RIP Sherman Hemsley

According to TMZ, naturally, Sherman Hemsley — the actor famous for his portrayal of George Jefferson on The Jeffersons and All In The Family — has died. He was 74.

With George being such an outlandish character, it’s easy to forget that the shows the character appeared on broke important ground in American culture. Back during a time when the country electing a black president seemed so far-fetched that it bordered on being laughable, The Jeffersons centered around an upwardly mobile black businessman and his wife (Fun fact: Hemsley was 21 years younger than the actress who played “Weezie” on the show) chasing an American dream that still seemed out of reach to a lot of people of color at the time.

In addition to deftly tackling issues of race through slapstick comedy, the show also featured an interracial couple as recurring members of the cast, something that wasn’t well-received by certain segments of the population at the time. To think that a major television network actually had the balls to challenge its audience and push boundaries back then is sort of astounding given the “let’s not try to piss anyone off and be all things to all people” attitude that seems to be so prevalent at the major networks today. How the hell would The Jeffersons ever get through the focus group phase of the development process today? All hail Norman Lear.

Case in point…

Another example…

Most of the time though, the show was filled with farcical lighter moments. The “George Jefferson dance” will always be one of my favorite scenes from the show…

And finally, of course, we’ll never forget one of the more memorable theme songs in television history…

So long, Sherman. Thanks for the memories.

(Any and all “movin’ on up” jokes in the comments will be met with scorn and derision.)

UPDATE: Sherman Hemsley was apparently a huge fan of bug-out prog rock who kept an LSD lab in his basement and threw decadent drug parties, according to Daevid Allen of the band Gong. Allen said in an interview that Hemsley was a fan of his band who went out of his way to track him down and meet him, eventually flying Allen and his wife to LA in the late 70s so they could party together.

Coming down the corridor from the plane, I see this black guy with a whole bunch of people running after him trying to get autographs. Anyway, we get into this stretch limousine with Sherman and immediately there’s a big joint being passed around. I say, ‘Sorry man, I don’t smoke.’ Sherman says, ‘You don’t smoke and you’re from Gong?’

Inside the front door of Sherman’s house was a sign saying, ‘Don’t answer the door because it might be the man.’ There were two Puerto Ricans that had a LSD laboratory in his basement, so they were really paranoid. They also had little crack/freebase depots on every floor. Then Sherman says, ‘Come on upstairs and I’ll show you the Flying Teapot room.’ Sherman was very sweet but was surrounded by these really crazy people.

We went up to the top floor and there was this big room with darkened windows and “Flying Teapot” is playing on a tape loop over and over again. There were also three really dumb-looking, very voluptuous Southern gals stoned and wobbling around naked. They were obviously there for the guys to play around with.

Holy sh*t George Jefferson!!!

(George Jefferson photoshop via)