Tagged with "lost"
Celebrating the life of Michael David Larsen AKA Eyedea Tags: michael david larsem eyedea those we've lost word life production featured blog

Micheal David Larsen (November 9, 1981 – October 16, 2010), better known by his stage name Eyedea, was an American rapper of Lebanese and Irish origins. He was battle freestyle battle champion and songwriter from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He had appeared as a solo artist under the pseudonym Oliver Hart, and as the MC half of the duo Eyedea & Abilities (along with longtime friend and collaborator DJ Abilities)] Larsen was first signed under Slug's independent hip-hop label Rhymesayers before founding his own record label "Crushkill Recordings". Eyedea's style of music is philosophical, abstract, political and poetic.

Eyedea first stepped into the hip-hop scene battling against other emcees at notable freestyle joints. His notable wins which included a victory at Scribble Jam (1999) and the televised Blaze Battle sponsored by HBO (2000), turned Eyedea into a hip-hop mogul. Notable hip-hop outlets have labeled Eyedea as a legendary freestyle icon. Eyedea has released numerous albums alongside DJ Abilities where the two performed under the duo name "Eyedea & Abilities". In 2001, Eyedea & Abilities released their debut studio album First Born, which included their successful single "Big Shots". The single was later chosen to appear on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4. In 2004, Eyedea & Abilities released their second studio album titled E&A, which included the singles "Paradise" & "Man vs Ape". In July 2009, Eyedea & Abilities released their third and final studio album called By the Throat, which was followed by highly acclaimed positive ratings. The lead single "Smile" is Eyedea's most viewed music video on YouTube and was listed in Abbey's top 10 best hip-hop songs ever, respectively.

In 2014, Eyedea ranked #2 on Abbey Magazine's Top 25 'greatest freestyle emcees of all-time'. Eyedea died in his sleep on October 16th, 2010 at age 28; the cause of his death was ruled as an accidental overdose. Eyedea was a member of the music groups Eyedea & Abilities, The Orphanage, Face Candy, Carbon Carousel, Puppy Dogs and Ice Cream, and Guitar Party.

Eyedea lived just east of Downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he attended Highland Park Senior High School.

Eyedea became known as a battle MC, touring the circuit between 1997 and 2001. During this time, he won top prizes at Scribble Jam '99, the Rock Steady Anniversary 2000, and Blaze Battle New York 2000. He contributed a track to the Anticon compilation, Music for the Advancement of Hip Hop. Additionally, he toured extensively as second MC and support DJ for Atmosphere.

In 2001, he released First Born with his partner DJ Abilities (collectively, they were initially called the Sixth Sense, but later changed the name to Eyedea & Abilities). In 2002, under his pen name "Oliver Hart", he released the self-produced The Many Faces of Oliver Hart, or: How Eye One the Write Too Think. In 2004, he reunited with Abilities to release the self-titled album E&A.

All of Eyedea's releases have been on the Rhymesayers record label, with the exception of the Carbon Carousel EP, which was released on his own Independent music label, Crushkill Recordings. In addition to touring independently and with Rhymesayers labelmates and members of Face Candy, Eyedea & Abilities participated in the Def Jux-sponsored "Who Killed the Robots?" tour, titled by Eyedea.

He was signed to Rhymesayers Entertainment and collaborated with Slug of the underground hip hop group Atmosphere as well as Sage Francis, Aesop Rock, and Blueprint. He was also a member of a MC super group called "The Orphanage" along with Slug, Aesop Rock, Blueprint, Sage Francis & Illogic. Although never releasing a full CD to the public, songs were recorded and released.[2]

After Eyedea released This Is Where We Were, recorded with his live freestyle rap/jazz group Face Candy, he created Carbon Carousel, an alternative rock band. They have released one EP, entitled The Some of All Things, or: The Healing Power of Scab Picking. This brought on speculation that Eyedea & Abilities were no longer together. However, in August 2007, the duo announced on their Myspace that they would be at the Twin Cities Celebration of Hip-Hop performing old songs and new material.

In December 2007, Eyedea & Abilities embarked upon their Appetite for Distraction Tour with Crushkill labelmate Kristoff Krane and Minnesotan duo Sector7G.

