Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 7th 2014 Contents A7
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for OCTOBER 06TH, 2014
PETER RAY BLOOD
World-acclaimed dancer, choreographer, actor,
designer and painter Geoffrey Lamont Holder, 84,
died on Sunday in Manhattan, USA.
Holder s final request was for his life support to
be disconnected at 4 pm on Sunday, a request that
In a lengthy tribute in the New York Times yes-
terday, Charles M Mirotznik, a spokesman for the
family, said Holder died of complications of pneu-
His death is being widely reported in the inter-
Standing a statuesque six foot, six inches, Holder
rose to fame via his amazing dancing and acting abil-
ities, his full-bodied laugh and his signature deep
voice. Though Trinidadian, he was regarded as Hol-
lywood and Broadway s ultimate Caribbean man.
In New York at the time of Holder s death, his
nephew David Boothman said: "I travelled to New
York on Saturday, October 4, the anniversary of my
mom s passing."
Boothman s mother was Geoffrey Holder s sister
He said: "She was cremated the day of her birthday.
My grandfather s birthday was October 3, the date
Geoffrey had decided and was ready to go.
"He was convinced by my uncle Léo (in fact David s
cousin) to hold on till Sunday because my sister Lisa
and my daughter Lani, my granddaughter Olivia
Marjorie and I (the Trinidad family) were flying in.
"On their way to the party, with Lisa and Lani,
Besame Mucho was playing on the train. That was
our mother s favourite song, which was also played
for her send-off tour. It was also Geoffrey s
"The other magical event was when I saw him,
Geoffrey, at the hospital I sang a Haitian folk song,
Feuilles-o, which he taught me when I was about
seven, on one of his trips back home.
"Geoffrey actually sang it with me with tubes in
his mouth. My uncle Léo then joined in. It was one
of my most intimate one-on-one celebrations with
Geoffrey...my farewell to him. Geoffrey was one of
the most amazing extraordinary persons, larger than
Holder is survived by his wife Carmen de Lavallade
and their son, Léo.
Yesterday masman Peter Minshall said: "Some of
my most glorious memories of London were with
Geoffrey Holder. He passed through like a comet,
blazing, a trail of stars behind him as he was making
his grand appearance in a Bond movie.
"The man was just pure and simple, a joy to be
with in terms of the arts and his views on the world.
At a time when some of T&T s
national icons are ailing, the death
of Geoffrey Holder leaves a huge
void in the national and interna-
tional stage, where he plied his trade
for many years.
These were the words of Prime
Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as
she shared condolences following
Holder s death on Sunday.
In a news release, Persad-Bissessar
said T&T and the world had lost a
true friend in Geoffrey Lamont Hold-
er, Tony-winning actor, dancer, artist,
book author, music composer, and
"Death is expected, but when it
comes, it brings sadness and deep
reflection. Geoffrey Holder was one
of a kind, who blazed the trail for
more than 60 years."
She said Holder was a person who
T&T must be proud.
"It is said that he blazed the trail
and opened many doors for Trinidad
and Tobago nationals. He also assisted
our Caribbean neighbours."
Holder was known to millions as
Baron Samedi in the James Bond
movie, Live and Let Die.
According to Persad-Bissessar he
would be best remembered to many
as the cackling Voodoo villain who
dogged Roger Moore s footsteps in
his first outing as secret agent, James
PM shares condolences
What a towering Caribbean man Geoffrey Holder
was and I mean that literally."
Carla Foderingham, CEO of the T&T Film Com-
pany, expressed sadness over Holder s passing.
She said: "His passing is a tremendous loss to the
creative industries but more specifically the diaspora
communities. He was so huge.
"The documentary Carmen and Geoffrey bears
evidence of the work he has done and the contribution
"This documentary spoke of his amazing start and
won the Best Film Award in the 2009 T&T Film Fes-
"It also gave the home audience a better under-
standing of the extensive body of work and contri-
bution Geoffrey Holder made to dance and film. On
behalf of the local movie fraternity I extend condo-
lences to his family."
Holder was an inspiration to many younger per-
formers. One of those he inspired is London-based
Trinidadian Nolan Frederick, an actor who has been
in several West End productions including La Cage
Aux Folles, Rent, Miss Saigon and Pajama Game.
