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Hines, Gregory 1946–2003

Gregory Hines 19462003

Dancer, actor

Learned First Tap Steps as a Toddler

Career Sizzled With Broadway Triumphs

Held His Own Opposite Baryshnikov

Won Tony Award

Directed Showtime Film

Selected works

Sources

Gregory Hines appeared in films, on stage, and in nightclubs virtually since he could walk. Although he could carry comedies and dramas and received star billing, Hines was best known for his work as a tap dancer. In fact, he has perhaps done more than any other performer to ensure a bright future for that most American of dance styles. As Sally Sommer noted in Dance Magazine, Hines was an adamant advocate for the contemporaneity of tap and wanted to push tap beyond the expected conventions and cliched images.

Hines told Dance: I cant ever remember not tapping. He was born in New York City on February 14, 1946, and raised in the middle-class, integrated Washington Heights neighborhood. His father, who sold soda and worked as a nightclub bouncer, was the son of dancer Ora Hines, a showgirl at the famous Cotton Club. On his mothers side his ancestors included Portuguese, Jewish, and Irish immigrants. Hines told People that he never felt ambivalent about his ethnicity. When I was a kid, he said, blacks would say, Oh, we have some Irish in us and some Portuguese. We have better quality hair. Were better than other blacks. I thought it was a load of bull. I always have considered myself a black man. What my mother has on her side is irrelevant. When I go for a role that was written for a white, it means nothing.

Learned First Tap Steps as a Toddler

Hiness mother had great ambitions for her sons and thus steered both Gregory and his older brother, Maurice, toward tap dancing. Gregory literally learned his first tap steps as a toddler and was enrolled in dance school at the age of three. Shortly thereafter he and Maurice became professionals with a song-and-dance act known as the Hines Kids. They toured extensively in America and abroad and also played the prestigious Apollo Theatre in New York. In 1952 they came under the tutelage of Broadway choreographer Henry LeTang; he helped them earn roles in their first musical comedy, The Girl in Pink Tights. Gregory in particular rounded out his tap training by watching older tap professionals Sandman Sims and Teddy Hale. During breaks in shows these improvisational masters would tutor the youngster, passing on to him a style that might otherwise have been lost in taps lean years.

At a Glance

Born Gregory Oliver Hines on February 14, 1946, in New York, NY; died on August 9, 2003, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Maurice Robert (a dancer, actor, and drummer) and Alma lola (Lawless) Hines; married Patricia Panella (a dance therapist) c. 1966 (divorced); married Pamela Koslow (a producer), April 12, 1981; children: (first marriage) Daria, (second marriage) Jessica, Zachary.

Career: Dancer, actor, and singer, 1949-2003; tap dancer with brother Maurice, billed as The Hines Kids, 1949-56; dancer with brother and father, billed as Hines, Hines, and Dad, 1963-73; solo performer in nightclubs, 1985-2003.

Memberships: Actors Equity Assn; Screen Actors Guild; American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

Awards: Tony Award nominations, 1979, 1980, 1981; Theater World Award, for Eubiel, 1978-79; Dramatic Arts Award, 1985; Tony Award, for Jellys Last Jam, 1992.

In 1963 Maurice Hines, Sr., joined the act as a percussionist and the trio billed themselves as Hines, Hines, and Dad. Gregory told People, We werent ever really successful. We were a very strong opening act, but we never got over the hump. Many would-be entertainers would have been more than satisfied with their level of success, however. Throughout the 1960s Hines, Hines, and Dad appeared on the Tonight Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, and numerous other television programs. They also toured Europe, playing at Londons famed Palladium and the Olympia Theatre in Paris. Unfortunately for the Hines family, tap dancing had gone out of vogue by the late 1960s. The trio was reduced to a musical comedic lounge act, with Maurice as straight man and Gregory as comedian. Slowly the act began to stagnate, and Gregory accordingly revised his ambitions.

