“GEOFFREY HOLDER’S DEATH LEAVES A HUGE VOID”
Trinidad and Tobago, and indeed the world, has lost a true friend in Geoffrey Lamont Holder, Tony-winning actor, dancer, artist, book author, music composer, and choreographer who died in New York on Sunday at the age of 84.
Death is expected, but when it comes, it brings sadness and deep reflection.
Geoffrey Holder was one of a kind, who blazed the trail for more than 60 years.
At a time when some of national icons are ailing, the death of Geoffrey Holder leaves a huge void on the national and international stage, where he plied his trade for many years.
Geoffrey was a person whom Trinidad and Tobago must be proud. It is said that he blazed the trail and opened many doors for Trinidad and Tobago nationals. He also assisted our Caribbean neighbours.
Geoffrey Holder was known to millions as Baron Samedi in the James Bond movie, ” Live and Let Die”. He will be best remembered to many as the cackling Voodoo villain who dogged Roger Moore’s footsteps in his first outing as secret agent, James Bond
Born in Port of Spain on August 1, 1930, Holder was also a composer, a designer and a celebrated painter. He attended Tranquillity Primary School before passing his examinations for Queen’s Royal College.
The James Bond movie was not his only international act. His other films included the 1982 musical “Annie”, in which he played Punjab.
Often cast in exotic roles, he played a tribal chieftain in 1967 film Doctor Dolittle and a sorceror in Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).
Geoffrey’s bass voice was heard narrating Tim Burton’s 2005 film version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a movie which we know too well in Trinidad and Tobago.
Geoffrey, one of four children, was taught to dance by his older brother Boscoe, joining his dance company at the age of seven.
He became director of the company in the late 1940s after Boscoe moved to London, before moving to the United States in 1954.
Geoffrey made his Broadway debut that same year in House of Flowers, a Caribbean-themed musical in which he first played Baron Samedi.
Geoffrey won two Tony Awards for best costume design and musical direction in the original Broadway production of The Wiz, an all-black version of The Wizard of Oz. He also appeared in an all-black version of Waiting for Godot .
From what I was told, Geoffrey died on Sunday in New York from complications caused by pneumonia. He is survived by his wife, Carmen de Lavallade, and their son Leo.
On behalf of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, and on my own behalf, I offer my sincere condolences to Geoffrey’s wife and son, and to assure them that Geoffrey’s death will not be in vain. Geoffrey can only be described as a true icon, a patriot, and a great success at what he did and achieved during those illustrious years on stage.
October 6, 2014