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Sanford and Son aired from January 1972 until September 1977 on NBC.
Fred Sanford ( Redd Foxx) was a 65-year-old Los Angeles junk dealer whose 34-year-old son Lamont ( Demond Wilson) was his partner, a situation that Lamont was not always happy with. At his advanced age, Fred was very happy with his little business and the marginal income it provided him. Lamont on the other hand, was looking to better himself by getting out of the junk business and trying something more challenging and hopefully more lucrative. Fred, whose wife Elizabeth, had died some years before would do anything to keep his son from deserting him and the business. Everytime Lamont threatened to leave, Fred would fake a heart attack and start moaning, " I'm coming Elizabeth, I'm coming to join you honey." Lamont wasn't really foled by his father's machinations but he did love him and despite what he said about his future, really wouldn't have left the old man or the business.
Sanford and Son was producer Norman Lear's second major hit ( All in the Family was the first) and like All in the Family was based on a successful British TV comedy. Sanford and Son's source was called Steptoe and Son. Sanford and Son was an instantaneous hit and ranked among the top ten programs throughout its run. Veteran comedian Redd Foxx was cast as cantankerous Fred Sanford ( Foxx, whose real name was John Sanford had seldom been seen on television before the series). Foxx brought in many of his contemporaries to work on the show such as Whitman Mayo who appeared as Fred's buddy Grady Wilson ( and later received his own show, Grady); Slappy White who played Melvin and LaWanda Page who played Aunt Esther, the sister of Fred's late wife Elizabeth. Fred was constantly at odds with Aunt Esther ( He kept calling her "ugggllyyy") who later would run the Sanford Arms, a run down rooming house that was located next to the junkyard. Fred had a steady girlfriend in nurse Donna Harris ( Lynn Hamilton) whom he was always promising to marry and he was always fighting with his next-door neighbor Julio Fuentos ( Gregory Sierra) who was a Purto Rican junk dealer with a goat named Chico. Other regulars included Fred's other friend Bubba Hoover ( Don Bexley); Officer Smitty ( Hal Williams) and his partner Officer Swanhauser ( Noam Pitlik) and later Officer Hoppy ( Howard Platt); Aunt Ethel ( Bea Richards) seen only during the first season; Lamont's friend Ah Chew ( Pat Morita); May Hopkins ( Nancy Kulp), Hoppy's mother who was a boarder at The Sanford Arms and Aunt Esther's husband Woody ( Raymond Allen).
At the end of the third season and beginning of the fourth season ( 1974), nine episodes were filmed without Redd Foxx who underwent contract negotiations that led to a hiatus. It was explained that Fred was in St. Louis visiting family and Grady moved in temporarily to watch over Lamont.
Early in 1976, Lamont found a serious romantic interest in Janet( Marlene Clark), a divorcee with a young son Roger ( Edward Crawford) and they became engaged at the end of the 1976-1977 season. The marriage never took place however, as the series left the air in the fall of 1977. Redd Foxx had committed himself to do a variety series for ABC and co-star Demond Wilson left the series in a dispute over his remuneration as the sole star of the series after Foxx's departure. With the two stars gone, NBC premiered Sanford Arms ( named after Aunt Esther's rooming house), in the fall of 1977 which featured most of the supporting players from Sanford and Son. The attempt to salvage the series was a total failure and it lasted less than a month. The Redd Foxx Variety Series didn't fare much better, lasting only four months. In 1980 Redd Foxx revived the saga of the cantankerous junk dealer in a new series called Sanford which only lasted off and on for about a year.
An Article from Time Magazine on the mid-season shows of 1972
Monday, Jan. 24, 1972
By ROBERT T. JONES Article
Can the worst disasters of the television season be redeemed? January is when the programmers try, by inserting midseason replacements for the shakiest shows. By last week, all eight of the substitute entries were on the air. Among them: a dentist whose family adopts a chimpanzee (Me and the Chimp), a put-upon executive (The Don Rickles Show), a parapsychologist's bouts with the supernatural (The Sixth Sense), and movies, movies, movies. If any trend was apparent, it was simple desperation. But a blessed few shows revealed something more.
