Tuesday, October 4, 2005


Actor Nipsey Russell, known as "the poet laureate of television," passed away at Lenox Hill Hospital. His longtime manager, Joseph Rapp, confirmed that the cause was cancer. He was in his early 80s.

Rapp said Russell was born in 1923, although some reports had him born in 1924. The manager said his age was never clear because Russell did not retain a birth certificate.

Russell achieved his first major role as Officer Anderson in 'Car 54, Where Are You?' In a way, this was a major break-through in my opinion. Back then, if blacks weren't appearing in shows like 'Amos And Andy' which basically kept them segregated from white characters, then they were relegated to servant roles like Eddie "Rochester" Anderson working for Jack Benny. Ethel Waters and Louise Beavers may have played the lead in 'Beulah', but it still was the role of a maid.

And forget about seeing citizens of color in Mayberry.

Officer Anderson worked his beat in the Bronx and was seen as just another member of the squad at the 53rd Precinct; there was no spotlight as if to shout "Hey! Look how progressive we are!" In that way, 'Car 54, Where Are You?' was similar to 'You'll Never Get Rich' (the Bilko show with Phil Silvers).

Nipsey Russell appeared on a string of game shows and variety shows, such as the 'Dean Martin Roasts', 'Laugh-In', and 'The Jackie Gleason Show'. He delighted audiences with short poems, earning him the nickname "the poet laureate of television" from Ed McMahon of 'The Tonight Show', one of many talk shows on which he would appear.

Car 54, Where Are You? (1994) .... Captain Dave Anderson
Although this was the same character he played in the TV series (promoted to Captain), the movie can't be considered a continuation of the main Toobworld. That's because the two main characters - Officers Toody and Muldoon - were played by different actors. It's a shame since we also were treated to seeing Al Lewis as Leo Schnauser again.

"Juvenile Jury" (1983) TV Series .... Host
"The Dean Martin Comedy World" (1974) TV Series .... Host
"Barefoot in the Park" (1970) TV Series .... Honey Robinson
"ABC's Nightlife" (1964) TV Series .... Regular (1965)
"Car 54, Where Are You?" (1961) TV Series .... Officer Anderson (1961-1962)
"Jackpot" (1985) TV Series .... Host (1984 CBS Pilot Only)
"Your Number's Up" (1985) TV Series .... Host
"Match Game PM" (1975) TV Series .... Guest panelilst
"Masquerade Party" (1974) TV Series .... Himself/panelist
"Match Game 73" (1973) TV Series .... Guest panelilst
"To Tell the Truth" (1969) TV Series .... Himself/panelist (1971-1978)
"What's My Line?" (1968) TV Series (uncredited) .... Himself/guest panelilst
"The Dean Martin Show" (1965) TV Series .... Himself (regular performer, 1972-1973)
"Missing Links" playing "Himself" 11 September 1964

Fame (1978) (TV) .... Vinny

[This was the Arthur Miller play, not connected to the movie and series about the performing arts school.]

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Lucille Ball (1975) (TV) .... Himself

"100 Centre Street" playing "Wallace Roy" in episode: "Joe Must Go" (episode # 1.9) 12 March 2001
"Spin City" playing "Himself" in episode: "James and the Giant Speech" (episode # 4.2) 28 September 1999
"Viva Variety" playing "Himself" 9 December 1997
"227" playing "Edmund, Lester's Uncle" in episode: "Men's Club" (episode # 3.1) 27 September 1987
"The Love Boat" playing "Dapper Dan Manhoney" in episode: "Friends and Lovers/Sergeant Bull/Miss Mother" (episode # 4.1) 25 October 1980
"Police Woman" playing "Witt" in episode: "Guns" (episode # 4.2) 1 November 1977


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