in a quaint upper scale Denver neighborhood. We were visiting a house in the neighborhood (ex-wife’s aunt. Oil company people) and I’ll never forget the folks who loved there complaining about Coleman. They said he wouldn’t say hello and was just plain rude.

    I imagined Coleman taking out the trash and slamming it on the curb. I think he lived there with one of his parents. And I think we since discovered it wasn’t a good time for him.

    Can I blame the guy for being rude? Maybe he had a good reason. But ever since then, I have always thought of him as a crotchety guy slamming doors and poking a billy club into the ribs of anyone he felt like jabbing.

    I was having lunch yesterday with the program director of a radio station yesterday and he talked about an interview with Coleman. “He sounded like someone who was always in a lot of pain,” he said.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      Yes, empathy is important.

      I was pretty ambivalent about Jackson’s death. On the one hand, his was the first album I ever wanted to own. My grandparents bought me Thriller on cassette when I was seven. My fairly racist grandparents, who couldn’t understand why I wanted it (but they bought it anyway.) I loved the Thriller video so, so much. I followed Jackson’s career and thought he was strange and wonderful for a long time. Then there was all the stuff with kids. And, I don’t know… We’ll never know. But there was such a black mark (no pun intended) on his record after that. It made his death a pretty complicated thing for me to wrap my mind around.

      Your Gary Coleman story is hilarious. If I were in constant pain, I’d be grumpy too. Besides, if he’s getting all these short jokes in his death, I can only imagine what he must have suffered through in his life.

  4. New Orleans Lady says:

    If we can’t enjoy the the things that make us smile, why bother fighting for anything?

    I don’t like it when people, especially friends, are pushed to a point where they have to defend their feelings. They are feelings, people. We have little or no control over them. Can’t we keep our mouths shut long enough to show our friends that we respect them and their feelings even if we don’t understand them? It’s simple.

    I love you….and your feelings.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      “If we can’t enjoy the the things that make us smile, why bother fighting for anything?” Yes. Precisely. 🙂

  5. Amanda says:

    thank you for writing this piece, my dear.
    i am fascinated by the spectacle that is facebook. i am privy to so many glimpses into the lives and ways of people i have never met. in some ways, it’s nice…feeds my voyeurism…and also helps me to distinguish what sorts of folk with whom i share the planet. i often wonder, “hmmm, would you say that to her face?” “are you this way in your daily life?” and “why so much vitriol?”
    i am always sad to hear of a death; one less particle in our greater whole that has transformed in a way the rest of us have yet to experience. but i am more sad more often over hate, self-righteousness, and lack of forethought. on the one hand, i am glad there is a forum for people to state their minds, and i am glad that people partake of said forum in order that we all don’t boil over and go on gun-toting rampages. on the other hand, what i end up taking in by imbibing in my FB habit is a lot of verbiage that can have lasting ill-effect. the bottom line for me is that this human existence is fraught with pain; when one expresses her pain to feel comfort in the collective, and is met with derision, it fuels another pain, one with residuals, a pain that is insidious because she has to now somehow justify that it was really “all in good fun” or “not directed at me” but in reality is now part of her conscious being. sad.
    i’d rather just be sad with you for a minute, honor your feelings, and let go. more pointedly, i’d rather many other humans would take this tack… just a little more kindness, empathy, and caring, my friends?

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      “The spectacle that is Facebook.” What an apt description, Amanda. It is a spectacle. And more than once I’ve discussed with various people the phenomenon of people saying things in online forums that they likely wouldn’t say in 3D.

      “…when one expresses her pain to feel comfort in the collective, and is met with derision, it fuels another pain, one with residuals, a pain that is insidious because she has to now somehow justify that it was really “all in good fun” or “not directed at me” but in reality is now part of her conscious being.” Yes, not unlike making excuses for an abuser. Because people can be downright abusive in their comments when they don’t have to look people in the eye. I’m not saying that the comment I reference in my post is abusive. I’m just saying, I agree that you’re inclined to make excuses for impoliteness online more than you would be if someone had said something you found insulting in real life.

      Thanks for reading, Amanda.