Sanford & Son (NBC) is a promising situation comedy produced by Bud Yorkin and Norman Lear, the team that created All in the Family. Like Family, which was based on a long-running BBC hit called Till Death Do Us Part, the new show is also an adaptation of an English model. This time Yorkin and Lear have taken the BBC's Steptoe & Son, about the tribulations of a cockney junk dealer and his son, and Americanized it by setting it in a low-income black milieu. In the process they have come up with an inspired piece of casting: Redd Foxx, a black comic famed for his blue nightclub material.
As a Los Angeles junk dealer, Foxx plays a whining parent who dominates his son with phony heart attacks and other transparent but successful ruses. In last week's opening episode, there was an occasional echo of Archie Bunker's WASPy bigotry. "There ain't nothing uglier than a 90-year-old white woman," Foxx said at one point. When his son said he wanted to make a fortune "just like Aristotle Onassis," Foxx eyed his black skin and observed: "Only one difference between you and Onassis: he started out a Greek."
But the real theme of Sanford & Son is the generation gap. Son Lamont Sanford (Demond Wilson) struggles with his complacent parent in comic exchanges that, for all their surface harshness, are affectionately respectful. And Redd Foxx shows that the old man's bite comes from an essential warmth and humanity. Indeed, Foxx, who has written his own material for years, supplied some of his own acerbic lines. At one point when he had to refer to a black family who put on airs, he suggested using the authentic vernacular phrase "jive niggers." A less obvious Foxx contribution: the show's title. His real name is John Sanford.
Zoom (PBS) is a children's show produced by kids who want to stay on their own side of the generation gap, thank you. Virtually all the material is by children and is selected by the seven-member cast (ages nine through 13). The kids sing, dance, play games, talk in "Ubbi-Dubbi" a catchy code language reminiscent of past generations' pig Latin show home movies and give laconic instructions in all manner of skills. The first show featured a filmed demonstration of how to build a raft from tree limbs, leaves and an old tarpaulin. A 41-minute karate exhibition aimed at defeating bicycle thieves was on the second. The third will include a thoroughly befuddling lesson in the game of "cat's cradle," with a perplexed young instructress tangling her string and admitting, "I got it wrong."
In the Boston studios where Zoom is produced for public television, grownups coach, suggest, choreograph and keep a professional rein on things, thus avoiding the anarchy and flatness that sometimes bedevil NBC's hourlong, live Take a Giant Step. But the kids have the last say. Producer Christopher Sarson originally wanted a problem-solving segment patterned after the "Dear Abby" column, but the Zoom cast vetoed the idea: they felt they lacked the experience to solve problems for their peers. At the end of last week's show, they urged young viewers ("Zoomers") to write in for song lyrics and game instructions, and to provide material for future shows by sending in their own stories, limericks, home movies or whatever. At week's end, Zoom had received 5,359 responses in the mail.
The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour (CBS) slipped into the schedule last month and has already staked out a strong position in the ratings competition. Doubtless benefiting from the youthful audience it built up during a trial run last summer, it has attracted a 40% share of the audience for its Monday night time slot, which translates into approximately 30 million viewers. This makes it already one of the dozen top shows on evening television commercially, at least.
Otherwise, Sonny & Cher is uninspired. Its stars are Sonny, a rock-'n'-roll graduate with the manner of an eager spaniel, and his wife, Cher, a gangling lady who sashays through comic skits with a kind of kooky chic. As a singing team, the couple trails a history of hit records of the mid-'60s, but as variety stars, neither has the comic gift to unthaw their frigid material. The saving feature of the show is Cher's singing. Give her a song and she electrifies a dim-watted production. Her rock-pop voice sounds like a cross between a mating call and a sonic boom. If only the producers did not insist that she also try to act and be funny.
An Article from Time Magazine
All in the Black Family
Monday, Apr. 17, 1972
It sounds like a sure-fizzle formula.
No sex, no excitement, and precious little for a white, middle-class audience to identify with. Just two blacks, father and son, running a junk shop in Los Angeles and playing a continual, if affectionate game of oneupmanship. Yet NBC's Sanford and Son, which premiered in January, is already one of TV's top ten shows. With so much seemingly going against it, what does Sanford have going for it? Above all, it has Redd Foxx.
