It’s been 31 years since Theodore “Teddy” Wilson a.k.a. “Sweet Daddy” from “Good Times,” departed this earth and still there are several things we never knew about the actor who brought laughter to our living rooms back in the day.
One of those things that isn’t widely known is that he was married and has kids with another popular actress from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s eras. If you came up in those eras, you will probably remember her well from certain TV shows and movies.
Teddy Wilson (Sweet Daddy) married actress, Joan Pringle! Many of you may not know her by name, but you may know her face. Joan is best known for her roles on the soap opera, “General Hospital,” and the TV series’ “The White Shadow,” “The Waltons,” “That’s My Mama,” “Kojak,” and many more.
She Raised Their Twin Sons
After Wilson passed away at the young age of 47, Joan was left to raise their two twins (son, Theodore and daughter, Nicole) who were approximately 9 years old at the time. Joan became pregnant while she was still contracted for “The White Shadow” TV show, and according to People Magazine, the show adjusted by doing this: ‘To explain her [Joan’s and her character’s] pregnancy, the show’s writers gave her an estranged husband, played—surprise—by Teddy Wilson [her husband]. On TV, they reconciled.’
Joan Pringle is now 75 years young and has since remarried. She’s married to Vernon Bolling. Talk about aging in reverse though, geesh! Lookin’ good Mrs. Pringle!
Theodore “Teddy” Wilson passed away in 1991 from a stroke. He had two children with Joan, twins Nicole and Robert Wilson; and he had one son, Robert Wilson, from his previous marriage.
Teddy left a major impact on all of us old schoolers and we thank him for the memories. May he continue to rest peacefully.
R.I.P. Teddy Wilson
-ILoveOldSchoolMusic, old school news with a new point of view
I know the old school family remember’s the actress who played “Mrs. Bookman” on “Good Times!” Her name was Marilyn Coleman and she graced us with characters like Violet Bookman, Grandmama in “Menace II Society“, and Mrs. King in “The Five Heartbeats“. And for my true “old schoolers”, she was Sister Sarah in “Which Way Is Up?” starring alongside Richard Pryor.
Sadly Marilyn Coleman passed away in 2013 at the age of 79. In our research of some of our favorite Old School actresses, we were saddened to find out that she’d passed away. But we’ve also located a video that her grandchild put together for her funeral service, and it was very enlightening! The former “Good Times” actress had a love of music, and the gift of song that had been captured on video in her younger days and it was surely a pleasant surprise! Take a look at the video below.
Marilyn began performing as a singer at a very young age, but by the late 1960’s, Marilyn decided to try her luck in Hollywood, relocating there, and then began getting roles on film and TV, appearing in the popular Rudy Ray “Dolemite” Moore blaxploitation/comedy flick Disco Godfather, (1979) and the Keenan Ivory Wayans blaxploitation spoof comedy I’m Gonna Get You Sucka (1989).
Her TV show appearances include Good Times, Lou Grant, The Love Boat, Family, The White Shadow and Amen. Now we all know her from these popular movies and TV shows, but Marilyn love of music was evident in her personal life. She was married to jazz percussionist Fred Allen, which they later divorced, and then she married jazz singer Fred Coleman. Check out this video celebrating the life of Marilyn Coleman.
Marilyn died in on Philadelphia on June 25, 2013, she survived by three children, two brothers, four grandchildren, and four-great-grandchildren.
Janet Jackson may be one of the sexiest 54 year olds we’ve ever seen, but neither physical beauty, nor being an icon from the most legendary musical family, was able to shield her from having very low self esteem. The “Rhythm Nation” singer confessed that in interviews, revealing that her self esteem troubles were sparked by incidents that happened on the set of “Good Times,” when she was “Penny.”
“I’ve Had Low Self Esteem All My Life”
In a recent interview with Billboard, Janet admitted it took her a long time to learn how to deal with the low self esteem she’s had most of her life:
“Like millions of other women, I’ve struggled with low self-esteem my whole life. I’m doing better in that regard. My inclination toward harsh self-criticism and even self-negation has dramatically eased up. I believe in all the different methods of help — smart psychology, vigorous exercise and sincere spirituality.”
