Tony-Award-winning American character actor MICHAEL JETER was born on this date (d. 2003).  He was born in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee and studied acting at Memphis State University. He performed in several plays and musicals in Memphis and then moved to Baltimore and New York City to further pursue a stage career. Jeter’s woebegone look, extreme flexibility and high energy led Tommy Tune to cast him in the Off-Broadway Cloud 9 and, on Broadway, in a memorable role in the musical Grand Hotel, for which he won a Tony Award in 1990.

Much of his film and television work specialized in playing eccentric, pretentious or wimpy characters, as in The Fisher King, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Drop Zone.

Occasionally, Jeter was able to stay away from these kinds of roles for more appealing characters like Jurassic Park III, Air Bud, The Green Mile and Open Range. He won an Emmy award in 1992 for his role in the television sitcom Evening Shade. He was also a favorite with younger audiences in his role as “Mr. Noodle’s brother Mr. Noodle” on Sesame Street from 2000 to 2003. The movies The Polar Express and Open Range are dedicated to his memory.

Jeter was open about being Gay and his troubles with drug and alcohol addiction, and for a short time retired from entertainment. He returned to voice “Smokey” and “Steamer” in The Polar Express for which he received praise. It was his final film role and the movie was dedicated to him with a statement at the very end of the credits reading, “Dedicated to the memory of Michael Jeter” with his photo next to it. He was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1997, although he died from an epileptic seizure. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered.