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Johnny Brown, the easygoing actor, comic and singer greatest identified for portraying the housing undertaking superintendent Nathan Bookman on Good Occasions, has died. He was 84.
Brown died Wednesday, his daughter, actress Sharon Catherine Brown, introduced on Instagram. “Our household is devastated. Devastated. Devastated. Past heartbroken. Barely in a position to breathe,” she wrote.
Additional particulars of his demise weren’t instantly obtainable.
Brown additionally recorded songs and carried out in a band with saxophonist Sam “The Man” Taylor, appeared twice on Broadway within the Sixties and was an everyday performer for 3 seasons on Rowan & Martin’s Chuckle-In.
Brown, who did a imply impression of Louis Armstrong and others, was a number one contender to play Lamont reverse Redd Foxx on Sanford and Son, however as a result of his contract certain him to Chuckle-In, the function went to Demond Wilson.
With former Chuckle-In author Allan Manings serving as a producer on Good Occasions, Brown joined the Chicago-set CBS comedy in 1975 halfway by its second season. His character was typically teased about his weight by the gangly J.J. (Jimmie Walker) and different members of the Evans household.
“Typically you are able to do an excessive amount of of a factor, and it doesn’t come pure,” Brown mentioned in 2019. “With everyone [calling Bookman] ‘buffalo butt’ in a scene, it loses one thing. … They even had Janet [Jackson], who had simply come on the present, answering like Mr. Buffalo Butt.
“They usually used it in each present. They used it after I walked within the present, all by the scene. After I left the scene, they used it. I couldn’t say something as a result of I’ve a spouse and two youngsters to help. Now at my age, I must say one thing.”
Brown was born on June 11, 1937, in St. Petersburg, Florida, and raised in Harlem. He gained an newbie night time competitors on the Apollo Theater; starred in nightclub acts together with his future spouse, June, and with faucet dancer Gregory Hines Jr. and drummer Gregory Hines Sr.; and recorded songs for Columbia and Atlantic data.
Whereas working within the Catskills, Brown met Sammy Davis Jr., and the legendary entertainer would show to be an inspiration. “He did all of the issues I needed to do,” Brown mentioned in a 1996 interview. “I needed to be a well-rounded, full entertainer; I didn’t simply need to sing or inform a joke.”
In 1964, when Davis was making ready to star in a musical adaptation of Golden Boy on Broadway, he received Brown a gig as Godfrey Cambridge’s understudy. (Brown mentioned he had by no means even seen a Broadway present earlier than that.)
However then Cambridge started bickering with director Arthur Penn. “In these days, a giant factor for a comic was an album. Like Invoice Cosby and Richard Pryor and people guys, if an album offered, they might make large live performance cash,” Brown mentioned. Cambridge couldn’t “get out of a contract, so he began arguing day by day till two days earlier than opening for previews.”
That’s when Cambridge was fired. Brown took over as Ronnie and took the lead on the show-stopping quantity “Don’t Neglect 127th Avenue” as Golden Boy lasted greater than 500 performances.
Brown made his movie debut portraying a blind pianist within the Davis-starring drama A Man Referred to as Adam (1966) — future Good Occasions co-star Ja’Web DuBois additionally was in that — and returned to Broadway in 1968 for Carry Me Again to Morningside Heights, directed by Sidney Poitier. Regardless of a solid that featured Cicely Tyson, Diane Ladd, Louis Gossett Jr. and David Steinberg, the comedy lasted however per week.
He got here to Los Angeles when Neil Simon requested him to play a waiter on a practice in The Out of Towners (1970). Whereas on the town, he met influential CBS casting director Ethel Winant, “and by the point I received again to New York, I had a collection” — The Leslie Uggams Present.
Brown was on Chuckle-In for a yr earlier than he discovered why he was employed for that. Davis “had dinner with [Dan] Rowan and [Dick] Martin,” he recalled. “They had been searching for new faces, and Sammy, with out batting a watch, mentioned, ‘Get Johnny Brown.’”
Brown additionally was a welcome sight on exhibits together with Julia, Maude, The Rookies, Lotsa Luck!, The Jeffersons, Archie Bunker’s Place, Household Issues, Sister, Sister, Moonlighting and Martin and in such movies as The Wiz (1978), Poitier’s Hanky Panky (1982), Life (1999) and City & Nation (2001).
He additionally pitched Write Brothers pens (“Write on brothers, write on!”) in a collection of musical commercials for Papermate within the early Seventies and starred in The Gospel Reality, which performed on levels across the nation within the late ’80s.
Along with his daughter and his spouse of 61 years, survivors embody his son, John Jr.