Although she’s in a better space now, Janet gave details about how her problems started…
The “Good Times” Incident That Sparked Her Self Esteem Problems
In a prior interview with Media Planet, Janet discussed how her weight issues affected her emotional well being as a child. Her days as “Penny” on “Good Times,” progressively turned into a downward spiral of lifelong self esteem and body image issues:
JJ: “My struggle with managing my weight goes back to my childhood; to when I played Penny on Good Times. The first day, I was in wardrobe and they bound my breasts because I was developing early. That told me then that I was not good enough the way I was. The second season they told me that I needed to lose weight.”
Also the playful teasing from her big brother, Michael, only exasperated her then plummeting self esteem…
JJ: “Then Mike would call me names, as brothers tend to do, like Dunk and Slaughter Hog… He didn’t mean to hurt me, but those things [the “Good Times” pressure and sibling teasing] stuck with me. I have carried them into my adulthood. I think managing your weight has a lot to do with your emotions.”
How She’s Overcome Most Of Her Self Esteem Problems
It’s been a very lengthy process for Janet, but fortunately, she’s healed many of her issues, her’s how…
JJ: “There are many things I needed to do to overcome my struggles with self-image. The first was to love myself. It has been a long journey, but I am finally happy with who I am. […] I am living my life by being true to myself and building a better relationship with God.” via MP
How Her Son Has Helped Her
In addition to working on herself psychologically and spiritually, Janet is also crediting her now-4-year-old son, Eissa Al Mana, with helping her to understand love on a far deeper level…
JJ: “…My son…has showed me that love, no matter how deeply you believe you have experienced that emotion, can always go deeper. Love is limitless. And for someone like me, raised in show business where self-concern is always a priority, how fortunate I am now to be concerned, first and foremost, with the welfare of someone else. Day after day and night after night, holding my baby in my arms, I am at peace. I am blessed. I feel bliss.” – via Billboard
Son’s Love For Music
In a recent interview on “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Kimmel, Janet said her son, Eissa, has pretty much inherited her family’s musical genes…
Many of our fellow Old Schoolers probably remember when “J.J” brought his pregnant girlfriend, “Henrietta,” home to meet his parents and inform them of his marriage plans. “Florida” and “James” were already against the marriage, but when “Henrietta” showed up with a VERY pregnant belly, the look on their faces was priceless! The actress is now-69 year old Tina Andrews, whom you may also know from “Days of Our Lives,” “Roots,” and many other roles throughout the ’70s and early ’80s.
After Tina experienced many unfair treatments of minorities in the entertainment industry- such as the time she was kicked off of “Days of Our Lives” after two years (1975-1977), because her character and her Caucasian co-star, represented the first interracial TV couple ever- she then made it her mission to do something about it and what she became is impressive…
TINA ANDREWS ON LOSING EVERYTHING AFTER SUCCESS
After her acting career in the ’70s, Tina revealed that by the mid-’80s, her money was lookin’ funny, after becoming an out-of-work actress and aspiring screenwriter; working a job she hated – answering phones at a law firm:
“I watched my first Mercedes drive down the street. [she laughs]…Literally everything that I felt was important to me — materialistically — from my having been an actress ends up in a storage bin on Western Avenue in Hollywood. And the most important big ticket items were all foreclosed upon or repossessed. So all I ended up with was a legal pad and pen and my imagination. And that’s when I say: Thank God for Alex Haley because he became my second mentor,” says Tina Andrews. – January Magazine
ALEX HALEY TO THE RESCUE
During her lowest point, Tina never gave up on her dreams and continued writing her movie scripts and books. Then shockingly, Alex Haley (whom she’d worked with on his film, “Roots”) called her at her law firm job, out of the blue, with a writing opportunity for his then-upcoming biopic. Tina was ecstatic and quit her job that same day.
