Saturday, October 20, 2007

Leanna Creel

Leanna Creel is an actress and film producer best known for her role as Tori Scott on the early 1990s haven for washed up celebrities, Saved By The Bell.

Creel is an identical triplet with sisters Monica and Joy. Creel was born on August 27, 1970 in Los Angeles, California and started acting in the late 1980s. Her first acting role was as a guest star on Growing Pains in 1987. In 1989 she got her big break when she and her triplet sisters acted in the made-for-TV movie, Parent Trap III. After the success of Parent Trap III, Creel acted in Parent Trap: Hawaiian Honeymoon and also managed to secure small non-recurring roles on several TV shows, such as Parker Lewis Can't Lose and Beverly Hills, 90210.

In 1992 she was cast in her most memorable role as Tori Scott on the hit Saturday morning TV show, Saved By The Bell. The Tori character only appeared in about 12 episodes during the final season of the show (1992-1993).

The episodes in which the Tori character appeared were filmed after the rest of the final season's episodes (including the original series finale Graduation episode). Apparently the producers needed to film 100 episodes of the show so that they could sell it in syndication and garner huge licensing fees. Elizabeth Berkley (Jessie Spano) and Tiffani Amber Thiessen (Kelly Kapowski) decided not to renew their contracts for these additional episodes, leaving the shows' producers in a bind. The Tori Scott character was brought on board to take the place of Jessie and Kelly for the final episodes.

The Tori Scott character was a tough no-nonsense biker chick. She came across as gruff when she made her initial appearance, but quickly showed her softer side as she got the hots for Zack Morris (played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar). The Tori Scott character was fairly unpopular among Saved By The Bell fans. However, I actually liked her. I thought she was pretty hot and much more likable (and less annoying) than the Jessie Spano character.

After Saved By The Bell ended, Creel's acting roles quickly dried up. Since the early 1990s, she has only had small bit roles in a couple TV shows such as One West Waikiki and Ned and Stacey and in movies such as Freeway and The Cell. The Cell was a popular movie, but Creel was only in it for a couple seconds and she isn't even recognizable in her role as "Mother."

With the acting roles gone, Creel transitioned over to directing. She produced her first film in 1994, helping out a friend whose producer had been involved in a car accident. She also worked for the Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX) and in 1998 she and HSX's Michael Burns founded film production company Ignite Entertainment. Creel resigned in 1999 to start Anomaly Productions. She also currently runs her own photography business, Creel Photo.

Creel has produced an award-winning lesbian-themed movie. (I wonder if hanging around with the annoying Dustin Diamond on the Saved By The Bell set turned her off men for good.) She produced "Prom-troversy," a comedy short about a lesbian's life at an all-straight high school. "Prom-troversy" took the top honors in the 2005 edition of the PlanetOut Short Movie Awards.

The 14 years since Saved By The Bell went off the air have not been kind to Creel. She was a beautiful and sultry young woman with long curly hair as Tori Scott in 1993. However, her looks have quickly faded and as one can clearly see in the photo below, she has apparently morphed into a man with a short boy's haircut:

For this and the other reasons discussed above, Leanna Creel is one washed-up celebrity!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Gary Coleman

Gary Coleman is a former child actor best known for his role as Arnold Jackson on the hit late 1970s - mid 1980s family sitcom, Diff'rent Strokes.

Coleman was born on February 8, 1968 in Zion, Illinois and was adopted by Willie and Sue Coleman. He suffers from a congenital kidney disease causing nephritis (an autoimmune destruction of the kidney). The disease stunted his growth at an early age, leading to his very small stature of only 4ft 8in in height. He has undergone two kidney transplants, one in 1973 and one in 1984, and requires daily dialysis.

Coleman became a major TV star when he was cast as Arnold Jackson on the sitcom Diff'rent Strokes in 1978. The Arnold Jackson character and his brother Willis Jackson (played by fellow washed-up celebrity Todd Bridges) were the children of the maid of Phillip Drummond (played by Conrad Bain), a wealthy Caucasian man who lived in the penthouse of a ritzy co-op building in New York City. When their mother died, Mr. Drummond adopted Arnold and Willis.

The entire premise of Diff'rent Strokes is extremely difficult to believe - a rich white man going into a Harlem neighborhood and adopting two young black kids would certainly raise some red flags in the real world, as many might think that the man was some kind of sick pervert who had ulterior motives for adopting the kids. However, Diff'rent Strokes was a huge hit for its nearly 10 seasons and was very popular among families with young children. His character's catchphrase, "what'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?" became widely quoted among his fans.

