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From Disney Sweetheart To Armed Robber: Inside Dana Plato’s Tragic Downfall

‘She was living on the edge of poverty,’ says source.

Like some of her Diff’rent Strokes costars, Dana Plato ran out of money following her career as a child actress and was forced to take any job she could find. Hungry for cash and with no one to turn to, she ditched her Disney sweetheart image for a much more revealing persona.

“America watched this wholesome little girl grow up on TV and they expected her to stay that way,” says radio host Kellie Rasberry in REELZ’s new docuseries, The Price of Fame: Diff’rent Strokes. “So I don’t think these pictures got the response she was hoping for.”

Dana Plato ("Diff''rent Strokes") at the Hollywood Collectors Show. Inset right, Dana Plato as Kimberly Drummond.

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With no TV job offers coming in, she moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

“She was living on the edge of poverty and unable to reach out to anyone, and it ended unfortunately with one of her more… infamous acts,” says Diff’rent Strokes biographer Greg Pincus.

In 1991, Plato entered a video store to deliver what would become her most dramatic role yet: armed robbery.

“To be a known actress, to go into a video store where you’re probably going to be recognized, it just seemed like a cry for help,” says Rasberry.

Plato committed suicide by drug overdose on May 8, 1999. She was 34.