Foxx, at 49 the dean of black comedians, might have been preparing all his raffish life for the role of Junkman Fred Sanford. "He's an old black dude, and he don't take no stuff," explains Foxx. "He's a con artist. He thinks up elaborate, wily tricks, and I enjoy him." Most of his tricks are directed against his son Lament (Demond Wilson) to keep him from marrying and leaving home. One girl friend, Foxx assures the boy, would end up like her mother, "King Kong in bloomers." He is constantly complaining about his nonexistent heart ailment. "What if I have a heart attack and have to call the doctor?" he asks. "You know I can't dial the phone with my arthritis."
Teasing Laughs. The show was created by Bud Yorkin and Norman Lear, the team that produced All in the Family, and like Family, Sanford is adapted from a successful BBC series. Foxx's Sanford is at times a sort of black mirror image of Family's bigoted Archie Bunker. When he spots a white nurse waiting to give him his chest
X ray, he announces, "I ain't goin' in there with that ugly old white woman." A policeman asks him about a gang of thieves. "Were they colored?" the cop inquires. "Yeah," Sanford answers, adding after the appropriate pause "white."
Foxx's delivery of such gag lines is like a rasp drawn gently across the funnybone. With timing that would take an atomic clock to measure, he teases a laugh like a yo-yo on the end of a string. A figure of grizzled aplomb, he can get up from a spread of ham hocks and pinto beans, then strut through a junky living room as if he were Louis XIV in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.
The son of an electrician in St. Louis, Foxx ran away to New York when he was 17, determined to break into show business. His first "club" was a street corner, where he played a washtub in a group named the Five Hip Cats.
Somewhere along the way he adopted his stage name, which was inspired by Baseball Great Jimmie Foxx and the red fox in children's stories. His real name was Sanford, which Yorkin and Lear borrowed for the show.
Dirty Jokes. Eventually, Foxx worked up to the Chitlin' Circuit, the trade name for the black clubs and music halls around the country.
Searching for something to set him apart from other comics, he discovered the dirty joke. He recorded his first "party" album in 1956.
It was so successful that he recorded 48 more and blue humor became his trademark. In one of his cleaner club routines, he is served a drink onstage by a pretty white waitress. "Oh, you're gorgeous, darlin'," he tells her, "but I don't want a white woman. No, I don't want a white woman. If I want a white woman, may the Lord strike me down with polio." Then his body goes out of joint, and he hobbles offstage. The records and a few "clean" appearances on TV eventually caught the eye of Las Vegas managers, and Foxx became a regular at the Hilton International.
Foxx's break into TV actually cost him about $70,000 in forfeited pay from his Hilton contract. Beyond that, he had to move his wife and seven dogs from Las Vegas, which he loves, to Hollywood. Still, he is well aware that he stands to recoup his losses, and then some. "I was doing two shows a night at the club 90 minutes' work for grand-theft money," he says. "But television is the now medium. Suddenly I've got a lot of future." But the years of waiting have left him rather bitter. "'Sanford made it in twelve weeks," he says. "Yet Redd Foxx has been around for 33 years. What took them so long?"
An Article from The New York Times
‘Sanford and Son’ Is White to the Core
By EUGENIA COLLIER JUNE 17, 1973
WEAPONS are not always obvious. Every one knows at a glance that a gun or knife is a dangerous weapon which can do fearful damage. But in the hands someone very clever or someone very naive, the most innocent‐appearing things can be just as dangerous —a drapery cord, a table fork, a household cleanser. A kiss, if you happen to be Judas.
Laughter can be a weapon cutting down one's self‐esteem, distorting one's self‐image, supporting negative values. Laughter can reinforce ethnic prejudices, can be a vehicle for racial hatred. The old minstrel men knew this as they cavorted over the vaudeville stage cleverly hammering in the clownish stereotype in blackface. American enter tainers have always known this, as the development of technology has brought into countless homes such stereotypes as Rochester, Beulah, and the arch de‐humanizers Amos and Andy. Now television is hacking away at the image of blackness with the weapon of laughter. One of the most insidious programs is the popular—and dangerous —“Sanford and Son.”
