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Guillaume, Robert 1927-

Guillaume, Robert 1927-

PERSONAL

Original name, Robert Peter Williams; born November 30, 1927, in St. Louis, MO; married Marlene, 1955 (divorced); married Fay Hauser, 1978 (divorced); married Donna Brown (a television producer), 1985; children: (first marriage) Kevin (an actor), Jacques (a singer; deceased); (second marriage) Rachel Jeanette; (with others) Patricia, Melissa. Education: Attended St. Louis University and Washington University, St. Louis, MO; studied opera and musical theatre in Cleveland, OH.

Addresses:

Agent—Agency for the Performing Arts, 405 South Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212; Cunningham, Escott, Slevin and Doherty Talent Agency, 10635 Santa Monica Blvd. Suite 140, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Manager—Alan David Management, 8840 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211.

Career:

Actor, producer, director, and song performer. Founded Guillaume/Margo Productions and Confetti Entertainment; appeared in television commercials for Bounce fabric softener, 1970s, Black History Month, 2000, Swiffer Dusters, 2004, and Philip's Milk of Magnesia. Also worked as a dishwasher, sales clerk, postal clerk, and streetcar driver. Military service: U.S. Army, 1945-46.

Member:

American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Screen Actors Guild.

Awards, Honors:

Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best actor in a musical, Drama Desk Award, outstanding actor in a musical, 1977, both for Guys and Dolls; Emmy Award, outstanding supporting actor in a comedy or comedy-variety series, 1979, TV Land Award nomination, best broadcast butler, 2004, both for Soap; Emmy Awards, outstanding supporting actor in a comedy or comedy-variety series, 1979, and outstanding lead actor in a comedy series, 1985, Emmy Award nominations, outstanding lead actor in a comedy series, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a television series-comedy/musical, 1983, 1984, 1985, Emmy Award, all for Benson; Daytime Emmy Award nomination, outstanding performer in an animated program, 2000, for Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child; Image Award nominations, outstanding lead actor in a comedy series, 1999, 2001, and outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series, 2000, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Screen Actors Guild Award nomination (with others), outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series, 2000, Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a series, comedy, or musical, International Press Academy, 2001, all for Sports Night; Golden Nymph, Monte-Carlo TV Festival, outstanding male actor, 2001; Video Premiere Award nomination (with others), best animated character performance, 2001, for The Land Before Times VIII: The Big Freeze; Interactive Achievement Award, outstanding achievement in character performance—male, Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, 2005, for Half-Life 2; Received Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame.

CREDITS

Stage Appearances:

Second geologist and singer, Finian's Rainbow, 46th Street Theatre, New York City, 1960.

(Broadway debut) Ako, Kwamina, Fifty-Fourth Street Theatre, New York City, 1961.

Carl, Fly Blackbird, Mayfair Theatre, New York City, 1962.

C. J. Moore, Tambourines to Glory, New York City, 1963.

Ensemble, Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, Village Gate Theatre, New York City, 1968, then Charles Playhouse, Boston, MA, 1969-70.

Frankie, No Place to Be Somebody, Arena Stage, Washington, DC, 1969-70.

Karl, The Life and Times of J. Walter Smintheus, Theatre de Lys, New York City, 1970.

Fire in the Mindhouse, Center Stage, Baltimore, MD, 1970-71.

Allan, Charlie Was Here and Now He's Gone, Eastside Playhouse, New York City, 1971.

Title role, Purlie, Shubert Theatre, Philadelphia, PA, 1971, then Billy Rose Theatre, New York City, 1972.

Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well Living in Paris, Royal Theatre, New York City, 1972.

Benito Cereno, Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL, 1975-76.

Marshall, Apple Pie, New York Shakespeare Festival, Anspacher Theatre, Public Theatre, New York City, 1976.

Nathan Detroit, Guys and Dolls, Broadway Theatre, New York City, 1976.

Don Juan, Goodman Theatre, 1977.

Night of 100 Stars, Radio City Music Hall, New York City, 1982.

Cabaret, Riverside Resort, Las Vegas, NV, 1987.

Title role, Phantom of the Opera, Los Angeles, CA, 1990.

Title role, Cyrano—The Musical, Neil Simon Theatre, New York City, 1993-94.

Made stage debut as Billy Bigelow, Carousel; also appeared in Golden Boy, New York City; Music! Music!, New York City; Othello, New York City; Porgy and Bess, New York City; Miracle Play, New York City.

Film Appearances:

Jordan Gaines, Super Fly T.N.T., Paramount, 1973.

Fred, Seems Like Old Times (also known as Neil Simon's "Seems Like Old Times"), Columbia, 1980.

Martin Luther King, Prince Jack, Castle Hill, 1985.

V.A. Officer, They Still Call Me Bruce, Shapiro/Jihee Productions, 1987.

Philmore Walker, Wanted: Dead or Alive, New World Pictures, 1987.

Dr. Frank Napier, Lean on Me, Warner Bros., 1989.

Hawkins, Death Warrant, 1990.

Ted Reed, Jeff's father, The Meteor Man, 1993.

Voice of Rafiki, The Lion King (animated; also known as El rey leon), 1994.

Agent Steve Bishop, Spy Hard, Buena Vista, 1996.

Wilkes, First Kid, Buena Vista, 1996.

Voice of Rafiki, The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (animated), Buena Vista Home Video, 1998.

Singing voice, The Easter Story Keepers, 1998.

Detective Green, Silicon Towers, 1999.

