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Della Reese Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (3) | Trivia (88) | Personal Quotes (32)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 6 July 1931Detroit, Michigan, USA
Birth NameDelloreese Patricia Early
Height 5' 2" (1.57 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Della began singing in her hometown of Detroit when she was 6 years old. As a teenager, she toured with gospel great Mahalia Jackson and, at the age of 18, she formed the Meditation Singers and became the first performer to take gospel music to the casinos of Las Vegas. She was a vocalist with the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra and began making her own records. She was nominated for a Grammy Award as Best Female Soloist in Gospel music in 1987. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, producer Franklin Lett.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Stacey Sanders<tsanders@comsource.net

Spouse (3)

Franklin Lett (12 January 1983 - present) (3 children)
Leroy Gray (28 December 1959 - 1961) (divorced)
Vermont Taliaferro (1 July 1951 - 1958) (divorced)

Trade Mark (3)

Her sly smile
Her self-effacing humor
Deep, husky voice

Trivia (88)

Mother of Deloreese, James, Franklin, and Dominique.
Is an ordained minister. She officiated at the wedding of Touched by an Angel (1994) co-star Roma Downey. She is the godmother of Downey's daughter, Reilly Marie.
Suffered a stroke on the set of The Tonight Show (1962). [3 October 1980].
Best known by the public for her starring role as Tess on Touched by an Angel (1994).
Earned $50,000 an episode--upped from $40,000--for Touched by an Angel (1994) in 1997.
Was good friends with Roma Downey before Touched by an Angel (1994) and remained so after the show was canceled.
Her mother, Nellie, had children many years before young Delloreese was born, none of them lived with her, afterwards.
As a young girl of the 1940s, she and her mother would go to the movies to watch: Joan Crawford, Lena Horne and Bette Davis, portraying glamorous lives on-screen.
Her father, Richard Early, died in 1959.
She was the youngest (age 22) performer to have the highest singing voice of anyone in jazz music, next to Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae and Sarah Vaughan.
She has 7 hobbies: singing, watching movies, spending time with her family, reading the Bible, swimming, cooking and playing games.
In 1969 she walked into a plate-glass door and underwent surgery for a severe laceration. She was swimming, and as she got out of the pool she tried to avoid a large piece of glass and fell through a plate-glass door.
Television personality Ed Sullivan helped her get her bookings in Las Vegas, which was rare for an African-American singer, back in the early 1950s.
Had dropped and shortened her name from Early to Reese knowing it was too big for one club's marquee.
Met Vermont Taliaferro in church for years until she married him in 1951, but was divorced in 1953.
In 1953 she signed a singing contract with Jubilee Records, her first.
In 1944, Mahalia Jackson was at her church, and was impressed with Della's voice.
Gospel legend Mahalia Jackson was so impressed with her singing that she invited her on a Southern Tour, Della was only 13.
Her mother, Nellie, died in 1949, of a cerebral hemorrhage.
Had feuded with her father, after her mother's passing, which led to moving out of the house, at age 18.
Graduated from Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan, in 1947, at only 15 yrs. old. She became the first in her family to graduate early.
In 2007 she officiated for the second time--she is an ordained minister--at a wedding of her ex-Touched by an Angel (1994) co-star Roma Downey's, in which she married reality television show producer Mark Burnett in 2007.
Composed the Touched by an Angel (1994) theme song, "Walk With You".
Is one of the 2 actresses to appear in all the episodes of Touched by an Angel (1994), with the exception of 2, during the final season.
Adoptive daughter, Deloreese Daniels Owens, died on March 14, 2002.
Is an ordained minister at the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church in Los Angeles, California.
Had a recording contract with RCA Records in 1957.
Has type 2 diabetes.
Had traveled with Mahalia Jackson, for 3 summers, and went on tour with her.
On one of the tapings of The Royal Family (1991), she found out about one of Redd Foxx's rituals he had done, years after he was doing Sanford and Son (1972), assuming all of this was a joke. In fact, she actually heard it, for real, Foxx collapsed on the set and had a heart attack, where he was taken to a hospital and died in 1991. She attended his funeral later in the year.
As a teenager, she was often chosen as a featured singer on radio.
Her parents were, Richard Early, who was a steel worker, ladies' man and a gambler and Nellie Mitchelle Early, a Cherokee cook.
She formed a choir in Detroit called The Meditation Singers.