Let me run down a few basic ideas first, and then I will come back to “Sanford and Son.”
First, it is obvious that in spite of the melting pot myth, black folks and white folks have entirely different styles. How could it be otherwise when we have our African heritage, which is in many respects the opposite of the European heritage, and when the whole American culture has gone to staggering expense and bother to keep us separate and unequal? This simple truth is not recognized by a great many Negroes, who think themselves as Americans who happen to have brown skin, and by the vast majority of white people, who resort to limitless barbarity to keep the black man “in his place” until the black man asserts his difference (e.g., “The Vietcong never called me nigger”), at which Whitey insists with wide‐eyed innocence that “we're all Americans.”
Now, I myself see nothing wrong with being different; God knows, I see little in white American culture that I would care to call my own. But this difference strikes terror in the hearts of whites and of white‐thinking Negroes. It is, nevertheless, reality.
Black people have survived in this country by knowing white people (the enemy) far better than white people know us. Every black domestic is an expert on white culture. But whites (most whites) have so seldom recognized the humanity of black people and have had such a compulsion to rationalize their own inhumanity toward blacks that an honest and compassionate look at black culture has been virtually impossible. For this reason, am convinced that there are very few—if, indeed, any—white writers who can portray black characters in a realistic and believable manner. I have never ever encountered a believable black character created by a white American mind—and this includes Twain's Jim, Stowe's Eliza, Faulkner's Dilsey, and certainly all the modern characters have seen on stage, screen or television.
If it is true that black culture and white culture in America are different, then it stands to reason that the humor, too, is different. We find differ ent things funny. And why not?
Black humor has always been based upon solid reality, and reality for us has been the tragedy of our experience in America. Suffering. Strength. Wisdom. Endurance. Look at the laughing/crying humor of the blues, for example. Or go back to the grim humor of the work songs ‐or even the slave seculars. Or look at the old stage performances of Pigmeat Markham and Moms Mabley and Redd Foxx himself—performances for black audiences, when the artists were not lured by the siren song of pirate gold. Humor helped us to survive. And humor was tragic.
White American humor—at least as shown on TV—is frivolous, cruel, and often absolutely stupid. The result is egocentric women with more time and money than brains and compassion—Lucy, for in stance, and Maude—and child‐men who are constantly outwitted and outmaneuvered by wives and children, especially by young‐adult daughters. No wonder the nation has taken to its heart that good old‐fashioned snarling American bigot, Archie Bunker.
Now, back to “Sanford and Son.” To begin with, the show is not based upon black realities but upon a British TV series, “Steptoe and Son.” Now, you simply cannot substitute black characters for white, sprinkle around a little black English, and think you have a black show. For in spite of Redd Foxx's jokes and Demond Wilson's black beauty, “Sanford and Son” re mains white to the core.
Take the Sanfords’ means of livelihood, for instance. Fred and Lamont are examples of American free enterprise: they run a junk shop. Now, how many black junkmen do you know? Well, there must be some, yes. But more typically, black men of limited education would be somewhere laboring for the'white man. There would be a whole different set of problems, a whole different range of situations to be dealt with. There are black businessmen without formal business training, to be sure, but they are more typically store keepers or skilled workers such as shoe makers or house painters. The process of ferreting out salable junk, estimating its value, buying and then selling it at a profit is historically more compatible with white minds.
Again—there must be some black junkman somewhere in this great ntion. But he would be the exception. White literature does indeed concern it self mainly with the exceptional person, the unique individual; black literature usually deals with the, typical person and thus reflects a community. In this respect, then, the show is more white than black.
The Sanfords themselves are great examples of sick American humor. Fred (Redd Foxx) is a selfish, immature old man who rules his adult son, Lamont (Demond Wilson), by wheeling, scheming, faking illness, and carrying on like a spoiled child—the same techniques perfected by Lucy and repeated on countless situation comedy shows. More over, Fred is jealous and possessive, determined that Lamont will belong to him totally and permanently. When Lamont tries to get married, Fred tries to die. When Lamont tries to go away for a few days with his friend Julio, Fred becomes “ill” and makes plans for his imminent death and burial. When Lamont tries to improve his life by be coming a seaman, after arranging for Fred's care in a residence for the elder ly, Fred is totally uncooperative, insults people who are trying to help him, and finally schemes to frighten Lamont into his plan for a better life.