In 1973 the Hines brothers disbanded. Almost simultaneously, Hiness first marriage dissolved. Left to his own resources, he moved to Venice, California, and became a long haired hippie, experimenting with the sex, drugs, and rock n roll lifestyle of the West Coast. Venice Beach was a real charged atmosphere then, Hines told Ebony. It was music, women and drugs, and I had my share of all three. He worked as a waiter, busboy, and karate instructor during the day and played with a jazz-rock group at night. Hines later remembered those years in Venice as a turning point in his life. For the first time in my life, I learned how to take care of myself, he told Ebony. Until that time, I always had somebodymy wife, my manager, my parentstaking care of me. There was always somebody between me and what was really happening. I got out to Venice and it was just me and life, and I had to learn how to take care of myself.

Career Sizzled With Broadway Triumphs

During his sojourn in Venice, Hines met his second wife, Pamela Koslow. She returned with him to New York City in 1978 and they were married in 1981. For years Hines thought that he had left tap dancing behind, but upon his return to New York he reconciled with Maurice and auditioned for a Broadway revue. Eventually the Hines brothers teamed again with LeTang, appearing on Broadway in Eubiel in 1978. That show featured Gregory Hines as a tapper and singer and earned him the first of three Tony Award nominations as outstanding featured actor in a musical. After Eubiel closed Gregory starred in two more successful Broadway shows, Comin Uptown and Sophisticated Ladies. Both gave Hines the opportunity to shine as a singer, comedian, and dancer, and he again earned Tony nominations for his work.

A national tour of Sophisticated Ladies took Hines back to the West Coast; while there he embarked on a film career. In 1981 he earned his first movie roles, appearing in History of the World, Part I as a Roman slave and in Wolfen as a medical examiner investigating a series of mysterious deaths. Hines absolutely relished film work and aggressively sought further roles. When he heard that producer Robert Evans was casting a major film about the Cotton Club, the dancer-actor instituted a reign of terror trying to win a principal role. I started calling [Evans] every day and going over to his house telling him how perfect I was for the part, Hines told Ebony. In fact, Hines was indeed perfect for the role of Sandman Williams, an upwardly-mobile Cotton Club dancer. When Cotton Club was released in 1984 many reviewers singled Hines out as the bright spot in an otherwise muddled movie.

The appearance in Cotton Club and a now-classic performance on the television show Saturday Night Live virtually assured Hines a measure of stardom. Audiences were thrilled with his fast-paced and insinuatingly sexy jazz-tap routines, many of which featured improvisational, arrhythmic flights that pushed far past taps traditional boundaries. Sommer wrote in Dance Magazine, Like a jazz musician who ornaments a well-known melody with improvisational riffs, Hines improvises within the frame of a dance. Among many tappers, improvisation is the most revered art, because it is about creation, demanding that the imagination be turned into choreography instantaneously. Certainly it is the most difficult aspect of tap to master. The tap dancer has to have the brilliant percussive phrases of a composer, the rhythms of a drummer, and the lines of a dancer.

Held His Own Opposite Baryshnikov

In 1985 Hines faced a daunting challenge when he was cast opposite ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov in the dance drama White Nights. Hines rose to the occasion, matching the classically trained Baryshnikov step for step in a film that became an impressive box-office draw despite its somewhat hackneyed plot. Hines also turned in several striking dance numbers in the 1988 film Tap, a movie that featured three generations of great black tap artists. Finally, noted Sommer, the movies have caught up with the real world of dance. Now the moviegoing public will find out what the tap dance audience discovered at least ten years agothe vital black heritage that shaped the look and sound of American tap dance.

Hines was also considered a bankable romantic actor. People correspondent Mary Vespa wrote, With his dancers grace, relaxed wit and bedroom eyes, Hines could move into a realm where no black actor has been beforethe hip, sophisticated, romantic-comedy territory staked out by Cary Grant and Fred Astaire. Hines earned top billing in a variety of roles, from the comic Running Scared, where he teamed with Billy Crystal, to the science-fiction adventure Eve of Destruction, to the critically well-received big-budget drama A Rage in Harlem. Director Peter Hyams told People that Hines was one black actor who need not fear for his future in the business. In terms of talent, Hyams said, Gregory is an absolute ticking thermonuclear weapon just waiting to go off.

