Pour out a Baccarat flute of burned champagne… Actually, you should pour it out anyway, because if it’s not good enough for the master of taste Dominique Deveraux, it shouldn’t be good enough for you.
A wave of sadness hit me today in the form of the news that trailblazing icon Diahann Carroll died at her home in Los Angeles this morning. She was 84.
Diahann’s daughter, producer and journalist Suzanne Kay, confirmed the sad news to The Hollywood Reporter. Suzanne said that her mother died after a long battle with cancer. Diahann was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997.
Diahann’s career in the business known as show started as a nightclub crooner after she won a television talent show in 1954. That same year, she made her movie debut in Carmen Jones. And she was in the movie version of Porgy & Bess, playing Clara. She also did other movies, as well as TV shows and variety shows before she got the show that turned her into a household name and STAH!
Julia ran for three seasons from 1968 to 1971. Diahann played the title role, which is known for being the first non-stereotypical female African American character on television. Julia was a nurse who was raising her son on her own after her husband was killed in Vietnam. Diahann said this in 1998 about the groundbreaking Julia:
“We were saying to the country, ‘We’re going to present a very upper middle-class black woman raising her child, and her major concentration is not going to be about suffering in the ghetto.’
Many people were incensed about that. They felt that [African Americans] didn’t have that many opportunities on television or in film to present our plight as the underdog … they felt the [real-world] suffering was much too acute to be so trivial as to present a middle-class woman who is dealing with the business of being a nurse.
But we were of the opinion that what we were doing was important, and we never left that point of view … even though some of that criticism of course was valid. We were of a mind that this was a different show. We were allowed to have this show.”
Diahann got a Golden Globe award and an Emmy nomination for Julia.
After Julia ended, Diahann starred as the title role in the 1974 movie Claudine with James Earl Jones. She was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for it.
And then came the 1980s… and the legendary role that caused a little gay me to fall to my knees and worship at the diamond-encrusted feet of a goddess of glamour who truly was Alexis Carrington’s match. Diahann played Dominique Deveraux, who was Blake Carrington’s half-sister, to sequined-covered perfection from 1984 to 1987.
Diahann told People in 1984 that she was a big Dynasty fan, and asked Aaron Spelling for a role on the show because she wanted to play wealthy and ruthless. So she picked up her Brittany Neophone and dialed her agent:
“I want you to call everybody you possibly can. I just feel it in my bones. They’ve done everything. They’ve done incest, homosexuality, murder. I think they’re slowly inching their way toward interracial. I want to be wealthy and ruthless.” Or as Diahann Carroll phrases her fantasy these days: “I want to be the first black bitch on television.”
So the role of Dominique Deveraux was created for Diahann Carroll, which means that if it wasn’t for Diahann Carroll, we wouldn’t have Dominique Deveraux, and if it wasn’t for Dominique Deveraux, we wouldn’t have this moment of absolute flawlessness:
Or this one:
Or this one:
Or this one:
I can really go on and on, and if Diahann Carroll isn’t given sainthood for the creation of Dominique Deveraux, then nobody should ever be given sainthood again!
Diahann Carroll received 95 Emmys and a Nobel Peace Prize for her role as Dominique Deveraux (don’t fact check me on that).
Once she finished making Dynasty so, so much better, Diahann played Whitley’s mom on A Different World (which got her another Emmy nom), and also guest starred on Soul Food, Whoopi, and Grey’s Anatomy. And on the stage, she was in House of Flowers, No Strings (which got her a Tony award), Agnes of God, Love Letters, A Raisin in the Sun, On Golden Pond, and as Norma Desmond in the Toronto premiere of Sunset Boulevard.
Diahann is survived by her daughter and two grandchildren.
Rest in peace, Diahann. The angels better have Petrossian Beluga caviar and non-burned champagne waiting for you!