“I flew down to work with Mr. Haley [in Tennessee] where he had his 165-acre farm. He had eight houses [and I stayed in one of them] and we sat side by side hashing out what was going to be the first installment for this PBS project. Unfortunately the project didn’t happen because…he died in the middle of it, so it didn’t happen.” Source
After Haley’s death, Tina kept pushing and today at age 69, she’s still going strong…
WHAT TINA ANDREWS DOES NOW
Tina Andrews is a very successful SCREENWRITER, AUTHOR, FILM PRODUCER and DIRECTOR. She was mentored by the one and only Alex Haley (creator of the miniseries, “Roots”) and below are some of her writing and/or producer credits:
The film, “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” (starring Halle Berry, Vivica Foxx, Larenz Tate and Lela Rochon) about singer, Frankie Lymon’s life.
TV miniseries, “Sally Hemings: An American Scandal,” which was the first time ever that the story of President Thomas Jefferson’s longtime love affair with his slave, Sally Hemings; and the children was explored in mainstream media.
“Coretta,” a theatrical play documenting the life of Coretta Scott-King.
The film version of “Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.”
The stage play, “Buckingham.”
Books: “The Hollywood Dolls,” “Charlotte Sophia: Myth, Madness and the Moor”
It’s always a beautiful thing to see an Old School celeb’ still doing great things today. Tina Andrews is a perfect example of that.
Okay ILOSM fam’ I’m just gonna put this out there: I LOVE me some “Thelma” and I know I’m not the only one. For decades, we all used to love us some Bern Nadette “Thelma” Stanis and now you will be pleasantly surprised when you meet her two look-alike daughters. Bern Nadette’s daughters will definitely give y’all “Good Times” era flashbacks, because they look like “Thelma” mini-me’s. Also, the fact that the talented Bern Nadette is 67 years young and STILL fine as she wanna be is an added treat. Check out the pics below…
BERN NADETTE STANIS’ ELDEST DAUGHTER, DIOR
Dior, is Bern Nadette’s oldest daughter. She’s in her early 30’s and is an aspiring model and an author. Dior looks so much like Thelma’s clone that it made us do a double take when we first laid eyes on her.
She loves chillin’ with her Mom and below are photos of she and Bern Nadette at an autograph signing during a prior Essence Music Festival. Dior even rocked a hat that said “Thelma’s Daughter”…How cool is that?!!
BernNadette’s daughter, Dior, on a photo shoot…
Be on the lookout for Dior’s book, titled “Love, Life, and Feelings.”
BERN NADETTE STANIS’ YOUNGEST DAUGHTER, BRITTANY ROSE
“Thelma’s” youngest daughter, Brittany Rose, is 26 year old, Hampton University med’ student and she too, looks like a throwback version of her Momma back in her heyday!
Well, let me rephrase that because “Thelma” is FOINE today at 67 years young and to us here at ILOSM, she’ll ALWAYS be in her heyday! So we’ll just say that Brittany Rose is looking just like her Mommy looked during her “Good Times” era.
Bern Nadette is very proud of her daughters and she revealed that Brittany is currently pursuing a career in the medical field…a gynecologist to be exact:
thelmaofgoodtimes:My baby daughter BrittanyRose Cole is going to be a doctor and I am proud of her.💕💓💖💞
So there you have it fam,’ we can now say that there are officially THREE “Thelma’s” LOL. So the line “Papo” said to “Thelma” in “Good Times” seems appropriate for this article and that is: “Oooooh Lawd, Thelma, Thelma, Thelma!” Fitting words “Papo!”
Get it Bern Nadette…
“Good Times” is now considered one of the most iconic sitcoms of the 1970s. So, it comes as no surprise that the show made millions of dollars. However, the show’s co-creator, Eric Monte (77), has revealed some horrific backstabbing truths about what went down with his earnings and his life afterwards. See details below…
With his contributions to “Good Times,” “What’s Happening,” “The Jeffersons,” “Sanford and Son,” “The Cosby Show,” and the classic movie, “Cooley High,” Monte’s talent definitely speaks for itself. But, despite his obvious talent, unfortunately, he wasn’t compensated properly. According to him, the execs stuck him for his paper, but we never would have guessed things had gotten THIS bad for him…
EXTREME HARDSHIPS & SMALL SALARY
During a previous interview with “Soul Train,” Monte revealed he had to take legal action to be compensated for “Good Times.” In 1977, he filed a lawsuit due to contract discrepancies with the show. But, even after winning a settlement, he still didn’t receive all he deserved.
