Conrad Bain, a veteran stage and film actor who became a star in middle age as the kindly white adoptive father of two young African-American brothers in the TV sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, has died. Bain died Monday of natural causes in his hometown of Livermore, Calif., at age 89. The show that made him famous debuted on NBC in 1978 and ran eight seasons. Diff'rent Strokes touched on serious themes but was known better as a family comedy that drew most of its laughs from its standout child actor, Gary Coleman. Bain, with his long training as a theater actor, proved an ideal straight man.
Bain played wealthy Manhattan widower Philip Drummond, who promised his dying housekeeper he would raise her sons, played by Coleman and Todd Bridges. Today, the show is remembered mostly for its child stars' adult troubles. Coleman, who died in 2010, had financial and legal problems in addition to continuing ill health from the kidney disease that stunted his growth and required transplants. Bridges and Dana Plato, who played Bain's teenage daughter, both had arrest records and drug problems, and Plato died of an overdose in 1999 at age 34.