Michael Jeter, Tony Award-Winner Who Lived Fully in Grand Hotel, Dead at 50
By Kenneth Jones
April 1, 2003
Michael Jeter, the lean, loose-limbed character actor who won a 1990 Tony Award playing a dying clerk looking for one last fling in the musical, Grand Hotel, was found dead in his Hollywood Hills home March 30.Mr. Jeter was 50 years old. He also won an Emmy Award for his supporting role on TV’s “Evening Shade”; he played the feisty assistant football coach Herman Stiles. According to wire reports friends said they had been in touch with him as recently as Saturday, according to the actor’s publicist, Dick Guttman.
When Jeter won the Tony for playing Otto Kringelein, a dying Jewish-German bookkeeper, his acceptance speech was tearful and passionate. He spoke feelingly of overcoming addiction and offered words of encouragement to people who were watching the telecast and battling the same obstacles. That same night he knocked out the crowd singing and dancing “We’ll Take a Glass” from the show. His vocal work in the Wright-Forrest-Yeston musical is preserved on the cast album of the show.
The cause of death was not known. Mr. Jeter had spoken publicly about being HIV positive but was apparently in good health, according to wire reports. In the past year his name had been mentioned as a possibility for playing Fagin in a national tour of Oliver!, though the casting did not materialize (the tour has since been announced as non-Equity).
Mr. Jeter’s current project was the film, “The Polar Express.” His publicist said the producers think the actor filmed enough so that his presence will remain in the picture.
Among Mr. Jeter’s roles was Mr. Noodle on TV’s “Sesame Street.” He also played parts in the movies “The Green Mile,” “Patch Adams” and “Jurassic Park III,” and had a memorable turn as an unhinged homeless man in “The Fisher King.” He also appeared the the film “Hair.” Other New York theatre credits include Cloud Nine, G.R. Point and a revival of Once in a Lifetime. For television, he appeared as an elf in the Jerry Herman TV musical, “Mrs. Santa Claus” and was Mr. Goldstone in the Bette Midler TV version of “Gypsy.” He was also featured in the TV movie, “The Boys Next Door,” based on the play of the same name.
Mr. Jeter was raised in Tennessee and studied theatre at Memphis State University. Before coming to New York, he worked in regional theatre. He is survived by his companion, Sean Blue; his parents, Dr. William and Virginia Jeter; a brother and four sisters.