She intended to major in Psychiatry at Wayne State University, but a personal setback ended her plans.
Was the lead singer for the Erskine Hawkins Band.
Had purchased a home in Beverly Hills, California, in 1969.
Began singing at age 6.
Attended the same high school as future actress Ellen Burstyn, also known as: Edna Rae Gillooly.
Future talk show host and friend Larry King said he enjoyed listening to her music, as a young adult.
Before she was a successful actress, she did everything from a very young age from directing a young people's choir in church, to being a truck driver, to being a dental receptionist, to that of a switchboard girl.
Was honored by Oprah Winfrey at her Legends Ball ceremony along with 25 other African-American women, in 2005.
Is a longtime, good friend with Kristoff St. John. They both worked together on The Young and the Restless (1973).
Is the first African-American actress to host a talk show long before Oprah Winfrey.
Her idols when she was young were: Jane Wyman, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday.
Didn't start acting until she was 36.
Received a Grammy nomination for her album 'Della' in 1960.
She and the rest of Foxx's The Royal Family (1991) cast paid a visit to see Redd Foxx in the hospital, just hours before he died.
She was the producers' first choice for the secondary lead role of Tess on Touched by an Angel (1994), she was reluctant but went ahead and auditioned.
Victor Taliaferro assaulted her when they were married and she was hospitalized. This situation led her to divorce him.
The death of her mother along with a lack of money had caused her to drop out of college, because her father wouldn't allow her to finish.
Before she was a successful actress, she used to work at a nightclub with all the unfamiliar and legendary singers of the 1950s in New York City.
Through Erskine Hawkins, she also toured with Nat 'King' Cole.
While working at the LaFlame Showbar in Detroit, Michigan, comedian Soupy Sales gave her a shot at becoming a star on television.
Appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show (1948), 18 times.
Was also friends with Nat 'King' Cole's family.
Had always wanted to be a singer.
A lyric-soprano.
Had appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962), 33 times.
Was a fan of The Ed Sullivan Show (1948), The Jackie Gleason Show (1952) and Your Show of Shows (1950).
Met Redd Foxx at a nightclub in Chicago, where they became best friends for 40 years.
Was a spokesperson for Campbell Soup Products in 1980.
Met Merv Griffin when she was working in New York City doing a radio show. Basically, Helen Basiley wrote a song where Griffin began singing the weather report to this groove as did Reese herself, and was hired to co-host alongside him on his talk show in the 1960s.
Her childhood friend, Marla Gibbs attended her 80th birthday party on 19 August 2011.
Longtime friend of the late Rosa Parks, who attended her funeral on 2 November 2005. Just before her death, Parks guest-starred with her on Touched by an Angel (1994).
As of 2011, she was promoted from ordained minister to senior minister and founder of the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church, in Los Angeles, California.
Acting mentor and friends of Roma Downey.
Her song, 'Don't You Know?,' reached the #2 spot on the Pop Charts and topping the R&B charts in 1959, which were then called the 'Hot R&B Sides,' that year.
Childhood friend of Marla Gibbs.
Was a fan of The Jackie Gleason Show (1952) and The Ed Sullivan Show (1948).
Worked with longtime friend, Marla Gibbs, on episodes of both series: 227 (1985) and Touched by an Angel (1994).
Her popular song, 'Don't You Know?,' was adapted from Puccini's music for La Bohème, specifically, the aria Musetta's Waltz.
Of Cherokee ancestry.
Her eldest sister was age 20 when Della was born.
Was a fan of both shows: The Jackie Gleason Show (1952) and The Ed Sullivan Show (1948).
Her father was her mother's primary caregiver, while Della was in college.
Began her show Touched by an Angel (1994) at age 63.
A coupon collector from every Detroit church, Reese won a coupon-clipping contest sponsored by the local black paper, The Michigan Chronicle.
Her favorite subject in high school was music.
Began acting at an early age.
Created the character of Tess in Touched by an Angel (1994).
Was born in and grew up in the Black Bottom neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan.
Future Motown singer Martha Reeves sites Reese as a major influence, and said she named her group The Vandellas after Van Dyke Street in Detroit and Della Reese.
Before she was a successful actress, she became the director of the young's people's church choir.
Lived in West Chester, New York, from 1962 to 1969.
Ed Sullivan was a favorite of hers.
Became a surrogate mother to Dr. James Barger, after he lost his own mother, in 1969.
Met Nipsey Russell at one of the clubs in New York City, where the two became good friends, until Russell's death in 2005.

Personal Quotes (32)

