‘Diff’rent Strokes’ actress dies of apparent overdose

Child star was working on comeback

Actress Dana Plato, a child star of the TV sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes,” who later descended into drug abuse and trouble with the law, has died of an apparent overdose, police said Sunday.

Plato, 34, apparently overdosed on a mixture of prescription drugs Saturday night while paying a Mother’s Day visit to the home of her fiance’s parents in Moore, Okla., Sgt. Scott Singer said.

Singer said Plato was found “unresponsive and cold to the touch” after taking medication and lying down for a nap. She was pronounced dead at a local hospital after attempts to resuscitate her failed.

“Preliminary reports indicated Ms. Plato may have died as a result of an overdose,” Singer said, adding that a doctor in Tulsa had prescribed her the drugs, the painkiller Loritab and Valium, a tranquilizer.

Plato and her fiance, 28-year-old Robert Menchaca, were on their way to Los Angeles when they stopped in Moore. Half of the town’s 15,000 homes in the town were destroyed by tornadoes last week that killed 41 people in Oklahoma.

Plato played Kimberly Drummond during the show’s run from 1978 to 1984. Like her young co-stars Gary Coleman, who played Arnold, and Todd Bridges, who played Willis, she ran into trouble after the show’s cancellation.

In 1991, she was handed five years probation after being arrested for robbing a Las Vegas video store. She was given another five years in 1992 for forging Valium prescriptions.

In her last interview, Plato appeared on the Howard Stern radio show on Friday to try to revive her career.

She said that she had been sober and off drugs for 10 years, but said she had been taking painkillers for lingering pain after having her wisdom teeth removed more than threemonths ago. In response to a call from a listener who accused her of still abusing drugs, she offered to take a drug test.

Saying she was getting her life back on track, Plato said she hoped to land more acting roles after appearing in several “B” movies. Plato also modelled for Playboy magazine and Victoria’s Secret lingerie catalog.

Plato’s fellow actors on “Diff’rent Strokes” also ran into trouble with the law.

Coleman, 30, who now works as a security guard, was fined and given a suspended jail sentence in February for punching a woman who asked for his autograph.

Plato is survived by her 14-year-old son, Tyler, from an earlier marriage.