  6. Carol Hiller says:

    I was driving south on the 805 when the radio reported that Zero Mostel had died. I had to pull over. We think we know artists despite never being introduced because they can’t help showing who they are, and we love the vulnerability.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      I never felt like I “knew” Gary Coleman. I just had a personal connection with a character he played on TV once upon a time. And in some weird way it kind of felt like I connected with him. And I think this is what makes great art. Great art makes a person feel something. That’s the whole point!

  7. Great post Gloria. I think you are entirely justified in feeling sad about the death of someone who brought you joy (and an alternate reality) as a kid. We’re sad when great painters die–from Basquiat to Picasso (who died after I was born) and no one mocks us about that. So why should anyone be mocked or made to feel bad because an actor died? Art is art. It gives us joy in many forms: TV, movies, paintings, sculpture, etc. The loss of anyone who creates art is a loss to everyone who enjoys that art.

    And, by the way, I love TV. I never have time to watch it, but when I do, I thoroughly enjoy it. Mad Men anyone? Come on. TV is great.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      If I hear enough rave reviews about a show, I’ll get it on DVD and watch it nonstop. I prefer this to the “old way” of watching it actually. Not only can I catch up on the entire season (or series) in one go, but I don’t have to deal with commercials or having to wait a week to hang out with my favorite characters again. In this way, I’ve seen almost every episode of The Office and Arrested Development, among others. I’ve recently started getting into 30 Rock, which is frickin’ brilliant.

      And, yes, Mad Men, too. I have to admit, though – I’ve had to quit watching Mad Men. I swear to god, I drank more than normal and chain smoked during the week that I spent watching season one. Is there a show on TV that can possibly fuel hedonism more? If so, please don’t tell me about it. 🙂

      • Amber C says:

        Arrested Development made me believe that tv could have value again. I had lost hope. It has returned.

        And I freaking LOVE 30 Rock. And The Office. Community is also good. I don’t watch a lot of tv but there are some awesome things out there. Will Arnett is connected to at least two of them, bless him.

  8. Jen Violi says:

    Thank you for writing and sharing this, Gloria. Reading it brought up lots of feelings for me that I wasn’t sure how to put into a comment. Then I read Amanda’s comment and was thankful for that. What she said.

    Subject matter aside, let me add that I consistently love your writing voice, and much as I feel with my other favorite writers, you could wax eloquent about dust mites or refried beans, and I’d be hooked.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      Yes, Amanda said it very well.

      And thanks for the compliment, JV. It’s a helluva thing for someone of your talent to say.

      Thanks for reading! 😀

  9. Sarah says:

    All I can think of to say is that I love your feelings. I love your heart.

    We should all be able to take whatever moments we need for whatever reasons we need them whenever we need them. And never should we be made to feel the need to defend them.

    Thank you for reminding me of that.

  10. Hugh Thomas Patterson says:

    We grew up with people like Gary Coleman even though we didn’t know them personally. For many of us, the painful aspects of adolescence we’re explained in a perverse way through 30 minute segments on television. The death of these people quietly reminds us of our own mortality. Child stars usually end up with troubled lives and this can often serve as a reflection of our own problems. I never speak ill of the dead, only the living..

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      I would agree, Hugh. And in some strange way it reminds us of the death of childhood maybe? I don’t know… maybe that’s too dramatic.

      “I never speak ill of the dead, only the living…” I love this so much. I hope you don’t mind that I’m going to quote it willy-nilly for the rest of the day.

      • Hugh Thomas Patterson says:

        Feel free, I’m sure I stole it from someone else. I actually wrote a book chapter about childhood personalities that shaped (and ruined) my life. Maybe it was being an Alterboy as a kid that beat the concept of not speaking ill of the dead into me with the sledge hammer of Catholicism. However, I only go after those whose can defend themselves against my sometimes poisonous mouth (and pencil)…

  11. Angela says:

    Gloria, I love this piece. I’m always saddened when a celebrity I feel like I grew up with dies (Corey haim, River Phoenix). To say their deaths are insignificant because they’re entertainers is the same as saying soldiers’ deaths are insignificant because we don’t know their names. Of course one shouldn’t overshadow the other but death is death.