Monte won a million-dollar settlement (crumbs in comparison to the show’s profits), and get this- he was only awarded 1% of the royalties from the show- a show that is still in regular syndication 40+ years later, mind you. Ain’t that a blip?!!
Eric Monte on lawsuit settlement: “The settlement was for $1,000,000 and one percent of ‘Good Times.’ I also get a portion of the royalties of ‘Good Times’ on DVD. I asked about ‘Sanford and Son,’ ‘The Jeffersons,’ and ‘What’s Happening.’ They said, ‘nothing.'”
YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHERE MONTE ENDED UP AFTER THIS
After winning the settlement, Monte decided to invest his money in other projects. He used the funds to promote his play “If They Ever Come Back.” However, things didn’t go according to plan because the public’s response was nothing like he expected. Unfortunately, the stage play flopped.
In addition to the failed project, it was widely reported by various media outlets, that Monte ended up suffering bouts with crack cocaine abuse back in the day and had no choice but to file bankruptcy due to the lack of earnings from his show creations. And here’s where it gets even worse: In 2005, Eric Monte- the man who is responsible for creating TV shows/movie that gave us some of our most treasured old school memories EVER- found himself living in a Salvation Army shelter, paying $300.00 a month for shelter, food, and counseling. That’s just sad and wrong on SO many levels.
THE UNLIKELY PERSON WHO HELPED HIM
After years of struggling due to all of the disheartening events that occurred during his career, Monte received a major opportunity from an unlikely person. During an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Illinois state Rep. Ken Dunkin explained how he coordinated a small fundraiser to help Monte. After growing up watching so many memorable shows Monte contributed to, he explained how Monte impacted his life. He wanted to return the favor.
“We want him here in Chicago,” said Dunkin. “This man should not be going out like this. I grew up on ‘Good Times.’ That’s me. I grew up in the ’70s looking at that show. Our family gathering, bonding moments were around that show. That was our building.”
Dunkin also explained why he believes so many people should be able to relate to Monte:
“He’ll be living in an affordable home with social services geared to help folks who are rebounding,” Dunkin said. “He’ll get a key to a lovely studio with a nice kitchen in an area where most people in Chicago can’t afford to live,” he said.”His story is profound in a number of ways. We are all one or two months away from being an Eric Monte.”
At least there was a beautiful ending to an unfortunately ugly story of deception, outright thievery, and injustice. Wishing Eric Monte continued success and positive energy as he continues to rebuild his life and career.
Back in the day, when Good Times dominated television, many fans probably thought the ‘Evans family’ dynamic was pretty typical. On camera, it was hard to tell they weren’t really a close-knit family, but behind closed doors, the actors’ dynamic was anything but typical. In fact, for the first time ever, Good Times star, Jimmie Walker a.k.a. “J.J.”, is giving fans the low-down on what he says it was REALLY like when the cameras weren’t rollin.’ During a prior tell-all interview, he spilled all the beans.
Tellin’ It All:
According to Jimmie, the vast majority of the cast barely interacted with each other at all when they weren’t filming. In fact, the former J.J. actor admitted he doesn’t remember ever having an actual conversation with his co-star, Esther Rolle. Jimmie revealed John Amos, the ‘Evans family’ patriarch, was very much like Esther. “I will honestly say, I don’t remember ever speaking a word to Ester the whole time she was there,” remembered Walker.
While Jimmie and John Amos have a better relationship now, he admits things weren’t so great when the show was at it’s popularity peak. Jimmie went on to offer an example of how real the gap was between him and his co-stars. “I think the same basically goes for John. We talk more now but very, very little. We were never friends, never talked. If you said at that time ‘Call Esther and ask her about [something],’ I wouldn’t even have her number,” he added.” I couldn’t have called John. I wouldn’t have had his number … We never spoke to each other. Only on the set … We never did anything together.”
