Tony winner and 'Uncola' spokesman Geoffrey Holder dies at 84
Geoffrey Holder—whose oeuvre included Tony-winning stage work, Bond villainy, and a high-profile gig touting 7UP— has died, his family lawyer confirmed to EW. The cause was complications of pneumonia. As his New York Times obituary recounts, Holder, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago, was a multi-hyphenate: a dancer, visual artist, actor, director, choreographer, and author. He met his wife, Carmen de Lavallade, during his 1954 Broadway debut, House of Flowers.
Holder won two 1975 Tony awards as costume designer and director of the musical The Wiz, and appeared in films like Live and Let Die (as Bond villain Baron Samedi) and Annie (as Punjab). But he was also known as the star of the 7UP “Uncola” ads in the 1970s and 80s. “The extraordinary performance of the Trinidad-born Mr. Holder made the spot one of the most remembered commercials of all time,” AdAge explained. “But behind the scenes, the project also represented a dramatic change in the marketing culture of the soft-drink company—the first time it allowed a person of color to be cast in its TV ad.”
Holder referenced the ads when accepting his Tony for directing:
For an example of his choreography, here is the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performing his “The Prodigal Prince.”
Holder was 84.