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July 24, 2012 6:20 PM   Subscribe

Sherman Alexander Hemsley died today at the age of 74. Perphaps best known for his role as George Jefferson on All in the Family and its spin-off, The Jeffersons, Hemsley's career spanned over four decades, including working on stage, in films, and of course, appearing (or starring in) in many TV shows.
posted by KillaSeal (71 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm so sad about this.

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posted by discopolo at 6:21 PM on July 24, 2012


He was such a good foil to Archie Bunker. Hemsley dead, and the Kardashians going strong. Hello, God, hey, listen, are you paying attention at all to what's going on down here?
posted by anothermug at 6:29 PM on July 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


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posted by readyfreddy at 6:29 PM on July 24, 2012


And apparently he was the world's biggest Gong fan! Who knew?
posted by crazy_yeti at 6:33 PM on July 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


The AV Club obituary expands on a brief line in the Wikipedia article on Hemsley -- Norman Lear devised George Jefferson, but Hemsley was busy on Broadway. Lear wrote Weezie Jefferson into "All in the Family" anyway, but intentionally kept George off-screen (like Norm's wife on "Cheers"), then two years later plugged Hemsley into the prepared role. Two. Years. Later.

Imagine if they'd brought Vera into the cast of "Cheers" two years after Norm started complaining about her. It would have sucked. No one could ever have played Maris on "Frasier," for that matter. And yet, despite the anticipation, Hemsley was so obviously worth it.
posted by Etrigan at 6:36 PM on July 24, 2012 [14 favorites]


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He always cracked me up. I would have guessed him older though.
posted by ian1977 at 6:37 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll listen to some Gentle Giant in tribute.
posted by thelonius at 6:39 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by trip and a half at 6:39 PM on July 24, 2012


I will forever remember him as Deacon Ernest Frye in "Amen" - I was a bit too young to watch the Jeffersons. Although I had to look up the name of the show, and had merged "227" with "Amen" in my memory so that I was totally confused to find out there was no Deacon character in 227.
posted by antifuse at 6:40 PM on July 24, 2012


My favorite performance of Sherman Hemsley was in the musical "Purlie" that I must have watched a hundred times when I was a boy. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find his big number "The Bigger they Are" online.
posted by ColdChef at 6:41 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Moving on up forever. :(
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:41 PM on July 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh, and also as the voice of the boss in "Dinosaurs".
posted by antifuse at 6:42 PM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


He was so prolific.
posted by tribalspice at 6:43 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


George Jefferson dancing
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:45 PM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


If I remember correctly, he was a kind, soft, man. Not at all like the characters he portrayed. Funny how I will forever know the name, George Jefferson...And Weezy. Like, that WAS black television(wow). There weren't that many channels. So nuff respect Mr. Hemsley. The Jeffersons on ice (no pun) was total love. RIP
posted by Flex1970 at 6:46 PM on July 24, 2012


Damn, that's sad! I had such a crush on Sherman when I was about 13 -- he was so feisty and unsinkable.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:48 PM on July 24, 2012


It wasn't black television. It was television.
posted by ColdChef at 6:48 PM on July 24, 2012 [15 favorites]


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posted by eriko at 6:49 PM on July 24, 2012


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posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 6:50 PM on July 24, 2012


True
posted by Flex1970 at 6:51 PM on July 24, 2012


Let's hope, for his own sake, that God's not a "Honky," or he'll get an earful.


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posted by Palquito at 6:52 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


He was always fantastic. What a performer. He'll be missed.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:54 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:55 PM on July 24, 2012


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Thanks for the laughs, Mr. Jefferson. You and Mr. Bentley are probably duking it out right now.

Oh, and this...

George Jefferson: World’s Biggest Gong Fan?
This is one of the most mind-blowingly weird anecdotes MAGNET has ever published. Ten years ago, writer Mitch Myers profiled prog-rock legend Daevid Allen (Soft Machine, Gong), who told us of his strange encounter with actor Sherman Hemsley (a.k.a. George Jefferson). Here is the story of Hemsley’s obsession with flying teapots and his alleged den of iniquity that housed an LSD lab, a harem of naked girls and crack/freebase depots on every floor.
posted by porn in the woods at 6:59 PM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


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posted by Elly Vortex at 7:00 PM on July 24, 2012


(oh, beat to the punch by crazy_yeti)
posted by porn in the woods at 7:01 PM on July 24, 2012


I watched the entire cycle of All In The Family not too long ago (easy when it's in 2-hour blocks 5 nights a week, assisted by a DVR). I remember the whole introduction of George as an off-screen character and him finally appearing as a real character. It was a great moment in the series.

