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Santaquin abuzz about new resident

Actor Gary Coleman moves to town but keeps a low profile

Published: Wednesday, July 27 2005 9:12 a.m. MDT

Gary Coleman ran for California governor in 2003.

Monica Almeida, The New York Times

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SANTAQUIN — It doesn't take a big city for diminutive Gary Coleman to get lost. A small town works just as well for the 4-foot, 8-inch actor and former political candidate.

Coleman, child star of "Diff'rent Strokes" television fame and more recently a candidate for California governor, has moved into the mostly rural, southern Utah County burg of just 6,500, according to folks who live here.

City Manager Stefan Chatwin said he knows where Coleman's home is — but Chatwin isn't chatting. City Councilman Martin Green was a bit more talkative, however, saying Coleman's home is on the east bench at the end of a road where the pavement ends. It's a modest home where Coleman can find privacy, he said.

A resident in charge of the upcoming Santaquin Days wanted Coleman to ride in the grand parade on Aug. 6 — but Green nixed that idea.

"I wasn't comfortable going up and knocking on his door to ask him," he said.

Inviting Coleman is still a possibility, said Amy Jackson, who takes care of the parade entries. While Coleman sightings have been reported, "I haven't seen him, and I get around quite a bit," she said.

"The folks at the Subway say he's been in and had a sandwich," Green said.

Coleman was one of 135 Californians who ran in the 2003 recall election to replace then-Gov. Grey Davis. Another actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, won the state's top job.

Having a celebrity in town has tongues wagging. A resident who said his name was Randy — he'd only give his first name — heard it from his mother, who heard it from her sister, who works at a local bank.

"He comes into the bank all the time," Randy said. "It's weird that he chose Santaquin. How'd he find a little town like this?"

Coleman was in Utah earlier this year filming "Church Ball," the latest in HaleStorm Entertainment's LDS-genre films. The comedy with a $1 million budget, the biggest yet for HaleStorm, was completed in June and is scheduled for theatrical release in January.

"He was bashing Utah," said a HaleStorm employee who asked that his name not be used. "But then we told him he should look into it. He dislikes the 'red carpet' scene in L.A. and all the paparazzi."

Within a few days, Coleman was consulting with a real-estate agent, the employee said. Staffers for Robert Malcolm, Coleman's agent, wouldn't confirm the actor has taken up residence in the small town.

An Oakland, Calif., newspaper was behind Coleman's candidacy for California governor and paid his $3,500 filing fee, according to CNN. Steve Buel, editor of the East Bay Express and Coleman's treasurer, gathered the 65 petition signatures needed for Coleman to file as an Independent Party candidate in Alameda County at an Oakland A's baseball game.

Coleman, 37, predicted correctly that Schwarzenegger would win and said he, too, would vote for "the Terminator."

"I'm probably the least qualified for the job, but I'll have some great people around me," Coleman told CNN.

Coleman placed eighth, receiving 14,242 votes.

According to a Web-based encyclopedia, the actor whose growth was stunted because of a congenital kidney disease played Arnold Drummond on "Diff'rent Strokes" from 1978 to 1986. Coleman had a kidney transplant in 1973 and another one in 1984.

His retort on the show — "Whatchu talkin' 'bout?" — became a well-known American catch phrase.

Coleman starred in several films and made-for-TV movies, including "On the Right Track" and "The Kid With the Broken Halo." The latter show was reportedly the basis for "The Gary Coleman Show," a Hanna-Barbera animated series produced in 1982.

At the height of his career, he earned $70,000 per episode, but as he grew older his acting career declined. He sued his parents over claims that they misappropriated his $3.8 million trust fund and was awarded $1.28 million in a Feb. 23, 1993, ruling. Later, however, he filed for bankruptcy, and in 2001 took a job as a shopping mall security guard in the Los Angeles area.


E-mail: rodger@desnews.com

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