Gregory Hines, the Tony award-winning tap-dancing actor who starred on Broadway as well as in many films, including The Cotton Club, has died at the age of 57, his publicist said Sunday. Hines, considered one of the top dancers of his generation, died Saturday night in Los Angeles of cancer, said Allen Eichhorn, a spokesman for Hines. The native New Yorker, who won a 1992 Tony for the musical Jelly's Last Jam, first found fame performing jazz tap with his brother Maurice, working together in the musical revue Eubie! in 1978 and in Sophisticated Ladies.
Born on February 14, 1946, in New York City, Hines had said his mother steered her sons toward tap dancing as a way to escape the ghetto. By the time he was 5, Hines was already performing, and the two brothers danced at the famed Apollo theater for two weeks when he was just 6. When he was in his teens, the brothers also performed with their father, Maurice Sr., who played drums. Later he earned Tony nominations on Broadway in Comin' Uptown, Sophisticated Ladies, and Eubie! Hines had a falling out with his older brother in the late 1960s when he wanted to perform to rock music and write his own songs. In 1973 the family act disbanded, and Hines moved to Venice Beach, Calif. But they reconciled a few years later and began performing in various Broadway shows together.
Hines landed his first film role in the 1981 Mel Brooks comedy History of the World Part I, in which he played a Roman slave as a last-minute replacement for Richard Pryor. Landing a leading role in Francis Ford Coppola's hit The Cotton Club in the mid 1980s cleared the way for more film work, including White Nights, in which he starred with Mikhail Baryshnikov, and with Billy Crystal in 1986's Running Scared. Hines also appeared with Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett in 1995's Waiting to Exhale. Hines nabbed several Emmy award nominations, most recently in 2001 for his lead role in the miniseries Bojangles. His PBS special Gregory Hines: Tap Dance in America was nominated in 1989.
On television Hines had his own sitcom in 1997, called The Gregory Hines Show, and a recurring role on Will & Grace. This spring he appeared in the television series Lost at Home.
Hines is survived by his fiance, Negrita Jayde; his daughter, Daria; his son, Zach; his stepdaughter, Jessica Koslow; and his grandson, Lucian. Hines had been married twice. He is also survived by his brother, Maurice, and father, Maurice Sr. A private funeral will be held in Los Angeles this week.