Clerow Wilson, Jr. (December 8, 1933 – November 25, 1998), known professionally as Flip Wilson, was an American comedian and actor. In the early 1970s, Wilson hosted his own weekly variety series, The Flip Wilson Show. The series earned Wilson a Golden Globe and two Emmy Awards. In January 1972, Time magazine featured Wilson's image on their cover and named him "TV's first black superstar". Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, he was one of 18 children in an impoverished household. After years of bouncing from foster homes to reform school, 16-year-old Wilson lied about his age and joined the United States Air Force. His outgoing personality and funny stories made him popular; he was even asked to tour military bases to cheer up other servicemen. Claiming that he was always "flipped out," Wilson's barracks mates gave him his famous nickname. Discharged in 1954, Wilson started working as a bellhop in San Francisco's Manor Plaza Hotel. At the Plaza's nightclub, Wilson found extra work playing a drunken patron in between regularly scheduled acts. His inebriated character proved popular and Wilson began performing it in clubs throughout California. He managed to get jobs at various comedy clubs using his nickname, Flip. At first Wilson would simply ad-lib on-stage, but in time, he added written material and his act became more sophisticated. During the 1960s, Wilson became a regular at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and was a favorite guest on The Tonight Show, Laugh-In, and The Ed Sullivan Show. In 1970, Wilson won a Grammy Award for his comedy album The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress.
Clerow Wilson, Jr.