Fred has other un‐dearing qualities. He is a racist: He assumes that a white cleaning woman (hired during one of his “illnesses”) is constantly about to rape him; he can't stand Julio because Julio is Puerto Rican. Fred is also liar: He persuades Lena Horne to visit him by convincing her that his son is a sick, motherless little child whom she could make soooo happy if only she would come and tuck him in. Fred is narrow‐minded: He insists that all sea men are homosexuals and predicts dire results if Lamont goes to sea. And Fred is a dirty old man: When Lamont cuts short his outing with Julio because he is worried about his “sick” father, he finds Fred strutting home with a bottle of booze and a woman about one‐third his age, whom he has just picked up in
Fred is not even consistent in his obnoxious ways. He may change from one week to another. For example, in a recent episode Lamont buys a com mode (chamber pot) cheap from a white woman. Then a white man shows up claiming his wife did not know the true value of the commode—it seems that the commode is a genuine something‐or other and that George Washington or somebody sat there. The man wants to buy it back for a few dollars more. Fred Sanford, unprincipled jive manipulator that he is, sides with the white man and puts the bad mouth on Lamont (who is reluctant to cooperate)—not because Fred sees a chance for profit, but be cause he doesn't want to cheat anybody! Dig that—he doesn't want to cheat any body! But he sees nothing wrong with taking a white man's side against his son. Of course, the man turns out to be a con man who cheats Lamont out of much to Fred's glee.
Lamont himself is nobody's dream man. He is not even his own man. He is often rude to his father (well, maybe you can't blame him for that), but he lets himself be completely dominated and manipulated by that’ selfish old man. He, too, is jealous, and when Fred brings home a girl friend, instead of trying to do everything he can to get his father off his hands, Lamont breaks up the affair and they are right back where they started.
Funny as a one‐legged man with broken crutch.
There is nothing here that has traditionally motivated black humor—no redemptive suffering, no strength, no tragedy behind the humor. There is only the kind of selfishness and immaturity and bigotry that characterize contemporary American humor. One doesn't learn any thing about the human condition. For contrast, I might cite Langston Hughes's Simple, whose humor points out the ironies of our time. Or Ed Bullins's Big Girl, a foul‐talking lesbian who never the less takes care of the people she loves and manages somehow to cope with her world.
So “Sanford and Son,” as hi as am concerned, is far from black. The show reflects the ‘culture of contemprary white America rather than any in trinsic black values. And there is some thing extremely deceptive about encasing whiteness in a black skin. Dangerous. White America does not want black people to have a self‐concept based on a proud heritage of suffering and strength, for such a self‐concept would liberate our minds and break the death‐grip which threatens our destrution. The American culture tells us in every way that blacks are inferior versions of whites; most whites and an alarming number of blacks believe this
Fred Sanford and his little boy Lamont, conceived by white minds and based upon a white value system, are not strong black men capable of achieving —or even understanding—liberation. They are merely two more American child‐men. We—all of us—need to be surrounded by positive—and true— images of blackness based upon black realities, not upon white aberrations.
Here is Redd Foxx's Obituary from the New York Times
Redd Foxx, Cantankerous Master of Bawdy Humor, Is Dead at 68
By NICK RAVO
Published: October 13, 1991
Redd Foxx, a ground-breaking comedian best known for his portrayal of a curmudgeonly junk dealer in the 1970's televison series "Sanford and Son," died late Friday night in Los Angeles after suffering a heart attack on the set of his new television series. He was 68 years old.
Mr. Foxx collapsed during a rehearsal for the CBS series "The Royal Family," in which he and Della Reese starred. The series had its premiere on Sept. 18.
He died at Queen of Angels Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, a hospital spokesman said early yesterday.
While Mr. Foxx was best known as the bow-legged, raspy-voiced star of "Sanford and Son," which ran from 1972 to 1977, he had had a long career on the black theater and cabaret circuit, where he was known as the dean of X-rated comedians.