Voice of Mr. Thicknose, The Land Before Time VIII: The Big Freeze (animated; also known as The Land Before Time 8: The Big Freeze and The Land Before Time: The Big Freeze), Universal Studios Home Video, 2001.

Voice of Ben, The Adventures of Tom Thumb & Thumbelina (animated), Buena Vista, 2002.

Riley, 13th Child (also known as The 13th Child, Legend of the Jersey Devil), MTI Home Video, 2002.

Older Dr. Bennett, Big Fish, 2003.

Reader, Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives (documentary), 2003.

TV in Black: The First Fifty Years, Koch Vision, 2004.

Voice of Rafiki, The Lion King 1 ½ (also known as The Lion King 3; animated), Buena Vista, 2004.

Doc, Jack Satin, 2005.

Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age (also known as B.G.A. 2 and Broadway: The Golden Age 2), 2008.

Television Appearances; Series:

Benson Dubois, Soap, ABC, 1977-80.

Benson Dubois, Benson, ABC, 1979-86.

3-2-1 Contact, 1980.

Dr. Edward Sawyer, The Robert Guillaume Show, ABC, 1989.

Voice of Citizen, Captain Planet and the Planeteers (animated; also known as The New Adventures of Captain Planet), 1990.

Detective Bob Ballard, Pacific Station, 1991.

Voice of Detective Catfish, Fish Police (animated), 1992.

Voice of Rafiki, The Lion King: Timon & Pumbaa (animated; also known as Timon and Pumbaa), Disney Channel, 1995.

Isaac Jaffe, Sports Night, ABC, 1998-2000.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Frederick Douglass, North and South, ABC, 1985.

Jolson Mossburger, A Good Day to Die (also known as Children of the Dust), CBS, 1995.

Ambassador Lee Lancaster, Pandora's Clock (also known as Doomsday Virus), NBC, 1996.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Larry Cooper, The Kid from Left Field, NBC, 1979.

Blake, The Kid with the Broken Halo, NBC, 1982.

Professor Mills, The Kid with the 200 I.Q., NBC, 1983.

Harlan Wade, Perry Mason: The Case of the Scandalous Scoundrel, NBC, 1987.

Carter Guthrie, Fire and Rain, USA Network, 1989.

Eugene St. Clair, The Penthouse, ABC, 1989.

Uncle Buddy/W. B. Jackson, You Must Remember This (also known as Wonderworks: "You Must Remember This"), 1992.

Congressman Sydley Sellers, Mastergate, 1992.

(Uncredited) Police commissioner, Murder Without Motive: The Edmund Perry Story (also known as Best Intentions), 1992.

Robert "Maximum Bob" Smith, Greyhounds, CBS, 1994.

Reverend Devers, Run for the Dream: The Gail Devers Story, Showtime, 1996.

Rob Barnes, Panic in the Skies!, Family Channel, 1996.

Merlin, Crystal Cave (also known as The Crystal Cave: Lessons from the Teachings of Merlin), 1996.

Merlin, Alchemy, 1996.

Voice, Snow White, 1996.

Mr. Gower and Mr. Martini, Merry Christmas, George Bailey, PBS, 1997.

Garrett, His Bodyguard (also known as Silent Echoes), USA Network, 1998.

Narrator, The Happy Prince, 1999.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Porgy in Wien, 1966.

Jack Lemmon in 'S Wonderful, 'S Marvelous, 'S Gershwin, NBC, 1972.

ABC's Silver Anniversary Celebration—25 and Still the One, ABC, 1978.

Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Jack Klugman, NBC, 1978.

Rich Little's Washington Follies, ABC, 1978.

Benson, Soap Retrospective II, ABC, 1978.

Presenter, The 32nd Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1978.

The Singer, Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope in the Star-Makers, NBC, 1980.

The Donna Summer Special, ABC, 1980.

Hal Linden's Big Apple, ABC, 1980.

Title role, Purlie, PBS, 1981.

Host, Magic with the Stars, NBC, 1982.

Texaco Star Theater: Opening Night, NBC, 1982.

Night of 100 Stars, 1982.

Performer, The 37th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1983.

Host, The World's Funniest Commercial Goofs, ABC, 1983.

Host, The 5th Annual Black Achievement Awards, 1984.

The 38th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1985.

Life's Most Embarrassing Moments, 1985.

The 37th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, ABC, 1985.

Host, The World's Funniest Commercial Goofs, ABC, 1985.

Host, Passion and Memory, PBS, 1986.

Title role, John Grin's "Christmas" (also known as Christmas), ABC, 1986.

The 7th Annual Black Achievement Awards, 1986.

We the People 200: The Constitutional Gala, CBS, 1987.

"The Music Makers: An ASCAP Celebration of American Music at Wolf Trap," Great Performances, PBS, 1987.

Host, Living the Dream: A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, syndicated, 1988.

The Debbie Allen Special, ABC, 1989.

The 15th Annual People's Choice Awards, CBS, 1989.

Host, SST: Screen, Stage, Television, ABC, 1989.

The 22nd Annual NAACP Image Awards, NBC, 1990.

Motown 30: What's Goin On!, 1990.

Host, Disney's "Great American Celebration" (also known as Great American Celebration), 1991.

Story of a People: Expressions in Black, 1991.

The Dream Is Alive: The 20th Anniversary Celebration of Walt Disney World, 1991.

Hoke Coleburn, Driving Miss Daisy, 1992.