Despite his success in film, Hines still saw himself first and foremost as a tap dancer. As he settled into middle age, Hines has realized that his reflexes were slowing down. I know I cant dance at this level indefinitely, he told Ebony. Skill diminishes with age; its just mathematics. But to me, dancing is like sex. Like Nipsey Russell said, Im not as good as I once was, but Im as good once as I ever was. To combat the inevitable physical decline of age, he worked out regularly to keep himself in sound condition.

On the rare occasions when he was free from the frantic demands of show business, the dancer enjoyed spending time with his wife and three children. My family is very important to my existence, he told People. If there was something beyond the marriage ceremony I could do with [my wife], I would. I have responsibilities as a husband and father that I want to fulfill.

Won Tony Award

In 1992 Hines starred in the Broadway production of Jellys Last Jam. Entertainment Weekly called the production about the life of jazz pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton clever. Hines won a Tony award for his portrayal of the jazz legend.

Hines continued to build on his film career throughout the 1990s. He made appearances in such films as Renaissance Man and Kangaroo Court, both in 1994, as well as a 1995 role as a widower in Waiting to Exhale. He followed with 1996s Mad Dog Time and The Preachers Wife.

1997 saw the launchas well as the cancellationof the Gregory Hines Show on the CBS network. I wanted to do something that my family, my friends and I could be proud of, and not embarrass myself as an actor or as an African American Hines told American Visions. Here Hines plays a Chicago widower who rediscovers romance just as his 12-year-old son first encounters the complexities of young love.

Hines returned to television in 1999, with a recurring guest role on the hit comedy Will & Grace. Next came roles in such films as Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her, The Tic Code, and Once in the Life, all in 2000.

Hines appeared in the 2001 Showtime original film, Bojangles, in the lead role of famed tapper Bill Bo-jangles Robinsonhe also served as the films producer. The role challenged Hines to re-create, step for step, some of Robinsons most famous dance numbers. The Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service noted one scene in which Hiness skill shines: Hines has one show-stopping dramatic moment in which he taps, more and more angrily, while addressing the camera on the unfairness of racism. His performance earned him an Emmy Award nomination for lead actor in a movie or miniseries.

Directed Showtime Film

In 2002 Hines directed The Red Sneakers, which aired on Showtime. The film presents the story of teen Reggie Reynolds, who dreams of becoming a basketball star. Reggie, however, lacks the talent and skill to make his dream come true. Then Hines enters the story, playing a junk dealer named Zeke who presents Reggie with a pair of red sneakers which, according to Zeke, had been worn by former basketball greats. Once Reggie dons the shoes, he becomes a success on the basketball court. Marilyn Moss of the Hollywood Reported noted, Situations are predictable, characters are two-dimensional. Nevertheless, its a pleasant romp. Moss also commented that Hines presence on camera carries much more intrigue than his behind-the-camera efforts.

Also in 2002 Hines began negotiation with NBC to star in a new drama series. Backed by Coca-Cola, the series would feature Hines as a dance instructor and head of the New York-based dance and music studio around which the show would center. Hines would also serve as co-executive producer for the show. The project never came to fruition, however. Hines died of cancer on August 9, 2003. He was 57 years old.

Selected works

Film

Wolfen, 1981.

History of the World, Part I, 1981.

Deal of the Century, 1983.

The Muppets Take Manhattan, 1984.

The Cotton Club, 1984.

White Nights, 1985.

Running Scared, 1986.

Tap, 1988.

Eve of Destruction, 1991.

A Rage in Harlem, 1991.

Renaissance Man, 1994.

