Johnny Brown, the acclaimed entertainer best known for his role as Nathan Bookman on the show “Good Times,” has died. He was 84.
Brown passed away Wednesday (March 2), according to a statement shared on Instagram by his daughter, actress Sharon Catherine Brown.
“Our family is devastated. Devastated. Devastated. Beyond heartbroken. Barely able to breathe,” she wrote. “We respectfully ask for privacy at this time because we need a minute to process the unthinkable. To articulate the depths of profound sadness. This is my mom’s husband for sixty one years, mine and JJ’s dad, Elijah and Levi’s Pop Pop, older brother to George and brother in law to Pat and extended family to Chris, Hihat, Damian and Derell.”
“It’s too terrible. It will never not be. It’s a shock,” she continued. “He was literally snatched out of our lives. It’s not real for us yet. So there will be more to say but not now. Dad was the absolute best. We love him so very much.”
It’s unclear what caused Brown’s death exactly.
Brown was born on June 11, 1937 in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was raised in Harlem, New York. Before he portrayed housing project superintendent Nathan Bookman on “Good Times,” Brown won an amateur night competition at the Apollo Theater, and performed in nightclub circuits with tap dancer Gregory Hines Jr. and drummer Gregory Hines Sr., The Hollywood Reporter reports.
He acted on Broadway during the 1960s and performed regularly on the sketch comedy show “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.”
In 1975 — during the show’s second season — Brown was cast in “Good Times” as Nathan Bookman. Brown’s character was often affectionately called “Buffalo Butt” by J.J. (Jimmie Walker) and others on the show.
In a 2019 interview, Brown discussed the moniker, saying, “Sometimes you can do too much of a thing, and it doesn’t come natural. With everybody [calling Bookman] ‘Buffalo Butt’ in a scene, it loses something … They even had Janet [Jackson], who had just come on the show, answering like Mr. Buffalo Butt.
“And they used it in every show. They used it when I walked in the show, all through the scene. When I left the scene, they used it. I couldn’t say anything because I have a wife and two kids to support. Now at my age, I would have to say something.”
Brown’s role grew from a recurring character on “Good Times” to a series mainstay by the fifth season. Later, he appeared in guest roles on shows such as “The Jeffersons,” “Family Matters,” “Sister, Sister,” “Julia,” “Archie Bunker’s Place,” and more, according to his IMDB page.
The acclaimed comedian, actor, and singer is survived by his daughter and his son, John Jr.
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