The summer of 2009 saw Eyedea & Abilities joining the touring hip hop festival Rock the Bells for a limited number of dates, performing alongside such acts as Sage Francis, Evidence, M.O.P. and the Knux. E&A also performed at the first Rock the Bells concert in 2004, infamous for being Ol' Dirty Bastard's last performance with the Wu-Tang Clan.

In 2011, an EP of 4 of Eyedea's freestyles, previously released in 2010 but only sold at live shows, were made available for 'pay what you want' download. Guitar Party a group consisting of vocalist (and first grader) Mijah Ylvisaker, drummer J.T. Bates (Face Candy, Carbon Carousel, The Pines) and guitarists Jeremy Ylvisaker (Carbon Carousel, Alpha Consumer, Andrew Bird, The Cloak Ox), Jake Hanson (Halloween, Alaska), Andrew Broder (Fog, The Cloak Ox) and Micheal Larsen (Eyedea & Abilities, Carbon Carousel, Face Candy) released a recording of the only live show they had managed to play before Eyedea's death called 'Birthday [I feel Triangular]' .The second Face Candy album was released on May 24, 2011 on Rhymesayers. This album was recorded in two days at the Winterland studios and one night in front of an audience at St. Paul's Black Dog Cafe.

Death

Eyedea died in his sleep on October 16, 2010. He was found dead by his mother, according to friend. Cause of death was released November 18, 2010 and ruled an accident, from "opiate toxicity," according to the Ramsey County medical examiner's office. The specific drugs found in Larsen's system have not been revealed to the public.Various hip-hop artists went on their Twitter accounts to pay their tribute to him.

On December 25, 2013, it was announced on Eyedea & Abilities' Facebook page that a star was registered under the name Eyedea to commemorate Larsen on the web site Online Star Register.

Source: Wikipedia

 

We celebrate the life of the King of the Ring - Owen Hart Tags: owen hart king ring word life production honoring those lost word life production new

Owen Hart was born on May 7, 1965, in Calgary, Canada, into a large family with 12 children. His father, a professional wrestler, trained him in a basement studio. Hart, a champion college wrestler, joined his father's professional team in 1986 and 1988 entered the World Wrestling Federation. He died on May 23, 1999, when he fell 90 feet during a pre-match publicity stunt.

Professional wrestler Owen Hart was born on May 7, 1965, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The youngest of 12 children, Hart was one of six brothers and four brothers-in-law in the Hart family to become professional wrestlers. The Hart boys studied wrestling from an early age in a basement studio under the watchful eye of their father, Stu, himself a talented wrestler.

Successful Wrestling Career

Owen wrestled at the amateur level and became a Canadian college champion before making his professional debut in 1986 as part of his father's Stampede Wrestling tour. After touring in Europe, Japan, Mexico and Canada, Hart entered the World Wrestling Federation in 1988.

As "the Rocket" or "the Blue Blazer," Hart became a popular fixture in the WWF. His fierce, although staged, rivalry with his older brother, the five-time WWF champion Bret "the Hitman" Hart, attracted viewers, as did their teaming up to form "the Hart Foundation" in 1993. Individually, Owen won the King of the Ring title in 1994 and the Intercontinental title in 1997. After Bret unofficially retired in late 1997, Owen was the only remaining Hart on the professional wrestling scene.

Untimely Death

Over the years, Hart became disenchanted with the outrageous character of the WWF and especially with federation owner Vince McMahon. In early 1999, he was reportedly preparing to retire and spend more time with his family—he had a son, Oje, and a daughter, Athena, with his wife Martha. He thought of beginning a teaching career.

An accident during a pre-match publicity stunt on May 23, 1999, at Kansas City's Kemper Arena put an abrupt and tragic end to those hopes. In front of more than 16,000 fans, most of them totally unaware of the chilling reality of what they were watching, Hart fell some 90 feet when a release mechanism disengaged on a cable affixed to the ceiling from the safety vest he was wearing, hitting his head on one of the wrestling ring's padded turnbuckles. He was later pronounced dead of internal bleeding.

