Actor, Comedian. He is remembered for his NBC variety television series "The Flip Wilson Show" that aired from September 1970 until June 1974, as well as his character 'Geraldine Jones'. Born Clerow Wilson, Jr., one of ten children, his father worked as a handyman during the Great Depression. When he was seven years old, his mother abandoned the family. His father was unable to care for all the children and he was placed in and out of foster homes. At age 16 he joined the US Air Force, lying about his age, and his outgoing personality coupled with his funny stories made him popular. His barracks mates gave the nickname "Flip" because he claimed that he was always "flipped out," and he began using it as his stage name. After his discharge from the Air Force in 1954, he started working as a bellhop at the Manor Plaza Hotel in San Francisco, California and found extra work playing a drunken patron in between scheduled acts at the Plaza's nightclub. His inebriated character proved popular and Wilson began performing it in clubs throughout California. He started out ad-libbing onstage, but eventually he added written material and his act became more sophisticated. During the 1960s he appeared regularly at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and was a favorite guest on "The Tonight Show," "Laugh-In," and "The Ed Sullivan Show." In 1970 he won a Grammy Award for his comedy album "The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress." That same year his variety series "The Flip Wilson Show" debuted. His characters included 'Reverend Leroy', materialistic pastor of the "Church of What's Happening Now", and his most popular character, 'Geraldine Jones', who always referred to her boyfriend, "Killer", and whose line "The devil made me do it" became a national catchphrase. The show generating high ratings and popularity among viewers and won strong critical acclaim, with an unprecedented eleven Emmy Award nominations during its run, winning two. In January 1972 Time magazine featured his image on their cover and named him "TV's first black superstar." He also won a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Television Series. After the show ended it run, he made guest appearances on numerous television comedies and variety shows, such as "Here's Lucy" starring Lucille Ball, "The Dean Martin Show<" "The Ed Sullivan Show," among others. He performed in television and theatrical movies including "Uptown Saturday Night" and "The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh." In 1976, he appeared as the 'Fox' in a television musical adaptation of "Pinocchio," starring Sandy Duncan in the title role and Danny Kaye as 'Mister Geppetto'. In 1984 he hosted the remake of "People Are Funny" and from 1985 to 1986 he played the lead role in the CBS sitcom "Charlie & Co." His last role was a cameo appearance in the sitcom "Living Single" in November 1993. He died at his home at the age of 64 from liver cancer.
Bio by: William Bjornstad