Kangaroo Court, 1994.

Waiting to Exhale, 1995.

Mad Dog Time, 1996.

The Preachers Wife, 1996.

Good Luck, 1997.

Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her, 2000.

The Tic Code, 2000.

Once in the Life, 2000.

The Root, 2003.

Stage

The Girl in Pink Tights, 1954.

Eubie!, 1978.

Comin Uptown, 1980.

Sophisticated Ladies, 1981.

Jellys Last Jam, 1992.

Television

The Gregory Hines Show, CBS 1997.

Will & Grace (recurring guest appearance), NBC 1999-2000.

Bojangles, Showtime, 2001.

The Red Sneakers, Showtime, 2002.

Sources

Books

Whos Who Among African Americans, 16th ed. Gale Group, 2003.

Periodicals

Americas Intelligence Wire, August 11, 2003.

American Visions, October-November 1997.

Broadcasting & Cable, October 20, 1997.

Dance, December 1988.

Ebony, January 1991.

Entertainment Weekly, October 30, 1992.

Glamour, December 1985.

Hollywood Reporter, October 15, 2001; February 8, 2002.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, February 1, 2001.

Memphis Business Journal, January 26, 2001.

People, August 11, 1986.

People Weekly, September 15, 1997.

United Press International, August 10, 2003.

On-line

Gregory Hines, Internet Broadway Database, www.ibdb.com/person.asp?ID=1225 (October 9, 2003).

Gregory Hines, Internet Movie Database, www.imdb.com/name/nm0002138/ (October 8, 2003).

Mark Kram and Jennifer M. York

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Hines, Gregory 1946—

Gregory Hines 1946

Dancer, actor

At a Glance

Career Sizzled With Broadway Triumphs

Held His Own Opposite Baryshnikov

Sources

Gregory Hines is a show business veteran who has appeared in films, on stage, and in nightclubs virtually since he could walk. Although he can carry comedies and dramas and is the rare black actor who receives star billing, Hines is best known for his work as a tap dancer. In fact, he has perhaps done more than any other performer to ensure a bright future for that most American of dance styles. As Sally Sommer noted in Dance Magazine, Hines is an adamant advocate for the contemporaneity of tap who wants to push tap beyond the expected conventions and cliched images. Certainly he is in the right position to initiate such changes, because he is both an enormously popular performer in mainstream entertainment and a radical tap artist who keeps experimenting with the form.

Hines told Dance: I cant ever remember not tapping. He was born in New York City in 1946 and raised in the middle-class, integrated Washington Heights neighborhood. His father, who sold soda and worked as a nightclub bouncer, was the son of dancer Ora Hines, a showgirl at the famous Cotton Club. On his mothers side his ancestors include Portuguese, Jewish, and Irish immigrants. Hines told People that he has never felt ambivalent about his ethnicity. When I was a kid, he said, blacks would say, Oh, we have some Irish in us and some Portuguese. We have better quality hair. Were better than other blacks. I thought it was a load of bull. I always have considered myself a black man. What my mother has on her side is irrelevant. When I go for a role that was written for a white, it means nothing.

Hiness mother had great ambitions for her sons and thus steered both Gregory and his older brother Maurice toward tap dancing. Gregory literally learned his first tap steps as a toddler and was enrolled in dance school at the age of three. Shortly thereafter he and Maurice became professionals with a song-and-dance act known as the Hines Kids. They toured extensively in America and abroad and also played the prestigious Apollo Theatre in New York. In 1952 they came under the tutelage of Broadway choreographer Henry LeTang; he helped them earn roles in their first musical comedy, The Girl in Pink Tights. Gregory in particular rounded out his tap training by watching older tap professionals Sandman Sims and Teddy Hale. During breaks in shows these improvisational masters would tutor the youngster, passing on to him a

At a Glance

Full name, Gregory Oliver Hines; born February 14, 1946, in New York, NY; son of Maurice Robert (a dancer, actor, and drummer) and Alma loia (Lawless) Hines; married Patricia Panella (a dance therapist) c. 1966 (divorced); married Pamela Koslow (a producer), April 12, 1981 ; children: (first marriage) Daria, (second marriage) Jessica, Zachary.