I was black when they hired me. They knew how old I was when they hired me.
The Lord has planned my life. I'm not a great planner but I have been open to what God has in store for me, and it's worked.
[on being the first black woman to host a talk show of the 1960s, long before Oprah Winfrey] I've had so many different chapters in my career, so many different audiences, but it always comes back to me talking to God.
[Of her parents] He was the toastmaster in our neighborhood. My father was a man who knew how to walk the walk and talk the talk. My mother was the kind of woman who when she looked you in the eyes, you stood at attention.
[In 1998] I had done what I set out to do: I had the money, the gowns, the jewelry and I was happy to have them, but they did not make me happy. My daughter filled that void: she saved my life.
[on being a talk show hostess] I was tired of the road, and doing TV meant I could stay home. It was very obvious to me I was the first black woman with her own show when one executive told me they had a hard time finding sponsors because my gums were blue.
[Of Ed Sullivan] Ed helped a lot of people.
[on how she "ticked off" Duke Ellington and Carmen McRae] We were all just trying to make a living. Nobody had any attitude. We were all "getting up", as we used to say.
[on why she didn't want to do another TV series] But it always comes down to me in my bed talking to God, and he said, "Do this for me for 10 years and you can retire". Since I am a devout coward, I cannot go against the will of the Lord.
[In 2003] We were taping Touched by an Angel (1994), and I was coming down the stairs of my house in Salt Lake City, and it felt like someone split my head in half and I blacked out. I don't know how long I was there but, when I came to, I didn't feel anything so I just went on to work.
[on being a spokesperson] It's such a simple thing. You find people who need help, and you find people who can give help, and you put the two together. Just simply people helping people.
I'm hoping that there is a correlation between all the work that I do. Touched by an Angel (1994) gave me a chance to speak on the things that I espouse, and "Faith in Action" also gives me a chance to do that".
[on being cast in Touched by an Angel (1994)] They called [Roma Downey] and me in to meet Martha Williamson. The conversation is going really nice, and Martha stands up and tells me, "It's not that I don't respect you, but I go to church and I'm a Christian and this show will have God in it".
[In 1996] I don't ever remember not singing. My agent said Touched by an Angel (1994) probably wouldn't go to series, but I'd get a lot of money to make the pilot. I knew it wouldn't work because the two angels didn't like each other. But how could that be? How could angels have hate? I was always saying something smart to Roma Downey's character and vice-versa. CBS spent $2 million on it, and you'll never see it. The only thing they liked was the rapport between Roma and me.
I use February 14 as the day to remember all the men in my life. Not just boyfriends, but business associates too. I show them I care by sending floral arrangements. [Why are they only sent to women? Men enjoy flowers too!] My beau gets gardenias and my colleagues get plants. When they receive them, they know I really do care.
[on why she was offered substantially less than the 100% raise that co-star Roma Downey got in 1997] It was 12-1/2% they offered me. But for year number one and number two and number three, whatever Roma received, I received equal parts. This year, I did not.
[In 1997] It's tough to be an angel in Hollywood when you're underpaid.
[In 2001] But what people must realize is that time is of the essence. You must know the warning signs of a stroke, and you must seek emergency assistance immediately.
[on why she went to three different hospitals before her condition was properly diagnosed] At first doctors were looking in everywhere but the right place. I suppose because I'm an actress and entertainer, they initially presumed I was suffering from some sort of alcohol or drug problem. That was more than insulting, it was a potentially fatal misperception.
[Of her 1980 stroke] I was in the middle of the song when my body began to twitch uncontrollably. Before I knew it, I fell to my knees in front of everyone and was suddenly unconscious.
[In 1993] I never intended to become a minister, I wanted to teach these principles. But I had so many requests for people wanting me to officiate weddings and funerals and such that I finally asked God and he told me to do it.
[Of Roma Downey] Roma and I have only grown closer and more fond of each other as time has gone on . . . Roma Downey is an angel in my life. It is no accident that our paths have crossed.
[Of her struggle in show business] We had no rights or privileges, I was told that there was no need to go to school, because we'd never have jobs that we'd need schooling for. I didn't really like that idea.
Anything is possible with God. People told me, there are just some things you can't do. But I saw no reason why I couldn't have everything I wanted, and frankly, the reasons they gave about why I couldn't have things didn't impress me.
[In 2005] Diabetes doesn't necessarily hurt, you see. You wake up and say, "I'm not in pain, I won't take this [medicine] today".
[on the cancellation of Touched by an Angel (1994)] This is a business of ratings. When the show was on Sunday, we were a program that people came home and extended their Sunday services with. People are out on Saturday nights. It changed our audience base.
[About her stroke, when Doc Severinsen and Richard Dawson both rescued her, while the doctor appeared onstage from the audience] I never lost consciousness, but I wasn't in control. Lord, help me. God, help me.
What was so upsetting was I didn't really know anything about diabetes except that Ella Fitzgerald lost her legs and later died from it. So I all knew was you lost your limbs and you died from it. I was scared silly.
[When questioned if she had any recollections] No, my life doesn't seem remarkable to me. I assume once I have prayed, the answer is on its way.
[In 2009] But I was doing a talk show. I love to say this. I was before [Oprah Winfrey].
[In 2010] If somebody hits you upside your head long enough, enough times, they'll tell you they will hit you, you believe it. Why couldn't you believe it? The last lick you had almost killed you, so you see, why would you, not believe that they would do that?
[on her popularity while playing the 60-something "Tess" on Touched by an Angel (1994)]: But I know we need a show like this in our lives because people want to hear that God loves them. I believe she [co-star Roma Downey] and I were together in some other life, but if I say that, people look at me strange.

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