Child stars seem to go on to lead miserable lives more often than not. And this was certainly the case with Diff’rent Strokes star Dana Plato. Dana died of a purposeful drug overdose at the young age of 34 after a life filled with despair. Join Facts Verse as we take a look at the tragically short life of Dana Plato, former child star.
Dana Plato was born on November 7, 1964. Her mother was Linda Strain, an unwed teenager that already had another child of 18 months to contend with. Because of this, Dana ended up adopted by a couple by the name of Dean and Florine Plato. It was from these adoptive parents that Dana took her more popular last name. And having originally named Dana Strain at birth. When Dana was only three years old, her adoptive parents divorced. From that moment on, Dana’s adoptive mother took care of her.
Florine Plato raised Dana in the San Fernando Valley area of California. And began taking her to casting calls when she was just a baby. Before Dana was in her double digits, she had already appeared in well over 100 commercials. If Dana’s career as an actress didn’t work out, Florine had a back-up plan. She also having Dana trained as a figure skater. And the young girl was so good at the sport that many considered her to have Olympic potential.
Although Dana Plato started out in commercials, she quickly started getting bigger roles leading up to her breakout turn on Diff’rent Strokes. In 1975, she appeared in a made-for-television movie by the name of Beyond the Bermuda Triangle. That same year, Dana also made a minor appearance in an episode of the hit television series The Six Million Dollar Man. A little more than a year later, Dana would make her debut on cinema screens.
Dana’s first appearance on the big screen came via 1977’s The Exorcist II: The Heretic. Dana appeared in an uncredited role, though it still brought her to more attention than ever before. Though critics and audiences alike poorly received the sequel. Dana’s career was about to kick off in a big way with her subsequent starring role on Diff’rent Strokes.
After appearing in 1977’s The Exorcist II: The Heretic, Dana appeared in The Return to Boggy Creek later that same year. However, the actress’s biggest career success would end up coming from television. Specifically, Dana given a starring role on the sitcom Diff’rent Strokes in 1978, starring alongside fellow child star Gary Coleman.
Dana cast on Diff’rent Strokes not thanks to her movie roles, but thanks to an appearance on The Gong Show. One of the producers on The Gong Show happened to involved with Diff’rent Strokes. And he felt that Dana would be the perfect child actress to portray the character of Kimberly Drummond. The actress then forced to decide whether she wanted to take this breakout role on a sitcom or compete for a chance to participate in the Olympics. She ended up choosing television fame, for better or worse. This would put an end to Dana’s days as an aspiring Olympiad.
Diff’rent Strokes became one of the most successful sitcoms of it’s era and catapulted both Dana Plato and Gary Coleman to superstardom. Arguably, the young stars couldn’t handle the attention. As they both began escaping into substance abuse behind the scenes early on into their time on the show. At the age of 14, Dana overdosed on prescription drugs for the first, but certainly not the final, time.
In addition to painkillers, Dana Plato and Gary Coleman also known to partake in the consumption of marijuana and cocaine. The stars still served their function on the show despite their drug abuse. Because of this, many turned a blind eye to their worsening behaviors until it was too late. Things came to a head in 1984, when Dana found herself pregnant. The father was a rock musician by the name of Lanny Lambert, and the two married the same year.
Despite the fact that Dana and Lanny were attempting to make things right and start a family together after the unexpected pregnancy, the producers still found no way that they could write Dana’s pregnancy onto the show. Simply put, the character of Kimberly getting pregnant would not fit the wholesome image that the show was trying to maintain. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
After being let go from Diff’rent Strokes due to becoming pregnant, Dana Plato had a hard time creating a new image for herself outside of Kimberly Drummond. Like many child stars, Dana found herself pigeonholed in a role that she was no longer able to play due to her increasing age and differing life circumstances. After giving birth to her son Tyler, Dana welcomed back onto Diff’rent Strokes during the show’s final season. During the season, the character of Kimberly given a plot involving bulimia. The subplot was certainly groundbreaking for the time. It was nowhere near as controversial as a pregnancy arc would’ve been!
