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Carter, Nell (1948-2003)  
 
page: 1  2  

In 1982, Carter married lumber executive George Krynicki, and converted to Judaism. During the couple's ten-year marriage, Carter, who had been unable to have children after the birth of her daughter during her teens, adopted two infant sons, born within months of each other, Joshua (December 1989) and Daniel (February 1990).

In 1992, she divorced Krynicki and married music producer Roger Larocque, whom she divorced after only a few months.

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During the mid-1990s, Carter became involved with a woman named Ann Kaser, referred to only rarely in public as Carter's "friend and business partner." Soon Kaser and Carter and Carter's two young sons were sharing a home in Beverly Hills, California.

Though she presented a powerfully upbeat persona in her professional life, Carter had recurring health and emotional problems. During the 1980s she attempted suicide and fought alcohol and cocaine addictions. She suffered from chronic diabetes and in 1992 she underwent surgery to repair brain aneurysms.

In 1989, she was devastated when one of her brothers, Dr. Bernard Taylor, whom she described as "the best friend I ever had," died of AIDS. His death was to inspire Carter to AIDS activism in the 1990s, working especially with Project Angel Food, a Los Angeles-based organization that delivered food to people living with AIDS, and with Project Inform, a community-based educational and lobbying group.

For all her difficulties, which also included bankruptcies in 1995 and 2002, Carter continued her dynamic career in the 1990s with a role on the ABC sitcom Hangin' with Mr. Cooper from 1992 through 1997, and frequently guest-starring on television series such as Ally McBeal and Reba and made-for-television movies.

In 1991, she starred in a Los Angeles revival of Jerry Herman's Hello Dolly! with an African American cast.

In the 1990s, Carter also provided voices for a number of characters in animated television and film projects, including Bruce W. Smith's Bebe's Kids (1992).

She also had roles in several theatrical films, most notably Charles Matthau's film of Truman Capote's The Grass Harp (1995) and Ismail Merchant's The Proprietor (1996).

In 1997, Carter returned to Broadway to play the hard-hearted Mrs. Hannigan in the twentieth-anniversary revival of the Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin, Thomas Meehan musical Annie. Carter became upset when she learned that promotional material for the show featured images of a white woman in her role. The producers denied that there was any racism involved in the advertising, saying that they used the pictures of actress Marcia Lewis because they had been shot before Carter had committed to the role and they could not afford to discard them.

During her year-long stint on Annie, she was plagued by health problems and one night collapsed on stage from an insulin insufficiency.

In 1999, Carter joined with the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus to present a memorable concert called "Misbehavin'!" She conceived of the concert as a means of helping herself come to terms with the loss of her brother some ten years previously.

The concert consisted of music that her brother particularly enjoyed. "I wanted to sing with [the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus]," she said, "because I think they are wonderful." She added that her brother would have loved "being up there with the Chorus, either playing piano or conducting."

When she authorized the Chorus to release a cd of the concert, she declined any royalties and insisted that all proceeds go to the Chorus's Financial Assistance Network (F.A.N. Club), which offers grants or no-interest loans to chorus members who otherwise would not be able to participate in chorus activities.

In 2002, Carter was cast in a revival of the musical Raisin (music by Judd Woldin and Robert Brittan; book by Robert Nemiroff and Charlotte Zaltzberg), based on the Lorraine Hansberry play, Raisin in the Sun. Carter was to be Mama Lena, the matriarch of an African American family struggling to survive in 1950s Chicago, a role she seemed born to play.

Sadly, however, on January 23, 2003, two weeks before opening night, Nell Carter's thirteen-year-old son Joshua found her dead at their home in Beverly Hills, California, apparently from heart problems related to her ongoing diabetes.

Those who had not known that Carter was a lesbian were surprised to learn that her heir and the custodial parent of her two sons was her partner and friend, Ann Kaser.

Tina Gianoulis

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arts >> Overview:  American Television, Situation Comedies

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arts >> Overview:  Blues Music

Blues music as it flourished in the 1920s was women's music, and it often featured sexually-inflected lyrics performed by women who were openly bisexual or lesbian.

arts >> Overview:  Cabarets and Revues

Historically, cabarets and revues have been much more likely to mention or imply same-sex desire than the "legitimate" theater; and same-sex desire has been less frequently condemned in cabarets and revues than in mainstream plays.

arts >> Overview:  Choruses and Bands

Since they were first established in the 1970s, lesbian and gay musical organizations have grown remarkably in number, size, and sophistication.

arts >> Overview:  Film

Since cinema began, Hollywood has been fascinated with finding ways of representing homosexuality.

arts >> Overview:  Film Actors: Lesbian

Lesbian actresses have played a significant role in Hollywood, but their contributions have rarely been recognized or spoken of openly; the "lavender marriage" is by no means a relic of the past.

literature >> Overview:  The Harlem Renaissance

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arts >> Overview:  Music: Popular

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons have had tremendous influence on popular music, though some musical genres have been more receptive to a homosexual presence than others.

arts >> Overview:  Musical Theater and Film

The musical has been a significant aspect of American gay male culture, manifesting itself both in diva worship and, more recently, in the presentation of openly gay characters and shows written by gay writers primarily for gay audiences.

arts >> Overview:  Stage Actors and Actresses

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arts >> Bennett, Michael

Bisexual choreographer and director Michael Bennett, winner of eight Tony Awards, developed a fluid, cinematic style of choreography and staging.

literature >> Hansberry, Lorraine

As a part of her fight for social justice, playwright and political activist Lorraine Hansberry supported the emerging American lesbian liberation movement.

arts >> Herman, Jerry

A proponent of the "diva musical," Broadway composer and lyricist Jerry Herman made homosexuality the undisguised subject of La Cage aux Folles but he did so just as gay culture lost its need of a diva to voice its concerns.


    Bibliography
   

Dulin, Dann. "Gimme A Break—Not! (Interview with Nell Carter): Diva Nell Carter Talks with A&U's Dann Dulin about the Loss of Her Brother and Raises Hell about AIDS." A&U: America's AIDS Magazine (September 2001): http://www.danndulin.com/nellcarter.html

Fonseca, Nicholas. "Larger Than Life: Nell Carter, 1948-2003." Entertainment Weekly (February 7, 2003): 15.

Gliatto, Tom, with William Keck, Carrie Bell, and Nancy Wilstach. "Hurricane Carter: If Life Gave Her the Blues, Nell Carter Put on a Brave Face—And a Dazzling Show." People Weekly (February 10, 2003): 69-70.

Holden, Stephen. "Nell Carter Is Dead at 54; Star of 'Ain't Misbehavin'.'" New York Times (January 24, 2003): http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/24/arts/nell-carter-is-dead-at-54-star-of-ain-t-misbehavin.html

Morris, Chris. "Singer/Actress Carter, 54, Dies." Billboard (February 8, 2003): 52.

"Nell Carter." Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0141846/

"Stage, Television Star Nell Carter Dies at 54." Jet (February 10, 2003): 48.

Wilson, Claire M. "Nell Carter." Encyclopedia of Alabama ( May 26, 2009): http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-2171

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Gianoulis, Tina  
    Entry Title: Carter, Nell  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2011  
    Date Last Updated January 7, 2012  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/carter_nell.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2011 glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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