Della Reese Poster


Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (3)  | Trade Mark (4)  | Trivia (113)  | Personal Quotes (35)

Overview (4)

Born in Detroit, Michigan, USA
Died in Encino, California, USA
Birth NameDelloreese Patricia Early
Height 5' 2" (1.57 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Della began singing in her hometown of Detroit when she was 6 years old. As a teenager, she toured with gospel great Mahalia Jackson and, at the age of 18, she formed the Meditation Singers and became the first performer to take gospel music to the casinos of Las Vegas. She was a vocalist with the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra and began making her own records. She was nominated for a Grammy Award as Best Female Soloist in Gospel music in 1987. She lived in Los Angeles with her husband, producer Franklin Lett.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Stacey Sanders<tsanders@comsource.net

Spouse (3)

Franklin Lett (12 January 1983 - 19 November 2017) ( her death) ( 3 children)
Leroy Gray (28 December 1959 - 1961) ( divorced)
Vermont Taliaferro (1 July 1951 - 1958) ( divorced)

Trade Mark (4)

Her sly smile
Her self-effacing humor
Deep, husky voice
The role of Tess on [Touched by an Angel (1994)].

Trivia (113)

Had four children: Deloreese Daniels Owens (1961-March 14, 2002, adopted), James, Franklin, and Dominique. Her daughter Deloreese was her adopted child whom she acquired from a family member unable to care for her. Owens died on March 14, 2002. It was never released whether she died from suicide or from complications stemming from pituitary disease leaving behind two children, ages 19 and 21.
Is an ordained minister. She officiated at the wedding of Touched by an Angel (1994) co-star Roma Downey. She is the godmother of Downey's daughter, Reilly Marie.
Suffered a stroke on the set of The Tonight Show (1962). [3 October 1980].
Best known by the public for her starring role as Tess on Touched by an Angel (1994).
Earned $50,000 an episode - increased from $40,000 - for Touched by an Angel (1994) in 1997.
Was good friends with Roma Downey before Touched by an Angel (1994) and remained so after the show was concluded.
Her mother, Nellie, had children many years before young Delloreese was born, none of whom lived with her afterwards.
When Della was a young girl in the 1940s, she and her mother would go to the movies to watch Joan Crawford, Lena Horne and Bette Davis portraying glamorous lives on-screen.
Her father, Richard Early, died in 1959.
She was the youngest performer, at age 22, to have the vocal range to match the best in in jazz music, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae and Sarah Vaughan.
She had 8 hobbies: singing, watching movies, spending time with her family, reading the Bible, swimming, cooking, praying and playing games.
She got out of a swimming pool and, trying to avoid stepping on a large piece of glass, fell through a glass door. She underwent surgery for a severe laceration. [1969].
Television personality Ed Sullivan helped her get her bookings in Las Vegas, which were rare for an African-American singer back in the early 1950s.
Had dropped and shortened her name from Early to Reese knowing it was too big for one club's marquee.
Met Vermont Taliaferro in church for years until she married him in 1951. They divorced in 1953.
In 1953, she signed a singing contract with Jubilee Records, her first.
In 1944, Mahalia Jackson was at her church and was impressed with Della's voice.
Gospel legend Mahalia Jackson was so impressed with Della's singing that she invited her on a Southern Tour when Della was only 13.
Her mother, Nellie, died in 1949 from a cerebral hemorrhage.
Feuded with her father after her mother's passing, which led to her moving out of the house at age 18.
Graduated from Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan in 1947, at only 15 yrs. old. She was the first in her family to graduate early.
In 2007, she officiated for the second time--she is an ordained minister--at a wedding of her ex-Touched by an Angel (1994) co-star Roma Downey's, in which she married reality television show producer Mark Burnett in 2007.
Composed the Touched by an Angel (1994) theme song, "Walk With You".
She appeared in almost every episode of Touched by an Angel (1994), with the exception of 2, during the final season and 1 before.
Is an ordained minister at the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church in Los Angeles, California.
Had a recording contract with RCA Records in 1957.
