If you’re from the Old School, you probably remember actor/dancer, Gene Anthony Ray, from the popular 80’s TV show, Fame. He played the tough, street dancer name “Leroy,” who had a love for dancing, but a slight problem with authority.
Gene’s Fame character was not that far off from who he was in real life. Just like his character, “Leroy,” Gene was an untrained dancer who learned how to dance, by battling at neighborhood block parties. He grew up in a then rough neighborhood in Harlem, NY and was in the streets a lot.
His Family’s Crime Ring Arrest
When he landed the role on Fame, that was when his life began taking a great turn. The only problem was some of his family didn’t make that transition with him and instead, chose to stay behind and indulge in a life of crime. We’re talking about Gene’s mother, uncles, grandmother, aunts…they were all living that life and here’s what they ultimately got busted for doing while Gene was at the height of his career…
In 1984, Ray’s mother was arrested in a drug raid along with 14 others, including his grandmother, three aunts, and three uncles. Ray’s mother, 46-year-old Jean Ray, was charged with dealing heroin and cocaine. His grandmother, 66-year-old Viola (Lilly) Ward, was carrying six ounces of cocaine and a loaded .38-caliber pistol when she was taken into custody. In March 1984, after a two-week trial, Ray’s mother was convicted. According to police, she sold heroin and cocaine to undercover officers in several buys in 1983 that took place in Harlem bars. In April 1984 she was sentenced to at least 15 years, with parole eligibility in 1999. [Source: biography.jrank]
That’s not all though, unfortunately seeing his mother locked up, along with the rest of his fam,’ began to take a serious toll on Gene and he began to lose focus and indulge in illegal activities.
His Legal Problems & Addictions
Ray made attempts to revive his career and had brief success in theatrical stage plays, but unfortunately, his struggles left him jobless. Then came his brush with the law:
Although Ray, who remained very loyal to his mother, was never implicated in the drug dealings, he was under tremendous stress. After failing to show up for Fame rehearsals 100 times and self-admittedly using drugs between shoots, he was fired from the show in 1984. Ray’s use of drugs and alcohol continued unabated. In 1992, with his use of alcohol out of control, Ray stole a bottle of wine from a Milan supermarket and used it to attack two men who were taunting him. He was arrested, although the charges were later dropped. Having squandered his wealth to feed his drug habit, Ray was unemployed. [Source: biography.jrank]
He Passed Away With Little Fanfare
In 1995 there were several rumors circulating that Gene had passed away from AIDS. While his Mother once confirmed that Gene was HIV positive, it is not true that he actually died from HIV, nor AIDS in ’95.
Sadly, Gene did, in fact, pass away on November 14, 2003 from complications he’d suffered from a stroke in June of that year. He was only 41 years old.
Gene died with little fanfare. There were no mainstream media reports covering his death, there weren’t thousands of fans lining the streets as his casket rolled by in his funeral procession. There were just his close friends and family who knew Gene Anthony Riley- the person, the actor, the dancer, the shattered soul, and the man.
That’s a stark contrast to what life once was for him: The guy who at just 20 years old, had to hire two secretaries to answer the thousands of fan letters he received daily; The actor who was featured on a TV show that, although it didn’t air as long in the U.S., it gained 11 million regular viewers in the UK.
Life Is Like A Board Game
It’s almost painfully funny how life works. The choices we make and the consequences we get as a result, can oftentimes smother our accomplishments and almost bury them as if they never existed. Life is like a board game of Chutes and Ladders. You’ll get the opportunity to roll the dice, navigate through life, but along the way, your journey to the top may become complicated by virtues (ladders) or vices (chutes), it happens, but don’t quit, keep playing the game.
Source & Credit: iloveoldschoolmusic.com