It may seem that the cast of Diff’rent Strokes is competing with the cast of The Golden Girls to see which beloved sitcom can have the last actor standing. (Of the four central characters from each, three are no longer with us; Rue McClanahan, The Golden Girls‘ Blanche and Gary Coleman, Diff’rent Strokes‘ Arnold, left 80s television fans mourning in the very same week in 2010.) They’re tied, as of this past week, when Conrad Bain, who played Philip Drummond, passed away at age 89.
Bain was known to the world well before Diff’rent Strokes, having co-starred on the long-running series Maude (along with Golden Girl Bea Arthur, which gives me an idea for a new game, Six Degrees of Golden), among numerous other screen and stage credits. But he is probably well-remembered to many who were children during the time he was playing the most generous millionaire dad on the small screen. Continue reading
With the recent passing of Gary Coleman and now, Rue McClanahan, I have been hoping to locate the pilot episodes of Diff’rent Strokes or The Golden Girls. (I haven’t come across them online, so I may have to go old school and drive over to Blockbuster.) And, who can forget that Andrew “Boner” Koenig from Growing Pains took his own life not long ago? It gets you thinking about how a character can make such an impression. It is as if we all knew Arnold Jackson, Blanche Devereaux and Boner personally. When you’re a kid, especially (as I was when these shows aired) the folks you hang out with for half an hour a week can seem as real as your neighbors. We laughed with them through their daily mishaps, and cried with them in the “very special” episodes.
So without rewatching the pilot of Diff’rent Strokes, I can still share this part from memory. When the kids arrive at Philip’s house, Arnold brings along his pet fish, which is black, and which he introduces as his goldfish. Philip says, “I’ve never seen a black goldfish before.” Arnold replies, “That’s okay, he’s never seen a rich white man before.”
Okay it’s not brilliant, but it sticks with me 30 years later. Thanks, Gary, Rue, and Andrew for the memories.