We were totally unplugged during our Northern Michigan trip, so we just learned of Gary Coleman’s tragic passing a few hours ago. Given our relatively advanced age, it should go without saying that his work played a major part in our cultural formation—we certainly feel a small nostalgic thrill whenever someone quotes Diff’rent Strokes. But the memory of Coleman that looms largest in our mind is his turn as Lester, the homeless horse-picking genius from On the Right Track. The movie stays with us ’til this day because it marked the first time a film ever brought us to tears. We quite vividly recall sitting in this theater and crying our eyes out when Lester (SPOILER ALERT) loses everything, and is thus relegated to once again living in a bus-station locker. We were totally floored by the fact that a work of fiction could do this to us—our first real taste of the power of storytelling.
Rest in peace, Mr. Coleman. And thanks for helping introduce us to the emotional potential of movies.