It is unclear who David Hasselhoff and K.I.T.T. wil be endorsing.
COME OCTOBER, Californians will face the annoying task of sifting through scores of candidates for governor (not to mention the question of whether or not to recall Gray Davis). Among the more serious names are Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, Arnold Schwarzenegger, former candidate Bill Simon, state senator Tom McClintock, and actor Gary Coleman.
Whatchoo talkin' about, Willis? (I won't say it again; I promise.) Everyone--including the editors at this magazine--is making short shrift of Coleman's candidacy. I, for one, am determined not to treat it so facetiously.
It wasn't Coleman's idea to run for governor (although in 2000 he briefly entertained the idea of running against Dianne Feinstein for Senate). Rather, it was the alternative newspaper the East Bay Express that drafted the 4' 8" actor from the famed sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes." Writes Chris Thompson of East Bay Express: "When Arnold Schwarzenegger is a serious contender to run the biggest state in the Union, you know we've all passed through the looking glass. So why stop there, we figured? Why shouldn't the rest of Hollywood get in on the fun?"
And while Thompson and his colleagues are doing this to make a statement (they also collected the signatures needed and paid the $3,500 entrance fee), Coleman himself takes it in stride. As he told the Express, "I am probably the most unqualified person to run for governor, but I'm willing to do it as a goof if you are. But then I need to know something: Whose ass do I kick if I actually win? Because that means I'm gonna have to move up to Sacramento--the armpit of California--and administer this state back to some kind of solvency." (Incidentally, Coleman, a self-professed conservative, suggested he might vote for Schwarzenegger.)
Critics may charge that Coleman is too unstable for the job--in 1998 he struck an autograph-seeking fan (he says he felt threatened by Tracy Fields, a 205-lb bus driver) and was sentenced to anger-management classes. He's also admitted (to Geraldo) that he's twice attempted suicide. And Coleman's beliefs straddle the political spectrum: He's for cutting taxes and legalizing marijuana. He's anti-union and supports gay rights.
So what, if any, are Gary Coleman's merits?
Speaking ability. Coleman, now 35, has been acting since the early 1970s, doing commercials and guest appearances on "Good Times" and "The Jeffersons" before hitting it big as Arnold Jackson on "Diff'rent Strokes" in 1978. He shouldn't have any problem getting his message across.
Tough on crime. As a security guard, Coleman will risk life and limb in order to protect the innocent. While working on the set of the television show "VIP," Coleman prevented photographers from snapping pictures of Pamela Anderson by jumping on the hood of their car. This boldness should not come as a surprise to anyone who remembers the "Diff'rent Strokes" episode in which Arnold finally mustered enough courage to stand up to the school bully known as "The Gooch."
No bimbo eruptions. While various rumors of sexual harassment surround frontrunner Arnold Schwarzenegger, there are guaranteed to be no such scandals involving Coleman, who admitted to US magazine a few years ago that he was still a virgin.
Prior governing experience. On two episodes of "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," Coleman played Hieronymus Fox, an 11-year-old genius and popular president of the planet Genesia. (You'll recall, Fox was from Rogers's 20th century past, but went into cold sleep to survive the global holocaust.)
He cares about the children. Coleman knows all too well the perils of childhood. At his peak, he was earning $70,000 per episode and amassed a fortune of $18 million. But he later filed for bankruptcy, claiming most of his money was squandered by his manager and adoptive parents. Coleman sued them and was awarded roughly $1.3 million. As governor, Gary Coleman will be a staunch defender of children's rights. (Remember when Gordon Jump, WKRP manager/Maytag repairman, guest starred as a child molester who lured Dudley into the bathroom to play a game called "Neptune"? Arnold saved the day.)
Just as the Bush campaign enticed voters with potential cabinet nominees like Colin Powell for secretary of state, candidate Coleman could appeal to Californians by speculating on his own cabinet, possibly to include:
Lieutenant Governor Charlotte Rae. As housemother Edna Garrett on the spin-off, "The Facts of Life," she always gave sound advice to the girls of Eastland on issues like date rape, alcoholism, and loving your cousin, even while she struggled with cerebral palsy. With Mrs. Garrett on the ticket, the women's vote is a lock.
State Treasurer Conrad Bain. Though no one is quite sure how Bain's "Diff'rent Strokes" character, Philip Drummond, actually ran his company, there is no doubt it was a success. How else could he have afforded a penthouse on Park Avenue for eight seasons? That he would adopt Arnold and Willis, the children of his late maid, shows that he's got a heart of gold too. Others will say he is cold and heartless, however, since he never spoke of his daughter, played by Dana Plato, after the actress became pregnant and left the show. (Before dying of an overdose in 1999, Plato starred in a porno titled "Different Strokes.")
Health and Human Services Secretary Todd Bridges. A recovering drug addict himself, Bridges, who played Coleman's big brother Willis, knows the system inside and out. He knows which treatment programs work and which ones don't. Critics may dredge up some of Bridges's shady past, including charges of attempted murder, voluntary manslaughter, and assault with a deadly weapon. The good news is Bridges has since been acquitted of all those charges.
Finally, no campaign is complete without a theme song. What would Clinton/Gore be without "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow"? Coleman's is obvious:
Now the world don't move to the beat of just one drum.
What might be right for you, may not be right for some . . .
As relevant today as it was 20 years ago. Candidate Coleman knows it takes different strokes and different folks to rule the world.
Victorino Matus is an assistant managing editor at The Weekly Standard.