Aftermath

The circumstances surrounding Hart's death sparked much discussion about the increasingly dangerous nature of the WWF's publicity tactics and provoked calls for some action to be taken by the federation to protect its wrestlers. A wrongful death lawsuit filed against the WWF by Hart's family, who accused the wrestling organization of making dangerous demands on Hart in pursuit of money and television ratings. They reached an out-of-court settlement in late 2000. The WWF is pursuing its own lawsuit against the company that manufactured the equipment used during the deadly stunt.

© 2014 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.

Remembering Fred “Rerun” Berry Tags: fred rerun berry honoring those lost remembering word life production feature weekly blog

Fred Berry, aka “Rerun” and “Mr. Penguin,” was one of the most iconic dancers, actors and performers in show business history. He was also a good friend of mine. His style of dancing was often imitated but never duplicated. Although overweight, he was smooth and light on his feet and he could out-dance a number of professional dancers.

Born March 19, 1951 in St. Louis, Missouri, Fred grew up in public housing before he and his family later moved to Los Angeles. In the recent SoulTrain.com Diary of an Ex-Soul Train Dancer interview, Don Campbell of the legendary Lockers dance troupe explained that he and Fred first met at the club Maverick’s Flat. Fred was real quiet but after he watched Don dancing he started getting into dancing. Eventually, Fred and Don became close friends and Fred wound up becoming a dancer on Soul Train and became a standout, mixing locking with his own freestyle moves. He later became a part of the Lockers dance troupe and was given the nickname “Penguin.”

Aside from the Lockers, Fred also did outside work, performing in a Dick Clark-produced TV special about the history of dance and also appeared in a club scene in the 1972 movie Hammer starring Fred Williamson.

After performing with the Lockers for four years, Fred auditioned for a new television sitcom for ABC called What’s Happening!!, which was loosely based on the motion picture Cooley High. The role he auditioned for, Rerun, was originally written for a skinny white guy. Fred said that when he showed up for the auditions, the casting directors and producers told him they needed a skinny white guy for the role but Fred kept insisting to them that, “I am a white skinny guy!” Fred’s persistence paid off as the casting directors and producers fell out laughing at the sight of this young, portly black guy proclaiming he was a skinny white guy. The role of Rerun was rewritten for a fat black guy, and Fred won the role.

Fred played the role of Frederick “Rerun” Stubbs, a high school kid who always wore a red tam and rainbow suspenders and loved to eat as well as dance. He was nicknamed Rerun due to repeatedly getting left back and having to “rerun” all of his classes. He was best friends with Roger Thomas and Dwayne Nelson (played by Ernest Thomas and Haywood Nelson, respectively), all of whom often got into typical teen mischief. Rerun often verbally sparred with Shirley Wilson (played by the late comedian Shirley Hemphill), a loudmouth, no-nonsense waitress at the neighborhood teen hangout Rob’s Place. Rerun was also the target of putdowns by Roger’s bratty kid sister, Dee (played by Danielle Spencer), while he and Dwayne were often treated as sons by Roger’s mother Mabel Thomas (played by the late Mabel King).

Although Fred was no longer a part of the Lockers, he never forgot his old companions and helped to get all of them on the fourth episode of the series in which they played a dance group called The Rockets and Rerun wanted badly to become a part of their group.

The character of Rerun, like that of Jimmie Walker’s J.J. character on Good Times, was often criticized for being silly and buffoonish. Black critics of the time felt that those characters gave bad images to impressionable young black kids watching (particularly the characters’ lackadaisical attitudes toward school). But What’s Happening!! was just a comedy. Rerun and J.J., just like Lucy, Ralph Kramden and Carol Burnett’s many characters, were essentially just comedic characters designed to entertain and make people laugh. If there were characters like this in the dramatic landmark miniseries Roots, for example, criticism could be justified (imagine Kunta Kinte yelling “DY-NO-MITE” during that horrible whipping scene).