Long before Richard Pryor and others began skewering social taboos about sex, race and other delicate topics, Mr. Foxx was playing nightclubs and making 54 "party records" -- spoken comedy with no music -- a genre he claimed to have originated in 1956.
"No one expected me to be on television because I had a reputation from the party records as X-rated, but that's the type of humor I liked," Mr. Foxx said in an interview in 1982. "That's the humor I heard in the ghettos. They didn't pull no punches, and they didn't want to hear about Little Boy Blue and Cinderella. So I gave them what they wanted. I busted loose."
Mr. Foxx's real name was John Sanford. His televison character, Fred Sanford, was named for his brother.
Born in St. Louis, Mr. Foxx grew up in Chicago in a poor family. His father left home, and Mr. Foxx ran away when he was 13.
Even earlier, though, he had decided that he wanted to work in show business. When he was 7, he would tell jokes to relatives and friends. He began professional work as a teen-ager, playing in a washtub band on street corners and later moving to the black vaudeville circuit. Jail for Minor Offenses
Success did not come easily. Mr. Foxx spent a considerable amount of time working as a dishwasher or sign painter in order to eat. For some years, show business dates alternated with brief jail sentences for such offenses as stealing a bottle of milk and sleeping in a hallway.
In Harlem Mr. Foxx got the nickname "Red" because of his hair color and light skin, and he later added another "d." Sometimes he was called "Chicago Red" to differentiate him from his friend, "Detroit Red," the young Malcolm X.
With the first of his party records, in 1956, Mr. Foxx began to be heard by larger audiences, eventually selling 20 million records. He was a bridge between a decades-old burlesque-show tradition of scatological party humor and a younger generation of comics and social satirists from Lenny Bruce to Andrew Dice Clay.
It was not until the late 1960's that Mr. Foxx moved from black clubs to television and to clubs in Las Vegas, where he lived for many years.
Mr. Foxx repeated his role as Fred Sanford in a series that ran in 1980 and 81. He starred in another comedy show in 1986, but nothing ever achieved the popularity of his first series, which also starred Demond Wilson as his son, Lamont.
Despite his popular and financial success, Mr. Foxx often expressed bitterness about his career. He felt that he had been exploited by unscrupulous associates and victimized by racism in the entertainment industry.
"I've been cheated more than most people because I'm gullible and I'm a target," he said. "My heart is open, and I listen to people and I believe their sob stories."
A big spender who once owned a fleet of fancy cars, Mr. Foxx made millions of dollars from "Sanford and Son." But he filed for bankruptcy protection in 1983, citing mounting debts. Two years ago the Internal Revenue Service raided his Las Vegas home and took many possessions, claiming he owed nearly $3 million in taxes, penalties and interest.
Mr. Foxx often feigned heart attacks as a comedy routine in the role of Sanford. When he collapsed on Friday, many in the cast first thought he was joking, then quickly realized he was ill. Earlier he had complained of chills.
Slappy White, an early partner, accompanied other friends and relatives to the hospital. "He's going to be missed a great deal because he was pretty creative," Mr. White said. "The comedy world is going to miss him. He broke a lot of barriers."
Bob Hope, who performed with Mr. Foxx in Vietnam in the late 1960's, called him "a natural comedian."
And Ruth Brown, a rhythm and blues singer, credited Mr. Foxx with renewing her singing career after she had been working as a maid and busdriver.
"Redd would do anything for a friend," she said. "He was constantly putting his arms out to help somebody."
He is survived by his wife, Kahoe, of Los Angeles, and his mother Mary.
Here is Whitman Mayo's Obituary from The New York Times
Whitman Mayo -- Sanford's Sidekick, 70
Published: May 24, 2001
Whitman Mayo, who played Grady Wilson on the 1970's television series ''Sanford and Son,'' died on Tuesday. He was 70.
Mr. Mayo lived in Fayetteville, Ga., for the last seven years and had taught drama at Clark Atlanta University since 1996. Recently, he worked as the host of Turner South's original weekly series, ''Liars and Legends.''
