RIP To This “Lets Do It Again” Actress, Daughter Details Her Sudden Death

Posted On : February 20, 2016
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Inset photo: actress, Lee Chamberlin; Lee’s daughter, Ekayani Chamberlin (L)

If you’re from the Old School, you probably remember actress, Lee Chamberlin. She starred in the classic 70’s comic films, “Let’s Do It Again” and “Uptown Saturday Night.”

We wanted to bring her life and death to the forefront because we consider Lee to be one of those unsung heroes of the old school era. With all of the groundwork she laid as an actress, not only in the aforementioned films, but also on TV shows like “Electric Company,” “All My Children,” “James At 16,” “What’s Happening,” as well as many stage plays, Mrs. Chamberlin paved the way for many phenomenal African American actresses of today, such as Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, Taraji P. Henson and the list goes on, and for that, we salute Lee Chamberlin.

"Electric Company": Lee Chamberlin (far left) and the rest of the cast
“Electric Company”: Lee Chamberlin (far left) and the rest of the cast

Now what many don’t know is that Mrs. Chamberlin passed away pretty suddenly in 2014 at the age of 76 years young. She became ill in May and in the very next month, in June, she took her last breathe. Lee was survived by her two children- a son and a daughter- and her Dad (who has since passed away).

I LOVE OLD SCHOOL MUSIC spoke exclusively to Lee’s daughter, Ekayani Chamberlin, who gave us details about her Mother’s life and her sudden passing. Check it out below:

Lee Chamberlin's daughter, Ekayani Chamberlin
Lee Chamberlin’s daughter, Ekayani Chamberlin

ILoveOldSchoolMusic: Your Mother passed away in 2014 from cancer, correct?

Ekayani Chamberlin: “Yes.”

ILOSM: What type of cancer did she have?

EC: “It was a type of uterine cancer. This is what I want to say about it- My mother had a passion for her work that exceeded her body’s workload. And she would work her self to death, you know because she felt an urgency and a passion for what she was doing. So that, coupled with the move to France to establish her playwriting project, which she had established to nurture playwrights of color, who she didn’t feel were getting a safe place to incubate their work- it was a dream that she had for 20 years plus. And so when she finally got the opportunity to do that in 2011, she took it.

lee chamberlin and daughter

That being said, whenever she would start a new endeavor and a business and all of that, there were stresses involved with that. So the stresses that were involved with that you know…and maybe not slowing down enough and going ‘Okay, I’m 73 now, and while I don’t believe in being put in a box, and while I don’t subscribe to ageism, maybe I should rest a little more’…you know. But that’s not what she did and she was also the generation of individuals that kind of believed that…you should just do everything yourself.”

Lee Chamberlin with Sidney Poitier…

lee chamberlin in lets do it again

“My mother was born in 1938, so the different obstacles that people of color faced then- there was know internet, there was no Instagram and Twitter and Facebook…but just doing things like fundraising or getting the word out that you’re doing a certain thing, you know, those things weren’t there. So [my mother] really, she overtaxed herself. And everyone has their Achilles heel, because we can all have the material money, but the material body is subject to leave. And so if you don’t stay on your P’s and Q’s, if you don’t take the time to just acknowledge ‘Okay now I really need a nap,’ or ‘I need some more green vegetables’ or whatever it is, that’s gonna catch up with you and that’s what ended up happening to my Mom.”


“This is a cautionary tale for other people: I remember that when [my Mom] returned to France, before her final symptoms and stages had kind of kicked in from the stress and before she came back to the United States, I remember speaking to her on the phone and saying ‘Listen Mom, I know that you really wanna do this project- this Playwrights Inn Project- I know how much it means to you, but wouldn’t it be better if you just go a little easy on yourself and really take a year off? You know, to rest, to kind of slow things down, so you can recharge and recover and then move forward…the project is still going to be there.’ But she just wouldn’t hear it, she felt an urgency, she wanted to get it done and there were probably also different deadlines to meet. She had a type of ‘do-it-myself’ mentality, not that she never asked me to do anything for her, but she probably could have leaned on me more.”

Lee Chamberlin with her daughter, Ekayani and her son, Matthew
Lee Chamberlin with her daughter, Ekayani and her son, Matthew

Lee Chamberlin’s son, Matthew…

Lee Chamberlin's son, Matthew

Ekayani described her dad, Daniel Edward Chamberlin (who passed away in 1999), as “a handsome, average White guy.” He was married to her Mom for 24 years up until his death. Ekayani also revealed that her Mom is mixed with African American and Brazilian heritage. Lee’s father, Bernando LaPallo, was born and partially raised in Brazil- his father was Brazilian and his mother was African American. Lee’s original last name is actually LaPallo.

Lee Chamberlin's dad, who lived to be 114 pictured with Lee's daughter, Ekayani
Lee Chamberlin’s dad, Bernando LaPallo, who lived to be 114 pictured with Lee’s daughter, Ekayani

Lee’s dad, Bernando, lived to be 114 years old! He passed away on December of 2015 and he lived an extremely healthy lifestyle. Up until the end, he was still shopping for himself, cooking, bathing, and shaving all on his own. Ekayani was very close to her grandfather and she said that before he passed, he was still walking a mile and a half everyday, had all his hair and his teeth, and had no wrinkles.

Four generations of the Lapallo family: Lee Chamberlin, her father, daughter, son, grandchildren and other relatives
Four generations of the Lapallo family: Lee Chamberlin, her father, daughter, son, grandchildren and other relatives

Bernando was a wellness and healthy living author who wrote books, such as “Age Less Live More- Achievidence Health & Vitality at 107 Years and Beyond” and “Beyond 100: How To Live Well Into Your Second Century.” He also was once mentored by the late Marcus Garvey.

EC: “My grandfather, Bernando, was a five star chef who studied at Sorbonne University in France and my mother also studied at the Sorbonne in France, as part of the exchange program at NYU, which is where she actually graduated from and she got honors in French grammar with oral and written.”

Bernando LaPallo with Lee's daughter, Ekayani and her son, Matthew
Bernando LaPallo with Lee’s daughter, Ekayani and her son, Matthew

She also said that is was her great-grandfather who taught a very healthy lifestyle to her centenarian grandfather, who then passed it on to Lee Chamberlin:

EC: “My mother ate organic, you couldn’t get her to eat any kind of any other thing, she just wouldn’t eat it. And oh, did she LOVE going to the farmer’s markets, she knew all the farmers [and loved] buying her oranges fresh. She had an appreciation of food that she lived by from her father. My mother always made sure that my brother and I always ate fresh food, we made food from scratch.”

lee chamberlin color photoEkayani revealed that when her beloved mother passed away, the final moments of her life were beautiful and she wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Lee Chamberlin died at her son, Matthew’s home in North Carolina, surrounded by all of her family and loved ones. May she continue to rest peacefully.

ILOSM family, Lee’s sudden demise to cancer is just another example that we all need to pay attention to the warning signs and stay on top of our health. We’re old schoolers and while we are all very proud to be old school, we have to also remember that with age comes a higher possibility of health risks. So please family, let’s be sure to look out for ourselves, manage our stress levels and monitor changes within our bodies…our lives depend on it.

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