Sunday, February 15, 2009

Danny Cooksey

Danny Cooksey is a former child star perhaps best known for his role as "Sam McKinney" on the popular mid-1980s TV sitcom, Diff'rent Strokes.

Cooksey was born on November 2, 1975 in Moore, Oklahoma. Cooksey's mother moved with him to Los Angeles in 1980 to allow him to pursue a career in country music. His first acting role was in an episode of Dukes of Hazzard in 1983. Cooksey was later invited to audition for Diff'rent Strokes by an agent who saw one of Cooksey's performances.

Diff'rent Strokes was one of the top rated sitcoms between the late 1970s and early 1980s. The show centered on the crazy antics of Arnold Drummond (played by Gary Coleman), a young black boy who along with his brother Willis (played by Todd Bridges) was adopted by a rich white man who lived in a luxurious penthouse apartment in downtown New York City. Arnold was the star of the show for many years. However, by the mid-1980s the show's writers were running out of ideas and the show's viewership was flagging.

The writers initially tried to mix things up by showing an episode where Arnold's best friend Dudley (played by fellow washed-up celebrity Shavar Ross) was molested by a man who ran a bicycle repair shop. Molestation seemed to be a strange and deranged source of humor, but the writers were at their wit's end and needed something to increase viewership. However, the writers quickly realized that they couldn't have Dudley get molested in every single episode and that they would need a sustainable new "hook" to draw in viewers. The new hook was the addition of two new characters - Maggie McKinney, a middle-aged woman, and her young son, Sam McKinney. The McKinneys were added to the cast at the start of the seventh season when Maggie McKinney married Mr. Drummond and moved into the penthouse apartment with Sam.

Sam McKinney was an extremely unpopular character. Fans of Diff'rent Strokes hated Sam - he was extremely annoying and bratty. There was a notorious episode where Arnold and Sam were at a store and a deranged man, Don Brown, kidnapped Sam. The story line was that Mr. Brown's son had recently been killed and he wanted to replace his son with Sam. Mr. Brown convinced his own family that Sam was a homeless kid who they should adopt. Mr. Brown threatened to kill Sam's family if he tried to contact the police or run home. As shown in the image below, Mr. Brown used his large size to intimidate the diminutive Sam:

Casual observers of the show have noted the strong resemblance between Mr. Brown and professional wrestler Arn Anderson. I suspect that Sam was kidnapped while asking for an autograph. He probably threatened to kill Mr. Drummond with an atomic drop, spine buster, body slam, Boston Crab, or Cleveland Steamer.

Fans of Diff'rent Strokes were very happy when Sam was kidnapped because they assumed that he was being written off the show. Unfortunately, Sam was rescued when he telephoned Arnold and was able to provide the phone number from where he was calling. The police later picked him up. I thought that the conclusion of that episode was very unrealistic.

Sam was a bratty kid and I always thought that the more likely conclusion would have involved the kidnapper giving Sam up on his own. Sam was most likely a bed wetter until he was 13 years old and probably pissed his pants while sleeping at the home of his kidnappers. The kidnapper's entire house must have reeked of the smell of urine after a couple days. The stench probably would have been unbearable, leading the kidnapper to voluntarily give up Sam.

Cooksey's character helped run Diff'rent Strokes into the ground, leading to its cancellation in 1986, after the eighth season. After the cancellation of Diff'rent Strokes, Cooksey co-starred as Kevin Cavanaugh in the TV sitcom, The Cavanaughs from 1986-1989. Cooksey subsequently had a role in one of the most successful films of the 1990s, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, where he played the role, "ginger kid with mullet," a friend of star John Connor.

However, Cooksey's boyish looks faded when puberty hit and the demand for him in acting roles became practically non-existent. Cooksey has managed to keep busy over the years doing voice-over roles for crappy animated series and video games where he doesn't need to show his face. For example, he has had a speaking role in 24: The Game and in the cartoon, Xiaolin Showdown.

Cooksey has also ventured into music. He was the lead singer in the band Bad4Good in the early 1990s - that band released one CD, Refugee, in 1992. Here is a picture of his band. It appears as though they took this picture in order to appeal to pedophiles (Cooksey is on the far right in the photo):

Cooksey later participated in the bands Roadkill and Lucy's Milk. Cooksey is apparently a big fan of the Garfield comic strip because since 2004, he has been in a band called Arbuckle, which might be named after Jon Arbuckle, the owner of Garfield the cat in the comic strip.

Cooksey was a successful, albeit extremely annoying, child actor in the mid-1980s. However, once he boyish looks faded he was relegated to voice-over roles where he doesn't have to show his face. His career path has been somewhat similar, although not nearly as pathetic, as that of fellow ginger washed-up celebrity, Michael Oliver. For this and the other reasons discussed above, Danny Cooksey is one washed-up celebrity!