The Internet is weeping over the Covid-19 related deaths of beloved character actor Tiny Lister, country music legend Charlie Pride and veteran theatre and TV actress Carol Sutton.
Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister was 62. The character actor was best known for his performance as Deebo in the cult classic Friday (1995). Lister was found dead in his California home Dec. 10, 2020 after friends and business associates could not reach him, authorities said. Lister, who was blind in his right eye since birth, appeared in 220 television and film roles. In early 2020, he had been diagnosed with Covid-19 but thought he had overcome the virus. Friends worried about him as he struggled to breathe and make it through a livestream last Monday. When friends were alarmed by his appearance, he stated: “God’s got me.” But he then canceled an appearance at a TV festival.
The actor, who was born with an eye defect that was an important part of his signature facial expression, famously wrestled Hulk Hogan in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) after appearing in the film No Holds Barred with the wrestling legend. He also had a short stint in the World Championship Wrestling (WCW) wrestling as Z-Gangsta. Lister, who also was a WWF wrestler going by the name ‘Zeus,’ played president of the United States in 1997’s The Fifth Element.
Lister pled guilty to committing mortgage fraud to the tune of $3 million in 2014. But his acting roles were plentiful, such that that he had three completed films for 2021, five films in post-production and was in the process of filming two films.
Rapper Ice Cube who executive produced and starred in Friday wrote on his Instagram page: “RIP Tiny ‘Deebo’ Lister. America’s favorite bully was a born entertainer who would pop into character at the drop of a hat terrifying people on and off camera. Followed by a big smile and laugh. Thank you for being a good dude at heart. I miss you already.”
Country music’s first Black superstar, Charley Pride, was 86 when he passed away from Covid-19 complications. The son of sharecroppers, Pride also served in the U.S. Army and played in the Negro Baseball Leagues. He received the Country Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award last month in Nashville. The award was presented to him by Jimmie Allen, a young Black country star. Pride and Allen performed a duet at the awards show. Show producers said they followed Covid-19 protocols but some in attendance did not wear masks.
Joseph Hudak of Rolling Stone writes: “Born in Sledge, Mississippi, in 1934, Pride picked cotton, played baseball in the Negro Leagues, served in the U.S. Army, and worked in a smelting plant in Montana before moving to Nashville and becoming country music’s first Black superstar. He scored 52 Top 10 country hits, including 29 Number Ones, and was the first African American performer to appear on the Grand Ole Opry stage since Deford Bailey who made his debut in the 1920s. Pride became an Opry member in 1993. In 2000, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.”
Pride is survived by his wife, Ebby Rozene Cohran Pride, and his children, Carlton, Charles and Angela.
Veteran actress Carol Sutton of Steel Magnolias and Queen Sugar fame has died of Covid-19 complications at the age of 76. The New Orleans native and theatre legend, whose career spanned over 50 years, died in the hospital in her hometown.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell confirmed Sutton’s death and remembered her in a statement posted Dec. 11, 2020 on the government website. Mayor Cantrell wrote:
“Carol Sutton was practically the Queen of New Orleans theatre, having graced the stages across the city for decades. The world may recognize her from her performances in movies and on TV—whether it’s Treme or Claws or Runaway Jury or Queen Sugar. But we will always remember her commanding stage presence, her richly portrayed characters, and the warm heart she shared with her fellow cast and crew in productions such as 4000 Miles and A Raisin in the Sun. May she rest in God’s perfect peace.” Covid-19’s death comes just days after the passing of another major New Orleans theatre figure, Sherri Marina, also due to Covid-19.
Rest in power.
(Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire.)