Singer, comedian, and actor Johnny Brown has died at the age of 84. Brown was best known for his role as building manager Nathan Bookman on the 1970s sitcom Good Times. His daughter, actress Sharon Catherine Brown, announced his death on her Instagram, saying, “Our family is devastated. Devastated. Devastated. Beyond heartbroken. Barely able to breathe.” The details and causes of Brown’s death have not been disclosed, and the family is asking for privacy. He is one of many notable film and TV stars who have died in the past week, including Sally Kellerman (M*A*S*H) and Tim Considine (My Three Suns).
The Hollywood Reporter says that Brown recorded and performed with saxophonist Sam “The Man” Taylor, made two appearances on Broadway, and was a three-season regular on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, where he was known for a strong impression of Louis Armstrong. His contract with Laugh-In prevented him from landing the lead role as Lamont Sanford on Sanford and Son, and the role went to Demond Wilson. However, Laugh-In writer Allan Manings was a producer on Good Times, and Brown was able to land a role halfway through season two.
Brown had the unfortunate problem of his weight being the subject of many jokes on Good Times. Many other characters mercilessly teased his character, with the nickname “Buffalo Butt” being the most frequent joke. Brown said in 2019 that the name was even used after a scene was over. “I couldn’t say anything because I have a wife and two kids to support. Now at my age, I would have to say something.”
Brown was mentored by Sammy Davis Jr., who brought him in as an understudy for Godfrey Cambridge in the Broadway show Golden Boy. After Cambridge was fired, Brown took over the role. He also had roles in TV shows such as Julia, Maude, The Rookies, Lotsa Luck!, The Jeffersons, Archie Bunker’s Place, Family Matters, Sister, Sister, Moonlighting, and Martin. His film credits include The Wiz (1978), Poitier’s Hanky Panky (1982), Life (1999), and Town & Country (2001).
Johnny Brown is survived by his wife of 61 years, his daughter, and his son.
Are you surprised by actor Johnny Brown’s death? Do you remember him as Nathan Bookman on Good Times? Share your thoughts on The Nerd Stash Facebook page and @TheNerdStash on Twitter.