Friday, September 16, 2011

30 years ago this Sunday!

Wow! I cannot believe its been 30 years since my very first concert!  The year was 1981, I was a high school student begging my parents to go to my first concert at JFK Stadium (Where Live AID was held a few years later).  My mother had reservations, but thanks to my father being a huge Rolling Stones fan, he basically talked my mother into letting me go.  The concert was an all day affair, with George Throrogood opening up, followed by Journey and then finally the Rolling Stones. We purchased the tickets for $15! (my how concert prices have changed over the years!).  My friend Michelle and I got a ride from some neighborhood boys who were also going to the concert.  On the ride down, we drank vodka and orange juice and some of us smoked a joint....those were the days!  After we parked the car, we started to make our way to the seats. Looking around, I thought to myself that  the stadium had seen better days....the steps were crumbling and the bathrooms had water all over the floors as if a pipe broke. I purchased a tshirt so that I could wear it to class on Monday and brag about how awesome the concert was.

This is what my shirt looked like!  

The concert itself was awesome...but I can remember being very hungry.  We didn't bring any food and we couldn't find any being sold at the show.  There was a guy, who was by himself at the show, and he had brought a cooler of food and Michelle and I thought we could charm him into sharing some of his food.  He was a bit of a loner and wasn't very friendly when me and Michelle tried to chat him getting food from him was not a possibility.  At one point I was tempted to steal it from his cooler when he went to the bathroom....but I waited...and waited...all friggin' afternoon, but this guy must have been wearing a diaper because he didn't budge from his seat all day!  The whole day was a magical experience though.  I remember leaving the concert feeling like I had just witnessed something special.  The concert was being marketed as the Rolling Stones farewell tour....but that turned out to be untrue.  When I returned to school that Monday in my concert t-shirt, everyone treated me like royalty, asking me questions about the show and how nice my shirt was.  The best part was when my ex-boyfriend looked at me sourly and said "I bet you didn't even go to the concert!" and I just laughed in his face!  It was great to see jealousy rear its ugly head!  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dana Plato

Diff'rent Strokes was a series starring Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges as Arnold and Willis Jackson, two African American boys from Harlem who are taken in by a rich white Park Avenue businessman named Phillip Drummond (Conrad Bain) and his daughter Kimberly (Dana Plato), for whom their deceased mother previously worked.

The series made stars out of child actors Coleman, Bridges, and Plato, and became known for the "very special episodes" in which serious issues such as racism, drug use and child molestation were dramatically explored. The lives of stars Coleman, Bridges and Plato, however, were later plagued by legal troubles and drug addiction, as the stardom and success they achieved while on the show eluded them after the series was cancelled.

The most tragic of the actors was Dana Plato. Plato began having drug and alcohol problems early in life. She admitted to drinking and using recreational drugs during her years on Diff'rent Strokes. In 1984, she married rock guitarist Lanny Lambert and had a son with him. In 1988 her mother passed away and she and Lambert separated shortly thereafter. By 1990 they were officially divorced.  Not long after she posed nude for Playboy in an effort to reinvigorate her career.

In 1991, Plato ended up in Las Vegas with no work. She took a job at a dry-cleaning store to support herself. On February 28, she entered a video store, produced a gun, and demanded the money from the register. The clerk called 911 saying, "I've just been robbed by the girl who played Kimberly on Diff'rent Strokes". Fifteen minutes after the robbery, Plato returned to the scene and was immediately arrested. The gun was only a pellet gun and she had only taken $164. Wayne Newton posted her $13,000 bail. Plato was given five years' probation. She made headlines and became part of the national debate over troubled child stars, particularly given the difficulties of her Diff'rent Strokes co-stars, Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges. In January 1992, she was again arrested, this time for forging a prescription for Diazepam. She served 30 days in jail for violation of the terms of her probation and entered a drug program immediately thereafter.

Following her appearance in the erotic film Different Strokes: The Story of Jack and Jill ... and Jill, Plato appeared on the cover of the lesbian lifestyle magazine Girlfriends in 1998. She was interviewed by Diane Anderson-Minshall and came out as a lesbian, although she later recanted. It was reported that Plato showed up drunk for the magazine's cover shoot. In her interview with Howard Stern, Plato mentioned that the traumatic events of her mother’s death and her husband’s leaving her took place during the course of only a week. In desperation, she signed over power of attorney to an accountant who disappeared with the majority of her money, leaving her with no more than $150,000. She claimed that the accountant was never found, despite an exhaustive search, and had also stolen more than $11 million of other peoples' money. Just before her death, she and her fiancĂ©, were living in a recreation vehicle in Navarre, Florida.

On May 7, 1999, Plato appeared on Howard Stern's radio show, where she told Stern that she was engaged to Robert Menchaca and that he was managing her career. She was frank about her life, discussing her financial problems and past run-ins with the law. She admitted to being a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, but claimed that she had been sober for more than ten years by that point, and was not using any drugs, with the exception of prescribed painkillers due to discomfort and pain from the recent extraction of her wisdom teeth. Many of her callers called her everything from a "has been" to an addict. She was referred to by one caller as an "ex-con lesbian drug addict with mental problems". This provoked a defiant Plato, as she offered to take a drug test on the air (and even placed a large wager on the results of the test to one particularly doubtful caller). Some callers, however, as well as Stern himself, came to Plato's defense by consoling and complimenting her.

After the first three negative calls, a caller named Julie told Plato that she looked and sounded great, and could not fathom why people were attacking her the way they were, and although they were cruel to her, she was supportive. Plato wept while offering her gratitude, as well to a later caller who claimed to be a recovering addict, and told her that he believed everything she said. Other callers asked her relatively "neutral" (mostly Diff'rent Strokes related) questions, such as, "What happened to your kid?" "Did Todd (Bridges) break your arm (in a playful brawl gone wrong) on the set of Diff'rent Strokes?", "Have you ever had the opportunity of seeing Janet Jackson change during the taping of Diff'rent Strokes?" and, "I need a date with Dana!" at which Plato laughed. Stern later mentioned that she was scheduled to appear at a concert event, The Expo of the Extreme, in Chicago two weeks after the interview.  The next day, Plato and Menchaca were returning to California. The couple stopped at Menchaca's mother's home in Moore, Oklahoma, for a Mother's Day visit. Plato went to lie down inside her recreational vehicle parked outside the house and subsequently died of an overdose of Vanadom (Soma) and Lortab. Her death at the age of 34 was eventually ruled a suicide under Oklahoma law although police stated they believed it was an accident.

Such a sad ending for a troubled young woman.  On an even sadder note, her only child committed suicide when he was only 25 years old!  Very tragic!