Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sherman Hemsley R.I.P.

I don't know that I have anything worth saying on this one, and I was going to let it go, but I kept on thinking about it, so here it is.

Sherman Hemsley died this week.  He was 74, and famous for his work on "All in the Family," kitchy Old Navy ads, and playing George Jefferson.  I barely knew his work,* and chances are, I never watched a single episode of "The Jeffersons" in my childhood.  But during the summer between my Junior and Senior years of school, I interned at a Los Angeles talent agency, and one of their clients was Sherman Hemsley.  By the time my privilege of working full-time for no pay ended, I somehow ended up with a pile of 8x10 glossies of Mr. Hemsley.

One, in particular, sticks with me all these years later.  On it was written "Keep your ass groovin', Sherman Hemsley" in black marker.  I took this to college with me, to amuse somebody I no longer know, I'm sure, and inexplicably it ended up as the cover of my school folder.
This is the headshot his agency would send out (alas, not the signed one).
I was involved in several film projects that year, as a writer, an actor, as the boom operator, and it became a fun challenge to fit that signed Sherman Hemsley picture into every production I worked on.  Sometimes it would be on the wall, sometimes an actor would be holding my folder, once I remember sticking it on a chair like it was an honored dead family member or a throw pillow.

Part of the fun was the relative obscurity of Hemsley, but also, that odd, almost-cryptic message written on it.

So, Hemsley is gone now, and we'll probably never see those delightfully awful Old Navy commercials he was in again.  But I do hope that all of us can keep our asses groovin', in memory of him.

Rish Jefferson

*Sadly, the only time in my youth I remember seeing him in something was an NBC TV-movie about teenagers wherein I first found Allyssa Milano attractive.

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