Robert Guillaume

Robert Guillaume
Los Angeles Times

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Robert Guillaume
TV: North side of the 6600 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Actor
Born Robert Williams on Nov. 30, 1927 in St. Louis, MO
Died Oct. 24, 2017 of cancer in Los Angeles, CA

Robert Guillaume, the Emmy-winning actor who won fame playing a butler on the shows "Soap" and "Benson," came from humble beginnings.

"I'm a bastard, a Catholic, the son of a prostitute, and a product of the poorest slums of St. Louis," Guillaume wrote in his memoir. After a troubling and restless youth, the actor said he became St. Louis' first black streetcar driver, pursued a singing career, changed his name, performed in musical productions in Europe and on Broadway, then came to fame on television as a snarky servant.

In 1979, he won an Emmy for supporting actor in a comedy for his role as Benson in "Soap," then won another in 1985 for lead actor in a comedy for his title role in the spinoff "Benson."

He later married Donna Brown, a Harvard-trained KCBS-TV news producer, after a life of womanizing and not being there for his children. The actor's darker past is exposed in his 2002 memoir, "Guillaume: A Life."

Many other roles, including "Sports Night," "The Lion King" and a stage production of "Phantom of the Opera," have solidifed his status as a well-respected actor. He also has done voiceover work in animation and video games, winning a 2004 Interactive Achievement Award for male character performance for the game "Half-Life 2."

Guillaume died Oct. 24, 2017, of prostate cancer at his home in Los Angeles. He was 89.

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