Co-host, In a New Light: A Call to Action in the War Against AIDS (also known as In a New Light), 1992.

Gleason Golightly, "Space Traders," Cosmic Slop, HBO, 1994.

Host, The Making of "The Lion King," Disney Channel, 1994.

Host, Disney's Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra, Disney Channel, 1994.

Cincinnati Pops Holiday: Erich Kunzel's Halloween Spooktacular, PBS, 1996.

Narrator, Mother Goose: A Rappin and Rhymin Special, HBO, 1997.

Robert, Shari's Passover Surprise (also known as Lamb Chop's Passover Special), PBS, 1997.

Host, The Sixth Annual Trumpet Awards, TBS, 1998.

Presenter, The 51st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Fox, 1999.

Narrator, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series (animated), HBO, 1999.

Narrator, Bremen Town Musicians: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series (animated), HBO, 1999.

Narrator, Empress Nightingale: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series (animated), HBO, 1999.

Narrator, Happy Prince: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series (animated), HBO, 1999.

Narrator, Henny Penny: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series (animated), HBO, 1999.

Presenter, Thirteenth Annual Genesis Awards, Animal Planet, 1999.

Narrator, Three Little Pigs: From the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series (animated), HBO, 1999.

The 31st Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2000.

Narrator, Aesop's Fables: A Whodunit Musical: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series (animated), HBO, 2000.

Presenter, Essence Awards 2000, Fox, 2000.

Narrator, Frog Princess: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series (animated), HBO, 2000.

Narrator, The Princess and the Pauper: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series (animated), HBO, 2000.

Narrator, Rip Van Winkle: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series (animated), HBO, 2000.

Narrator, The Robinita Hood: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series (animated), HBO, 2000.

Narrator, Snow Queen: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series (animated), HBO, 2000.

Narrator, Steadfast Tin Soldier: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series (animated), HBO, 2000.

Narrator, The Valiant Little Tailor: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" Series (animated), HBO, 2001.

Inside TV Land: African Americans in Television, TV Land, 2002.

TV Land Moguls, TV Land, 2004.

Inside TV Land: Primetime Politics, TV Land, 2004.

Also appeared in Mel and Susan Together; himself, "Superfly: Ron O'Neal Story": E! True Hollywood Story, E! Entertainment Television.

Television Appearances; Pilots:

Host, It Hurts Only When You Laugh, NBC, 1983.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

The Leslie Uggams Show, 1969.

Robert Barron, "The Wheel Deal," Julia, 1969.

Carothers, "The Soft Phase of Peace," Marcus Welby, M.D. (also known as Robert Young, Family Doctor), 1970.

Dr. Franklin, "Chain Letter," All in the Family, CBS, 1975.

Fred's lawyer, "Steinberg and Son," Sanford & Son, 1975.

Dr. Franklin, "Chain Letter," All in the Family, 1975.

Charles Thompson, "George Won't Talk," The Jeffersons, 1975.

Fishbone, "Requiem for a Wino," Good Times, 1977.

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, NBC, 1979.

Frank Belloque, "The Kinfolk/Sis and the Slicker/Moonlight and Moonshine: Parts 1 & 2," The Love Boat, ABC, 1980.

Allan Curtis, "Two Grapes on the Vine/Aunt Sylvia/Deductible Divorce," The Love Boat, ABC, 1981.

Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters, 1981.

Host, Saturday Night Live (also known as SNL), 1983.

Frank Stoner, "Shadow Play," Hotel (also known as Arthur Hailey's "Hotel"), ABC, 1986.

The Bob Monkhouse Show, 1986.

Leon, Sister Kate, ABC, 1989.

Sam, Carol & Company, NBC, 1990.

Dean Winston, "To Be Continued," A Different World, NBC, 1991.

Dean Winston, "Never Can Say Goodbye," A Different World, NBC, 1991.

Kenneth Rollins, "Diet, Diet My Darling," L.A. Law, 1992.

Professor Murphy, "Really Gross Anatomy," A Different World, NBC, 1992.

Ted Sill, Jack's Place, 1992.

Father Morrissey, "Miracle Cure," Diagnosis Murder, CBS, 1993.

Dr. Arthur Hemmings, "A Question of Ethics," Saved by the Bell: The College Years, NBC, 1993.

Eugene Sayers, "Who Killed the Fashion King?," Burke's Law, CBS, 1994.

Storytime, PBS, 1994.

Mr. Pete Fletcher, "You'd Better Shop Around," The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, NBC, 1994.

Voice of himself, "My Shadow," Reading Rainbow, PBS, 1994.

Professor Bernard Slater, "Porky's Revenge," Sparks, UPN, 1996.

Martin Woolridge, "Christmas," Promised Land (also known as Home of the Brave), CBS, 1996.

Dr. Baxter, "Goode Day," Goode Behavior, 1997.

Judge Dawes, "Jones vs. God," Touched by an Angel, CBS, 1997.

Mr. Brown, "Monster," The Outer Limits (also known as The New Outer Limits), 1998.

Arthur, Dee's father, "All This and Turkey, Too," Moesha, UPN, 2000.

Cody Grant, "Every Pictures Tells a Story," 8 Simple Rulesfor Dating My Teenage Daughter (also known as 8 Simple Rules), ABC, 2003.

Judge Barnett, "To Know Her," Century City, CBS, 2004.

Larry King Live, CNN, 2005.

"Network Notes," TV Land Confidential, TV Land, 2005.

"When Real Life and Screen Life Collide," TV Land Confidential, TV Land, 2005.