    I have a friend who experienced a terrible tragedy when she was younger. For a long time, and even now, going to her with our own small tragedies was impossible because they didn’t equal hers and were therefore insignificant.

    Our experiences and perspectives in the moment are significant no matter what.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      The two that you mention (CH and RP) are especially sad because they’re also tragic. You shake your head and you think, “You had so much, but addiction and hard living took you down.”

      I have no intention of making this political and I think you’re right on by saying that the death of soldiers and the death of celebrities shouldn’t overlap each other in this discussion. You’re right – there’s no need to qualify it. Death is death.

  12. Zara Potts says:

    Angela is right. Death is death and we would be monsters if we didn’t mourn it – be they known or unknown.
    I remember when Diana, Princess of Wales died and the whole world (it seemed) went into collective mourning. Psychologists surmised that her death was actually a release for people to unlock their own personal grief through her death.
    I think the fact that you felt sad about Gray Coleman shows that you have much empathy and compassion and that should be celebrated.

    • Gloria says:

      Princess Diana is a great example, Zara. I was in England from late July to late August in 1997. I remember going to visit this one lady, and her daughter had this whole collection of Princess Diana toys. It was insane. People there loved her. I returned to the states about two weeks before she died. And when I heard the news I didn’t so much feel my own personal grief as I did the collective grief of a bunch of really neat people I’d just spent the best month of my life with. Diana, though, wasn’t just a celebrity. She was a humanitarian and someone truly worthy of admiring.

  13. J.M. Blaine says:

    Let me second
    compassion & empathy.

    Whenever a tragic figure
    it should hurt.

    We’re writers, dammit.
    It should hurt.

    • Gloria says:

      Heh. Nice call. I think that from now on whenever I’m called on the carpet for feeling ANYTHING I’m just going to say, “What do you want? I’m a writer.” Thanks, JMB.

  14. Richard Cox says:

    I think it’s beautiful that you feel this way. I don’t think it’s just to be dismissive about anyone’s death, well-known or not.

    I’m one of those people who think society is overly obsessed with celebrities, and I don’t understand the obsession with the personal lives of people we don’t know. But when it comes to feelings and reflection about the death of someone, anyone, those are yours and yours alone. You don’t have to defend anything.

    I don’t feel any more or less about the death of a soldier I don’t know than Gary Coleman or whoever it might be. I didn’t personally know either of them. Zara mentioned Princess Diana, and I didn’t feel anything about her, either. For me death is more about personal feelings of loss and sadness, sympathy for the families and friends left behind.

    But again, this type of thing is personal and we all react to traumatic news differently. Thank you for sharing yours.

    Wonderful post, Gloria.

    • Gloria says:

      Thanks, Richard.

      I wonder, is there any celebrity that you can think of that would shake you if he or she passed? I have no point. I’m just curious. Tiger Woods? Do sports folks count as celebrities?

      • Richard Cox says:

        I thought about that when I commented. I guess if Tiger Woods died I’d be bummed for the golf world, especially if it happened in the middle of his career. Despite his problems I’d still like to see him break lot of golf records. But honesty, I just don’t think it would touch me the way we’re discussing here. I’d love to play golf with him sometime. I think that would be cool. But since I don’t presently know him, his death would be a piece of news to me. A significant bit of news, but ultimately just news.

        Does that make me a sociopath? Maybe I just don’t experience human emotion at all.

        • Gloria Harrison says:

          I don’t think you experience human emotion, Richard. I think you’re like Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation – you’re like a cyborg who desperately wants to be human. Only, unlike, Data, no one ever told you. I thought, being your friend and all, that I should let you know. Don’t worry, I don’t have any weird issues about feeling emotionally connected to a machine. Heh.

  15. Simon Smithson says:

    I love TV. I just do. I’m sorry.

    But who is anyone else to tell you who you should and shouldn’t mourn? Why do we mourn anyone? Because of the feelings they inspired in us, because of the way that they touched our lives.

    Is it any less real because of the way they did so?

