Alaina Reed Hall dies at 63; actress was Olivia Robinson on ‘Sesame Street’
Alaina Reed Hall, a singer and actress who played Olivia Robinson on “Sesame Street” for a dozen years beginning in the mid-1970s and later played Rose Holloway on the situation comedy “227,” has died. She was 63.
Reed Hall, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, died Thursday at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, said her husband, Tamim Amini.
One of the original cast members of the 1974 off-Broadway production of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road,” Reed Hall joined “Sesame Street” in 1976 and played Olivia -- a professional photographer and sister to the character Gordon -- until 1988.
In a 2004 interview with the Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun, Reed Hall described “Sesame Street” as “the best job I ever had.”
When she heard fans calling out to her as she rode in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, she said, “It dawned on me. I have a big responsibility. I was in their house every day.”
On “227,” the 1985-90 NBC sitcom, she played the apartment landlady and best friend to star Marla Gibbs’ Mary Jenkins character.
In the show’s final season, Reed Hall’s character falls in love with Warren Merriwether, played by Kevin Peter Hall, and the two characters wed. In real life, the two actors were already married.
“It was a wonderful segment because we had [guest star] Luther Vandross, who was also a friend of Alaina’s, sing; and we had the same minister who performed the actual wedding,” Gibbs told The Times on Monday.
Gibbs, who had attended the couple’s real wedding, first met Reed Hall when she auditioned for the TV series.
“She was very good in the role, and some episodes were written around her,” said Gibbs, adding that Reed Hall “was a wonderful singer. As a matter of fact, she and I did a nightclub act together at my club, Marla’s Memory Lane,” while doing the series.
“She worked on Broadway, she did stuff in New York; she was a very well-known singer in New York for a while before she did the show,” Gibbs said. “After we finished the show, she did quite a few commercials, so I was calling her the ‘Commercial Queen.’
“She was just a wonderful friend. She will be sorely missed; she fought the good fight.”
Born Bernice Reed in Springfield, Ohio, on Nov. 10, 1946, she appeared in stage productions of “Hair,” “Chicago” and “Eubie.”
She also made guest appearances on TV series such as including “ER,” “NYPD Blue,” “Friends” and “Ally McBeal,” and appeared in a number of films, including “Death Becomes Her,” “Cruel Intentions” and “I’m Through With White Girls (The Inevitable Undoing of Jay Brooks).”
Reed Hall’s first marriage ended in divorce. Her marriage to the 7-foot-2 Hall, who played the Bigfoot character Harry in the film and television series “Harry and the Hendersons,” ended with his death in 1991. Reed Hall married Amini in 2008.
A list of surviving family members was not provided.
No funeral service will be held. A celebration of Reed Hall’s life is being planned for early next year.
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