When I was a child, I loved watching The Electric Company. Thinking about it now, despite its early 70s funkiness, it really was a great show. The cast was mostly made up of very talented people who had serious musical theater cred– people like Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, Irene Cara, Todd Graf, and even Bill Cosby, many years before he became a jailbird. For a year or so, Denise Nickerson, who memorably played Violet Beauregarde in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was also on The Electric Company.
I was also a big fan of The Brady Bunch. Denise Nickerson also guested on that show, playing Pam Phillips on an episode called “Two Petes in a Pod”.
But she’s probably best known for her role as Violet. I never actually saw Willy Wonka until a couple of years ago. Bill used to quote lines from it all the time and I’d never know what he was talking about. One thing that strikes me in all of the roles Nickerson played is how cute she was. She really had an adorable perky quality and was very talented as an entertainer. I guess I can’t blame anyone for leaving show biz, but I think she had a knack for it.
Denise Nickerson died a couple of days ago, a year after having suffered a severe stroke from which she was unable to recover. Her son and his wife had been caring for her in their home. They went out, and she apparently overdosed on her medications. She was rushed to a hospital, where she suffered a seizure. Her family elected to take her off life support, and she died a short time later.
In addition to the credits I’ve listed above, Nickerson was also on Dark Shadows, which I’ve never seen. She stopped acting in 1978, but did participate in some events surrounding her best known roles. Personally, I think I liked her best for her turn on The Electric Company. She played Allison, a member of The Short Circus. Since reading is one of my favorite things to do, I appreciate those who helped me learn how. The Electric Company was one of my best tools for learning how to read. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that I watched that show in school and at home, but the years have really passed in a hurry. Nickerson was 62 years old, which seems crazy to me. Has it really been 48 years since Willy Wonka? Jeez, I’m getting old.
I wish her family and friends peace, as they grieve the loss of their talented loved one. I’m sure she’ll be missed.