Ted Ross

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Ted Ross
Ted Ross in the Sirota's Court cast 1976 (cropped).jpg
Ross in 1976
Theodore Ross Roberts

(1934-06-30)June 30, 1934
DiedSeptember 3, 2002(2002-09-03) (aged 68)
Years active1968–2002
Ross in the cast of Sirota's Court. Sirota's Court cast 1976.jpg
Ross in the cast of Sirota's Court .

Theodore Ross Roberts (June 30, 1934 – September 3, 2002) was an American actor who was probably best known for his role as the Lion in The Wiz , an all-African American reinterpretation of The Wizard of Oz. He won a Tony Award for the original 1975 Broadway production and went on to recreate the role in the 1978 film version which also starred Diana Ross (no relation), Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, Nipsey Russell, and Lena Horne. Ross went on to appear in many films from including the role of Bitterman in the classic Arthur and on the television sitcoms Benson , The Jeffersons , What's Happening Now!! , The Cosby Show and its spin-off A Different World . His final role was in the 1991 movie The Fisher King .



Ross was born in Zanesville, Ohio, but his mother, Elizabeth Russell, a nightclub singer in the 1920s and 1930s, moved the family to Dayton when young Ross was seven. He loved the clubs on West Fifth Street—Dayton's answer to Harlem in the first half of the 20th century. While in junior high, Ross, who was big for his age, would dress up and strut into the Owl Club and The Palace Theater's Midnight Rambles to see great acts such as Duke Ellington.

His nightclub exploits as a teenager were not very popular at home. He dropped out of Roosevelt High in 1950 and enlisted in the United States Air Force. Two years later at age eighteen, Ross entered an amateur night contest at the Top Hat bar on Germantown Street. Home on furlough, he sang a cover of Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow", won $5 that night and found his calling. After leaving the military, Ross worked his way from Great Falls, Montana, to a strip bar in Los Angeles as a singer and MC. There he landed his first stage role in Oscar Brown Jr.'s "Bigtime Buck White".

The musical began as a workshop in Watts and moved to New York City in 1968. He starred in The Wiz and other Broadway productions, such as Purlie , Ain't Misbehavin, and Raisin in the Sun . His first film was The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings , a baseball movie starring James Earl Jones and Richard Pryor. Films that followed included Ragtime , Amityville II , Police Academy , Stealing Home , and The Fisher King. One of the roles he is most fondly remembered for is that of Bitterman, Arthur Bach's long suffering chauffeur in the 1981 Dudley Moore hit, Arthur . [1] Ross was a swinger. According to Rialto Report interview with adult actor Michael Lawrence, Ross "...was a big swinger and used to throw a lot of orgies at his house." [2]

In 1990, Ross played Troy Maxson in a Cincinnati production of August Wilson's Fences. It was the first time his family saw him perform on stage since the contest in 1952. He came home to Dayton, Ohio for good in 1997 and opened Your Place, a jazz club on West Third Street. Occasionally, Ross sat in and sang in his club, and performed as part of the Dayton Art Institute's Just Jazz series. [3]

Death and honours

Ross was honored by Dayton's Wayman Chapel AME Church, the Miami Valley Fisk University Alumni Club and by WROU-FM as a Black History Month Achiever. He suffered a stroke in 1998, and died from complications four years later at Good Samaritan Hospital on September 3, 2002, aged 68. [4]

Broadway and stage


1976 The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings Sallison 'Sallie' Potter, Owner of Ebony Aces
1977 Minstrel Man Charlie Bates, Minstrel Singer
1978 The Wiz Lion / Fleetwood Coupe de Ville
1981 Arthur Bitterman
1981 Ragtime Black Lawyer
1982 Fighting Back Commissioner
1982 Amityville II: The Possession Mr. Booth, the Lawyer
1984 Police Academy Captain Reed
1988 Arthur 2: On the Rocks Bitterman
1988 Stealing Home Bud Scott
1991 The Fisher King Limo Bum(final film role)

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  1. Ted Ross at IMDb
  2. West, Ashley (August 20, 2020). "Joseph Stryker: Live Sex… in Show World, Avon Theaters, Melody Burlesk, and Adult Films". Rialto Report.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. "Ted Ross, Actor born". African American Registry. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  4. "Tony Award Winner Ted Ross Dies". Edwardsville Intelligencer . Dayton, Ohio: AP. September 3, 2002. Retrieved October 7, 2021.