Maywood, California, USA
Place of Death
Moore, Oklahoma, USA
Cause of Death
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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 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.
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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
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