Frederick s family and the Holders were neighbours
"I m devastated," Frederick said on social networking
"If it wasn t for him talking my
grandmother into letting me study
dance and drama, I probably wouldn t
have the career I have today.
"He was an inspiration always and
always wanted to know how I was
doing, every show I did he was so
proud. A true trailblazer is gone but
will never be forgotten," he added.
Lisa Wickham, president/CEO of
Imagine Media International Ltd, said:
"I was really shocked when I got the
news because Geoffrey Holder had such
an eternal presence about him.
"I didn t realise that he was that ill.
I have always announced outside of
Trinidad that he was from Trinidad.
He did a tremendous amount of work
in the movie industry, breaking into
Hollywood at such an early time when
black faces were not present.
"Along with Sir Trevor McDonald,
he was one of our prominent interna-
tional treasures in terms of establishing
a T&T presence.
"I remember his imposing voice as
the crab in Little Mermaid, as well as
his roles in Dr Doolittle and Annie and
"I even heard his voice on an ad just
this weekend on American TV. We are
beholden to Geoffrey Holder, primarily
because of the international presence
he established and the level of excellence
he maintained. I personally admired
See Page A29 for Leo Holder's
description of his father's last moments.
a trailblazer, dies
A LIFE IN THE ARTS
A son of Port-of-Spain,
Geoffrey Holder attended
Queen's Royal College before
migrating to the United States.
He married dancer Carmen de
Lavallade and they had one son,
Holder turned US theatre on
its head when he directed The
Wiz, an all-black version of The
Wizard of Oz, on Broadway and
at the Metropolitan Opera. This
production won him Tony
Awards in 1975 for costume
design and music direction.
America got familiar with
Holder's impressive bass voice
as he did a slew of television
Also an accomplished dancer,
Holder was taught the art by his
older brother, the artist, dancer
and musician Boscoe.
He assumed the reins of his
brother's Holder's Dancing
Company, subsequently taking it
to New York City in 1954, invited
by the choreographer Agnes de
Mille, who had seen the troupe
perform two years before in St
Thomas, in the Virgin Islands.
Arriving in New York at a time
when all-black Broadway
productions were peaking in
popularity, Holder taught classes
at the Katherine Dunham School
and was a principal dancer for
the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in
1955 and 1956.
He continued to dance and
direct the Holder dance company
until 1960, when it disbanded. In
the meantime, at a dance recital,
he caught the attention of the
producer Arnold Saint-Subber,
who was putting together a
show with a Caribbean theme.
Holder made his Broadway
debut on December 30, 1954, as
a featured dancer in the House
of Flowers, a haunting, perfumed
evocation of West Indian
bordello life, with music by
Harold Arlen and a book by Arlen
and Truman Capote, based on
his novella of the same name.
Directed by Peter Brook at the
Alvin Theatre, it starred Diahann
Carroll and Pearl Bailey.
The cinematic performance
Caribbean people will best
remember Holder by was his
role as Baron Samedi, the top-
hatted guardian of the cemetery
and the spirit of death, sex and
resurrection in Haitian Voodoo
culture, in the 1973 James Bond
film Live and Let Die.
Holder's voodoo villain in this
movie seemed to typecast his
sporadic film career. With his
striking looks and West Indian-
inflected voice, producers tended
to cast him in roles deemed
exotic. In Doctor Dolittle (1967),
he was a giant native who ruled
a floating island as William
Shakespeare (the Tenth).
In Woody Allen's Everything
You Always Wanted to Know
About Sex but Were Afraid to
Ask (1972), he played a sorcerer.
In Annie (1982), he was the
Indian servant Punjab. An
exception was the 1992
romantic comedy Boomerang, in
which he played a randy director
of commercials working for
Eddie Murphy's playboy
In 1957, Holder landed a
notable acting role, playing the
hapless servant Lucky in an all-
black Broadway revival of
Samuel Beckett's Waiting for
Godot, directed by Herbert
The show, just seven months
after the play's original
Broadway production, closed
after only six performances
because of a union dispute but
the role, with its rambling,
signature 700-word monologue,
lifted Holder's acting career.
Geoffrey Holder who died on
Sunday from complications of
pneumonia. PHOTO COURTESY
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