Dancer, actor, and singer, 1949. Tap dancer with brother Maurice, billed as The Hines Kids, 1949-56; dancer with brother and father, billed as Hines, Hines and Dad, 1963-73; solo performer in nightclubs, 1985. Principal stage appearances include The Girl in Pink Tights, 1954; Severance, 1974; Eubie!, 1978; Com in Uptown, 1980; Sophisticated Ladies, 1981; and Black Broadway: The Last Minstrel Show in New York. Principal film appearances include Wolfen, 1981 ; History of the World, Part I, 1981 ; Deal of the Century, 1983; The Muppets Take Manhattan, 1984; The Cotton Club, 1984; White Nights, Columbia, 1985; Running Scared, 1986; Tap, 1988; Eve of Destruction, 1991 ; and A Rage in Harlem, 1991.

style that might otherwise have been lost in taps lean years.

In 1963 Maurice Hines, Sr., joined the act as a percussionist and the trio billed themselves as Hines, Hines and Dad. Gregory told People: We werent ever really successful. We were a very strong opening act, but we never got over the hump. Many would-be entertainers would have been more than satisfied with their level of success, however. Throughout the 1960s Hines, Hines and Dad appeared on the Tonight Show, the Ed Sullivan Show, and numerous other television programs. They also toured Europe, playing at Londons famed Palladium and the Olympia Theatre in Paris. Unfortunately for the Hines family, tap dancing had gone out of vogue by the late 1960s. The trio was reduced to a musical-comedic lounge act, with Maurice as straight man and Gregory as comedian. Slowly the act began to stagnate, and Gregory accordingly revised his ambitions.

In 1973 the Hines brothers disbanded. Almost simultaneously, Gregorys first marriage dissolved. Left to his own resources, he moved to Venice, California, and became a long-haired hippie, experimenting with the sex, drugs, and rock V roll lifestyle of the West Coast. Venice Beach was a real charged atmosphere then, Hines told Ebony. It was music, women and drugs, and I had my share of all three. He worked as a waiter, busboy, and karate instructor during the day and played with a jazz-rock group at night. Today Hines remembers those years in Venice as a turning point in his life. For the first time in my life, I learned how to take care of myself, he told Ebony. Until that time, I always had somebodymy wife, my manager, my parentstaking care of me. There was always somebody between me and what was really happening. I got out to Venice and it was just me and life, and I had to learn how to take care of myself.

Career Sizzled With Broadway Triumphs

During his sojourn in Venice Hines met his second wife, Pamela Koslow. She returned with him to New York City in 1978 and they were married in 1981. For years Hines thought that he had left tap dancing behind, but upon his return to New York he reconciled with Maurice and auditioned for a Broadway revue. Eventually the Hines brothers teamed again with LeTang, appearing on Broadway in Eubie! in 1978. That show featured Gregory Hines as a tapper and singer and earned him the first of three Tony Award nominations as outstanding featured actor in a musical. After Eubie! closed Gregory starred in two more successful Broadway shows, Comiri Uptown and Sophisticated Ladies. Both gave Hines the opportunity to shine as a singer, comedian, and dancer, and he again earned Tony nominations for his work.

A national tour of Sophisticated Ladies took Hines back to the West Coast; while there he embarked on a film career. In 1981 he earned his first movie roles, appearing in History of the World, Part I as a Roman slave and in Wolfen as a medical examiner investigating a series of mysterious deaths. Hines absolutely relished film work and aggressively sought further roles. When he heard that producer Robert Evans was casting a major film about the Cotton Club, the dancer-actor instituted a reign of terror trying to win a principal role. I started calling [Evans] every day and going over to his house telling him how perfect I was for the part, Hines told Ebony. In fact, Hines was indeed perfect for the role of Sandman Williams, an upwardly-mobile Cotton Club dancer. When Cotton Club was released in 1984 many reviewers singled Hines out as the bright spot in an otherwise muddled movie.