In hindsight and in all fairness, Rerun was a black kid who was just trying to find his way. His constant eating habits were a sign of insecurity as well as an emptiness he was trying to fill on the inside. Like all teenagers, Rerun was searching for self, his place in the world. When he was cracked on by Shirley or Dee or anyone else, the hurt was evident in Rerun’s eyes; but he persevered, trying to make something of himself. He had big dreams beyond his inner city neighborhood of Watts and wanted to do better and become better, hence his desire to be a professional dancer and an actor before he eventually landed a job at ABC as a TV studio page in the program’s last season.

After What’s Happening!! went off the air in April 1979, Fred continued to do dance work and even reappeared for a brief time as a Soul Train dancer in 1984. He also did some film and TV work, including appearing as Sugar Pimp Dorsey in the 1982 movie Vice Squad and appearing as a breakdancer named Bobo on a 1984 episode of the television sitcom Alice.

In 1985, Fred returned to television in the series What’s Happening Now, which featured all of the original characters of the classic What’s Happening!! series. Rerun had a job as a car salesman, while Roger became a fledgling writer and Dwayne became a computer programmer. However, Fred’s stint on the show was short-lived as he left after one season (the show itself was cancelled in May 1988)
Fred had sporadic work here and there (including a 1993 episode of Martin and in Snoop Dogg’s music video “Doggy Dogg World,” which celebrated 70s black film and TV icons). He moved to New York City in 1997 and opened up an acting school called Rerun’s Acting School. I was one of his students and I had the pleasure of going to his studio suite on West 33rd Street every Saturday morning. I was surprised at how deep his actual voice was. He said he made his voice go high whenever he played the younger role of Rerun. He would have me perform monologues and create commercials and do other acting exercises. I learned so much from this man not only about the acting business but the business of acting and the entertainment business as well.

Fred shared a story with me about the child actress Reina King (sister of actress Regina King) who played Carolyn, Roger Thomas’ adopted daughter on What’s Happening Now. There was an episode which spoofed The Wizard of Oz–in which Carolyn played Dorothy, and the lines called for her to become hurt and sad that her dog Toto was taken away by the Wicked Witch. Reina laughed it off, looking at the plot matter as silly. Fred told me he took her aside and told her that she was an actress and had to take this seriously, so she eventually was able to get through the lines. But this is how Fred was in his acting class. He was totally serious about the acting profession and show business in general. He wanted to be sure that I remembered lines, went to rehearsals prepared and maintained my energy level (I actually made him cry during one of my recitations and he got up and gave me a hug).

Fred also taught dance classes as well at his school and I learned steps from him that I still do today.
I would sometimes go with Fred to a restaurant across the street where his photo was on the wall along with other celebrities. As he would eat his breakfast, I would also see him taking his medicine for his diabetes, which he shared with me he was battling.

Eventually, Fred moved his acting school to Los Angeles, in the hopes of getting more clients. We became good friends during his time in New York City. Once when I was at a dance party, Fred was a special guest and he gave me a shout out as one of his students. I never forgot that.
Fred did some more film work, such as 1998′s In The Hood and 2000′s Big Money Hustlas. Before he moved back to Los Angeles, he had shared with me some footage of an independent film he was working on with Sinbad. He also appeared on the TV sitcom Scrubs and did a cameo in Will Smith’s “Will 2 K” video, pop locking down the Soul Train line. He also appeared in the 2003 film Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. His last TV appearance a few weeks before his passing was on the program Classmates, which reunited former classmates. Fred appeared with Charles Bradshaw, a beefy football player whom he thanked for defending him when other kids teased him because of his weight.

Fred’s last movie role was in The Land of Merry Misfits which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. In our last correspondence, he told me he became a minister and I was very happy for him.

In October 2003 I got a call from former Soul Train dancer Damita Jo Freeman that Fred had passed away, succumbing to Type 2 diabetes. I was saddened to hear about the loss of my friend and I miss him to this day.

Fred Berry, to me, will always be remembered as a lovable, fun person who was smart and intelligent and I was honored to have known him and call him a friend and I learned so much from him. Indeed, Fred “Rerun” Berry, like his famous red tam, will forever be an icon.

Source​–Stephen McMillian

Stephen McMillian is a journalist, writer, actor, filmmaker, performer, former Soul Train dancer, Soul Train historian and soul music and movie historian.

