Prison, Murder And More: These “Cooley High” Stars Faced Severe Tragedies After Fame

Posted On : June 17, 2022
Scene from “Cooley High” (L – R): Norman Gibson, Glynn Turman, and Rick Stone

ILOSM fam’ remember the gangsters, ‘Robert’ and ‘Stone’ from the 1975 classic film, Cooley High? They were the classmates who took ‘Cochise’ and ‘Preach’ for a joyride in a stolen car after leaving a house party. Then they were arrested, released, and eventually caught Cochise, beat him, and left him for dead underneath the train tracks.

Now here’s what you didn’t know about the real life of the two cats who played the gangsters.

Friends & Criminals In Real Life

‘Stone’ was played by Rick Stone and ‘Robert’ was played by Norman Gibson. They were actually friends in real life, but the reason they were so convincing in their Cooley High gangster roles was because they were also gangsters in real life. They were stick-up men who robbed folks around town for a living.

How Did 2 Then-Street Dudes Landed “Cooley High” Role

So, how in the hell did two street cats from Chi-town end up in one of the most iconic Black films in history? The director of the Eric Monte written film, was Michael Shultz, who was in town searching for authentic characters to fill the gangster roles at that time. After getting a tip from Chicago police, who knew all about Rick’s and Norman’s criminal ways, Michael sought them out. What happened next is very interesting…

Screengrab: “Cooley High” actors. Bottom shows Norman Gibson as Robert” (L) and Rick Stone as “Stone” (R)

They Initially Planned To Rob “Cooley High” Cast & Crew

Rick Stone (“Stone”) revealed, in an interview with N’Digo Eye On Chi, that he and Norman were walking down the street, when Michael rolled up on them in a limo, asking them to read for the parts. Their instant reaction was to go to the set so they could rob everybody in the building! Long story short, thankfully that didn’t happen because they ended up getting the role.

The Real-Life Tragedies And Murder Are Heart-Wrenching

They Weren’t Really Acting, “Cooley High” Actor Speaks Out

Rick Stone also revealed that he and Norman were not really acting in the film. After the director saw how well they improvised their audition after he’d told them to just be themselves, he then encouraged them to improvise throughout the entire movie, by simply reacting to whatever was happening in the scenes. Shultz wanted their true reactions and not the scripted ones, since they weren’t actors, but instead real life gangsters. And bada bang bada boom, it worked!

However, although their faces were now known to the masses, Norman and Rick were still living their realities in the streets and the tragedies that struck next were heartbreaking…

“Cooley High Actor, Norman Gibson, Suddenly Passed 1 Year After “Cooley High”

Sadly, on September 29, 1976- just one year and three months after Cooley High was released- Norman succumbed to gun wounds at age 25, after an incident in his Chicago neighborhood. He was reportedly robbed by other stick-up men during a dice game.

“Cooley High” Actor, Rick Stone, Served Lengthy Prison Term

After the film, Rick ended up getting busted for armed robbery and ended serving eight years in the pen.’

“Cooley High” Co-star Helped Stone Get His Life On Track

The most beautiful part of Rick’s story is that in recent years, he has redeemed himself. After getting out of prison, he was down on his luck, so an unlikely Cooley High cast-mate came to the rescue- his friend/actress, Jackie Taylor, who played “Johnnie Mae,” (“Cochise’s” girlfriend) in Cooley High. She first gave him a job as a janitor at her Black Ensemble Theater (she owns it):

Via NPR: “Taylor called that day and said ‘Ricky, what you doing?” I said ‘nothing.’ And she said, ‘Come on down to the Black Ensemble Theater. I’ve got something for you.'”


Then Jackie gave Rick a job as an actor in the theater’s plays, which have been very successful in Chicago. He’s now starred in dozens of plays there and is still going strong. He also still lives in his Chi-town neighborhood, which has now a mixed-income neighborhood. He jokingly revealed this to NPR:

“I got white neighbors now,” Stone says. “A white guy and his wife knocked on my door, they had a cake and were like ‘Welcome to the neighborhood!’ I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I’d been over here all my life. I was like ‘Thank you.’ “

A happy ending to a tragic situation. Wishing Rick Stone much continued success. May Norman Gibson continue to rest peacefully.

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