Developed type 2 diabetes, which may have been precipitated by years of eating her old nightly snacks of fried chicken, potato chips, ice cream, candy bars and cola.
Toured with Mahalia Jackson for three summers.
On one of the tapings of The Royal Family (1991), she found out about one of Redd Foxx's rituals he had done, years after he was doing Sanford and Son (1972), assuming all of this was a joke. In fact, she actually heard it, for real, Foxx collapsed on the set and had a heart attack, where he was taken to a hospital and died in 1991. She attended his funeral later in the year.
As a teenager, she was often chosen as a featured singer on radio.
She was the daughter of Nellie/Nelly (Mitchelle), a cook, and Richard Thaddeus Early, a steel worker, ladies' man, and gambler. Her parents, who were from Tennessee, were African-American. Her mother was said to also have Cherokee Native American ancestry.
She formed a choir in Detroit called The Meditation Singers.
She intended to major in Psychiatry at Wayne State University, but a personal setback ended her plans.
Was the lead singer for the Erskine Hawkins Band.
Purchased a home in Beverly Hills, California in 1969.
Began singing at age 6.
Attended the same high school as future actress Ellen Burstyn, also known as: Edna Rae Gillooly.
Future talk show host and friend Larry King said he enjoyed listening to her music as a young adult.
Before she was a successful actress, she did everything from a very young age from directing a young people's choir in church, to being a truck driver, to being a dental receptionist, to that of a switchboard girl.
Was honored at Oprah Winfrey's Legends Ball ceremony along with 25 other African-American women in 2005.
Was a longtime good friend of Kristoff St. John. They worked together on The Young and the Restless (1973).
Hosted a TV talk show called Della from 1969 to 1970. Was the first African-American actress to do so.
Her idols when she was young were: Jane Wyman, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday.
Didn't start acting until she was 36.
Received a Grammy nomination for her album 'Della' in 1960.
She and the rest of the The Royal Family (1991) cast paid a visit to see Redd Foxx in the hospital just hours before he died.
She was the producers' first choice for the secondary lead role of Tess on Touched by an Angel (1994). She was reluctant at first but went ahead and auditioned.
Victor Taliaferro assaulted her when they were married and she was hospitalized. This situation led her to divorce him.
Della dropped out of college after her mother's death when her father wouldn't allow her to finish.
Before she was a successful actress, she used to work at a nightclub with all the unfamiliar and legendary singers of the 1950s in New York City.
Through Erskine Hawkins, she also toured with Nat 'King' Cole.
While working at the LaFlame Showbar in Detroit, Michigan, comedian Soupy Sales gave her a shot at becoming a star on television.
Appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show (1948) 18 times.
Was also friends with Nat 'King' Cole's family.
Had always wanted to be a singer.
A lyric-soprano.
Appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962), 33 times.
Was a fan of The Ed Sullivan Show (1948), The Jackie Gleason Show (1952) and Your Show of Shows (1950).
Met Redd Foxx at a nightclub in Chicago, and they became best friends for 40 years.
Was a spokesperson for Campbell Soup Products in 1980.
Shared the same birthday as Merv Griffin. She met him, when she was working in New York City doing a radio show. Basically, Helen Basiley wrote a song where Griffin began singing the weather report to this groove as did Reese herself, and was hired to co-host alongside him on his talk show in the 1960s.
Her childhood friend, Marla Gibbs, attended her 80th birthday party on August 19, 2011.
Della was a longtime friend of the late Rosa Parks, and attended her funeral on November 2, 2005. Just before her death, Parks guest-starred with her on Touched by an Angel (1994).
From 2011 to 2014, she was promoted from ordained minister to senior minister and founder of the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church, in Los Angeles, California.
Acting mentor and friend of Roma Downey.
Her song, 'Don't You Know?' reached the #2 spot on the Pop Charts and topped the R&B; charts in 1959, which were then called the 'Hot R&B; Sides'. The song was adapted from Puccini's music for La Bohème; specifically, the aria Musetta's Waltz.
Childhood friend of Marla Gibbs.
Was a fan of The Jackie Gleason Show (1952) and The Ed Sullivan Show (1948).