    • Gloria says:

      Don’t say sorry.

      You know, my big beef with the television is twofold, to be honest with you:

      1) Commercials. I hate them. They manipulate. I can feel them manipulating. It makes me crazy. And it disrupts the flow of the narrative.

      2) There is some bad, bad shit greenlighted (greenlit?) and it makes entertainment watered down and people dull.

      Oh, wait, there’s a third one: I’m WAY too busy to center my life around anything other than my children and, when I’m lucky, my writing. Who are these people that can predict that they’ll be home every single Thursday at 8:00 PM. It’s mysterious to me.

      • Irwin says:

        I hate commercials. It does totally disrupt narratives— or worse, the show is written around ad breaks so that there are mini-endings at various points in the episode that you only notice when watching on DVD.

        TV is weird now though, because some of the most horrifying crap that has ever been broadcast is being broadcast now, and in huge quantities. BUT some of the best TV ever made is airing right now as well…

        On Coleman:

        It’s always sad when anybody dies. Especially when anyone dies young. Just because he was on tv… just because he was short… that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a real human being. It doesn’t mean he didn’t have family and friends…

  16. Amy says:

    The argument about soldiers dying…
    I watched TV every day after school growing up on Air Force bases during the Vietnam War to get my mind OFF soldiers (neighbors’ dad) dying. The mindless entertainment of the Marsha and Jan and Cindy and Bobby and Peter and Greg (the nerd) was a salve. So when someone who contributed to easing the pain of living passes…yea…you get to have emotions about it. Hugs to little and big Gloria.

    • Gloria says:

      Wait… Was it Marcia? Or Marsha?

      I’m running to Wikipedia.

      Phew. It is Marcia. I’m not trying to call you out, I was just really worried that I’d carried another misconception from childhood into my mid-adult years. (Like Secret Agent Man is not Secret Asian Man, et cetera.)

      Thanks for the hugs, Amy. Hugs right back.

  17. Erica says:

    I think that about sums it up. In a world where we run into a new crap storm at every turn, sometimes that escape becomes very valuable. I also think that (for me, at least) public figures seem almost intangible, and when they die, it’s a shock that they are, in fact, mere mortals. If only for a moment. So R.I.P. Gary Coleman. And Dennis Hopper! What the hell???

  18. Greg Olear says:

    Sorry if others have already said this, but your FB “friends” suck.

    I wrote a piece back on the old site about the KILL YOUR TELEVISION thing. I mean, TV is a medium, like a book, or a canvas. A medium, any medium, is not inherently bad. KILL YOUR TELEVISION is no different, fundamentally, than BURN YOUR LIBRARY. That person, ugh.

    Even worse is the How Dare You Feel Bad When People Are Dying in Iraq person. People die every day, tragically, terribly, and most of the time anonymously. We should all, what, spend 24/7/395/infinity rending our garments? And who is she, or anyone, to dictate some pyramid of grief, or sadness, or anything? You feel how you feel. Gary Coleman touched you; he touched a lot of people; of course you’re going to feel a frisson of sadness when he dies, especially knowing how shitty his life was alleged to be. To suggest there’s something wrong with feeling that way…I mean, wha’chu talkin’ about, Willis?

    • Gloria says:

      Not all of my FB friends suck. You’re one of my FB friends. 🙂 And so is that hot little mamacita you’re married to. She doesn’t suck either.

      You know, for the most part, I like to keep my FB friends list pretty mixed. My one rule is “Don’t be an asshole.” To me. You get one. ‘Cause we all have bad days.

      Wha’chu talkin’ about, indeed. 🙂

      • Gloria says:


        • Greg Olear says:

          I think it was right the first time.

          Oh, everybody has friends, FB and RT, who spout nonsense from time to time. It’s what makes life fun.

          The “Diff’rent Strokes” where Arnold and Willis are in the apartment of the pedophile still creeps me out.

  19. Marybear says:

    Black Goldfish !!! =)
    I’m in happy flashback O.O

    I miss him too Gloria

    • Gloria says:

      Well, he’s never seen a rich white man either!