Let's celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela Tags: celebrating life nelson mandela honoring lost ones word life production feature weekly blog

Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Madiba clan in Mvezo, Transkei, on July 18, 1918, to Nonqaphi Nosekeni and Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, principal counsellor to the Acting King of the Thembu people, Jongintaba Dalindyebo.

His father died when he was 12 years old (1930) and the young Rolihlahla became a ward of Jongintaba at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni.*

Hearing the elder’s stories of his ancestor’s valour during the wars of resistance, he dreamed also of making his own contribution to the freedom struggle of his people.

He attended primary school in Qunu where his teacher Miss Mdingane gave him the name Nelson, in accordance with the custom to give all school children “Christian” names.

He completed his Junior Certificate at Clarkebury Boarding Institute and went on to Healdtown, a Wesleyan secondary school of some repute, where he matriculated.

Nelson Mandela began his studies for a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University College of Fort Hare but did not complete the degree there as he was expelled for joining in a student protest.

He completed his BA through the University of South Africa and went back to Fort Hare for his graduation in 1943.

On his return to the Great Place at Mqhekezweni the King was furious and said if he didn’t return to Fort Hare he would arrange wives for him and his cousin Justice. They ran away to Johannesburg instead, arriving there in 1941. There he worked as a mine security officer and after meeting Walter Sisulu, an estate agent, who introduced him to Lazar Sidelsky. He then did his articles through a firm of attorneys, Witkin Eidelman and Sidelsky.

Meanwhile he began studying for an LLB at the University of the Witwatersrand. By his own admission he was a poor student and left the university in 1952 without graduating. He only started studying again through the University of London after his imprisonment in 1962 but also did not complete that degree.

In 1989, while in the last months of his imprisonment, he obtained an LLB through the University of South Africa. He graduated in absentia at a ceremony in Cape Town.

Nelson Mandela, while increasingly politically involved from 1942, only joined the African National Congress in 1944 when he helped to form the ANC Youth League.

In 1944 he married Walter Sisulu’s cousin Evelyn Mase, a nurse. They had two sons, Madiba Thembekile ‘Thembi’ and Makgatho and two daughters both called Makaziwe, the first of whom died in infancy. They effectively separated in 1955 and divorced in 1958.

Nelson Mandela rose through the ranks of the ANCYL and through its work, in 1949 the ANC adopted a more radical mass-based policy, the Programme of Action.

In 1952 he was chosen at the National Volunteer-in-Chief of the Defiance Campaign with Maulvi Cachalia as his deputy. This campaign of civil disobedience against six unjust laws was a joint programme between the ANC and the South African Indian Congress. He and 19 others were charged under the Suppression of Communism Act for their part in the campaign and sentenced to nine months hard labour, suspended for two years.

A two-year diploma in law on top of his BA allowed Nelson Mandela to practice law, and in August 1952 he and Oliver Tambo established South Africa’s first black law firm, Mandela and Tambo.

At the end of 1952 he was banned for the first time. As a restricted person he was only permitted to watch in secret as the Freedom Charter was adopted in Kliptown on 26 June 1955.

Nelson Mandela was arrested in a countrywide police swoop on 5 December 1955, which led to the 1956 Treason Trial. Men and women of all races found themselves in the dock in the marathon trial that only ended when the last 28 accused, including Mr Mandela were acquitted on 29 March 1961.

On 21 March 1960 police killed 69 unarmed people in a protest against the pass laws held at Sharpeville. This led to the country’s first state of emergency and the banning of the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress on 8 April. Nelson Mandela and his colleagues in the Treason Trial were among thousands detained during the state of emergency.

During the trial on 14 June 1958 Nelson Mandela married a social worker, Winnie Madikizela. They had two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa. The couple divorced in 1996.

