On this date the American actor KENNETH NELSON was born (d. 1993). Born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Nelson appeared in several television series in the late 1940s, Captain Video and His Video Rangers and The Aldrich Family among them. He was cast in his first Broadway show, Seventeen, a musical adaptation of the Booth Tarkington novel that opened at the Broadhurst Theatre on June 21, 1951 and ran 182 performances.
Nelson found little work for the remainder of the decade, but in 1960, he was cast in an off-Broadway show entitled The Fantasticks, which eventually became the world’s longest-running musical with 17,162 performances. In 1962, he was hired to understudy Anthony Newley inStop the World – I Want to Get Off when it transferred from the West End, eventually assuming the lead role when the star departed the show. From there, he went to another London import, Half a Sixpence, in 1965.
In 1968, Nelson accepted the lead in the controversial and groundbreaking off-Broadway production of The Boys in the Band, the first play to explore the milieu of Gay life in New York City in a graphically frank manner. He and the rest of the cast went on to appear in the 1970 film version directed by William Friedkin. Nelson and five others in the cast were Gay, and five of the six Gay actors died of AIDS. 1970 also saw Nelson return to Broadway in the lead role in Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen, a musical adaptation of The Teahouse of the August Moon. It was a critical and commercial disaster, closing after only 19 performances. In 1974, he played a leading role in the highly successful revue Cole at London’s Mermaid Theater.
He spent the rest of his career in small roles on television and in movies of little distinction. Nelson died in 1993 of AIDS-related complications in London.