Diff'rent Strokes actors (L to R) Gary Coleman, Conrad Bain
and Todd Bridges speak on stage during the 2003 TV Land
Awards at the Hollywood Palladium. (Photo by Kevin
Actor Conrad Bain, best known for his role on the 1970s
and '80s television comedy "Diff'rent Strokes" as a wealthy,
white New Yorker who adopts two young black boys from Harlem,
has died at age 89, his daughter says.
Bain, who starred opposite the young Gary Coleman on the NBC
sitcom as his adoptive father, Philip Drummond, died of
natural causes at a comfort-care facility in Livermore,
California, east of San Francisco, on Monday (local time). He
was three weeks shy of his 90th birthday, according to his
Born in Alberta, Bain served in the Canadian Army during
World War Two, became a U.S. citizen in 1946 and went on to a
career as an actor on Broadway and television. He often
played erudite, professional characters such as lawyers,
executives, politicians or doctors.
Following a recurring role on the daytime vampire drama "Dark
Shadows" as an innkeeper, Bain broke into prime-time comedy
with a supporting role on Norman Lear's "All in the Family"
spin-off "Maude," which starred Bea Arthur in the title role.
On "Maude," Bain played a conservative physician and
next-door neighbour, Dr. Arthur Harmon, who was frequently at
political odds with the outspokenly liberal Maude but was
best friends with Maude's husband, Walter.
At the end of that show's six-year CBS run in 1978, Bain
landed his own sitcom, "Diff'rent Strokes," in which he
played Drummond, a rich, widowed industrialist who takes in
the two young sons of his housekeeper after she dies,
creating a racially mixed family in an era when depictions of
such households were rare on TV.
Joining Drummond's 13-year-old daughter, Kimberly, and a
ditzy new housekeeper, Mrs. Garrett, the two boys, precocious
8-year-old Arnold, played by Coleman, and his quieter
12-year-old brother, Willis, find themselves in the lap of
luxury as they adjust to a new life on Park Avenue.
The show ran for eight seasons, 1978-1986, on NBC, and went
into wide re-run syndication around the world. Coleman's
oft-repeated line to his brother, "What you talkin' 'bout,
Willis?" became a pop culture catchphrase.
Coleman, who grappled with a series of financial, legal and
domestic woes later in life, died in May 2010 at age 42 after
suffering a brain haemorrhage.
Bain returned periodically to the stage during the show's
network run and reprised the Philip Drummond role on a 1996
episode of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," which starred Will
Smith as a young rapper from a tough Philadelphia
neighbourhood who ends up living with wealthy relatives in
Bain also briefly co-starred on prime-time TV in the 1987-88
season in the Fox network political comedy "Mr. President,"
as the loyal chief of staff to the title character, played by
George C. Scott.
Bain is survived by his daughter and two sons, Mark and Kent.