Flip Wilson, the popular comedian who became the first black entertainer to be the host of a successful weekly variety show on network television, died Wednesday night at his home in Malibu, Calif. He was Wilson was best known for his portrayals of such outrageous, over-the-top characters as the Reverend Leroy of the Church of What's Happening Now and Geraldine, the sassy but proud black woman whose flamboyance, enthusiasm and screeching, high-pitched voice were recognized by millions of Americans. Her trademark quips -- ''When you're hot, you're hot; when you're not, you're not,'' ''The devil made me do it'' and ''What you see is what you get'' -- became national catch phrases, part of everyone's vocabulary in the 's, when Mr. Wilson's variety show became one of America's best-watched programs. Late in his career, Mr. Wilson said of the irrepressible Geraldine, ''She carried me longer than my mother did.
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Clerow " Flip " Wilson Jr. From to , Wilson hosted his own weekly variety series , The Flip Wilson Show , and introduced viewers to his recurring character Geraldine. The series earned Wilson a Golden Globe and two Emmy Awards , and at one point was the second highest rated show on network television. After The Flip Wilson Show ended, Wilson kept performing and acting until the s, though at a reduced schedule. Born Clerow Wilson Jr. When Wilson was seven years old, his mother abandoned the family. His father was unable to care for the children alone and he placed many of them in foster homes.
The show starred American comedian Flip Wilson ; the program was one of the first American television programs starring a black person in the title role to become highly successful with a white audience. Specifically, it was the first successful network variety series starring an African American. The show consisted of many skits in a minute variety format. It also broke new ground in American television by using a " theatre-in-the-round " stage format, with the audience seated on all sides of a circular performance area with some seats located behind the sketch sets on occasion. Wilson was most famous for creating the role of Geraldine Jones , a sassy, modern woman who had a boyfriend named Killer who, when not in prison, was at the pool hall. New parishioners were wary of coming to the church as it was hinted that Reverend Leroy was a con artist. Wilson popularized the catchphrase "The Devil made me do it! Some of "Geraldine's" most famous quotes are, "The Devil made me buy this dress! You devil, you!