Conrad Bain dead; 'Diff'rent Strokes' dad was 89

Clockwise from foreground, Gary Coleman, Conrad Bain and Clockwise from foreground, Gary Coleman, Conrad Bain and Todd Bridges of "Diff'rent Strokes" at the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Photo Credit: AP, 1981

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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., according to his daughter, Jennifer Bain. He was 89.

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The show that made him famous debuted on NBC in 1978, an era when television comedies tackled relevant social issues. "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 played wealthy Manhattan widower Philip Drummond, who promised his dying housekeeper he would raise her sons, played by Coleman and Todd Bridges. Race and class relations became topics on the show as much as the typical trials of growing up. The series lasted six seasons on NBC and two on ABC.

Bain went directly into "Diff'rent Strokes" from another comedy, "Maude," which aired on CBS from 1972 to 1978. He played Dr. Arthur Harmon, the conservative neighbor often zinged by Bea Arthur's liberal feminist character. Before those television roles, Bain appeared in films, including "A Lovely Way to Die," "Coogan's Bluff," "The Anderson Tapes," "I Never Sang for My Father" and Woody Allen's "Bananas." He also had a role in the 1960s television show "Dark Shadows."

A native of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, Bain arrived in New York in 1948 after serving in the Canadian army during World War II. He married artist Monica Sloan in 1945. She died in 2009. He is survived by three children: Jennifer, Kent and Mark.

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