In Memory Of Dana Plato
In the early eighties I left Columbus Georgia with my girlfriend Kelly
Stansel to go play in a band in Hollywood California. When we got there
we rented a small apartment on Western and Gramercy in Hollywood. Kelly
got a job working for the Recycler and I began playing in the top 40
band. One morning they found a dead man in our trash dumpster. He was
robbed and killed for $2.00 right outside my living room window. We
decide to move. The lead singer in our band, Diane lived in Hollywood
Hills in a villa built by her Russian immigrant father. The father built
sets for the film industry and when they struck the sets he took all the
materials to the hilltop he purchased and built several houses. We rented
the top floor of a big pink house that had a beautiful view of the entire
San Fernando Valley and just across the freeway we could see all of
Universal Studios. After living there for nearly a year some developers
built some condos across the street from us on Fredonia Drive. One of the
first tenants in the new building was Dana Plato and her boyfriend Lanny
Lambert. I came home one day and this woman was in the street with a
bunch of stuff and I offered her help. She was Lanny's mother Joanie and
thanked me for my help and wanted me to meet Lanny and Dana later that
night. Since I had recently returned from Brazil I had never watched
Different Strokes and no idea who Dana Plato was. They came over that
night and Dana was very nice and Lanny was an aspiring guitarist, taking
lessons from GIT and was mounting a recording studio. When Lanny saw all
the equipment I had and he heard me play guitar, he invited me to put my
stuff with his in their apartment and we had a good studio. I wrote a
song called Valley Girl in Space and we recorded it with Dana singing
background vocals. Lanny wanted to form a band featuring Dana on vocals
and his mother Joanie was going to be their agent. Joanie did book some
gigs and we traveled out of town to do these gigs. Lanny would allow Dana
to smoke pot or do cocaine but he would not let her smoke cigarettes.
Since I smoked Dana would always find an excuse for us to hide someplace
where Lanny would not see us while we smoked. Dana began confiding in me
and would tell me everything about her life. She called me Jay Jay and
began giving me kisses every time we would part. Dana was so cute and
likable that I couldn't help but fall in love with her. I really liked
Lanny and I didn't want to be a back stabber so I told Dana that we could
live together if she left Lanny. My girlfriend Kelly had already cheated
on me, she was extremely promiscuous and felt in her element living in
Hollywood. Since she had studied drama in school. I didn't feel any
remorse in leaving Kelly. One day Lanny sold some cocaine to some guy
that the cops had followed. When the guy left Lanny's apartment the cops
arrested him and then they went after Lanny. The cops made a mistake and
crashed into the apartment next door, which alerted Lanny who flushed
$3,000 worth of coke down the toilet. Dana came over to my house and told
me she was frightened and did not want to go back to that apartment.
Joanie rented them another apartment in the valley further away. Dana
would have to rehearse Monday through Thursday then on Friday they would
tape the show with a live audience. Everyday Dana would come over during
her lunch break and we became intimate. We planned to move in together
later in the year. Then Lanny managed to get Dana's mother to finance
them a big house in Northridge where Lanny converted the den into a
recording studio. Lanny needed my outboard racks to complete his studio
and I found myself over there and feeling very uncomfortable to see him
mistreat Dana and I was in love and had to keep quiet. Dana wanted to
expand beyond Different Strokes and was going to audition for parts in
some movie. She would bring the script over for me to help her learn the
lines. Dana could barely read and had a lot of trouble pronouncing words.
Her education was seriously lacking basic skills and there was no way she
could get the parts. I blamed her step mother who was so busy spending
Dana's money looking for a cure for an incurable cancer that she wasn't
concerned with Dana's well being. Lanny was only about 18 years old and
lacked the maturity to see what was really happening. Lanny's mother was
mainly interested in being the manager of her son's rock band featuring
Dana and also didn't make an effort to help Dana with her education. She
was really concerned with the fact that Dana only got paid $15,000 a week
and Gary Coleman was getting $30,000 a week. I did not want to get
involved in any of that stuff and I told Dana she should just leave the
whole scene. I was going to set up Kelly in an apartment and then I would
return to Georgia. Dana was supposed to separate from Lanny and come to
Georgia and we would start out fresh. So I was in Georgia about one month
and Dana called to say she was pregnant with Lanny's child. That was the
end of our relationship. I tried to get her on the phone when she was in
jail in Las Vegas but I could not get through to her. When I heard about
her death I sincerely mourned for her. She was such a warm and beautiful
human being that she became a victim of her success. Everyone around her
was more concerned about her wealth and fame than about Dana the human
being. I regret not being more forceful and securing our relationship but
I live by a code of ethics that did not permit me to stab Lanny in the
back any more than what was already happening. I will always love Dana
and cherish my memories of our ill-fated romance.