Drama Behind The Scenes:
Jimmie went on to discuss the downward spiral of the hit sitcom. While we all know good things don’t always last forever, it appears Jimmie Walker believes Good Times actually could have lasted a bit longer than it did. However, he believes his castmates weren’t appreciative of being on a hit show. “I think that they killed the goose that laid the golden egg,” he stated. “These people, anytime you said anything, they get crazy, they get upset. I said ‘They don’t get it, man.’”
One actor who reportedly caused drama behind the scenes was John Amos. To Jimmie, it seemed as if Good Times wasn’t good enough for the rising actor. Often times, his attitude led to creative differences between him and the production staff. “John is a good actor, a solid actor,” said Jimmie. “And I think it was just this show, this situation, that was against anything and everything he believed in. He never been a problem on any other show.”
After three seasons, John Amos was fired from Good Times and despite his alleged beliefs about the show, the show ultimately went on without him.
On Bernadette Stanis:
Jimmie also had a tad bit to say about Bernadette Stanis, the beautiful upcoming actress who portrayed JJ’s sister, “Thelma Evans” on the show. While he believed all of his former castmates were talented in their own right, he believed there was something special about Bernadette. However, he thinks she missed many opportunities to capitalize on her image. Jimmie revealed he was shot down completely when he made suggestions.
“Norman Lear and John Amos came to me and said ‘How dare you put our girl in a position like that?” he recalled. “She’s not a h-e. You keep your illicit mind off of that and never bring that up again … They came down so hard on me.”
On Ja’Net Dubois & Janet Jackson:
As Good Times progressed, more recurring actors were added to the cast. Ben Powers and a young Janet Jackson were two talented actors who became staples on the show as John Amos and Esther Rolle’s characters were gradually phased out. While Janet’s role of Penny did solidify her career as a child actor, Jimmie also revealed the low-down on that. Apparently, the writers created the role of Penny after ongoing complaints from Ja’Net DuBois.
The talented late actress, who portrayed “Willona” on the show, allegedly complained about her character not having enough time in the spotlight. After relentless complaining, the additional role was created to help develop a storyline for DuBois. Jimmie believes Janet Jackson would have never been part of the show if it weren’t for ongoing complaints.
“Without Ja’Net, I don’t think Janet Jackson would’ve ever gotten on our show,” said Walker. “Because she laid out her side of whatever so much, that the writer said ‘We’ve got to do something to get her off our backs.’”
Well damn, didn’t know it was like THAT! Good Times is still a CLASSIC though.
The ‘Lunch Money Rip-Off ‘episode on “Good Times” was one of the most memorable episodes ever. After “Micheal Evans” was picked on by the school bully, he decided to take a different approach and invite him over for the weekend. The bully’s name was “Eddie,” and he spent the weekend with the “Evans” family, only to learn a lesson of respect and love. The lesson came in the form of a spanking, or like Old Schoolers say, a “whoppin!”
On a side not, that brings up one question: What happened to kids being spanked (not abused) when they knowingly and intentionally do something wrong? That element is missing from many families today. A child getting a spanking for the right reasons, is typically understood by the child as having been delivered out of love. Lots of Old Schoolers believe that the absence of the spanking can also be interpreted as a lack of love and caring. However, today things are very different. Back to the topic at hand…
“Eddie’s” character was played by actor, Robert Douglas Grant Jr., who also appeared on “The Electric Company” and “What’s Happening.” His more recent TV appearance was on a British TV drama, “Footballers’ Wives,” where he played a TV sports presenter.
Unfortunately, Robert sadly passed away on May 10, 2018, just 17 days after his 59th birthday.
In 2008, Robert married fellow painter, Eileen Grant, who revealed to NY Daily News how they’d met and how their ceremony took place:
Eileen Grant- “I had an art show, and Robert was going to be having a show at the same venue, so the staff suggested that he should attend, to see what the place was like, so we met at my show,” said Eileen. “I thought he was pretty fetching, so we exchanged numbers. The next week, we went out for coffee and it wound up being a whole day and evening out, it was just magical.”
