On this day in comedy on March 19, 1951, Actor, Dancer, Fred Rerun Berry was born in St. Louis, MO
Berry was best known as ‘Rerun’ from the ABC sitcom, What’s Happening!! (1976-1979). He was a breakout character. With his red beret and suspenders, the Rerun was immediately identifiable and this notoriety made Berry a millionaire by the time he was 29 years old.
Fred Berry had cut his show business teeth as a break dancer with The Lockers from Los Angeles. The popular troupe appeared on Saturday Night Live, Soul Train and toured internationally. This appeal led to television. Berry’s chubbiness was perfect for his cuddly character, but once What’s Happening!! went off the air Berry found he had been typecast and that getting work would be difficult. So, he embraced his Rerun alter ego and appeared in commercials and made personal appearances as Rerun.
Typecasting wasn’t Berry’s only problem. He also fought drug addiction and alcoholism. So, when the show was revived as What’s Happening Now!! Berry was glad to return. That joy was short-lived. As with What’s Happening!! Berry didn’t feel he was getting paid what he deserved, since to him people watched the shows mainly to see him. So, in both cases he stalled in contract re-negotiations and he walked. In the latter case he walked after one season.
The remainder of Berry’s life was spent trying various ways to maintain his celebrity. He was a preacher at a Baptist church. He was a public speaker. He made appearances in low budget films and music videos. He even toured with the UniverSoul circus as Rerun. The man stayed active until he passed away on October 21, 2003 in Los Angeles, California while recovering from a stroke.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
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