"Top 10 TV Spinoffs," TV Land's Top Ten, TV Land, 2006.

Gylne tider, 2006, 2007.

Also appeared in Dinah; Jim Nabors' Show.

Television Executive Producer; Series:

Executive producer, The Robert Guillaume Show, ABC, 1989.

Television Executive Producer; Movies:

(With Phil Margo) The Kid with the 200 I.Q., NBC, 1983.

The Fantastic World of D. C. Collins, 1984.

Television Work; Specials:

Producer and director, John Grin's "Christmas" (also known as Christmas), ABC, 1986.

Co-executive producer, SST: Screen, Stage, Television, 1989.

RECORDINGS

Taped Readings:

(With Christopher Noth) Kiss the Girls, Time Warner AudioBook, 1995.

Video Games:

Voice of Rafiki, The Lion King, 1994.

Voice, Extreme Skate Adventure (also known as Disney's "Extreme Skate Adventure"), 2003.

Voice of Dr. Eli Vance, Half-Life 2, Sierra Studios, 2004.

(English version) Voice of Raifiki, Kingdom Hearts II (also known as Kingudamu hatsu), Square Enix, 2005.

Voice of Dr. Eli Vance, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Electronic Arts, 2006.

Voice of Dr. Eli Vance, Half-Life 3: Episode Two, Electronic Arts, 2007.

Music Videos:

Appeared in P. Diddy's "Diddy."

WRITINGS

Autobiography:

(With David Ritz) Guillaume: A Life, University of Missouri Press, 2002.

OTHER SOURCES

Books:

Contemporary Black Biography, Vol. 48, Thomson Gale, 2005.

Periodicals:

Jet, October 11, 1999, p. 32; December 11, 2000, p. 30.

People Weekly, October 11, 1999, p. 77.

TV Guide, March 27, 1999.

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Guillaume, Robert

Robert Guillaume

1927

Actor, singer, producer

Before Robert Guillaume became a popular television actor and Broadway musical star, he was Robert Williams from St. Louis, Missouri: a young man with a golden voice and a future in the accounting field. Fortunately for all his fans, the young man threw caution to the wind and opted for show business. He chose a new name, Guillaume, the French translation of Williams, for its sophisticated image, but it was a decision he soon came to regret because so many people tripped on the pronunciation. That concern has long since dissolved. Guillaume, an Emmy Award winner for his roles in the television sitcoms, Soap and Benson, and a star in theater's smash hit musical Phantom of the Opera, is now one of the most respected and recognized talents in the business. And his nametricky pronunciation and allhas become a household word.

Family "Pulled Together,"

Guillaume was born in 1927 and grew up during a difficult era in U.S. history. America suffered through the Great Depression in the 1930s. World War II began in 1939, and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States entered the war that was supposed to end all wars. Meanwhile Guillaume's family was facing a much more personal crisis: it was disintegrating. Guillaume's life began in St. Louis, Missouri, just a few miles south of where the Missouri River outflows from the Mississippi. When he was only a toddler his alcoholic mother turned over the care of her four young children to their grandmother. The father had abandoned them early on. The kids grew up in a poor black section of the city under the protective wing of a strong-willed and altruistic woman; Guillaume's grandmother provided for the youngsters as best she could on the wages she earned as a laundress at a Catholic rectory. "The sum total of my grandmother," Guillaume told the Boston Globe, "can be measured in the fact that she took me and three of my sisters and brothers into her family in the middle of the Great Depression. She taught us that we could pull together. It was an enormous task of love, dedication, and devotion."

Early on, Guillaume learned how to use his voice, but not only as a fine instrument in school musicals. By his own admission he was an outspoken boy with an explosive tempertalents that got him suspended from grammar school and then expelled from parochial school in the ninth grade. His dual nature became apparent before he reached his teens: the well-behaved child was a choir boy and an altar boy, while the restless one hung out in the pool halls of St. Louis.

The U.S. Army and Robert Guillaume were not a combination that was meant to be. He joined in 1945, but after 15 months Guillaume resigned with an honorable discharge. "l have a big mouth and I had a Southern captain who hated my guts," he explained in US magazine. "One day he called me into his office and announced, 'This army isn't big enough for the both of us.'" So the captain stayed, and Guillaume left.

After his brief stint in the army, Guillaume finished high school and tried a number of odd jobs to save money for college. He ran a women's clothing store, worked in the post office and as a candy cook, washed dishes, and tried his hand at sales. But his most interesting short-term career was driving a St. Louis street car. His route took him down the same tracks that Judy Garland's "Trolley Song" made famous in the musical Meet Me in St. Louis. "I used to sing as I was barreling along, drowning out customers' screams," he told People magazine. "I was always crashing into the back of a Packard or Dodge. Then everyone would fall down on the floor screaming 'whiplash!'"

Possible exaggerations aside, the story illustrates Guillaume's enduring dream of becoming a professional singer. But in those times of extreme financial hardship, Guillaume, then in his mid-twenties, was sensitive to his grandmother's influence and tried to think practically. He enrolled in night classes at St. Louis University and chose business administration as his major. But it wasn't long before the dream of being a singer resurfaced, and he transferred to the music school at St. Louis's Washington University.

A Dream Becomes a Career

It was there that his talent captured the attention of Hungarian opera tenor and artist-in-residence Laslo Chabay. "Chabay," Guillaume told the Washington Post, "was the first person to say I had potential to sing the classics." With well over 140 hours of credits in liberal arts, Guillaume forgot about business administration and graduating and decided he could make a living with his voice.

