Nell Carter dies at 54

I don’t know how to do the links, but it was just announced that Nell Carter has been found dead. The All My Chat forum has a link. Go to

I always liked her work.

I got an “Access Denied” error for that link.

Here’s the CNN story.

Bummer. She had a great voice.

That’s a shame. This hasn’t been a good week, has it? Al Hirschfeld, Richard Crenna, Bill Mauldin and now Nell Carter.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) - Nell Carter, who played the sassy, matronly housekeeper on the 1980s sitcom “Gimme a Break!” and received a Tony Award in 1978 for her performance in the Broadway musical “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” died Thursday, her publicist said. She was 54. The singer-actress collapsed in her Beverly Hills home and was found by one of her 13-year-old sons, spokesman Roger Lane said. Carter had suffered from diabetes for years, Lane added, and underwent brain surgery in 1992 to remove an aneurysm. She recovered and continued to perform, mostly on stage. Carter was in rehearsals at a Long Beach theater for “Raisin,” the musical version of “Raisin in the Sun.”

In addition to Carter’s Tony win for “Ain’t Misbehavin,’” she won an Emmy in 1982 for a TV broadcast of the show. Her NBC comedy “Gimme a Break!” ran from 1981 to 1987, and garnered two more Emmy nominations, in 1982 and 1983. In 1985, an episode of the show was broadcast live - the first for a situation comedy in nearly 30 years. Carter and her costars performed flawlessly, and at the end, she threw up her arms and yelled, “We did it!”

Growing up in Birmingham, Ala., Carter listened to her mother’s recordings of Dinah Washington and B.B. King, and her brother’s Elvis Presley records. She liked Doris Day, the Andrews Sisters, Johnny Mathis, and admired the work of Cleo Laine and Barbra Streisand. Carter said she would have preferred to be an opera singer. “When I was growing up, it was not something you aspired to,” she said in 1988. “I was a weirdo to want to be in show business. Most kids wanted to be teachers or nurses.”

—If we’re going by the “performers rule,” she and Richard Crenna are the first two of the three.

I liked Gimme A Break for the first few seasons, solely because of her.

She was very talented and I am sure she will be missed.

When I was living in LA, she was someone you could always count on to do an AIDS benefit at the drop of a hat, without any “diva” demands. A truly nice, generous woman with an amazing voice. Sad day.

That AP article doesn’t mention my favorite of her performances–her small part in the movie Hair.

White boys are so sexy
Legs so long and lean
Love those sprayed-on trousers
Love the love machine

Sorry to hear the bad news.

Yeah, she was excellent in “Hair”.

I’m sad she’s gone. :frowning:

Richard Crenna is dead? Jeezopete, nobody tells me anything!

Richard Crenna, who gained fame on TV’s “Our Miss Brooks” and “The Real McCoys” and made a successful transition from comedy to drama on television and in movies such as “The Sand Pebbles” and “Body Heat,” has died. He was 75. Crenna, a former child radio actor who began his more than six-decade career in the late 1930s, died Friday of pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, his wife, Penni, said Saturday.

Television viewers were introduced to Crenna as Walter Denton, the squeaky-voiced, not-so-bright high school student on Eve Arden’s “Our Miss Brooks,” when the popular radio series moved to TV in 1952. Crenna had made a career playing Walter and what he later called “all the idiot adenoidal kids” on radio, including Oogie Pringle on “A Date with Judy,” Beasey on “The Hardy Family” and Waldo on “Burns and Allen.” He also played Bronco, a slightly older variation of his standard character, on “The Great Gildersleeve.”
By the time he left Walter Denton behind in 1956 after appearing in the “Our Miss Brooks” feature film, Crenna, the perpetual juvenile, was pushing 30.
In 1957, he graduated to an adult role as the married Luke on “The Real McCoys.” The popular comedy series starring Walter Brennan as the lovably cantankerous McCoy patriarch whose West Virginia clan moves to a farm in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley ran for six seasons.

In the 1980s, Crenna played critically acclaimed supporting roles in the film noir hit “Body Heat” (as Kathleen Turner’s strong-yet-doomed husband) and the coming-of-age movie “The Flamingo Kid” (as the slick and dishonest gin-rummy champ at a posh Long Island beach club who takes star Matt Dillon under his wing). And, opposite Sylvester Stallone, Crenna memorably appeared as Col. Trautman, Rambo’s former Vietnam War commander, in three of the most profitable big-screen action movies of the 1980s: “First Blood,” “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” and “Rambo III.”

