David Gordon Strickland, Jr. was born on October 14, 1969 in Glen Cove, Long Island, New York. His parents, Gordon and Karen, both worked as executives. Strickland moved with his family to Princeton, New Jersey, and later to California, where he became an actor. Strickland appeared in earlier television roles including Dave's World, Roseanne, Sister, Sister, and Mad About You. While filming Suddenly Susan, Strickland reportedly suffered from bipolar disorder and had a long and troubled history of drug and alcohol abuse. He was arrested five months before his death for the possession of cocaine, pleaded no contest and was sentenced to three years probation and ordered into rehabilitation. He was due in court for a progress report on the day of his death. News reports of events leading up to Strickland's death suggest that he had chosen to stop taking the lithium he was prescribed to control his bipolar disorder.
Strickland married Ali Rivers in 1988, and he had four biological children: David III, Derrick, Michelle, and Danielle; and twin stepchildren, Joshua and Alexis. Rivers and Strickland were involved in a heated divorce which Rivers filed in 1996, but was not finalized at the time of Stickland's death. Rivers stated that Daniel is not the biological son of Strickland, but of a man whom Rivers married after his death.
After checking into Room 20 of the Oasis Motel in Las Vegas, Strickland consumed several bottles of beer, hanged himself with a bed sheet over the ceiling beam, and died during the morning hours of March 22, 1999. His body was discovered by a hotel desk clerk. Evidence of drug use was found in his room. The Clark County Coroner concluded that Strickland's body bore the marks of a previous suicide attempt.