At a Glance

Born Robert Peter Williams on November 30, 1927, St. Louis, MO; name legally changed to Robert Guillaume (pronounced "gee-yome"); married Marlene, 1955 (marriage ended); married Fay Hauser, 1978 (divorced); married Donna Brown (a freelance television producer), 1985; children: Patricia, Kevin, Jacques (deceased), Melissa, Rachel. Education: Attended St. Louis University and Washington University. Military service: U.S. Army, 1945-46.

Career: Theatrical singer, actor, and producer, 1957; Confetti Entertainment, co-founder, 1991.

Awards: Tony nomination, for Guys and Dolls, 1976; Emmy Award, for Soap, 1979; Emmy Award for best actor in a comedy series, for Benson, 1985; Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, award for "projection of a positive image of blacks on television," 1985; named honorary Lt. Governor for the day by Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, 1985; St. Louis Walk of Fame, inductee, 1999; Daytime Emmy Award nomination for outstanding performer in an animated program, for Happily Every After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, 2000; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award nomination for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series, for Sports Night, 1999 and 2001; Image Award nomination for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series, for Sports Night, 2000; Screen Actors Guild Award nomination (with others) for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series, for Sports Night, 2000; Golden Satellite Award nomination for best performance by an actor in a series or musical, for Sports Night, 2001; received four NAACP Image Awards.

Addresses: Office Confetti Entertainment, 15250 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91403; Agent Metropolitan Talent Agency, 4526, Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90010-3801.

It was not a misguided decision. Chabay helped Guillaume obtain a scholarship to the 1957 Aspen Music Festival in Colorado where he caught the attention of Russell and Rowena Jelliffe. The Jelliffes were founders of one of the oldest interracial theaters in America, the Karamu Theater in Cleveland, Ohio, and they offered Guillaume an apprenticeship. Guillaume, then already 31 years old, had his professional debut in the Karamu's production of Carousel. "When I started out," Guillaume told US magazine, "I had pretentious notions and I was somewhat hypocritical. I told myself I didn't care about fame; I just wanted to be an artist. That was a lie. Becoming famous was always important to me."

His debut performance was witnessed and applauded by a very special member of the audience: renowned dramatist Oscar Hammerstein. Guillaume was recruited from Carousel for a Broadway revue called Free and Easy. The musical was a reworking of The St. Louis Blues. Though it soon folded, it had given him the experience of touring Europe.

Guillaume did not spend long between jobs. He toured with Finian's Rainbow, Golden Boy, Kwamina, and Porgy and Bess. In 1970, he appeared in Some Place to Be Somebody, a job he considered to be his first real acting role. In 1972, he was picked for the lead in Purlie, a musical adaption of the Ossie Davis play Purlie Victorious. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch described his character as "a resourceful young black preacher who returns home to the Georgia plantation to rally Uncle Toms against oppressive paternalism." To this day, it is one of the roles with which Guillaume is most identified.

Guillaume also had the opportunity to get a taste of the television medium. He performed in the special S' Wonderful, S' Gershwin and took bit acting roles in the shows Marcus Welby, M.D., The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, and All in the Family.

From Tony Award to Television

It was during one of his 750 performances in the play Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris that Guillaume received his biggest break yet. Once again he was recruited, this time for the role of Nathan Detroit in the 1976 all-black revival of the hit Guys and Dolls. Guillaume's impressive performance as the street-smart owner of "the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York" won him a Tony nomination. He had finally arrived. And then he leftfor television. Guillaume explained the circumstances in the Christian Science Monitor : "I was doing Guys and Dolls in New York and we'd been notified we were going to close shortly. We were on pins and needles." Panicked, Guillaume called his agent who informed him that the industry had dried up and chances of finding anything were nil.

"A half hour later my agent called back and told me about plans for a prime time soap opera," Guillaume continued. Soap, the ABC nighttime satire of daytime soaps that became controversial for its brazen storylines riddled with infidelities, murders, and sexual orientations, was searching for a butler. Even after Guillaume successfully progressed through several auditions for the part, he was forced to wait while the producers went back and forth on the decision of the character's ethnicity. But he got the part and became Benson DuBois from the West Indies: the cantankerous, irreverent, and condescending butler who did not suffer fools gladly.

Guillaume received an Emmy for his role in Soap in 1979. His character became so popular that the network decided to create Benson, a spin-off show. Soap 's butler turned in his resignation, and the character of Benson DuBois was hired as the head of household at the governor's mansion in the same fictitious town. Benson quickly made his way to state budget director and finally lieutenant governor. Guillaume was given the opportunity to transform Benson into a three-dimensional character, one that symbolized the changing role of black Americans in society. He told the Washington Post, "I wanted the character to have that kind of upward mobility because it mirrored the American dream." At the time, such a dream had rarely been attained by minorities on television.

Actor and Advocate

Benson had a successful run for seven years, earning Guillaume his second Emmy in 1985, before it was canceled a year later. In 1989, Guillaume co-created and was executive co-producer of The Robert Guillaume Show, a short-lived interracial romantic comedy. After his stint with television, Guillaume began pursuing different directions. He hit the nightclub circuits, singing in places like Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, and Atlantic City; he added movies to his acting experience with Lean on Me ; he formed his own production company, Longridge Enterprises, to develop acting projects; and he returned to the theater.