Worked with longtime friend Marla Gibbs on episodes of both series 227 (1985) and Touched by an Angel (1994).
Her eldest sister was age 20 when Della was born.
Was a fan of both shows: The Jackie Gleason Show (1952) and The Ed Sullivan Show (1948).
Her father was her mother's primary caregiver while Della was in college.
Began her show Touched by an Angel (1994) at age 63.
A coupon collector from every Detroit church, Reese won a coupon-clipping contest sponsored by the local black paper, The Michigan Chronicle.
Began acting at an early age.
Created the character of Tess in Touched by an Angel (1994).
Was born in and grew up in the Black Bottom neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan.
Future Motown singer Martha Reeves cites Reese as a major influence, and said she named her group The Vandellas after Van Dyke Street in Detroit and Della Reese.
Before she was a successful actress, she became the director of the young people's church choir.
Lived in Westchester, New York from 1962 to 1969.
Ed Sullivan was a favorite of hers.
Became a surrogate mother to Dr. James Barger after he lost his own mother in 1969.
Met Nipsey Russell at one of the clubs in New York City. The two were good friends until Russell's death in 2005.
Was a close friend of Cissy Houston and knows the entire Houston family very well. She frequently gave Cissy permission to discuss their exchanges.
Was a Republican.
Her favorite Touched by an Angel (1994) episode is each and every one of them.
Her favorite subject in school was music.
Every Christmas when Reese was growing up, her mother baked her favorite cake, made her favorite dinner, and made crocheted items for her.
Reese decided to become an actress because she acted out the lyrics when she was singing, and emotions came to her.
She had rheumatoid fever when she was only two.
Lives not too far from Marla Gibbs, in Inglewood, California.
On a few episodes of Touched by an Angel (1994), her character shared Della's gift for singing, in real-life, Reese was also a singer.
Every weekend for 9 seasons, she commuted from her Los Angeles house to Salt Lake City, Utah, to film Touched by an Angel (1994).
Nearly died of a stroke on the set of The Tonight Show in October 1979.
Is the first gospel singer to perform in Las Vegas.
She is most widely known to be a social butterfly.
After her final guest-starring role on Signed, Sealed, Delivered (2014) at the age of 84, Della retired from acting.
She used a wheelchair after having two major brain surgeries in August 2016.
Sold her Beverly Hills, California mansion for $7.5 million. [7 November 2014].
The IRS Criminal Division began investigating the disappearance of nearly $2 million from vanishing church banking investments, as well as questionable/misappropriation of church funds and not paying church employees their earned wages at Understanding Principles for Better Living. [2014].
She collapsed on the set of Touched by an Angel (1994), and was hospitalized. [2000].
Della Reese was featured as a special starring vocal performer on ABC Television"s first season of "The Hollywood Palace" (#01.08) hosted by MGM dancing star Gene Kelly, broadcast in B&W; on a Saturday night, February 22, 1964.
In November 1960, Della Reese appeared in advertisements in Ebony magazine for the newly launched AMI Continental jukebox.
Della Reese passed away on November 19, 2017, at age 86, just one month after Robert Guillaume, passed away. Guillaume guest-starred with Reese on an episode of Touched by an Angel (1994).
Reese was married a second time, to accountant Leroy Basil Gray, who had two children by a previous marriage, was kept secret for some time. This marriage either ended in divorce, or was annulled on the basis that Gray's previous divorce was invalid. [28 December 1959].
Della Reese passed away on November 19, 2017, at age 86, the same day as Peter Baldwin, also born in 1931, Mel Tillis born in 1932, Charles Manson born in 1934, and 2 days before David Cassidy, born in 1950.
Her remains were cremated. Her ashes were given to her widower.
Has three children: James, Franklin, and Dominique.
After her passing, she didn't want to have a funeral.
Her ex-Touched by an Angel (1994), co-star, Roma Downey, had said in numerous interviews that when Downey had lost her real-life mother, at age 10, years later, Reese became her surrogate mother.
Had her first song with the ballad, "And That Reminds Me," which peaked at No. 12 on the pop chart, in 1957.
She had played the same character (Tess) in two different television series: Touched by an Angel (1994) and Promised Land (1996).