The appearance in Cotton Club and a now-classic performance on the television show Saturday Night Live virtually assured Hines a measure of stardom. Audiences were thrilled with his fast-paced and insinuatingly sexy jazz-tap routines, many of which featured improvisational, arrhythmic flights that pushed far past taps traditional boundaries. Sommer wrote in Dance Magazine: Like a jazz musician who ornaments a well-known melody with improvisational riffs, Hines improvises within the frame of a dance. Among many tappers, improvisation is the most revered art, because it is about creation, demanding that the imagination be turned into choreography instantaneously. Certainly it is the most difficult aspect of tap to master. The tap dancer has to have the brilliant percussive phrases of a composer, the rhythms of a drummer, and the lines of a dancer.

Held His Own Opposite Baryshnikov

In 1985 Hines faced a daunting challenge when he was cast opposite Mikhail Baryshnikov in the dance drama White Nights. Hines rose to the occasion, matching the classically trained Baryshnikov step for step in a film that became an impressive box-office draw despite its somewhat hackneyed plot. Hines also turned in several striking dance numbers in the 1988 film Tap, a movie that featured three generations of great black tap artists. Finally, noted Sommer, the movies have caught up with the real world of dance. Now the moviegoing public will find out what the tap dance audience discovered at least ten years agothe vital black heritage that shaped the look and sound of American tap dance. No one has been more pivotal than Gregory Hines in bringing that heritage to a mainstream audience.

Hines is also considered a bankable romantic actor. People correspondent Mary Vespa wrote: With his dancers grace, relaxed wit and bedroom eyes, Hines could move into a realm where no black actor has been beforethe hip, sophisticated, romantic-comedy territory staked out by Cary Grant and Fred Astaire. Hines has earned top billing in a variety of roles, from the comic Running Scared, where he teamed with Billy Crystal, to the science-fiction adventure Eve of Destruction, to the critically well-received big-budget drama A Rage in Harlem. Director Peter Hyams told People that Hines is one black actor who need not fear for his future in the business. In terms of talent, Hyams said, Gregory is an absolute ticking thermonuclear weapon just waiting to go off.

Such an assessment should undoubtedly reassure Hines, who still sees himself first and foremost as a tap dancer. As he settles into middle age, Hines has realized that his reflexes are slowing down. I know I cant dance at this level indefinitely, he told Ebony. Skill diminishes with age; its just mathematics. But to me, dancing is like sex. Like Nipsey Russell said, Tm not as good as I once was, but Im as good once as I ever was. Expectations of Hiness decline seem premature, however; he works out regularly and has kept his 510 frame in remarkably sound condition.

Having been in show business for forty-odd years, Hines is used to the frantic pace and months away from home and family. On the rare occasions when he is free, the dancer enjoys spending time with his wife and three children. My family is very important to my existence, he told People. If there was something beyond the marriage ceremony I could do with [my wife], I would. I have responsibilities as a husband and father that I want to fulfill. With his trademark left earring and drooping eyelids, Hines has an offbeat attractiveness that will undoubtedly sustain him past the age when most dancers retire. Already he has left an indelible mark on the movies by bringing his tough and alluring variety of tap to young audiences. Dances Sommer concluded that the grand old men of tap, the hoofers of yesteryear, see Gregory Hines as their future, their immortality, the talented baby of them all, who carries the legacy of their rhythms in the soles of his feet.

Sources

Dance Magazine, December 1988.

Ebony, January 1991.

Glamour, December 1985.

People, August 11, 1986.

Mark Kram

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Hines, Gregory 1946—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Hines, Gregory 1946—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/hines-gregory-1946

"Hines, Gregory 1946—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/hines-gregory-1946