Guillaume's greatest theatrical achievement came in May of 1990, when he was hand-picked as the new star of Andrew Lloyd Webber's spectacular musical The Phantom of the Opera. There was much skepticism that any actor could successfully fill the mask of the wildly popular Michael Crawfordespecially, a black actor in a traditionally white role. But Guillaume triumphed. He did not attempt to imitate his predecessor's original version of the lonely, disfigured, mad, and love-sick phantom. Instead, Guillaume gave life to his own monster. And the loyal audience loved it. The fact that the phantom was now being performed by a black actor became irrelevant. But this high point in Guillaume's professional life coincided with a tragic time in his personal life. His 33-year-old son, Jacques, died on December 23, 1990, following a two-year fight against AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). Jacques and his brother Kevin had grown up with their mother, Guillaume's first wife, while the actor pursued his career. "I felt guilty," Guillaume revealed in a Parade interview, "because what I call the 'long arm of the ghetto,' where he spent his childhood, had gotten to him and programmed him for defeat. I think he interpreted my urging to put his brain and talents to use as snobbishness and disapproval. He didn't seem to understand that, at the same time I loved him without qualification and accepted his homosexuality, I still hoped he'd find direction for his life."

Guillaume is an introspective man. He is also an extremely private and sensitive artist who has held a long-lived struggle with self-esteem and the fear of failure. "As a black man I'd been in a kind of wilderness," he told the Chicago Tribune in 1972. "I did not know I did not like being black. I though I had the whole thing together." He continued, "It was only this emergence, this black thing that happened in the sixties, particularly to black malesbecoming aware and appreciating themselves. I'd lived a whole lifetime andalways felt ugly."

Since then, Guillaume has risen to become one of America's most appreciated and successful black actors and a powerful voice in the fight for fair and equal treatment of African Americans. "It outraged me then, it outrages me now," he asserted in Parade. "It gets me crazy, the assumption that being black and poor is our own fault. I'll never forget where I came from and how I got here."

For his part, Guillaume has tried to serve as a positive role model. With his wife Donna he co-founded Confetti Entertainment in 1991. The company, that's mission is to combat illiteracy, produces multicultural educational books and teacher resources, as well as the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child" videos that show children of a variety of ethnicities in classic fairy tales. In 1994, Guillaume lent his voice to the character of Rafiki in Disney's animated film The Lion King. While acting in the sitcom Sports Night in 1999, Guillaume took yet another opportunity to serve as a role model, but this time for older folks. He suffered a debilitating stroke on the set. But within three weeks, he returned to his job, weakened and walking with a cane, but positive about his recovery. He told People Weekly that "I hope that people who have had strokes will see me and take a positive approach toward their own recoveries." He added that "I see the stroke as something that God laid on me as a way of saying, 'This guy has been thinking he's in charge a little too much.' To me, my whole life has been spent trying to overcome limitations, to take what I have and make it better. This stroke has given me the same kind of chance to improve." Guillaume has indeed continued to improve, paving the way for others to follow. After discovering he also had diabetes, Guillaume began speaking out about health issues to alert people that "your health really does matter," as he told Jet. Dividing his time between acting and health advocacy, Guillaume also found time to write his autobiography. Published in 2003, Guillaume: A Life, traces his struggles and triumphs from his early years.

Selected works

Books

(With David Ritz) Guillaume: A Life, Missouri Press, 2003.

Plays

Carousel, 1957.

Some Place to Be Somebody, 1970.

Purlie, 1972.

Guys and Dolls, 1976.

Cabaret, 1987.

Phantom of the Opera, 1990.

CyranoThe Musical, 1994.

Films

Super Fly T.N.T., 1973.

Seems like Old Times, 1980.

Prince Jack, 1985.

They Still Call Me Bruce, 1987.

Wanted: Dead or Alive, 1987.

Lean on Me, 1989.

Death Warrant, 1990.

The Meteor Man, 1993.

The Lion King (animated), 1994.

Spy Hard, 1996.

First Kid, 1996.

The Lion King II: Simba's Pride (animated), 1998.

The Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina (animated), 2000.

Television

Soap, 1977-79.

Benson, 1979-86.

The Robert Guillaume Show, 1989.

Pacific Station, 1991.

Fish Police (animated), 1992.

The Lion King's Timon and Pumbaa (animated), 1995.

Sports Night, 1998-2000.

Sources

Periodicals

Boston Globe, July 13, 1981.

Chicago Tribune, June 18, 1972.

Christian Science Monitor, September 12, 1979.

Jet, November 3, 2003.

New York Daily News, August 20, 1976.

New York Times, December 18, 1977.

Parade, May 24, 1992.

People, January 23, 1978.

People Weekly, October 11, 1999.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 25, 1972.

US, August 15, 1983.

Washington Post, May 6, 1976; September 15, 1979; September 24, 1985.

Iva Sipal and

Sara Pendergast

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Guillaume, Robert 1927–

Robert Guillaume 1927

Actor, singer, producer

At a Glance

Professional Debut

From a Guy to a Butler

Benson

A Different Kind of Phantom

The Search for Self

Sources

Before Robert Guillaume became a popular television actor and Broadway musical star, he was Robert Williams from St. Louis, Missouri: a young man with a golden voice and a future in the accounting field. Fortunately for all his fans, the young man threw caution to the wind and opted for show business. He chose a new name, Guillaume, the French translation of Williams, for its sophisticated image, but it was a decision he soon came to regret because so many people tripped on the pronunciation. That concern has long since dissolved. Guillaume, an Emmy Award winner for his roles in Soap and Benson and a star in theaters smash hit musical Phantom of the Opera, is now one of the most respected and recognized talents in the business. And his nametricky pronunciation and allhas become a household word.

