Maywood, California, USA
Place of Death
Moore, Oklahoma, USA
Cause of Death
Claim to Fame
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Profile Bio Text
Dana Michelle Plato (November 7, 1964 – May 8, 1999) was an American actress notable for playing the role of Kimberly Drummond in the U.S. television sitcom Diff'rent Strokes. After appearing on Diff'rent Strokes, Plato's career declined, though she did have roles in some independent movies.
Plato died at the age of 34 of an overdose of the painkiller Lortab along with Soma.
Plato was born Dana Michelle Strain on November 7, 1964, in Maywood, California, to Linda Strain, an unwed 16-year-old, who was already caring for an 18-month-old. Linda Strain put her infant daughter Dana up for adoption. Dean (August 16, 1926 – February 24, 1997) and Florine "Kay" Plato (December 27, 1938 – January 2, 1988) adopted the child in June 1965 and raised her in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles County. Her adoptive parents divorced when she was three.
Kay Plato began taking Dana to auditions when she was very young. By the age of seven, Plato began doing television commercials, reportedly appearing in over 100 spots for companies as diverse as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dole, and Atlantic Richfield. She claimed she was offered two highly sought-after movie roles: the part of possessed child Regan MacNeil in the 1973 film, The Exorcist, and the starring role in Louis Malle's 1978 film, Pretty Baby. According to Plato, her mother vetoed both jobs, either fearing Plato would be typecast, or subjected to unsavory subject matter. Exorcist author/screenwriter William Peter Blatty said in the book Former Child Stars: The Story of America's Least Wanted that he had "no such recollection" of Plato being offered the role.
Plato made her film debut in 1977 at the age of thirteen in Return to Boggy Creek. Other credits include California Suite, High School U.S.A. and Exorcist II: The Heretic.
Plato was a trained and accomplished figure skater. At one point she was training for a possible Olympic team spot. During this time she was spotted by a producer during a brief appearance on TV's The Gong Show. She won what would become her most famous acting role, that of Kimberly Drummond on Diff'rent Strokes. According to Plato, her mother decided she should cut back on her skating to focus on the role.
In 1978, Diff'rent Strokes debuted on NBC. The show concerned Phillip Drummond (Conrad Bain), a wealthy white widower in New York City who adopted two young black boys after their parents died. Plato played Kimberly, the teenage daughter of Drummond and the sister of the two adopted boys, Willis (Todd Bridges) and Arnold (Gary Coleman). She was the oldest, Willis was second, and Arnold was the third. The show was an immediate hit.
Plato appeared on the show from 1978 until 1984 and again in 1985-1986, on two different networks. During that year, she became pregnant by her boyfriend, musician Lanny Lambert. The producers of Diff'rent Strokes did not feel that a pregnancy would fit the show's wholesome image, so Plato was let go. Although rumors of drug use and other "problems on the set" swirled around her dismissal, the producers were adamant that the pregnancy was the only reason her character was written out. Plato actually returned for several appearances during the show's final 1986 season, which appeared on ABC, including an episode (Plato's final appearance in the series) in which Kimberly suffers the effects of bulimia.
After leaving Diff'rent Strokes in 1986, Plato attempted to establish herself as a serious actress, but found it difficult to step out of the long shadows cast by her sitcom career. After her child was born, she had breast implants and appeared in a June 1989 Playboy pictorial, but her career remained in the doldrums. She started taking roles in such B-movies as Bikini Beach Race and Lethal Cowboy.
In 1992, Plato was one of the first celebrities to star in a video game. The game, Night Trap, was not a great success, but is considered a pioneering title as it was the first game to use live actors, specifically a well known personality (Plato). It was one of the first video game titles to have mature content and attracted controversy due to its depiction of violence. The controversy, along with that of Mortal Kombat, eventually led to the creation of the ESRB.
Toward the end of her career, Plato chose roles that could be considered erotic or even softcore pornography. She appeared partially nude in Prime Suspect (1988) and Compelling Evidence (1995), but her most infamous film is 1997's Different Strokes: The Story of Jack and Jill...and Jill. The movie's title was changed after shooting to tie it to Plato's famous past, but was not connected in any way to the sitcom other than through her involvement. Plato played a lesbian and the film was rated X due to sexual content, but it was not considered hardcore pornography. Plato subsequently would appear in only one more film.
Plato began having drug and alcohol problems early in life. At age 14, she overdosed on Valium. She admitted to drinking and using recreational drugs during her years on Diff'rent Strokes.
In December 1983, Plato moved in with rock guitarist Lanny Lambert; the couple married in April 24, 1984. On January 2, 1988, Plato's adoptive mother, Kay Plato, died, aged 49, from scleroderma. The same week, Plato and Lambert separated. The couple divorced in March 1990, and Lambert was awarded custody of their only child Tyler Edward (July 2, 1984 – May 6, 2010), with Plato having visitation rights. During this time, Plato posed nude for Playboy.
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 the robbery netted Plato $164. Las Vegas entertainer 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 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 fiancé, Robert Menchaca, were living in a recreation vehicle in Navarre, Florida.
On May 7, 1999, Plato appeared on The Howard Stern Show, where she told Stern and Robin Quivers that she was engaged to 28-year-old 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, as well as Stern, 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 was eventually ruled a suicide. Her body was cremated.
Almost 11 years to the day of Dana Plato's death, on May 6, 2010, Plato's son Tyler Lambert died at age 25 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His grandmother, Joni Richardson, stated that Lambert was experimenting with both drugs and alcohol, which may have contributed to his suicide. Johnny Whitaker, Plato's former manager and a friend of the family, told ABCNews.com that Lambert always said he "wanted to be with Mom." "Mother's Day was always a difficult time, not only because it was Mother's Day but the anniversary of Dana's death," Whitaker said.
Couple Profile Source
Full Name at Birth
Dana Michelle Strain
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Dana Michelle Plato (November 7, 1964 – May 8, 1999) was an American actress, notable for playing the role of Kimberly Drummond on the U.S. television sitcom Diff'rent Strokes from 1978 to 1986. After leaving the cast of Diff'rent Strokes, Plato attempted to establish herself as a working actress, with mixed success: she worked sporadically in made-for-TV movies and in independent films, and also did voice-over work. At age 34, after years of struggling with poverty and substance abuse, Plato died from an overdose of prescription drugs.
Poster child of young stars that went wrong
Dean Plato (adoptive father)
Florine 'Kay' Plato (adoptive mother), Linda Strain (biological mother)
Tyler Edward Lambert (son) (1984-2010)
Todd Bridges, Gary Coleman