LaWanda Page, ''Sanford'''s Aunt Esther, dies. The 81-year-old actress succumbs to complications from diabetes

LaWanda Page, the tall, imposing actress best known as the formidable Aunt Esther on ”Sanford & Son,” died Saturday of complications from diabetes at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood, Calif., the Associated Press reports. She was 81.

Page started her career as a chorus girl and a fire-eater. She was billed as ”The Bronze Goddess of Fire” for an act that involved swallowing flames and lighting cigarettes with her fingertips. She got her big break on TV when childhood friend Redd Foxx recommended her for his 1970s sitcom. She played the church-minded Aunt Esther, locking horns with Foxx’s earthy Fred Sanford, from 1973 to 1977 on ”Sanford & Son” and in two short-lived spinoffs, ”The Sanford Arms” (1977) and ”Sanford” (1980). In the 1990s, she spoofed her image in old-lady roles in movies like ”Friday” and ”Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.”