Personal Quotes (35)

I was black when they hired me. They knew how old I was when they hired me.
The Lord has planned my life. I'm not a great planner but I have been open to what God has in store for me, and it's worked.
[on being the first black woman to host a talk show of the 1960s, long before Oprah Winfrey] I've had so many different chapters in my career, so many different audiences, but it always comes back to me talking to God.
[Of her parents] He was the toastmaster in our neighborhood. My father was a man who knew how to walk the walk and talk the talk. My mother was the kind of woman who when she looked you in the eyes, you stood at attention.
[In 1998] I had done what I set out to do: I had the money, the gowns, the jewelry and I was happy to have them, but they did not make me happy. My daughter filled that void: she saved my life.
[on being a talk show hostess] I was tired of the road, and doing TV meant I could stay home. It was very obvious to me I was the first black woman with her own show when one executive told me they had a hard time finding sponsors because my gums were blue.
[Of Ed Sullivan] Ed helped a lot of people.
[on how she "ticked off" Duke Ellington and Carmen McRae] We were all just trying to make a living. Nobody had any attitude. We were all "getting up", as we used to say.
[on why she didn't want to do another TV series] But it always comes down to me in my bed talking to God, and he said, "Do this for me for 10 years and you can retire". Since I am a devout coward, I cannot go against the will of the Lord.
[In 2003] We were taping Touched by an Angel (1994), and I was coming down the stairs of my house in Salt Lake City, and it felt like someone split my head in half and I blacked out. I don't know how long I was there but, when I came to, I didn't feel anything so I just went on to work.
[on being a spokesperson] It's such a simple thing. You find people who need help, and you find people who can give help, and you put the two together. Just simply people helping people.
I'm hoping that there is a correlation between all the work that I do. Touched by an Angel (1994) gave me a chance to speak on the things that I espouse, and "Faith in Action" also gives me a chance to do that".
[on being cast in Touched by an Angel (1994)] They called [Roma Downey] and me in to meet Martha Williamson. The conversation is going really nice, and Martha stands up and tells me, "It's not that I don't respect you, but I go to church and I'm a Christian and this show will have God in it".
[In 1996] I don't ever remember not singing. My agent said Touched by an Angel (1994) probably wouldn't go to series, but I'd get a lot of money to make the pilot. I knew it wouldn't work because the two angels didn't like each other. But how could that be? How could angels have hate? I was always saying something smart to Roma Downey's character and vice-versa. CBS spent $2 million on it, and you'll never see it. The only thing they liked was the rapport between Roma and me.
I use February 14 as the day to remember all the men in my life. Not just boyfriends, but business associates too. I show them I care by sending floral arrangements. [Why are they only sent to women? Men enjoy flowers too!] My beau gets gardenias and my colleagues get plants. When they receive them, they know I really do care.
[on why she was offered substantially less than the 100% raise that co-star Roma Downey got in 1997] It was 12-1/2% they offered me. But for year number one and number two and number three, whatever Roma received, I received equal parts. This year, I did not.
[In 1997] It's tough to be an angel in Hollywood when you're underpaid.
[In 2001] But what people must realize is that time is of the essence. You must know the warning signs of a stroke, and you must seek emergency assistance immediately.
[on why she went to three different hospitals before her condition was properly diagnosed] At first doctors were looking in everywhere but the right place. I suppose because I'm an actress and entertainer, they initially presumed I was suffering from some sort of alcohol or drug problem. That was more than insulting, it was a potentially fatal misperception.
[Of her 1980 stroke] I was in the middle of the song when my body began to twitch uncontrollably. Before I knew it, I fell to my knees in front of everyone and was suddenly unconscious.
[In 1993] I never intended to become a minister, I wanted to teach these principles. But I had so many requests for people wanting me to officiate weddings and funerals and such that I finally asked God and he told me to do it.
[Of Roma Downey] Roma and I have only grown closer and more fond of each other as time has gone on . . . Roma Downey is an angel in my life. It is no accident that our paths have crossed.
[Of her struggle in show business] We had no rights or privileges, I was told that there was no need to go to school, because we'd never have jobs that we'd need schooling for. I didn't really like that idea.
Anything is possible with God. People told me, there are just some things you can't do. But I saw no reason why I couldn't have everything I wanted, and frankly, the reasons they gave about why I couldn't have things didn't impress me.
[In 2005] Diabetes doesn't necessarily hurt, you see. You wake up and say, "I'm not in pain, I won't take this [medicine] today".
[on the cancellation of Touched by an Angel (1994)] This is a business of ratings. When the show was on Sunday, we were a program that people came home and extended their Sunday services with. People are out on Saturday nights. It changed our audience base.
[About her stroke, when Doc Severinsen and Richard Dawson both rescued her, while the doctor appeared onstage from the audience] I never lost consciousness, but I wasn't in control. Lord, help me. God, help me.
What was so upsetting was I didn't really know anything about diabetes except that Ella Fitzgerald lost her legs and later died from it. So I all knew was you lost your limbs and you died from it. I was scared silly.
[When questioned if she had any recollections] No, my life doesn't seem remarkable to me. I assume once I have prayed, the answer is on its way.
[In 2009] But I was doing a talk show. I love to say this. I was before [Oprah Winfrey].
[In 2010] If somebody hits you upside your head long enough, enough times, they'll tell you they will hit you, you believe it. Why couldn't you believe it? The last lick you had almost killed you, so you see, why would you, not believe that they would do that?
[on her popularity while playing the sixty-something "Tess" on Touched by an Angel (1994)]: But I know we need a show like this in our lives because people want to hear that God loves them. I believe she [co-star Roma Downey] and I were together in some other life, but if I say that, people look at me strange.
[In 1973]: Up until she started school, Dumpsey traveled with me all the time. I wasn't trying to prove you could have a baby on the road. I had no husband and no one to stay with her. Necessity makes you work things out. Luckily, she wasn't a sickly baby. She's always been independent. Out of necessity, she's had to take care of herself. When things got better, I could afford a sitter. I was never lonely on the road, because of Dumpsey. I used to have to get up, feed her, take her to the park.
[When she didn't want to consider herself being a singer]: I was interested in singing, but I thought of it as something to do when you didn't have anything else to do.
[When she was asked to play the lead on Touched by an Angel (1994)]: This was a gift from God. Somebody else was supposed to do this part, and they could not do it for physical reasons. I worked with Martha Williamson for almost 10 years on Touched by an Angel, and she called and asked me if I would come and do the part. She had a time schedule, so I went to do it and found out the show is really charming. There are some very interesting young people to work with.

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