At the time of his death, Crenna was a member of the Screen Actors Guild board of directors. Actress Sally Kirkland, who had acted with Crenna in the 1975 film “Breakheart Pass” and worked with him on the SAG board until her term ended last August, said Saturday that “in the last three years, he was just a saint for the union… He stood up for 98,000 actors … and during the strike he came out on the strike line over and over and over. And this was a man who worked. His humility was such an example to all actors.” In addition to Penni, his wife of 47 years, Crenna is survived by a son, Richard Anthony Crenna of Encino; two daughters, Seana of Playa del Rey and Maria of Studio City, and three granddaughters.

Nell is survived by three children; her daughter Tracey is an adult, but her two sons are only 13 and one of them was the one to find her after she collapsed. I remember seeing her on one of the entertainment programs talking about how she adopted her boys; they’re not twins (IIRC) but both were in terrible circumstances and she felt compelled to take them both to give them the best life possible. She said that as much as she loved to perform, being a mother was her foremost joy. As much as her fans will miss her, I can’t imagine how hard this loss will be for her sons. My heart goes out to them.

I worked at a hotel she stayed at during the filming of THE GRASS HARP. Of all the celebrities who were with us, she was one of only two who weren’t totally full of themself (the other was Roddy McDowell). She would even bring food for the desk clerks when she went out to eat and she tipped the maids generously even though her business manager had her on a tight budget (I remember her getting into a hysterically funny screaming match, but in a very friendly way, with said manager on the phone one night because she wanted $300 to buy a lamp she’d just seen).

Her oldest daughter is an interesting story. Short version: she was raised as Nell’s niece then came to live with her like an adopted daughter, not realizing that she was actually Nell’s biological daughter until a tabloid dropped the story. It was such a destructive thing to do over a woman who had no enemies and wasn’t really a big celebrity, but then that’s how they make their money.

Re: her sons- one is black and one is white. Part of her reason for this was to insure raising non racist kids.

Sampiro, I hate to hijack this, but what other celebrities stayed there? Joe Don Baker was in that movie and Edward Furlong. What were they like? What about Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek?

I never met Joe Don Baker- he has friends in the area and stayed with them.
I hate to feel like a namedropping queen, but that was a really fun time. The straight dope:

Edward Furlong- drugged up and repulsive. Literally smelled bad- his room had to be taken out of order for more than a week after he left. He stayed with a girlfriend who was a lot older than him and who threw his name around like he was Tom Cruise.

Walter Mathau- some staff members thought he was nice though I found him obnoxious and egomaniacal. Lots of demands and could be testy if they weren’t satisfied immediately.

Jack Lemmon- never said two words, but his wife is the original bee-yotch from Hades. She insisted on having a grand piano in their suite- unfortunately this was on the second floor in a hotel with no elevator- and she complained about EVERYTHING. She always introduced herself on the phone as “This is MRS. JACK LEMMON…” Complained about backwards Alabamians everyday. Nell Carter did a dead-on imitation of her.

Piper Laurie suffers from severe back problems and spent most of her free time in her room. I understand she has an anxiety disorder also, so we never really met her. Nell Carter said she was nice.

Sissy Spacek- I should edit the comment above, because I forgot about Sissy Spacek. She is the most down-to-earth and genuine Oscar winner you can imagine. I have a long but funny story about her calling for her sunglasses she left while yelling at her dog in the background.

Mary Steenburgen- every cliche you can imagine about the Hollywood “type”. She wore a scarf and sunglasses when she left the hotel so she wouldn’t be pestered by “fans”. I think she could have walked out of the hotel wearing a Sandwich board saying "HI, I’M MARY STEENBURGEN, WIFE OF TED DANSON AND WINNER OF AN OSCAR FOR A MOVIE A LONG TIME AGO THAT NOBODY SAW, and nobody would have recognized her. (I don’t think she was Mrs. Danson then.)

Roddy McDowell- very nice and talkative guy who went to see movies every day. Always wore expensive jogging suits.

Charles Durning- very grumpy, but I think he was having health problems.

Aw, poor Piper Laurie-that’s really sad.

Thanks, I was just curious, since I saw that movie and I used to have a crush on Furlong. Ugh. (Yeah, he started dating his tutor when he was 15 and she was 28. UGH!)

Back to Nell Carter-I always LOVED watching Gimme a Break as a kid. She WAS a fantastic singer! 54-around the same age as my parents. I feel for her boys-I hope they’ll be all right.


It is so sad. She was a beautiful and talented woman.:frowning: