Actor/Dancer Gregory Hines Dies At 57
Gregory Hines Dies of Cancer at 57
By TIM MOLLOY
.c The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Gregory Hines, the greatest tap dancer of his generation who also transcended the stag e with successful film and television roles, has died at 57.
Hines died Saturday in Los Angeles of cancer, publicist Allen Eichorn said Sunday.
Hines won a 1992 Tony for the musical ``Jelly's Last Jam.'' He first became internationally known as part of a jazz tap duo with his brother, Maurice. The two danced together in the musical revue ``Eubie!'' in 1978.
The brothers later performed together in Broadway's ``Sophisticated Ladies'' and on film in 1984's ``The Cotton Club.''
In ``The Cotton Club,'' Hines also had a lead acting role, which led to more work in film. He starred with Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1985's ``White Nights'' and with Billy Crystal in 1986's ``Running Scared,'' and he appeared with Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett in 1995's ``Waiting to Exhale,'' among other movies.
On television, he had his own sitcom in 1997 called ``The Gregory Hines Show,'' as well as a recurring role on ``Will and Grace.'' Last March, he appeared in the spring television series ``Lost at Home.''
Gregory Oliver Hines was born on February 14, 1946, in New York City. He has said his mother urged him and his older brother toward tap dancing because she wanted them to have a way out of the ghetto.
When he was a toddler, he said, his brother was already taking tap lessons and would come home and teach him steps. They began performing together when Gregory Hines was five, and they performed at the Apollo for two weeks when he was six. In 1954 they were cast in the Broadway musical ``The Girl in Pink Tights,'' starring French ballerina Jeanmaire.
``I don't remember not dancing,'' Hines said in a 2001 interview with The Associated Press. ``When I realized I was alive and these were my parents, and I could walk and talk, I could dance.''
Paired with his brother Maurice, he was a professional child star. In his teens, joined by their father, Maurice Sr., on drums, they were known as Hines, Hines and Dad. Later he earned Tony nominations on Broadway in ``Eubie,'' ``Comin' Uptown'' and ``Sophisticated Ladies.'' He won a Tony for best actor in a musical playing jazz legend ``Jelly Roll'' Morton in ``Jelly's Last Jam.''
There was a time, he said, when he didn't want to dance. He was in his mid-20s, ``a hippie'' in a brief moment of rebellion, he said in 2001.
``I felt that I didn't want to be in show business anymore. I felt that I wanted to be a farmer,'' he said with a laugh. Invited to work on a farm in upstate New York, he quickly learned a lesson. Beginning before dawn, ``I was milking cows and shoveling terrible stuff and working all day. By the end of the day all I wanted was my tap shoes - I thought, `What am I doing? I better get back where I belong on the stage where we work at night and can sleep late!'''
Hines had a falling out with his older brother in the late 1960s because the younger was becoming influenced by counter-culture and wanted to perform to rock music and write his songs. In 1973, the family act disbanded and Hines moved to Venice Beach.
``I was going through a lot of changes,'' Hines told the Washington Post in 1981. ``Marriage. We'd just had a child. Divorce. I was finding myself.''
He returned to New York in 1978, partly to be near his daughter, Daria, who was living with Hines' first wife, dance therapist Patricia Panella. His brother, with whom he had reconciled, told him about an audition for the Broadway-bound ``The Last Minstrel Show.'' He got the part, but the show opened and closed in Philadelphia.
Hines landed his first film role in the 1981 Mel Brooks comedy ``History of the World Part I,'' in which he played a Roman slave as a last-minute replacement for Richard Pryor.
Hines' has been nominated for a number of Emmy Awards, most recently in 2001 for his lead role in the mini-series ``Bojangles.'' His PBS special ``Gregory Hines: Tap Dance in America'' was nominated in 1989, and in 1982 he was nominated for his performance in ``I Love Liberty,'' a variety special saluting America.
He also won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1999 for his work as the voice of ``Big Bill'' in the Bill Cosby animated TV series ``Little Bill'' and NAACP Image Awards for ``Bojangles'' and ``Running Scared.''
08/10/03 12:32 EDT
Copyright 2003 The Associated Press