Days before the end of the Treason Trial Nelson Mandela travelled to Pietermaritzburg to speak at the All-in Africa Conference, which resolved that he should write to Prime Minister Verwoerd requesting a non-racial national convention, and to warn that should he not agree there would be a national strike against South Africa becoming a republic. As soon as he and his colleagues were acquitted in the Treason Trial Nelson Mandela went underground and began planning a national strike for 29, 30 and 31 March. In the face of massive mobilisation of state security the strike was called off early. In June 1961 he was asked to lead the armed struggle and helped to establish Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation).

On 11 January 1962, using the adopted name David Motsamayi, Nelson Mandela secretly left South Africa. He travelled around Africa and visited England to gain support for the armed struggle. He received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia and returned to South Africa in July 1962. He was arrested in a police roadblock outside Howick on 5 August while returning from KwaZulu-Natal where he briefed ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli about his trip.

He was charged with leaving the country illegally and inciting workers to strike. He was convicted and sentenced to five years' imprisonment which he began serving in the Pretoria Local Prison. On 27 May 1963 he was transferred to Robben Island and returned to Pretoria on 12 June. Within a month police raided a secret hide-out in Rivonia used by ANC and Communist Party activists, and several of his comrades were arrested.

On 9 October 1963 Nelson Mandela joined ten others on trial for sabotage in what became known as the Rivonia Trial. While facing the death penalty his words to the court at the end of his famous ‘Speech from the Dock’ on 20 April 1964 became immortalised:

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

On 11 June 1964 Nelson Mandela and seven other accused: Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Denis Goldberg, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni were convicted and the next day were sentenced to life imprisonment. Denis Goldberg was sent to Pretoria Prison because he was white, while the others went to Robben Island.

Nelson Mandela’s mother died in 1968 and his eldest son Thembi in 1969. He was not allowed to attend their funerals.

On 31 March 1982 Nelson Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town with Sisulu, Mhlaba and Mlangeni. Kathrada joined them in October. When he returned to the prison in November 1985 after prostate surgery Nelson Mandela was held alone. Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee visited him in hospital. Later Nelson Mandela initiated talks about an ultimate meeting between the apartheid government and the ANC.

On 12 August 1988 he was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After more than three months in two hospitals he was transferred on 7 December 1988 to a house at Victor Verster Prison near Paarl where he spent his last 14 months of imprisonment. He was released from its gates on Sunday 11 February 1990, nine days after the unbanning of the ANC and the PAC and nearly four months after the release of his remaining Rivonia comrades. Throughout his imprisonment he had rejected at least three conditional offers of release.

Nelson Mandela immersed himself in official talks to end white minority rule and in 1991 was elected ANC President to replace his ailing friend Oliver Tambo. In 1993 he and President FW de Klerk jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize and on 27 April 1994 he voted for the first time in his life.

On 10 May 1994 he was inaugurated South Africa’s first democratically elected President. On his 80th birthday in 1998 he married Graça Machel, his third wife.

True to his promise Nelson Mandela stepped down in 1999 after one term as President. He continued to work with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund he set up in 1995 and established the Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

In April 2007 his grandson Mandla Mandela became head of the Mvezo Traditional Council at a ceremony at the Mvezo Great Place.

Nelson Mandela never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he never answered racism with racism. His life has been an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived; to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.

He died at his home in Johannesburg on 5 December 2013.

*Nelson Mandela's father died in 1930 when Mr Mandela was 12 and his mother died in 1968 when he was in prison. While the autobiography Long Walk to Freedom places Madiba’s father’s death in 1927, historical evidence shows it must have been later, most likely 1930. In fact, the original Long Walk to Freedom manuscript (written on Robben Island) states the year as 1930.

Source: Official Website

Click to download the abridged version of Nelson Mandela's biography

In honor of those we've lost, let's celebrated the life of the awesome actress, "Shirley Hemphill" Tags: honor loved lost ones actress shirly hemphill word life production feature blog

Shirley Ann Hemphill (July 1, 1947 – December 10, 1999) was an American stand-up comedian and actress.

A native of Asheville, North Carolina, Hemphill moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. After working the Los Angeles comedy club circuit, her routine eventually attracted attention leading to her being cast in guest starring roles on television. In 1976, she landed the role of wisecracking waitress Shirley Wilson on the sitcom What's Happening!!. The series was a modest hit for ABC, but production and cast problems caused ABC to cancel the series in 1979. The following year, Hemphill was cast in her own sitcom, One in a Million. The series failed to attract an audience and was canceled in June 1980.

