Birthday: November 30, 1927 Birth
Place: St. Louis, Missouri, USA Height: 5' 1"
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The product of a tough, impoverished upbringing, African American actor Robert Guillaume fought his way out of the St. Louis slums by virtue of talent, persistence and an unwillingness to bow down to anyone. After military service and college, Guillaume held down short-term jobs ranging from cook to streetcar conductor, all the while training his voice for potential musical comedy work—training that paid off with his first Broadway show, 1961's Kwamina. Among his many stage credits were the musical versions of Golden Boy (with Sammy Davis Jr.) and Purlie Victorious, and the long-running review Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. When New York stage work was scarce, Guillaume created his own opportunities by giving one-man concerts. After guesting in several of the black-oriented TV sitcoms of the 1970s, Guillaume was cast in 1977 as the imperious, outspoken family retainer Benson in the daytime-drama parody Soap (the actor would be first to admit that many of Benson's more contentious traits sprang from Guillaume's own prickly personality). The role won Guillaume a 1978 Emmy as "Outstanding Supporting Actor." In 1979, Guillaume carried over his Soap role into his own starring series, Benson, which ran until 1986 and which won Guillaume another Emmy, this time as "Outstanding Lead Actor." Robert Guillaume also headlined the appropriately titled 1989 series The Robert Guillaume Show, wherein for approximately five months he starred as divorced marriage counselor Edward Sawyer.
There was some controversy when he replaced the original Phantom (Michael Crawford) in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "The Phantom of the Opera". Some tickets were returned to protest his selection as lead actor even before his first performance. His run was none the less popular with audiences and critics.
Guillaume's stroke was paralleled in his TV series where his character, boss "Isaac Jaffe" also was shown to have suffered a stroke, and where he was also shown to be missed and idolized by his TV-staff colleagues.
Suffered a mild stroke on the set of his TV series "Sports Night" (1998). [14 January 1999]
One son died of AIDS in 1990 at age 32.
Daughter, Rachel, born 1990
Was once engaged to actress Fay Hauser.
Father of Kevin Guillaume
Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith, pg. 198. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
Was nominated for Broadway's 1977 Tony Award a Best Actor (Musical) for a revival of "Guys and Dolls.
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