Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
Currently Known For:
1977 - 1986
November 7, 1964
For every child actor we see like Jodie Foster, Natalie Portman or Leonardo DiCaprio that went on to have massive success in their adult lives following early fame, there’s unfortunately stories like Dana Plato’s that are just as common. After starring in one of the most popular shows on television during the late 1970s and much of the 1980s, Plato never found her footing afterward. Now, she’s a cautionary tale for those that started acting at a young age, more than 20 years after her tragic death.Advertisements:
Things weren’t easy for Plato from an early age. She was born in Maywood, California on November 7, 1964 to a single mother that was still in her teenage years and put Plato up for adoption. She was adopted by Dean and Kay Plato, but they would end up getting a divorce while Plato was a toddler, being raised by her adopted mother, who wanted her to become an actor even though Plato was a figure skater that some felt was capable of becoming an Olympian.
After many auditions in her younger years, Plato was able to make it onto television for the first time in 1975 when she appeared in an episode of “The Six Million Dollar Man”, as well as the TV movie “Beyond the Bermuda Triangle”. The following year, Plato had another guest appearance on “Family”, which was then followed up with her film debut in 1977 with “Exorcist II: The Heretic” and “Return to Boggy Creek”.
Then, Plato landed the biggest role of her career when she was cast as Kimberly Drummond, the sister of adopted boys Arnold (Gary Coleman) and Willis (Todd Bridges) Jackson on “Diff’rent Strokes”. The show was a massive success for NBC, airing for eight seasons and nearly 200 episodes, concluding in 1986. Though Plato didn’t appear in every episode, she was still part of the main cast and appeared in a majority of them, with her role cut back a bit towards the end.
During the run for “Diff’rent Strokes”, Plato had one film appearance with “California Suite”, as well as several guest appearances on television. She played her “Diff’rent Strokes” character in both “Hello, Larry” and ‘The Facts of Life”, and was a guest star on shows such as “CHiPs”, “The Love Boat” and “Growing Pains”. That latter appearance would be her final on television, which came after a handful of TV movies.
Plato expected the stardom to continue following the conclusion of “Diff’rent Strokes”, but it wasn’t to be on television. At the end of the 1980s, Plato had been unable to land a role outside of the movie “Prime Suspect” and had lost much of her money rather quickly after her mother had passed away, all while going through a divorce. These were rough times for Plato, who said she had already been struggling with addiction problems with drugs and alcohol, which started when she was in her early teenage years.
In the early 1990s, Plato had moved to Las Vegas, still running out of money and struggling to find work. She had starred in a couple of low budget movies such as “Bikini Beach Race” and “The Sounds of Silence”, as well as an incredibly violent video game called “Night Trap”. The bigger headline of the time, though, was when Plato was arrested in Las Vegas for robbing a store, with the cashier immediately able to identify her from her television days.
“I had the door open,” said the clerk that was working at the time. “She came in, stopped at the counter and she pulled out a gun...And they caught her coming back after her glasses that she dropped when she jumped over the wall.” After Las Vegas area radio DJs caught wind of the incident, it became a running joke. Plato came into one of the stations to talk to them and straighten things out, and ended up getting a job at the station.
“She hung with us and we put her to work as a showbiz reporter,” said DJ Ken Johnson. “And gave her embarrassing questions to ask people. And she was just too nice. She couldn’t do it.” Plato said that “But for me, the publicity worked,” regarding her arrest. “I don’t know if it’s gonna help sales (of her roles) or no, but for me as a person it helped. Because people are watching me all the time.”
Plato had been arrested multiple times during the early 1990s and turned to adult films to try and make ends meet. It was desperation mode for Plato, who made her final film roles in 1999’s “Silent Scream” and the posthumous release of the 2002 film “Pacino Is Missing”. Plato’s stretch of being removed from “Diff’rent Strokes” continued to grow as her problems mounted.
After that stretch of her life when things had become tough, Plato said that she was recovering in 1999. On May 7 of that year, Plato went on “The Howard Stern Show” to say that she hadn’t used drugs or alcohol in 10 years, and was only on prescription painkillers following a dental surgery. Sadly, that would be enough to claim Plato’s life.
That very same day, Plato had taken too many of the painkillers she was prescribed and went to take a nap within the RV she had parked outside of her mother’s house. Plato was found dead in that RV, with her death being classified as a suicide from result of the overdose. Left with almost no money, Plato’s family had her cremated and her ashes spread over the Pacific Ocean, putting an end to one of Hollywood’s most tragic stories.