      Man, race relations on television have changed a lot since then.

  20. I never really felt anything much when I heard that he’d died. The jokes didn’t bother me, either. It’s one of those things – when a celebrity dies, you can’t criticise others for feeling sad, and they shouldn’t criticise you for not feeling sad. We’re all different. Personally, I’ve never been much of a TV person. I don’t particularly relate to TV characters or actors.

    What surprised me was that when he died I found myself checking him out on Wikipedia to see what he’d been doing for the last 20 or 30 yrs. It was a little disturbing. That made me sad.

    • Gloria says:

      I would like to find a story that’s not disturbing, to be honest with you (in regards to celebrities that fade from the spotlight.)

      Oh! Wait! I’ve got one for you: Jeff Cohen. He played Chunk in The Goonies. He’s some big shot entertainment lawyer in Beverly Hills and, according to Wikipedia, he was “named The Hollywood Reporter’s Next Generation: Hollywood’s Top 35 Executives 35 and Under in their November 5th issue.” And, he slimmed down and became not unattractive as an adult. So there you have it.

  21. Matt says:

    I think I have to more or less echo Rich’s comment. The only celebrity who’s death I’ve been affected by was Kurt Cobain’s, but I was a teenager, and it passed before long. I could probably name a few still living who’s eventual death would probably have some ramifications for me, but I’m not going to name them on the chance Slade Ham will read this post and then think about them. We all know what happens then.

    Friday, Cary Coleman. Saturday, Dennis Hopper. Sunday, Mel Blanc.

    Seriously, Slade, what gives?

    • Gloria says:

      What? Mel Torme? He was, like, the smiliest guy I’d ever seen.

      I used to watch Night Court and Harry, the judge (and magician) loved Mel Torme. Somewhere in TV Land, there is a quirky night court judge weeping.

      • Matt says:

        Look again – I said Mel Blanc. The voice of Bugs Bunny.

        I don’t even know if Mel Torme is still alive.

        • Gloria says:

          You know what’s hilarious? My entire life, I’ve gotten the two confused.

          Also, apparently, Mel Torme died 11 years ago.

          Um…and according to Wikipedia, Mel Blanc died in 1989.

  22. TJ Weldy says:

    There are three themes here that, for some reason, all seem true and, yet, should not be in conflict.

    #1 Humor and death: Gary Coleman was a comedian whom I didn’t really know. From what I’ve read he had a wicked sense of humor, often self-deprecating. In my own experience of the world, I’d rather be played out with a punchline than a bunch of solemn sad people. Just a personal note there, not that this is what anyone else should feel obligated to do.

    #2 No one has a right or ability to determine how anyone else chooses to experience their emotions, among which is grief.

    #3 The construction of fictional characters out of real people is rife in our culture. It happens with all sorts of celebrities – which are elevated to some non-mortal status and when they suddenly show up and remind us that they are just as human as the rest of us it appears to be difficult for us to deal with. This could be becoming ill and/or dying or some sort of moral aberration, per Tiger Woods and, well, almost any other celebrity you can think of. I can see the argument that this might not be entirely healthy.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      You make an interesting point: forgetting that a person who plays a character is a person at the end of the day is important. To that I will say this:

      1. When I saw that Gary Coleman died, I didn’t think, “Wow. Arnold is dead.” However, when Mr. Rogers died, I did say, “Wow, Mr. Rogers is dead.” And that made me sad, even though in many ways he was just playing a character called Mr. Rogers on television.

      2. If we didn’t allow ourselves to forget that there’s a mortal, flesh and blood person who, like, poops and stuff performing a role, movies and television would be a lot less interesting.

  23. Joe Daly says:

    The really nice thing about this piece is that it’s a reminder that feelings don’t always need to be explained or justified- they just are and thank goodness we have them.

    You brought me back to a memory I had completely forgot- when Different Strokes first came on TV, my dad, who was not at all ever interested in television, said he wanted to watch the show with me because it looked funny. So the two of us sat down in the den and watched the debut of that show. I remember both of us laughing. What a priceless memory to re-connect with after so long.