The final season of Diff’rent Strokes aired over the course of 1985 and 1986. Other acting work that Dana Plato did around the time period included an appearance on The Love Boat. As well, she found herself cast in a variety of specials and made-for-television feature films. In 1992, Dana made history when she became the first live-action star to appear in a video game. The video game was Night Trap, which received a good deal of controversy. And one of the reasons that the video game rating system created.
Although Night Trap not released until 1992, it filmed in 1987. By the time that Night Trap had been released, Dana Plato’s life had changed a good deal. In 1988, Dana not only lost her adoptive mother, but also left by her husband. Her husband successfully won custody of their son due to Dana’s history of drug abuse. And Dana found herself in a worse state than she had ever been in before.
Dana Plato found herself anxious to resuscitate her career in entertainment. She got breast augmentation and subsequently appeared in a photoshoot for Playboy. Though the 1989 issues certainly sold a good deal of copies from curious adults that had grown up watching Dana on television when she was just a girl. The photoshoot failed to bring Dana the kind of success that she was looking for.
Around this same time period, Dana’s accountant embezzled a good deal of her savings and fled the state, leaving her without much money. She took on some roles in exploitation films, including 1989’s Bikini Beach Race. Eventually, Dana decided to abandon Hollywood for Las Vegas. However, she didn’t have much better luck becoming successful there.
Hoping to continue her show business career in Las Vegas, Dana instead found herself having to work menial retail and service positions in order to survive. Perhaps as a result of the former child star never taught how to lead a normal life. She didn’t feel that she belonged in any of these positions. It proved to be incredibly hard for the adult Dana to adapt to life outside of the entertainment industry.
Dana hit a low point in 1991 when she robbed a video store with a pellet gun for only a little more than $100 cash. The former child star ended up caught by the police soon afterward. Though they went easy on her due to the fact that she hadn’t been using a real gun. Also, they may have been Diff’rent Strokes fans! At some point, Dana had apparently developed a close enough relationship with entertainer Wayne Newton that he came to bail her out. She never went to jail, and only received a few years of probation.
While many may have assumed that Dana would have taken this incident as a sign from the universe that she needed to turn her life around. She instead decided to violate the terms of her probation by forging prescriptions to painkillers. After being caught, Dana forced to stay in jail for a month and subsequently had to attend a drug rehabilitation program.
In 1999, Dana appeared in the film Desperation Scream. However, the actress wasn’t going to live to see the new millennium. The day before she found dead, she appeared on The Howard Stern Show. On the episode, Dana claimed that she had been sober for ten years. Dana’s claims were met with skepticism from Howard himself, as well as various callers. Given the rowdy nature of Howard’s show, the ribbing arguably got out of hand. Though Dana did her best not to seem affected by the bullying that she underwent on the program. The events of the next day would seem to suggest that it hurt her a great deal.
Dana was found dead on May 8, 1999. At the time of her death, she was only 34 years old. However, she had been through enough torment for several lifetimes. The actress was found to have overdosed on prescription drugs, which may or may not have contradicted her claim on The Howard Stern Show that she had been 10 years sober at the time.
Dana Plato was found dead by her fiancé, whom she lived in an RV with. Though the death was initially ruled an accidental overdose, it was later declared a suicide. Two days before the 11th anniversary of Dana’s suicide, her estranged son, Tyler Lambert, followed in her footsteps when he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2010. Before his death, Tyler had developed his own drug habits.
Despite the joy that Dana Plato brought television audiences via her portrayal of Kimberly Drummond on the hit sitcom Diff’rent Strokes, it appears that she lived a life of misery leading up to her tragically early death. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that former child star Dana Plato died tragically young after living a life of torment, or did you assume that her life had been much more glamorous? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!