Thanks. You gave me "exactly" what I was looking for. You're the first person who has been straight up with me when it comes to Dana. Most people have chosen to sugarcoat things. You however decided to include some of the controversy as well and I applaud you for it.
Couple of Notes:
*First off, if someone got killed for $2 in front of my house, I would move too. I've heard some bad things about certain areas in Hollywood and this just kind of confirms it. But then again I guess there is good/bad areas wherever you go. Just need to know where not to go.
*I find it kind of bizarre that Lanny would allow Dana to smoke pot and do cocaine but halted the smoking of cigarettes. To each its own I guess.
*Didn't know that Lanny was in to dealing drugs. To have $3,000 worth of coke, I wonder what kind of job he had? I mean hell Joni put them in the places they were staying. I know Joni was a nurse and her husband was a doctor but come on $3,000 worth? Maybe there is more to this family than I thought. Especially on how they got their money.
*Now you say you two were intimate while she was doing Strokes. I'm guessing your relationship was after her relationship with Todd Bridges. I know starting with the 2nd Season(79-80) that they started to become closer and became intimate not long after. I remember hearing a story about Dana and Todd having sex in either his or her dressing room on her 18th birthday.
*When you say Lanny mistreat Dana, what do you mean by that? Just verbal abuse or do you think he physically abused her as well?
*You telling me that Dana had a hard time reading, basically confirms the reports that she was dyslexic. From what I heard from one of the Tandem kids, the schooling that was done on the set was pathetic. Many of the kids felt like they were robbed of their education. Unfortunately, her adoptive mother didn't really give a damn to help her like you said. Yes she was battling cancer, but when you have a kid, they're suppose to be more important than anything else. Plus as you also said, it was all about the money.
*You're right about Lanny and Joni. I remember him saying fuck that bitch when asked about Dana in an interview shortly before she died. He didn't mind taking money regarding her though to appear on shows when she died did he? Nor did Joni. Lanny has declined my interview request but Joni talked to me. After that interview I like to call her "Phony Joni" because you can tell she is lying her ass off and is just trying to make herself and Lanny look good. It made me sick. Felt no remorse for her actions.
* You're quote of "Everyone around her was more concerned about her wealth and fame than about Dana the human being" hit the nail right on the head. Its very unfortunate.
Its a shame that your relationship with her didn't pan out because I can tell she would have been much better off with you than with Lanny. I'm sure of it. From what I heard she mentioned you more than once to other people. Why do you think I sought out to find you? Most of the time I pick up names from interviews and then run with them. Your name came up and here I am.
BTW, did Dana ever mention her stepfather Dean? I know he left shortly after she was adopted but didn't know if she ever had any relationship whatsoever with him after that.
Thanks again for your help. Its greatly appreciated.
P.S. If some of this email doesn't make any sense, please forgive me. Its after midnight here and I'm becoming a bit tired.
Jon, I'm glad you're on the good side of things. Dana never mentioned
Dean and she hated Todd because he physically attacked her on the set and
he shot at her with an arrow, no serious damage just scared her.Lanny
went to the set an threatened to beat his ass for that. It was weird
listening to Lanny laughing about how Dana was high on coke when Nancy
Reagan was a guest on the show for some anti-drug message. I think
Lanny's older brother was a pot dealer. Lanny always had killer pot and I
can't remember the name of this guy that used to front Lanny the coke,
its was a hispanic name and I met the guy a couple of times. I know he
didn't have the cash to pay for the coke that got flushed and thats when
they all of the sudden moved up Ventura Blvd to a small apartment. I
never knew if he was avoiding the cops or his dealer, or both. Lanny was
verbally abusive, always putting her down to make himself look superior.
Putting down her singing and dancing. When we would sneak off to smoke I
would tell her not to pay attention to him and he was just jealous of
her. Dana never got a break in life but I'm hoping now you will tell what
a wonderful person she really was and how she was a victim of her fame.
Let me know when you get published, Jay