Flip Wilson was a role
model for all races. He crossed the racial barriers with his
unique sense of humor and became the first successful black host of
a TV variety show and made the cover of Life Magazine. NBC's
hit "The Flip Wilson Show" showcased the comedian's
talents and brought a rare black voice, although a stereotypical
one, to TV during its 1970-74 run.
While other successful black artists like Bill Cosby on "I
Spy" and Diahann Carroll in "Julia" had roles that
downplayed their racial identity, Wilson embraced his by playing
such characters as Leroy, pastor of the "Church of What's
Happening Now," who Wilson said was based on a preacher he
listened to as a child.
- As for racism in the world of television, he said in 1971,
"It would be ridiculous for me to say anything negative
regarding blacks having an equal opportunity on TV. After all, I was
number one in the ratings four times last year and twice this
season. What could be more damn equal than that? If they get any
more equal, I don't want it."
- The Flip Wilson Show was a hit for NBC and showcased the comedian's
talents during its 1970-74 run. He dressed in drag to play the
wisecracking Geraldine, whose "The devil made me do it"
and "What you see is what you get!" became catch phrases
across the country.
- Flip Wilson's honesty of soul and brave spirit brought truth and
laughter to TV. While drag in the 70's was unacceptable Flip
Wilson's talents allowed America to embrace Geraldine. "Most
drag impersonations are a drag," Wilson once said. "But
everyone can like Geraldine." "The secret of my success
with Geraldine is that she's not a put-down of women,"
"She's smart, she's trustful, she's loyal, she's sassy. Most
drag impersonations are a drag. But women can like Geraldine, men
can like Geraldine, everyone can like Geraldine."
- He starred in his own variety special in 1969 and scored his
biggest hit record in early 1970 with The Devil Made Me Wear
This Dress, named after another of Geraldine's trademark lines.
The album went gold, aided by the debut that fall of Wilson's
variety series, which went on to become the No. 2-rated show in 1971
1984 quiz show "People Are Funny," which
he hosted, and the 1985 CBS sitcom "Charlie &
Company," which co-starred singer Gladys Knight. Both shows
were short-lived. Flip Wilson will be greatly missed in a world that needs to
laugh. He was the doctor for a sad world and could always
furnish the medicine for laughter.
Copyright © 2000
Patricia Mischell & The Positive Living Center
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