Broadway Actor Carl Gordon, of The Piano Lesson, Dies at 78

Obituaries   Broadway Actor Carl Gordon, of The Piano Lesson, Dies at 78
 
Actor Carl Gordon, who appeared on Broadway in Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death and two August Wilson plays, died on July 23 in Jetersville, VA, of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was 78.

Mr. Gordon was best recognized for his ongoing role as Andrew Emerson on the mid-'90s sitcom "Roc," which starred Charles Dutton. Mr. Gordon played Dutton's ornery father. The two men appeared together in August Wilson's The Piano Lesson on Broadway in 1990. In that play, Mr. Gordon played the part of Doaker, an uncle who has spent 27 years working the railroads, a performance he repeated in the 1995 television film of the play.

He was born Rufus Carl Gordon Jr. on Jan. 20, 1932, in Goochland, VA. and grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. Mr. Gordon was a long time coming to his acting debut. After four years in the Air Force, an incomplete stint at Brooklyn College and two divorces, Mr. Gordon was employed in such dead-end capacities as a sheet-metal worker and department store stockroom clerk.

According to Mr. Gordon, he tried acting after being instructed by God to do so, and had enrolled in the Gene Frankel Theater Workshop. Mr. Gordon made his Broadway debut at a replacement actor in The Great White Hope. Soon after, he appeared in the 1971 musical Melvin van Peebles musical Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death. In addition to The Piano Lesson, he played Cutler, the trombonist, in the 2003 revival of Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom with Dutton and Whoopi Goldberg. During the latter, he was hospitalized when a blood vessel burst in his leg.

He also appeared in many plays at the Negro Ensemble Company. With dark, deep-set eyes, a long face and a white beard, Mr. Gordon projected amiable irritability, gravitas and homegrown wisdom.

Mr. Gordon is survived by his third wife, Jacqueline Alston-Gordon; a son, Rufus Carl III; five daughters, Gloria Gurley and Candise, Demethress, Yvette and Jasmine Gordon; nine grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

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