Flip Wilson Dies

06/10/1999 at 12:00 AM EDT

Flip Wilson, who made U.S. TV history by becoming the first black comedian to successfully host his own variety series -- and whose humor never turned angry -- died of liver cancer Wednesday night at his home in Malibu. He was 64. The New Jersey-born Clerow Wilson, who earned the nickname "Flip" when he performed comedy shows in the Air Force (his buddies found him always to be "flip"), was host of the "The Flip Wilson Show" on NBC from 1970 to 1974. He was best known for his impressions of the Rev. Leroy of the "Church of What's Happening Now" and as the sassy Geraldine, one of TV's most successful drag acts whose catch-phrase was "The Devil Made Me Do it." Geraldine would also announce, should one of the show's guest stars have the temerity to place a hand on her, "You can't touch me! You don't know me." He was a funny guy.

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