That The Jeffersons then became a spin-off was an outstanding development. The 1970s were such a fertile time for groundbreaking television that was actually socially important in a lot of ways. We don't see much of that anymore, if at all. I kind of miss it.

Thanks, Mr. Hemsley, for being so indelible in the minds of so many. You will be missed.

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posted by hippybear at 7:10 PM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hemsley was a self-proclaimed fan of 1970s progressive rock bands including Yes, Gentle Giant and Nektar. On his appearance on Dinah!, Hemsley performed a dance to the Gentle Giant song "Proclamation" from The Power and the Glory. After his dance, Shore laughed and asked what kind of music that was. Sherman then gave a five-minute speech about Gentle Giant. In 1999, he collaborated with Yes founder Jon Anderson on an album titled Festival of Dreams which was not released.


--Wikipedia




So. Much. Awesome.

R.I.P. Mr. Hensley. When George Jefferson saved the Klansman's life with CPR, I learned a powerful lesson that day.
posted by magstheaxe at 7:12 PM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


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So, I never really watched it as a kid, but I did know the theme song vaguely. In 3rd grade, I chased this girl around the playground to get her to kiss me (yes, I had issues)... And her friends kicked my ass, one grabbed my arm, threw me on the ground then another one stood over me as I stared up at her and from her mouth came the theme song...

MOOOOVIN ON UP!

(I have no clue why, exactly, she picked that song to sing, but there she was towering over my fallen body and singing the Jeffersons song).

To this day, that's my biggest memory related to the show.

I always liked him, for some reason. I think he vaguely looked like this one kid I knew and something about his 'tude was appealing (even though it seemed so wrong).

And how awesome that he was into prog rock.
posted by symbioid at 7:12 PM on July 24, 2012


I remember Chris Rock saying that he loved the character of George Jefferson, because Lear had the courage to write Mr. Jefferson as very prejudiced against white people, which wasn't that unheard of for the age of the character he was supposed to play. The world's biggest Gong fan is a nice touch, too.

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posted by jonp72 at 7:19 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by Thorzdad at 7:20 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shit. I had the good fortune of spending a couple of hours with Helmsley, which I documented in MetaTalk recently. He was a perfect gentleman and will be missed.

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posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 7:33 PM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 7:40 PM on July 24, 2012


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posted by dotgirl at 8:03 PM on July 24, 2012


This has been a bad year for beloved sitcom stars.

Sherman Hemsley had a face that always made me smile.. whether on the Jeffersons or reprising his character (I guess) in those Denny's ads. Thank you for those smiles (and the laughs!), Sherman. R.I.P.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:06 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


:/
posted by elizardbits at 8:11 PM on July 24, 2012


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posted by annsunny at 8:15 PM on July 24, 2012


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posted by gusandrews at 8:18 PM on July 24, 2012


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posted by ants at 8:32 PM on July 24, 2012


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posted by dragonplayer at 8:36 PM on July 24, 2012


I will always remember him as the judge who ran against Uncle Phil in Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

His last name was one letter away from mine, and occasionally I received correspondence with my own last name spelled that way.

So, for my near-namesake,
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posted by dhens at 8:51 PM on July 24, 2012


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And darn it, there should be a George Jefferson display in Planet Hollywood!
posted by MrBadExample at 9:00 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by Melismata at 9:04 PM on July 24, 2012


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posted by dlugoczaj at 9:06 PM on July 24, 2012


Miss him ! Had no idea he lived in El Paso!


posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:50 PM on July 24, 2012


See, this is why I come here. So the guy who played George Jefferson dies, and otherwise that'd be it and gone. But I click into the MeFi post, and the next thing I know it's all prog-rock and Hollywood pleasure domes and some television archetype from my distant childhood is now further proof of everyone's continuing ability to develop their deepest loves & sins -- their own selves -- and to be a world unto themselves. Thank you.
posted by $0up at 9:54 PM on July 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


And apparently he was the world's biggest Gong fan! Who knew?

