Content warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault.
In Molly Shannon’s new book Hello, Molly!, she recalled a disturbing encounter with Diff’rent Strokes star Gary Coleman, though the way she tells it, the incident was not without humor. Back when Shannon was a young, struggling actress, Coleman attempted to sexually assault her, but he was so small that she “didn’t feel physically threatened,” and managed to literally toss him aside.
Shannon detailed the story in an April 12th appearance on The Howard Stern Show. In the late 1980s, the future Saturday Night Live star thought she had caught her big break when she attracted the attention of agent Mark Randall, who also represented Coleman. But a meeting with Randall turned out to be a setup. Coleman joined them, and then the trio headed up to the hotel’s Presidential Suite where Coleman was staying. “We went into the room and then Mark disappeared,” she said.
At the time, Coleman would have been in his early 20s, and he was one of the most famous sitcom stars in the world. Born with a rare kidney disorder, he never grew larger than 4′ 8″, and he maintained a cherubic child-like face well into adulthood. It made him perfect for playing a young boy on Diff’rent Strokes, and it’s one of the reasons that Shannon didn’t expect him to have sexual intentions.
“I was a virgin, so I wasn’t even thinking about that,” she recalled, also noting his dialysis machine in the suite. “He held my hand, and I was like, ‘He’s so cute!’”