Guillaume was born in 1927 and grew up during a difficult era in U.S. history. America suffered through the Great Depression in the 1930s. World War II began in 1939, and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States entered the war that was supposed to end all wars. Meanwhile Guillaumes family was facing a much more personal crisis: it was disintegrating.

Guillaumes life began in St. Louis, Missouri, just a few miles south of where the Missouri River outflows from the Mississippi. When he was only a toddler his alcoholic mother turned over the care of her four young children to their grandmother. The father had abandoned them early on. The kids grew up in a poor black section of the city under the protective wing of a strong-willed and altruistic woman; Guillaumes grandmother provided for the youngsters as best she could on the wages she earned as a laundress at a Catholic rectory. The sum total of my grandmother, Guillaume told the Boston Globe, can be measured in the fact that she took me and three of my sisters and brothers into her family in the middle of the Great Depression. She taught us that we could pull together. It was an enormous task of love, dedication, and devotion.

Early on, Guillaume learned how to use his voice, but not only as a fine instrument in school musicals. By his own admission he was an outspoken boy with an explosive tempertalents that got him suspended from grammar school and then expelled from parochial school in the ninth grade. His dual nature became apparent before he reached his teens: the well-behaved child was a choir boy and an

At a Glance

Born Robert Peter Williams, November 30, 1927, in St. Louis, MO; name legally changed to Robert Guillaume (pronounced gee-yome); married wife Marlene, 1955 (marriage ended, 1984); married Donna Brown (a freelance television producer), 1985; children: Patricia, Kevin, Jacques (deceased), Melissa, Rachel. Education : Attended St. Louis University and Washington University.

Theatrical singer, actor, and producer. Stage credits include Golden Boy, Porgy and Bess, Purlie, Jacques Brel, Guys and Dolls, and The Phantom of the Opera. Television appearances include guest roles in S Wonderful, S Gershwin; Marcus Welby, M.D.; The Jeffersons; Sanford and Son; and All in the Family; and starring roles in Soap, Benson, 1979-86, The Robert Guillaume Show 1989, Pacific Station, 1991-92, and Driving Miss Daisy pilot episode, 1992. Military service: U.S. Army, 1945-46.

Awards: Tony nomination, 1976, for Guys and Dolls; Emmy Award, 1979, for Soap; Emmy Award for best actor in a comedy series, 1985, for Benson; award from the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health for projection of a positive image of blacks on television, 1985; named honorary Lt. Governor for the day by Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, 1985; received four NAACP Image Awards.

Addresses: AgentPeters Entertainment Prod. Inc., 1438 N. Gower, Los Angeles, CA 90028.

altar boy, while the restless one hung out in the pool halls of St. Louis.

The U.S. Army and Robert Guillaume were not a combination that was meant to be. In 1945 he joined for a brief 15 months before resigning with an honorable discharge. I have a big mouth and I had a Southern captain who hated my guts, he explained in US magazine. One day he called me into his office and announced, This army isnt big enough for the both of us. So the captain stayed, and Guillaume left.

After his brief stint in the Army, Guillaume finished high school and tried a number of odd jobs to save money for college. He ran a womens clothing store, worked in the post office and as a candy cook, washed dishes, and tried his hand at sales. But his most interesting short-term career was driving a St. Louis street car. His route took him down the same tracks that Judy Garlands Trolley Song made famous in the musical Meet Me in St. Louis. I used to sing as I was barreling along, drowning out customers screams, he told People magazine. I was always crashing into the back of a Packard or Dodge. Then everyone would fall down on the floor screaming whiplash!

Possible exaggerations aside, the story illustrates Guillaumes enduring dream of becoming a professional singer. But in those times of extreme financial hardship, Guillaume, then in his mid-twenties, was sensitive to his grandmothers influence and tried to think practically. He enrolled in night classes at St. Louis University and chose business administration as his major. But it wasnt long before the dream of being a singer resurfaced, and he transferred to the music school at St. Louiss Washington University.

It was there that his talent captured the attention of Hungarian opera tenor and artist-in-residence Laslo Chabay. Chabay, Guillaume told the Washington Post, was the first person to say I had potential to sing the classics. With well over 140 hours of credits in liberal arts, Guillaume forgot about business administration and graduating and decided he could make a living with his voice.

Professional Debut

It was not a misguided decision. Chabay helped Guillaume obtain a scholarship to the 1957 Aspen Music Festival in Colorado where he caught the attention of Russell and Rowena Jelliffe. The Jelliffes were founders of one of the oldest interracial theaters in America, the Karamu Theater in Cleveland, Ohio, and they offered Guillaume an apprenticeship. Guillaume, then already 31 years old, had his professional debut in the Karamus production of Carousel. When I started out, Guillaume told US magazine, I had pretentious notions and I was somewhat hypocritical. I told myself I didnt care about fame; I just wanted to be an artist. That was a lie. Becoming famous was always important to me.

His debut performance was witnessed and applauded by a very special member of the audience: renowned dramatist Oscar Hammerstein. Guillaume was recruited from Carousel for a Broadway revue called Free and Easy. The musical was a reworking of The St. Louis Blues. Though it soon folded, it had given him the experience of touring Europe.

