Tag: “Harlem Nights”

R.I.P. Della Reese, 86, Singer and ‘Touched by an Angel’ Star

Ms. Reese performed in concert in 2001 as part of Detroit 300, a festival celebrating the city’s 300th anniversary. As a singer, she had her first big hit record in 1957, with the romantic ballad “And That Reminds Me.” (Credit: Paul Warner/Associated Press)

by Anita Gates via nytimes.com

Della Reese, the husky-voiced singer and actress who spent almost a decade playing a down-to-earth heavenly messenger on the CBS series “Touched by an Angel” and became an ordained minister in real life, died on Sunday night at her home in Encino, Calif. She was 86.

Her death was confirmed by her manager, Lynda Bensky. She did not specify the cause but said that Ms. Reese had diabetes.

Ms. Reese had been under contract to Jubilee Records for three years when, in 1957, she had her first big hit record, the romantic ballad “And That Reminds Me.”

Named the year’s most promising “girl singer” by Billboard, Variety and Cash Box, she was soon making regular appearances on the leading television variety shows of the day. Her biggest hit was “Don’t You Know” — adapted from “Musetta’s Waltz,” an aria from “La Bohème” — which reached No. 2 on the Billboard singles chart in 1959.

But she became best known as an actress, particularly in the sentimental drama series “Touched by an Angel,” which had its premiere in 1994 and evolved into one of prime time’s top-rated shows. It placed in the Nielsen Top 10 from 1996 to 2000, with an average of more than 20 million weekly viewers at one point.

In the show, Ms. Reese, by then in her 60s, was cast as Tess, a stern but loving supervisor of angels who guided a softhearted and less experienced angel, Monica (Roma Downey), in helping humans at crossroads in their lives. The series told reassuring stories of forgiveness and second chances with mild irreverence. (“You get your little angel butt back to the city,” Tess told Monica in one episode.)

Ms. Reese contended that no career switch was involved. “Every time I sang the blues, I wasn’t blue,” she said in a 2008 interview for the Archive of American Television, alluding to her emotional connections and delivery as a vocalist. “I was already acting.”

Ms. Reese’s religious faith was a major influence in her career. In 1996 she told The Chicago Tribune that she had consulted with God about whether to sign on for “Angel.” “As clearly as I hear you,” she said, “I heard him say: ‘You can do this. I want you to do this, and you can retire in 10 years.’ ”

The series lasted nine years, and she continued to act for another decade after that.

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R.I.P. Charlie Murphy, 57, Comedian, Writer and “Chapelle’s Show” Co-Star

Charlie Murphy (photo via rollingstone.com)

article by Daniel Kreps via rollingstone.com

Charlie Murphy, the older brother of Eddie Murphy, a “Chappelle’s Show” star and an accomplished comedian in his own right, died Wednesday in New York City. He was 57. Murphy’s publicist confirmed the comedian’s death, and the cause of death was leukemia.

“We just lost one of the funniest most real brothers of all time. Charlie Murphy RIP,” Chris Rock, Murphy’s CB4 co-star, tweeted. “Charlie Murphy changed my life,” tweeted “Chappelle’s Show” co-creator Neal Brennan. “One of the most original people I’ve ever met. Hilarious dude. Habitual Line Stepper. So sad.”

After making his big screen debut in 1989’s “Harlem Nights,” directed by his younger brother Eddie, and appearing in bit roles in Spike Lee films like “Mo’ Better Blues” and “Jungle Fever,” Murphy’s big break came as a cast member on “Chappelle’s Show,” where “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories” resulted in a pair of that series’ most memorable sketches.

Both sketches featured Murphy reminiscing about he and Eddie’s celebrity encounters in the Eighties, with Dave Chappelle portraying Rick James and Prince in the now-legendary sketches. Charlie Murphy also co-wrote “Vampire in Brooklyn,” another film directed by Eddie, as well as 2007’s “Norbit.”

Murphy also appeared in 1998’s “The Player’s Club,” directed by Ice Cube. The rapper paid tribute to Murphy on Twitter Wednesday, “Damn, sorry to hear about my friend Charlie Murphy. He took a chance on a young director in The Player’s Club. Always made me laugh. RIP.”

Growing up in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn, Charlie often stuck up for his younger brother; in defending Eddie, Charlie joked about fearing his mom’s wrath if bullies picked on Eddie more than the bullies themselves. That guardian role made Charlie a natural to serve as Eddie’s security guard as the comedian quickly ascended to stardom.

Due to Charlie’s propensity toward overreacting while guarding his brother – “Whoever say something, I almost gave this old man a heart attack on a plane because he asked us if we were a basketball team. I took that personally,” Murphy said in a Chappelle’s Show outtake – forced Murphy to embark on his own career.

One night at an Eddie Murphy stand-up performance, Charlie went after one heckler “who tried to squeeze the lemon.” “I took it as a personal crusade until they were like, ‘You’re a little overzealous in how you’re performing your job.’ So that’s how I ended up not doing [security] anymore,” Murphy said.

To read more, go to: Charlie Murphy, Comedian and ‘Chappelle’s Show’ Star, Dead at 57 – Rolling Stone