E.G.- “He totally surprised me,” said Eileen. “He got down on his knee and gave me his grandmother’s wedding band. It was very romantic.” During the ceremony, Eileen was escorted by two of her uncles as well as her father. “They’re all very special in my life, so when I came through the chapel doors, my Dad met me and took me down part of the way to one uncle, and then he took me to the second one, who gave me away.” Eileen carried a bouquet of roses and lilies.
Eileen Grant is a Visual Artist who’s work can be seen here on Facebook.
We thank Robert Douglas Grant for the wonderful memories and laughs he contributed to some of our favorite television shows back in the day. May he continue to rest in peace.
Good Times actress, Bern Nadette Stanis, affectionately known to us Good Times fans as “Thelma,” spoke about one of the most heartbreaking memories she had of her beloved Mother, Eula Stanislaus.
In her book, The Last Night: A Caregiver’s Journey, Bern Nadette discussed her parents’ relationship and how they nurtured her career, education, and success. However, the book’s primary focus is on her Mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease and also on how Bern Nadette took care of her throughout that journey.
Bern Nadette’s Father was ultimately murdered, leaving she, her siblings, and mother to band together even more, but when Eula’s Alzheimer’s disease began to worsen in her elderly years, so did her memory of those she nurtured and loved the most:
Via BlackDoctor.org- “They were very, very wonderful parents,” Bernadette laughs as she recalls how good they were together even though they were opposites. “Mommy was from Louisiana – ‘a Southern little doll’ and Daddy was from the West Indies and he had that fire going!”
Her Mother’s condition became so grave, that Eula eventually could not even recognize her own daughter, Bern Nadette. That grim reality became evident during this moment:
When her mom was in the later stages of Alzheimer’s she was watching Good Times with Stanis one day, a show she loved to watch. Thelma and JJ were having one of their usual spats when her mother turned to her and said, “That’s a cute little old girl.” It was a devastating blow that made all too clear the progression of the disease.
“It hit me so hard that my mother did not know that was really me, and it was her that put me on that show and she gave me the face of Thelma. So I said right then and there, I am going to use the same face to put on Alzheimer’s and fight with that! I’m going to fight and hopefully educate and make aware of what it is and what this thing has going on, the characteristics of it, and hopefully we can find an answer to slow it down and stop it eventually.”’
Bern Nadette’s Mother passed away in 2011. Since then, Bern Nadette has started her foundation, Remembering The Good Times, to educate people about Alzheimer’s disease and raise money for it’s cure. She is determined to spend her life doing anything she can to use her fame and her face for the cause.
Bern Nadette Stanis wrote a book in her Mother’s memory:
“My mother died October 6th, 2011. I started writing a few lines of this book at that time, but every time I would write a page or so I could’t finish my paragraph, sentence or thought without crying. I told myself, “If I don’t continue through this pain, this book will never get done.” I had writer’s block and I didn’t know how I was going to make it through to the book’s completion.”
On when she realized her Mother’s health was beginning to deteriorate:
“I knew something was going on but it was only slight forgetfulness of things. I really noticed a change when she stopped cooking. She would always order in. Her clothes were not put together the way I knew she could, and her hair was untidy. I decided it was time for my mom to come live with my family and me. We were all eager to have her because my family and I had discussed this many times before. I watched mom go from a person very concerned about everything to a person less and less concerned. That’s the way it appears but her love and concern for me still remain even today.”
Bern Nadette on her relationship with her mother and how she dealt with the heartbreak of her mom’s condition prior to her passing:
“This disease is a hurtful one because you miss the way things were, but if you accept the way things are now you can still have a great time together as we do. I am mom’s caregiver, and I just make the adjustments as we go along. I have cried for us both but mother in her deep wisdom always knows how to dry my tears. She will say, “You are a good person. You’ll make it. You’ll be alright”. Can you imagine? Now this is a mother’s love and a daughter’s joy.”
