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Frank Wilson

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Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

The hip and irreverent Flip Wilson, who got more mileage out of wearing a dress than any entertainer since Milton Berle, made television history as the first black to headline a hit variety show. At its height, "The Flip Wilson Show" (NBC, 1970-1974) was one of TV's hottest hours, No. 2 in the Nielsen ratings its first two seasons, and enabled its star to walk away a very wealthy man after only four seasons. Debuting not long after the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert Kennedy, the show cut across racial lines, clicking with people of all backgrounds. Audiences loved the musical guests--the Jackson Five, James Brown, Louis Armstrong and Lena Horne, for example--but the real draw was Wilson's comedy characters. Vamped out as the outrageous, miniskirted Geraldine, Wilson delivered lines that entered the nation's vocabulary like, "The devil made me do it!" and "What you see is what you get!" The Reverend LeRoy of the Church of What's Happening Now and Herbie, the Good Time ice cream man, were two of his other popular creations.Wilson surprised a lot of people by quitting the variety show, but as a child of poverty who had lived in five different foster homes, he decided to put his...

The hip and irreverent Flip Wilson, who got more mileage out of wearing a dress than any entertainer since Milton Berle, made television history as the first black to headline a hit variety show. At its height, "The Flip Wilson Show" (NBC, 1970-1974) was one of TV's hottest hours, No. 2 in the Nielsen ratings its first two seasons, and enabled its star to walk away a very wealthy man after only four seasons. Debuting not long after the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert Kennedy, the show cut across racial lines, clicking with people of all backgrounds. Audiences loved the musical guests--the Jackson Five, James Brown, Louis Armstrong and Lena Horne, for example--but the real draw was Wilson's comedy characters. Vamped out as the outrageous, miniskirted Geraldine, Wilson delivered lines that entered the nation's vocabulary like, "The devil made me do it!" and "What you see is what you get!" The Reverend LeRoy of the Church of What's Happening Now and Herbie, the Good Time ice cream man, were two of his other popular creations.

Wilson surprised a lot of people by quitting the variety show, but as a child of poverty who had lived in five different foster homes, he decided to put his family before his career. He had made enough money to live off the interest, so when he was granted custody of his four children from the second of his two failed marriages, he retired to his Malibu home to watch them grow up and really be there for them. Wilson stayed in the public eye, appearing on talk and variety shows and hosting his own specials. An NBC revival of "People Are Funny" (1984) featured him in Art Linkletter's old role, and the short-lived sitcom "Charlie and Company" (CBS, 1985-86) soured him on "... the whole skullduggery of show biz and all the inside politics." During the 90s, he has interrupted his life of leisure to portray God in "Zora Is My Name!" (PBS' "American Playhouse," 1990), reprise Geraldine on ABC's "The Jaleel White Special" (1992) and play himself on both "Living Single" (Fox, 1993) and "The Drew Carey Show" (ABC, 1996).

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Human Traffic (1999)
2.
 Well, The (1997) Francis Harper
3.
 Black Robe (1991) Father Jerome
4.
 Tudawali (1988)
5.
 Going Sane (1986) Sir Colin Grant
6.
 Breaker Morant (1980)
7.
 Fatty Finn (1980) Lord Mayor
8.
 Club, The (1980)
9.
 Journalist, The (1979) Vic Parsons
10.
 Patrick (1978) Detective-Sergeant Grant
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