Although he had dozens of television and movie credits, Mr. Mayo is best known for his role as Grady, the sidekick of the junk dealer Fred Sanford, played by Redd Foxx. Grady became so popular that in 1975 NBC made Mr. Mayo the star of his own show, ''Grady,'' which had a brief run. After ''Sanford and Son'' Mr. Mayo appeared in ''Diff'rent Strokes,'' ''In the Heat of the Night'' and ''E.R.'' His movie credits include ''Of Mice and Men,'' ''The Main Event'' and ''Boyz N the Hood.''
Here is LaWanda Page's Obituary from The New York Times
LaWanda Page, 81, the Aunt On TV's 'Sanford and Son'
By MEL WATKINS
Published: September 18, 2002
LaWanda Page, the acid-tongued comedienne who, as the cantankerous Aunt Esther, traded barbs with Redd Foxx on the 1970's sitcom ''Sanford and Son,'' died on Saturday in Los Angeles. She was 81.
The cause was complications of diabetes, The Associated Press reported.
Ms. Page was a veteran of the black circuit of theaters and nightclubs. She began as a dancer, added a fire-swallowing bit (billed as the ''Bronze Goddess of Fire'') and moved gradually into skit and stand-up comedy on the so-called Midwestern ''chitlin circuit.'' Most of those clubs, she later said, were dumps, the kind of places ''where if you ain't home by 9 o'clock you can be declared legally dead.''
Her big break came when she was tapped for a supporting role in the second season of Norman Lear's ''Sanford and Son,'' which starred Foxx, a friend from comedy club days, as Fred Sanford, an eccentric and irascible junk dealer in the Watts section of Los Angeles. As the ungainly, wisecracking, Bible-toting sister of Sanford's late wife, Elizabeth, she quickly became one of the show's most popular characters.
Her character, Aunt Esther, took her share of zingers from Foxx and other cast members -- Sanford's friend Grady once quipped, ''Nice having her around, she makes the junk look so pretty.'' But Aunt Esther usually responded with equally stinging rejoinders. ''Watch it, sucker!'' her favorite catch phrase, was followed by a spate of sharp-tongued invective. The exchanges between her and Sanford were among the weekly highlights. ''Sanford and Son,'' ran from 1972 to 1977 on NBC and remained one of television's top rated shows, inspiring several spinoffs in which she also appeared.
Ms. Page was born in Cleveland on Oct. 19, 1920, and began her dancing career at age 15. After years on the club circuit with comedians like Foxx and Richard Pryor, Ms. Page moved to Los Angeles in the 1960's and joined the comedy group Skillet, Leroy & Co. She soon developed and honed her trademark feisty comic approach -- more shrill but still reminiscent of Moms Mabley's homespun wit. (''Honey, that old man couldn't keep no kinda job. That's the only man I know that ever went to the unemployment office and lost his place in line.'')
She is survived by a daughter, Clara Johnson, of Los Angeles.
Throughout the 1970's and 80's, Ms. Page played cameo roles in a few feature films and made guest appearances on talk shows and sitcoms. Offstage, she was an advocate for equal opportunities and better pay for black performers.
To watch clips from Sanford & Son go to https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=sanford+and+sons+full+episodes
For more on Sanford & Son go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanford_and_Son
For the Official Site of Redd Foxx go to http://www.reddfoxx.com/
For a page dedicated to Sanford & Son go to https://web.archive.org/web/20080204173221/http://tvland.classictvhits.com/SanfordandSon/
For Tim's TV Showcase go to http://timvp.com/tv/sanfordandson/
For a Website dedicated to Sanford & Son go to https://web.archive.org/web/20050510092921/http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Maze/3101/sanfordandson.html
For an article on Sanford & Son go to https://tv.avclub.com/sanford-and-son-may-have-copied-other-shows-but-redd-f-1798249550
For an article on Redd Foxx's Ghost go to https://web.archive.org/web/20010617015626/http://www.parascope.com:80/en/slips01.htm
For some Sanford & Son-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/sanford-and-son
For a a great review of Sanford and Son go to http://www.museum.tv/eotv/sanfordands.htm
To watch the opening and closing credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JJz6zOkYrM
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