Although Coleman was the biggest star of Diff'rent Strokes, he was not able to make the transition over to movies. He did act in a few crappy movies, such as The Kid From Left Field (1979), Scout's Honor (1980), The Kid With The Broken Halo (1982), and The Kid With The 200 I.Q. (1983), but none of them were very successful.

After Diff'rent Strokes went off the air in 1986, Coleman's career hit the skids. He was such a big star on Diff'rent Strokes that he was typecast. He has yet to secure any other decent acting roles other than self-parody roles on TV shows such as Married With Children and The Simpsons.

Although Coleman reportedly earned $18 million from his acting on Diff'rent Strokes, his entire fortune has been squandered, forcing him to declare bankruptcy in 1999. In an effort to raise money in the late 1990s he actually sold some afro picks and his size 4 1/2 bowling shoes. Coleman blames his parents and former manager for wasting his personal fortune. In 1993 he sued his parents for raiding his accounts and won a $1.3 million judgment against his parents.

Coleman also has anger management issues that flare up when he is harassed by rude fans. Coleman was charged with assault in 1998 after he punched Tracy Fields, an extremely rude woman who was bothering Coleman while he was at a mall shopping for a bulletproof vest for a security guard job. Coleman, who reportedly only weighed about 86 pounds, claimed to have been frightened by Fields, a 5-foot, six inch tall 205-lb woman. The obese Fields requested an autograph and was apparently upset when he gave her his mere signature, saying "Ain't you gonna put something nice on it?"

Coleman responded, "You really don't need that. You're just going to show it off to your friends. That's really my signature." Fields then reportedly told Coleman that his "badass attitude" was the reason that he has never been a success as an adult actor. Coleman was upset, said "You black people are all alike," and that he hated black people. Coleman also grabbed the autograph he had given to Fields and ripped it in half. Fields reportedly responded, "Well, you're just a little punk-ass bitch!"

Coleman and Fields were yelling at each and Coleman later reported that he was really scared because "Her breasts were practically hitting me in the head. I'm 4-foot, 8 inches, 86 pounds of nothing." Coleman subsequently punched Fields and left the store. Coleman later received a 90-day suspended sentence for striking Fields and was openly mocked by the media for his actions.

Coleman re-entered the public eye in 2003, when he ran in the California state gubernatorial recall election, finishing 8th with 14,242 votes.

In 2004 Coleman made a special guest appearance on the second season of The Surreal Life. In the episode in which he appeared, the washed-up celebrities from that season (including fellow washed-up celebrity Vanilla Ice) were supposed to work at a Mel's Diner in Hollywood. The producers brought in Coleman to be the manager of the Mel's Diner for that episode. Vanilla Ice really wanted Coleman to say his catchphrase "Whatchoo talkin' bout Willis?" and was insulted when Coleman refused to say it. So Vanilla Ice picked up Coleman and threatened to throw Coleman in a deep fryer unless he said that catchphrase. Coleman was very embarassed and shocked by Vanilla Ice's actions and stormed out of the restaurant saying that he hated Vanilla Ice.

Coleman also received some undesired attention on July 26, 2007, when he was cited for misdemeanor disorderly conduct by a Provo, Utah, police officer after he was seen having a "heated discussion" with a woman. Police were called after witnesses saw Coleman becoming upset and hitting the steering wheel of his vehicle during a heated discussion with an unidentified woman, according to reports.

For all of the reasons discussed above, Gary Coleman is one washed-up celebrity!

*** UPDATE - February 16, 2010 ***

Coleman was arrested in Utah in January 2010. Police were called to Coleman's house for domestic disturbance. Although the police did not find that a crime had been committed, he was arrested because of an outstanding warrant from 2009 for a prior incident of domestic disturbance. Here is Coleman's mugshot:

*** UPDATE - May 28, 2010 ***

Gary Coleman died today of a intercranial hemorrhage. Coleman suffered the hemorrhage on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at his home in Santaquin, UT. He remained conscious and lucid until the afternoon on Thursday, when his condition suddenly worsened and he slipped into unconsciousness. Coleman was placed on life support on Thursday. Coleman died when the life support was terminated this afternoon.

Washed up or not, he was one of the most beloved former child stars I have profiled on this blog. He was also very talented and carried Diff'rent Strokes on his back to ratings glory in the early 1980s. Coleman will be missed.