Wow ... Of course it should come as no surprise that celebrities often live lives of excess, but I was not expecting Sherman Hemsley to have an LSD lab in his basement.

Sherman then gave a five-minute speech about Gentle Giant. In 1999, he collaborated with Yes founder Jon Anderson on an album titled Festival of Dreams which was not released

That was also unexpected... I'm not into prog rock so much anymore, but there was a time I might have been able to give similar speeches.

The spinoff was never as inspired as All in the Family, but it was groundbreaking. Hemsley played George with enthusiasm and filled the anti-heroic role perfectly, as someone sympathetic and despicable at the same time. I grew up with The Jeffersons. The character of George Jefferson is permanently etched into my memory from childhood. And now I know the guy playing George was tripping his head off during his free time and hanging out/collaborating with prog rock stars. I like him even better now.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:59 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by brujita at 10:05 PM on July 24, 2012


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posted by Smart Dalek at 10:28 PM on July 24, 2012


There were a few TV shows that were verboten in our house - my racist father, couldn't stand Benson for example - but The Jeffersons we watched faithfully, every week.

It speaks volumes for the show, and Helmsley specifically, that they could reach across that particular divide. I think my dad saw some of himself in George Jefferson. Irascible, flawed but ultimately decent and lovable.
posted by Xoebe at 11:08 PM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


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posted by BrotherCaine at 12:12 AM on July 25, 2012


I'm not into prog rock so much anymore

This is merely the dormant phase of the lifecycle, don't worry.
posted by thelonius at 1:17 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you for the years of laughter. Rest in peace
posted by gt2 at 1:50 AM on July 25, 2012


My Mom lives in El Paso and ran into him a couple of times. He was exceedingly gracious and gave her autographs and let her take a picture of the two of them together while she gushed to him.

Thanks, Sherman, for being nice to my Mom, and for being such a great character.

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posted by kamikazegopher at 1:58 AM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow. This was one of my favorite sit coms growing up. Thank you George.....

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posted by pearlybob at 3:25 AM on July 25, 2012


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posted by Chichibio at 3:37 AM on July 25, 2012


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posted by drezdn at 3:51 AM on July 25, 2012


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I hope you enjoy your deluxe apartment in the sky!
posted by Renoroc at 4:17 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by cashman at 4:51 AM on July 25, 2012


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A mathematician finds a solution in...The Twilight Zone
posted by Legomancer at 5:06 AM on July 25, 2012


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posted by byanyothername at 5:30 AM on July 25, 2012


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posted by rahnefan at 6:02 AM on July 25, 2012


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posted by incandissonance at 6:45 AM on July 25, 2012


Metafilter: proof of everyone's continuing ability to develop their deepest loves & sins -- their own selves -- and to be a world unto themselves.
posted by Billiken at 6:49 AM on July 25, 2012


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posted by lord_wolf at 8:15 AM on July 25, 2012


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*sigh*

the heroes of my childhood are all dying. i feel so, so old.
posted by liza at 10:06 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


George Jefferson dancing

George Jefferson dancing to Nektar

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posted by homunculus at 2:51 PM on July 25, 2012


Moving on in.. to the hillside. Sorry that was awful. Thanks for the laughs George
posted by scottymac at 4:15 PM on July 25, 2012



And now please rise for the singing of our national anthem . . .
posted by jason's_planet at 6:11 PM on July 25, 2012


Moving on up, to the East Side, to a deluxe apartment in the sky.

R.I.P. George and Weezy.
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:10 PM on July 25, 2012


First Weezy, then Mr. Bentley, now George. :(

Also, I didn't know Helen Willis had died in 1995 and Tom in 2006. I thought I'd heard that Florence had died but I guess I was wrong; Marla Gibbs is still alive.

It seems a little weird (and a relatively recent invention) that we can still watch their shows long after they've passed on.

RIP George Jefferson.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:45 AM on July 26, 2012


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