Guillaume did not spend long between jobs. He toured with Finians Rainbow, Golden Boy, Kwamina, and Porgy and Bess. In 1970, he appeared in Some Place to Be Somebody, a job he considered to be his first real acting role. In 1972, he was picked for the lead in Purlie, a musical adaption of the Ossie Davis play Purlie Victorious. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch described his character as a resourceful young black preacher who returns home to the Georgia plantation to rally Uncle Toms against oppressive paternalism. To this day, it is one of the roles with which Guillaume is most identified.

Guillaume also had the opportunity to get a taste of the television medium. He performed in the special S Wonderful, S Gershwin and took bit acting roles in the shows Marcus Welby, M.D., The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, and All in the Family.

From a Guy to a Butler

It was during one of his 750 performances in the play Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris that Guillaume received his biggest break yet. Once again he was recruited, this time for the role of Nathan Detroit in the 1976 all-black revival of the hit Guys and Dolls. Guillaumes impressive performance as the street-smart owner of the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York won him a Tony nomination. He had finally arrived. And then he leftfor television. Guillaume explained the circumstances in the Christian Science Monitor: I was doing Guys and Dolls in New York and wed been notified we were going to close shortly. We were on pins and needles. Panicked, Guillaume called his agent, who informed him that the industry had dried up and chances of finding anything were nil.

A half hour later my agent called back and told me about plans for a prime time soap opera, Guillaume continued. Soap, the ABC nighttime satire of daytime soaps that became controversial for its brazen storylines riddled with infidelities, murders, and sexual orientations, was searching for a butler. Even after Guillaume successfully progressed through several auditions for the part, he was forced to wait while the producers went back and forth on the decision of the characters ethnicity. But he got the part and became Benson Duvais from the West Indies: the cantankerous, irreverent, and condescending butler who did not suffer fools gladly.

Benson

Guillaume received an Emmy for his role in Soap in 1979. His character became so popular that the network decided to create Benson, a spin-off show. Soaps butler turned in his resignation, and the character of Benson Duvais was hired as the head of household at the governors mansion in the same fictitious town. Benson quickly made his way to state budget director and finally lieutenant governor. Guillaume was given the opportunity to transform Benson into a three-dimensional character, one that symbolized the changing role of black Americans in society. He told the Washington Post, I wanted the character to have that kind of upward mobility because it mirrored the American dream. At the time, such a dream had rarely been attained by minorities on television.

Benson had a successful run for seven years, earning Guillaume his second Emmy in 1985, before it was canceled a year later. In 1989, Guillaume co-created and was executive co-producer of The Robert Guillaume Show, a short-lived interracial romantic comedy. After his stint with television, Guillaume began pursuing different directions. He hit the nightclub circuits, singing in places like Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, and Atlantic City; he added movies to his acting experience with Lean on Me; he formed his own production company, Longridge Enterprises, to develop acting projects; and he returned to the theater.

A Different Kind of Phantom

Guillaumes greatest theatrical achievement came in May of 1990, when he was hand-picked as the new star of Andrew Lloyd Webbers spectacular musical The Phantom of the Opera. There was much skepticism that any actor could successfully fill the mask of the wildly popular Michael Crawfordespecially, a black actor in a traditionally white role. But Guillaume triumphed. He did not attempt to imitate his predecessors original version of the lonely, disfigured, mad, and love-sick phantom. Instead, Guillaume gave life to his own monster. And the loyal audience loved it. The fact that the phantom was now being performed by a black actor became irrelevant.

But this high point in Guillaumes professional life coincided with a tragic time in his personal life. His 33-year-old son, Jacques, died on December 23, 1990, following a two-year fight against AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). Jacques and his brother Kevin had grown up with their mother, Guillaumes first wife, while the actor pursued his career. I felt guilty, Guillaume revealed in a Parade interview, because what I call the long arm of the ghetto, where he spent his childhood, had gotten to him and programmed him for defeat. I think he interpreted my urging to put his brain and talents to use as snobbishness and disapproval. He didnt seem to understand that, at the same time I loved him without qualification and accepted his homosexuality, I still hoped hed find direction for his life.

The Search for Self

Guillaume is an introspective man. He is also an extremely private and sensitive artist who has held a long-lived struggle with self-esteem and the fear of failure. As a black man Id been in a kind of wilderness, he told the Chicago Tribune in 1972. I did not know I did not like being black. I though I had the whole thing together. He continued, It was only this emergence, this black thing that happened in the sixties, particularly to black malesbecoming aware and appreciating themselves. Id lived a whole lifetime and always felt ugly.

Since then, Guillaume has risen to become one of Americas most appreciated and successful black actors and a powerful voice in the fight for fair and equal treatment of African-Americans. It outraged me then, it outrages me now, he asserted in Parade. It gets me crazy, the assumption that being black and poor is our own fault. Ill never forget where I came from and how I got here.

Sources

Boston Globe, July 13, 1981.

Chicago Tribune, June 18, 1972.

Christian Science Monitor, September 12, 1979.

New York Daily News, August 20, 1976.

New York Times, December 18, 1977.

Parade, May 24, 1992.

People, January 23, 1978.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 25, 1972.

US, August 15, 1983.

Washington Post, May 6, 1976; September 15, 1979; September 24, 1985.

Iva Sipal

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"Guillaume, Robert 1927–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Guillaume, Robert 1927–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/guillaume-robert-1927

"Guillaume, Robert 1927–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/guillaume-robert-1927