As of this writing, Todd Bridges is the only surviving cast member of “Diff’rent Strokes,” and while it was sad that more senior stars died from age-related causes, the real tragedy is that two others left long before their time, the first being Dana Plato. As Kimberly Drummond, the eldest of the three siblings on the show and the only one with a biological connection to her father, Philip Drummond, Plato got considerably less screen time than her young peers, especially Gary Coleman, the show’s biggest star.
Things got worse for Plato, who was thrown off the sitcom after revealing she was pregnant. Later, she garnered a different reputation as a player in B-movie outings like “Prime Suspect” with Frank Stallone and “Compelling Evidence” with Brigitte Nielsen. The few occasions where she actually landed a lead role included one soft-core pornographic offering, curiously called “Different Strokes.” By this time, she had also developed a drug addiction, sometimes resorting to robbery and forgery to support her habit (via The Washington Post).
In 1999, during an interview with Howard Stern, she claimed she was clean and sober, and had met her fiancé in Oklahoma City to escape the tabloid attention in Los Angeles. “I’m tired of defending my character,” she said. “I am who I am, what you see is what you get.” The next day, 34-year-old Plato died from a drug overdose, which the coroner revealed as a suicide.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).