VIDEO VAULT: Child actress Dana Plato robs a Vegas video store in 1991

In the early 90s, a child actress made headlines in Las Vegas as an adult for the wrong reasons.

Dana Plato had been in the limelight in her teens and early 20s as one of the stars of the hit TV show "Diff'rent Strokes". When the series wrapped up in 1986, she did a couple of B-movies and posed in Playboy Magazine, but her career as an actress was going nowhere.

By early 1991, Plato was working the counter at Al Phillips on West Flamingo Road -- a location that is a Thrifty Dry Cleaners today. But the wages were meager. Desperate for money, she put on a disguise that consisted of nothing more than a hat and sunglasses, and entered a video store near her apartment.

"I had the door open," Lake Video clerk Heather Dailey told News 3 in February of 1991. "She came in, stopped at the counter and she pulled out a gun."

Dailey recognized Plato immediately, but handed over the $160 she had in the register. When Plato left with the money, Dailey called 911 and told the operator "I've just been robbed by the girl who played Kimberly on Diff'rent Strokes"

Plato was arrested just 15 minutes later, near the scene of the crime.

"And they caught her coming back after her glasses that she dropped when she jumped over the wall," Dailey told News 3.

Las Vegas entertainer Wayne Newton promptly put up the $13,000 bail for Plato. It was all over local media. The KKLZ morning radio team Johnson & Tofte did what DJs do.

"We turned it into six different songs, as a matter of fact," said Ken Johnson two decades later. "It's good that no one remembers any of them. But most remember just the one, if they do at all."

He's referring to a song they set to the melody of "Girl From Ipanema". A sample of the lyrics:

"Young and blond and most confusing, the girl from Diff'rent Strokes goes cruising. And when she sticks up a store, she doesn't go far."

Plato was initially angry at the DJs -- she was busy dealing with her arrest and lawyers.

"I'm still kind of nervous," Plato told News 3 on the way into a courtroom appearance.

Plato had used a pellet gun for the robbery. She was sentenced to five years probation.

"And then we got a hold of her, and brought her to us," says Johnson. "And she started working for us."

Plato briefly became a regular at KKLZ.

"She hung with us and we put her to work as a showbiz reporter, and gave her embarrassing questions to ask people. And she was just too nice. She couldn't do it."

From there, Plato landed a ground-breaking gig as a live action figure in the Sega CD video game "Night Trap" -- one of the games that, along with Mortal Combat, lead to senate hearings about violence in video games.

This turn of events certainly hadn't been anticipated when she robbed a video store and had a brief stint as a radio reporter.

"But for me the publicity worked," reasoned Plato in 1992 New -3 interview. "I don't know if it's gonna help sales or not, but for me as a person it helped. Because people are watching me all the time."

Publicly, things seemed to be better for actress. Behind the scenes, she was still struggling with addictions.

"I knew that she had problems," sighed Johnson a later interview. "She never did drugs anywhere in front of us, or around the time that time. You couldn't tell anything. I don't know...I'm a little naïve in that way. But she was always just the sweetest girl."

Dana Plato continued to have substance abuse problems after leaving Las Vegas. She died from a drug overdose in 1999 at age 34 that was ruled a suicide.

DJ Ken Johnson is still on the air, these days with the morning show on 97.1 FM, "The Point".

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