Sherman Hemsley, the actor who played “George Jefferson” on the The Jeffersons and All in the Family is known to be a huge fan of prog rock, especially Gentle Giant, Nektar and Gong.
Hemsley collaborated with Yes’s Jon Anderson on a funk-rock opera about the “spiritual qualities of the number 7” (never produced). Hemsley also did an interpretive dance to the Gentle Giant song “Proclamation” on Dinah Shore’s 70s talkshow, that was apparently somewhat confusing for her.
But the best story, I mean the best story of all time, is the one told by Gong’s Daevid Allen about his encounter with the beloved 70’s sitcom star. Here is Allen’s verbatim tale as related to Mitch Myers (and originally published in Magnet magazine):
“It was 1978 or 1979, and Sherman Hemsley kept ringing me up. I didn’t know him from a bar of soap because we didn’t have television in Spain (where I was living). He called me from Hollywood saying, ‘I’m one of your biggest fans and I’m going to fly you here and put flying teapots all up and down the Sunset Strip.’ I thought, ‘This guy is a lunatic.’ He kept it up so I said, ‘Listen, can you get us tickets to L.A. via Jamaica? I want to go there to make a reggae track and have a honeymoon with my new girlfriend.’ He said, ‘Sure! I’ll get you two tickets.’
I thought, ‘Well, even if he’s a nut case at least he’s coming up with the goodies.’ The tickets arrived and we had this great honeymoon in Jamaica. Then we caught the plane across to L.A. We had heard Sherman was a big star, but we didn’t know the details. Coming down the corridor from the plane, I see this black guy with a whole bunch of people running after him trying to get autographs. Anyway, we get into this stretch limousine with Sherman and immediately there’s a big joint being passed around. I say, ‘Sorry man, I don’t smoke.’ Sherman says, ‘You don’t smoke and you’re from Gong?’
Inside the front door of Sherman’s house was a sign saying, ‘Don’t answer the door because it might be the man.’ There were two Puerto Ricans that had a LSD laboratory in his basement, so they were really paranoid. They also had little crack/freebase depots on every floor. Then Sherman says, ‘Come on upstairs and I’ll show you the Flying Teapot room.’ Sherman was very sweet but was surrounded by these really crazy people.
We went up to the top floor and there was this big room with darkened windows and “Flying Teapot” is playing on a tape loop over and over again. There were also three really dumb-looking, very voluptuous Southern gals stoned and wobbling around naked. They were obviously there for the guys to play around with.
[My girlfriend] Maggie and I were really tired and went to our room to go to bed. The room had one mattress with an electric blanket and that was it. No bed covering, no pillow, nothing. The next day we came down and Sherman showed us a couple of [The Jeffersons] episodes.
One of our fans came and rescued us, but not before Sherman took us to see these Hollywood PR people. They said, ‘Well, Mr. Hemsley wants us to get the information we need in order to do these Flying Teapot billboards on Sunset Strip.’ I looked at them and thought they were the cheesiest, most nasty people that I had ever seen in my life and I gave them the runaround. I just wanted out of there. I liked Sherman a lot. He was a very personable, charming guy. I just had a lot of trouble with the people around him.”
Oi, if Daevid Allen thinks you’re weird, you must be a stone freak! (Like our pal, opera singer/actor Jesse Merlin. He met Daevid Allen in San Francisco and Allen said “Just look at him. He’s a perfect example of himself!” Coming from Daevid Allen, that’s the best compliment in the history of the world, isn’t it?)
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Floating Anarchy: Gong, live on French TV, 1973
Below, “George Jefferson” dancing up a storm to Nektar’s “Show Me the Way”!
A video for Gong’s “How to Stay Alive” with animations of Daevid Allen’s drawings.