Famous Friends

Written by: DeAnza Banuelos

OpenStage's Avenue Q is full of curious characters whose complicated pasts paint the show so vividly. Among those characters is Gary Coleman; keep reading for the inside scoop!

I confess, I was more than a bit nervous for the interview. I clenched my mocha awaiting the beloved star of Different Strokes and Avenue Q who would soon walk through the coffee shop door. A faint rumble grew louder, and I peered out the window to witness a 1989 black ford pickup truck limp up to the curb. I caught a glimpse of a backwards baseball cap and knew that this is none other than THE Gary Coleman. The bell above the door rang and Mr. Coleman entered with a swagger and smile. My heart raced as I stood and introduced myself to Mr. Coleman who ignored my extended hand and pulled me in for a big hug (!!!).

Mr. Coleman plopped himself down holding a Styrofoam cup from home and half a cup of coffee (apparently cheaper to BYO-Mug, and half fills are only fifty cents). Then he orders me to “Shoot!” the interview questions. I clear my throat and begin “So Mr. Coleman” a loud guffaw interrupts me as he yells “Nah- please! Call me Gary!”. I pause before adding “Gary, could you share a bit about your journey to living on Avenue Q?” Garry stiffens a moment, and with a glaze over his eyes begins in a reverent tone. “Man! I was a child c-lebrity! Life was good! But somethin’ bout fame makes all your friends and family crazy! They start askin’ for things and favors. Like ‘Can you introduce me to Eddie Murphy at the next cocktail party’ Or “The Sheik of Genovia wants me to invest in his pita bread company, will I lend him my home in Vermont for his board of trustees to vacation at for collateral?’ You know what I'm sayin'?” I nod though I couldn’t personally relate to the problems associated with excessive wealth or fame (especially while still paying off my BA in English).

He continues to spin his woeful tale of being a child celebrity, losing his fortune to his family, and the decline of fame, which eventually landed him broke and looking for a job. “I was looking for a job- anything, and I saw an ad for help wanted outside an apartment complex. Low and behold- the old property owner had watched my show and was a fan! I autographed my W2 form that day and got me a fine place- I was a manager!” He continues “Now see- a lot of folks feel bad for me: how did this good lookin’ child celebrity wind up on Avenue Q as a maintenance worker of an apartment complex?!” I nod curiously. “Sheer bad luck! But my bad luck becomes good luck when folks look at me and think ‘Well- at least I’m not that guy!’, makes them feel good and secure ‘bout whatever it is their doing! And that’s the best purpose I could ask for—helping others!” Gary gives a warm smile and I can’t help but doing the same. We share a tender moment of understanding that sometimes our struggles are for a greater purpose- for the betterment of mankind! After a few inspiring moments of eye contact, Gary's eyes wander to my unfinished mocha. “Ma'am, how would you like to feel good about yourself?” Encouraged by the movie testimony Garry gave, I was eager to give back myself. I nodded and he suggested “Why don’t you pass me that mocha if you ain't gonna finish?”

After sharing drinks and conversation, I am thankful to THE Garry Coleman (now a close famous friend) and wish him the best of success on the last few runs of Avenue Q!


Avenue Q

Book by Jeff Whitty

Music and Lyrics by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez

Directed by Sydney Parks Smith

March 30 - April 27, 2019

"Hilarious, insightful entertainment - an exuberant blast of fresh air!” Theater Review

Winner of the 2004 Tony Award “Triple Crown” (Best Score, Best Book, Best Musical) Avenue Q is part flesh, part puppet, and packed with heart. This laugh-out-loud musical tells the story of a bright-eyed college grad who goes to New York City with big dreams and a tiny bank account.  Moving to the only place he can afford - all the way out on Avenue Q - he meets an odd assortment of offbeat friends who struggle to find jobs, dates, and an ever-elusive purpose in life. Filled with gut-busting humor, biting satire, and a delightfully catchy score, Avenue Q is likely the most irreverent musical you’ll ever see. Mature audiences only due to language and sexual humor.

Adults love AVENUE Q, but they seem a little, er, fuzzy on whether it's appropriate for kids. We'll try to clear that up. AVENUE Q can be great for teenagers because it's about real life. It may not be appropriate for young children because AVENUE Q addresses issues like sex, drinking, and surfing the web for porn. It's hard to say what exact age is right to see AVENUE Q - parents should use their discretion based on the maturity level of their children. But we promise you this - if you DO bring your teenagers to AVENUE Q, they'll think you're really cool.

Lincoln Center Magnolia Theatre, 417 West Magnolia Street