    Anyway, some people, for whatever reason, can’t accept that which they can’t understand. I feel bad for them.

    Nice piece!

    • Gloria says:

      Ah, Joe. That’s a beautiful memory.

      I remember that my mom loved Alf. And so did my stepdad. It was this show that oddly brought us all together into the same room and caused all of us to laugh together for half an hour once a week. Strange power, television. Also, I remember that my stepdad worked weekends for several years and he’d be gone when, at 7:00 AM, my mom would wake my sister and me up on Saturdays so that we could gather in the living room to first watch The Joy of Painting (with Bob Ross and his happy little squirrels) and then The Smurfs – which my mom LOVED. Those are some good memories, too.

  24. Tony DuShane says:

    very well said. storytelling is storytelling, whether through characters in a novel or on tv shows. yeah, sitcoms are watered down, but we’re still engaged.

    when an author dies, there’s respect and sadness…because he/she either disengaged us from our problems with compelling storytelling, made statements and changed lives and generations, etc.

    ‘whatchoo talkin’ about willis?’ probably had the tv writers cringing every time they had to include it in a script, but it worked as escapism and you were lucky to have that in your abusive environment.

    and for the preachers who say there’s other things to worry about in the world, yeah, there’s no end to that, it’s sad and i can sit in fetal position all day over 1000s of things like the dead in the central american storms.

    it’s gotta be such a mindfuck to be that famous for a kid, and go through what he went through. even though his body failed him, i consider him a survivor.

    oh, off topic, if you’re not watching tv, and you like british humor, grab dvds of the mighty boosh and peep show. whenever i’m down those shows set me upright.

    • Gloria says:

      Heh. Yes, that phrase probably irked a lot of people. I’m thinking also of every time Joey Lawrence’s character said, “WHOA!” on Blossom. Oh TV and your silly catch phrases.

      Yeah, I have no shortage of things to grieve, either. Escapism is important – in small doses.

      I couldn’t imagine being a famous child. It’s hard enough for adults. I wonder sometimes if I’d be able to handle stardom or fame as an adult. I don’t know that I would. Not that it’s on the table as an option or anything…

      Thanks for the suggestions of shows! Awesome! (I love me some good British humor.)

  25. Becky says:

    “Kill your TV” people are increasingly suspect to me.

    As Greg points out, if smut or vapidity or dissociation from reality is the concern, then you’d better throw out your computer and your netflix subscription and your books, too.

    Proclaiming hatred of TV to the rest of the world seems more and more affected and pretentious and compensatory every time I see or hear of it.

    If all people can find on TV are stupid shows, maybe it’s because they’re too stupid to find the good ones, in which case, TV isn’t what made them dense.

    Dear “Kill your TV” people…If you keep acting like that, no one’s going to think you’re smart at all. They’re going to think you’re too intellectually feeble to maintain your sense of reality against a mere television set (or at least that’s what I will think. That you’re projecting. I’m on to you, and now that I know you’re easily manipulated, I will target you…okay I won’t, but I will think you’re projecting. So stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself. Why are you hitting yourself?). How is that anything to brag about?

    • Gloria says:

      Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself. Ha ha ha ha ha

      You crack me up, lady.

      (Also, beautifully said. Per usual.)

  26. kristen says:

    “But that’s my defense. My excuse. Which I don’t really owe and which I shouldn’t have to offer up, because no one should have to defend when they take a moment to ponder the life of someone who has died, no matter who he is.”

    Yes! Good god, life is complicated enough as it is. Taking a moment to reflect on/mourn the loss of a human being–whomever they may be/have been–should be acknowledged simply for what it is: humane.

  27. David W. Linville says:

    Gloria, you are brilliant and amazing. Wow….. you have done well my cousin!

  28. peter says:

    This just made me aware of a chilling fact. Someday I will have to deal with the death of Emmanual Lewis as well.

  29. […] She went through a phase where she cut off her hair, stopped looking at mirrors, and abstained from both sex and Facebook.  (She still abstains from Facebook, although she occasionally hooks up with Twitter.)  We think this was brought on my her mourning the death of Gary Coleman. […]

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