Gregory Hines Dies - Aug 10, 2003

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Tap Star Gregory Hines Dies

by Bridget Byrne
Aug 10, 2003, 2:24 PM PT

Gregory Hines, whose incomparable grace and easy charm make him the greatest tap dancer of his generation, died Saturday in Los Angeles of cancer. He was 57.

Elegant in appearance, manner and personality, Hines won the Best Actor Tony in 1992 for Jelly's Last Jam, the musical play about jazz legend "Jelly Roll" Morton.

"His dancing came from something very real," Bernadette Peters, who co-hosted the 2002 Tony Awards with Hines, told the Associated Press. "It came out of his instincts, his impulses and his amazing creativity. His whole heart and soul went into everything he did."

Hines' film roles included the drama about dancers in peril in Russia, White Nights, with another great hoofer Mikhail Baryshnikov, the jazz era gangster story The Cotton Club, with Richard Gere, the feminist drama Waiting to Exhale, with Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett, and the cop comedy Running Scared, with Billy Crystal. In 1997 he also starred in his own TV sitcom The Gregory Hines Show, as a single dad raising a son, He had a recurring role on Will & Grace and starred in the TV docudrama Bojangles, which won him one of this two NAACP Image awards. He also appeared in numerous dance and musical related specials including Gregory Hines: Tap Dance in America on PBS in 1989. He won a Daytime Emmy as the voice of Big Bill, in Bill Cosby's animated series.

Despite his many acting credits, it was as a dancer that Hines was truly a star. Fast or slow, smooth or snazzy, he moved with evocative perfection. It was a talent he was born with, a way of life he was encouraged to pursue by his mother, Alma, who saw performing as a ticket of the ghetto for him and his older brother Maurice.

Born on Feb. 14, 1946, in New York City, Hines took lessons as toddler. By the time he was six he and his brother were performing jazz tap at Harlem's Apollo Theater and soon after joined the cast of the Broadway musical The Girl in Pink Tights. In their teens the brothers, joined by their father, Maurice, Sr. on drums, were billed as Hines, Hines and Dad. Although estranged for a time in the '60s, when Gregory briefly stepped away from the dance scene, the brothers reconciled and later performed together in both Eubie, a homage to composer Eubie Blake, and Sophisticated Ladies, a revue of Duke Ellington's songs, both of which earned Tony nominations for Gregory.

"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.

Hines says he was influenced by the style and talents of Sammy Davis, Jr. the Nicholas Brothers and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. Critics often compared his easy artistry to the equally incomparable Fred Astaire.

Following the announcement Sunday by publicist Allen Eichhorn of Hines' passing, the Associated Press also quoted George C. Wolfe who directed Jelly's Last Jam, saying Hines "was the last of a kind of immaculate performer - a singer, dancer, actor and a personality. He knew how to command."

Twice married, Hines, is survived by his fiancee Negrita Jayde, his daughter, Dana, son Zach, stepdaughter Jessica Koslow, grandson Lucian, as well as his brother and father.
 

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