Clerow “Flip” Wilson was born on December 8, 1933, in Jersey City, New Jersey. While serving in the Air Force, he earned the nickname “Flip” in reference to his uniquely flippant sense of humor. His particular slant on the world is clearly demonstrated and appreciated in his famous comedy routine on the subject of Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the New World. In the falsetto voice reminiscent of his hilarious “Geraldine,” he pretends to be an Indian girl who sees Columbus land and tells him as he sets foot in the New World that he should “turn around and go home because we don’t want to be discovered!” His talent was soon recognized by the powers-that-be and he got his own television show, which he hosted from 1970-1974. “The Flip Wilson Show” featured many of the big names of the day, including Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Ed Sullivan and Joe Nemath, just to name a few. As one of the few black comedians to host a network television program, Wilson was an influential figure of the 1970s.
His characterizations were unique and hilarious: Geraldine (Wilson in drag with falsetto voice and wig) and the stereotype of the African-American pastor, Reverend Leroy. He appeared on many comedy variety shows during the 1970s and 1980s. From 1985 to 1986, he starred in the sitcom, “Charlie and Co.” Wilson was married twice and fathered four children. He got custody of them all in 1979 and afterwards, devoted most of his time to them. He claimed publicly that one of the homes he owned was haunted by its former owner (actor Laurence Harvey).
Flip Wilson left the world too soon, dying of liver cancer at the age of 65 on November 25, 1998, in Malibu, California. He left a comedic legacy that is unequalled.
Long live your humor and your memory, Flip Wilson! We miss you!