It is so beautiful to see Bern Nadette determined to not allow her beloved Mother’s death be in vain. Her purpose on Good Times was to represent a beautiful, intelligent African American young lady growing up in the hood. Now, her life’s purpose is to remind everyone that no matter how tough the fight may get as we walk through our life’s journey, don’t ever forget to remember the good times. That will help us understand and appreciate our current situation, regardless of how bleak things may seem at face value.
Remember the Good Times episode when “Thelma” was about to move to Nigeria, Africa and marry her African boyfriend, “Ibe,” (this was in the pre Ebay era, but his name is pronounced the same way)? At first “Florida” was NOT a happy camper about her daughter moving so far away with a man whose culture was totally different from what they knew, but after “Willona” made her realize she was being a lil’ selfish, she gave in and opened up her heart to the situation. That was until “Thelma’s” fairytale love story came crashing down faster than we could say “dyn-o-mite!” Anyways, “Thelma” called off the wedding to “Ibe” after he couldn’t promise her that he wouldn’t follow his country’s tradition of making “Thelma” the first of several more wives to come.
Now that we’ve taken that trip down memory lane, let us fill you in on a few very interesting things we’ve learned about what actor, Johnny Sekka a.k.a. “Ibe” actually endured and survived in his real life.
Sadly, Sekka quietly passed away in 2006 at the age of 72 from lung cancer. His death barely was noticed by many because by that time, the mainstream media simply didn’t give him much recognition, unfortunately. Sekka was survived by his wife, Cecilia, and their son, Lamine.
Sekka Illegally Smuggled Himself Out Of His Country To Become An Actor
When Sekka was much younger, he actually ran away from his home in Gambia, West Africa. After his mother sent him from his original homeland of Dakar, Senegal to live with his aunt and uncle in a nearby African country called Gambia, Sekka eventually ran away from his aunt’s home and became a homeless teenager living on the streets of the capital, Banjul, Gambia.
For a brief time during The Second World War, Sekka was an interpreter for the American air base in Dakar, Senegal. He then worked on a shipping dock. Seeing that he had nothing to lose by escaping his current situation and going after a better life, he decided to run away from his country to a land of more opportunity. So he came up with a master plan to smuggle himself into Marseilles, France. At the age of 20, he was a stow away at the bottom of one of the ships that was leaving the dock where he worked, and he hid there until the ship made it to Marseilles, France. His journey was successful and he was never caught by authorities. Sekka then made his way to Paris, France and settled there for three years.
He moved to London, England in the early 1950’s, joined the Royal Air Force for a couple years, then pursued his acting career and had success in various stage plays. His film career kicked off around 1958 and he was dubbed as the British version of Sidney Portier.
Although he was getting accolades in the European film industry, he was annoyed that he wasn’t seeing the type of success and recognition as his other European counterparts, such as Sean Connery and Michael Cain. So once again, Sekka moved to another country for greater opportunity- the United States- and that’s when we saw him in Uptown Saturday Night and few other films, and ultimately on Good Times as “Ibe.”
Sekka ran into a few pitfalls with his American career though…for example, he wanted to star in the 1976 mini-series, Roots. He had the right look, but the wrong accent. The producers told him that he was not convincing enough to play an American role. But Sekka did land a small part on Roots: The Next Generation as an African interpreter, which is exactly what his real life job was before the world ever came to know him as “Ibe.” See how life comes full circle?
Sidney Portier Helped Him Break Into American Market
According to Sekka’s obituary, it was his friend, Sidney Poitier- the man whom his British fans dubbed him after before he’d ever met him- who ‘secured him parts in Warm December (1972) and Uptown Saturday Night (1974), and he was [also] in Ashanti (1979). His last role was as Dr Benjamin Kyle in the pilot for the sci-fi series Babylon 5 in 1993.’
After the early 90’s, Sekka’s continuous health problems forced him into permanent retirement from acting. He died peacefully on his ranch in Agua Dulce, California in 2006.
Johnny Sekka’s life is a perfect example of when hard work, drive, and preparation meets opportunity. Just when you think that whatever you’re trying to accomplish is too hard to attain, remember that there is always someone out there who has attained it already and may have come had to overcome much harder conditions that your’s.