Black, Jewish, lesbian, Republican Bush supporter...Gimme a Break! star Nell Carter fit a lot into her 4'11" frame. Her NYT obit quotes her wanting to be ''Judy Garland without the tragedy.'' She must have meant on stage, where she exuded a sunny, sassy, saucy persona in musicals like Ain't Misbehavin, for which she won a Tony and later an Emmy. Cast as Effie in the original production of Dreamgirls, she quit in preproduction to take a role on the soap opera Ryan's Hope, leaving all the accolades for Jennifer Holliday. Two months before that musical opened, Carter's famous sitcom debuted and lasted six seasons of Carter playing housekeeper and de facto mother to white family of a widower police chief. Stephen Holden wrote it "revived the archetype of the mammy," and Carter had a fractious relationship with the show's producers who were eventually replaced. In the final season, the cast included a young Rosie O'Donnell, who was still closeted, and apparently things were quite frosty on set between the the comediennes. In the 1990s Carter was cast as Miss Hannigan in the revival of Annie and publicly suggested it was racism that caused the producers to use a television commercial featuring a white actress in that role. In her private life, her struggles were vast. At sixteen she was raped and became pregnant, giving birth to her daughter Tracy. Later when she wanted to conceive, she had three miscarriages. Trying to adopt, she was twice thwarted at the very end of the process, once by a young woman who changed her mind and wanted to keep the baby, once by seeming amateur extortionists. She succeeded in adopting two boys. She battled a cocaine addiction. In the early 80s, she attempted suicide. In the late 80s, her brother died of aids. In 1992, she divorced her husband, had two aneurysms, and married her second husband, whom she divorced the next year. In 1995 and in 2002 she declared bankruptcy. She died of heart disease, complicated by diabetes, in 2003, at 54. She is survived by her partner Ann Kaser, who became guardian to Carter's children.
Leslie Cheung was a pop superstar, a movie idol, and he had a loving boyfriend named Hok-Tak Tong, so his millions of fans were stunned on April 1, 2003 to learn he had jumped off a twenty-fourth floor balcony of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong. His suicide dominated the headlines of Asian tabloids for more than a month, searching every aspect of his life for clues. The youngest of ten children of a Kowloon tailor, he was educated in England and returned to Hong Kong to sing. He released more than twenty-five very successful albums and his hit “Monica” was named Song of the Century. Two years after his death, China Central Television named him The Most Favorite Actor In 100 Years of Chinese Cinema for his work with directors John Woo, Kaige Chen, and Wong Kar-Wai, among others. Unlike many closeted actors in America, Cheung enthusiastically played gay characters, notably in two of his most famous films, Farewell, My Concubine and Happy Together. He came out in 1997 and his career thrived. His albums from that year on were extremely popular, as were his concerts, and many of his movies. He tried to kill himself in 2002 and succeeded the next year, when he was forty-six. His suicide note read,