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Pioneering actress, singer McNair dies

first_imgBarbara McNair, the pioneering black singer-actress who hosted her own TV variety show and starred in Hollywood with Sidney Poitier in the early 1970s, has died. She was 72. McNair died Sunday in Los Angeles after a battle with throat cancer, her sister, Jacqueline Gaither, said. “She was very family oriented,” Gaither said. “She was more than just a star or a famous personality. She was a person of her own.” Gaining fame in the 1960s as a nightclub singer, McNair graduated to film and television as opportunities were opening up for black women late in the decade. She made her Hollywood debut in 1968 in the film “If He Hollers, Let Him Go.” She later starred with Elvis Presley in his 1969 film “Change of Habit” and as Poitier’s wife in the 1970 film “They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!” She found movie acting “a more rewarding kind of work than singing,” she told The Washington Post in 1969. She hosted television’s “The Barbara McNair Show,” a syndicated musical and comedy program, from 1969 to 1972. McNair went to the University of California, Los Angeles, before moving to New York City to pursue her dream of becoming an entertainer. She made TV appearances into the 1980s on such shows as “The Jeffersons” and “The Redd Foxx Show.” In later years, McNair performed on cruise ships and at charity events, nightclubs and retirement villages in Florida. Last year, she opened shows for comedian Bob Newhart in Philadelphia and New Jersey. Along with Gaither, McNair is survived by her fourth husband, Charles Blecka.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more