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Westside Watch

Former Sitcom Child Star Tries a 'Diff'rent Stroke'

July 14, 1994

Gary Coleman, the former child star who once sued his adoptive parents saying they had stolen more than $1 million of his money, is establishing a new home away from home--a game parlor in Marina del Rey.

"I'm absolutely loving it. It's a lot of fun," said Coleman, adding that he is working with a producer on a possible new sitcom, "Arcade," featuring himself as, guess what?--the operator of a game parlor.

"It's sort of like art imitating life but bigger than life," he said. Meanwhile, he's at the shop four or five nights a week, keeping busy behind the register, demonstrating games and helping with the occasional maintenance job.

"People are coming down in small droves," he said. But the fans are not wasting a lot of time in idle chat.

"Most of the people who come in are looking for the self-indulgent aspect that an arcade provides, so once they meet me and I shake their hands, they want their tokens," he said.

As for his parents, "all that is completely settled and we no longer discuss it," said Coleman, now 26, who starred for eight years on the popular 1978-1986 sitcom, "Diff'rent Strokes."

In his eight-year hit show, Coleman played the diminutive, insouciant adoptive son of a rich widower.

His relationship with his own parents was more tragic than comic, however, marked by years of bitterness over money, property and control of his career, which faded as he grew out of childhood. Coleman's growth was stunted by acute kidney disease at an early age.

Coleman said he has been concentrating on the game room project for the last several months, along with volunteering for the National Kidney Foundation and tending to his collection of model trains.

*

WHO GETS THE RYE? F. Lee Bailey may have yet to show his face in the court proceeding involving client O.J. Simpson, but the storied attorney has been spotted at Nate-N-Al, the prominent purveyor to the pastrami-challenged in Beverly Hills.

Bailey and three companions took the same "power booth" Sunday morning that Leslie Abramson, Erik Menendez's defense lawyer, occupied the week before, a waitress said. As soon as Bailey and friends departed, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and constant companion Nancy Daly slipped into the same seats--middle row, second booth from the front, ideal for seeing and being seen. Who's next?

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ANOTHER GOAL: A Swedish journalist in town to cover the World Cup soccer tournament at the Rose Bowl telephoned The Times' Westside office Wednesday morning with an ironic request.

"I am here for the soccer games but also am doing a story on O.J. Simpson. Can you tell me where I can find O.J. and Nicole Simpson's houses?" she asked.

The irony? A page one story that very morning described the Angst of Brentwood residents over a parade of sightseers and media besieging the South Bundy Avenue neighborhood where prosecutors contend that Simpson murdered his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman.

This was pointed out to the caller.

"Oh, thank you! I will buy paper and go," she exclaimed.

*

P.C. ALERT: Sponsors of something called the Miss Bikini West Coast Television Pageant scheduled a "Parade of Bikini Girls" down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills Wednesday afternoon to be followed by a media party and casting call for the pageant. The winner may have to wait for a seat at Nate-N-Al.

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