In 1985, Hemphill reprised the role as Shirley Wilson in the syndicated revival of What's Happening!! titled What's Happening Now!!. Like its predecessor, What's Happening Now!! aired for three seasons. After the show's cancellation, Hemphill returned to stand-up comedy and also made occasional appearances in films and television.

In December 1999, Hemphill died of renal failure at her West Covina, California home at the age of 52.

Hemphill was born in Asheville, North Carolina to Richard and Mozella Hemphill. She had a brother, William. Hemphill attended Hill Street School and Stephens-Lee High School, and later won an athletics scholarship to Morristown College where she majored in physical education. Hemphill returned to Asheville two years later where she got a job in a factory manufacturing nylons.

An aspiring stand-up comedian, Hemphill sent a cassette tape of one of her comedy routines to Flip Wilson. Wilson was impressed by her routine and in turn, sent her a cassette recorder and a dozen roses. Wilson also invited Hemphill to visit the set of The Flip Wilson Show. After the visit, Hemphill returned to her job in Asheville but decided to pursue a career in comedy instead. She quit her job and traveled to Los Angeles by bus. Hemphill got a job waitressing during the day and performed at The Comedy Store at night.

By 1976, Hemphill's stand-up routine started to get noticed and caught the attention of casting agent Joan Murray. Murray cast Hemphill in guest roles on Good Times which lead to another guest starring role on All's Fair. After seeing her performance on Good Times, Norman Lear offered Hemphill her own spin-off series but she turned it down. Instead, she auditioned and won the role of sarcastic waitress Shirley Wilson on the ABC sitcom What's Happening!!. Loosely based on Eric Monte's film Cooley High, the series follows the adventures of three teenaged boys: Raj (Ernest Thomas), Rerun (Fred Berry), and Dwayne (Haywood Nelson). Hemphill's character worked at Rob's Place, the restaurant the boys frequented. The series was a modest hit for ABC but was beset with behind the scene problems. In the series' second season, Fred Berry and Ernest Thomas staged a walkout over their dressing room conditions which they claimed were unsuitable. During the series' third season, Fred Berry demanded more money and reportedly convinced Ernest Thomas and Haywood Nelson to join him in a strike. Producers opted to cancel the series instead of increasing the actors' salaries.

Following the cancellation of What's Happening, Hemphill auditioned for the role of the cook on Archie Bunker's Place, but lost out to Anne Meara. The day after losing the role, Hemphill was offered the starring role in her own sitcom One in a Million. On the series, she portrayed Shirley Simmons, a taxi driver who inherited a huge corporation and fortune from one of her customers. The series debuted on ABC on January 8, 1980 but failed to attract a sufficient audience. ABC canceled the series in June 1980.

Afterward, Hemphill would spent most of the early '80s working in nightclubs around the country and doing the occasional guest appearance on TV shows, including The Love Boat and Trapper John, M.D.. In 1985, she was invited to co-star on the revival of What's Happening!! entitled What's Happening Now!!, which aired in syndication from 1985 to 1988. After What's Happening Now!! ended its three-year run, she again worked the nightclub scene and doing the occasional acting gig on a number of '90s comedy sitcoms, including Martin, and The Wayans Bros., among others. In 1994, she appeared in her first movie, CB4, starring Chris Rock. Two years later she co-starred in her second movie, Shoot the Moon, starring Whitney Anderson.

Throughout her career, Hemphill performed her stand-up routine on a number of popular TV shows including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, A&E's An Evening at the Improv, BET's Black Comedy Showcase and Black Comedy Tonight. She was also a regular at The Laugh Factory comedy club in Los Angeles. A year before her death, Hemphill appeared in an episode of The Jenny Jones Show in a What's Happening!! reunion show; actors Ernest Thomas and Haywood Nelson also appeared.

On December 10, 1999, Hemphill died of renal failure at her West Covina, California home. May her soul forever rest in peace!

Source: Wikipedia

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