Growing up watching Good Times there were many episodes that stood out. One in particular was "The Debutante Ball", which featured Rosanne Katon as Clarissa Robinson, JJ's well-to-do girlfriend who lived in the affluent South Shore. Due to her family's economical status the chances of her dating a boy from the projects where slim to none. However; their differences is what brought the couple together...that is until Clarissa's high society parents got wind of the relationship. Who could forget the scene where the Robinson's show up to the Evanses apartment to retrieve their daughter, having just had a huge fight over her choice for a date to the prestigious debutante ball. The meeting between the two sets of parents got off to a rocky start but in the end a compromise was made and the young lovebirds could resume their union. Katon, the young actress who played Clarissa had already appeared in numerous television shows through out that era. Although the recycling of African-American actors on the few black shows that existed at that time was common, I figured she must be someone of significance in order to gain that amount of visibility. This led me to finding out exactly who she was and you'd be surprised at what I found. Scroll down to continue reading...
Rosanne Katon, born February 5, 1954 in New York City, New York is of Jamaican descent. She began her career as an actress in 1973 when she appeared in a made for TV movie entitled, Godspell Goes to Plimoth Plantation for Thanksgiving. With the exception of her roles on Good Times, Sanford and Son and it's short-lived spinoff, Grady she's been resigned to playing the part of the sex kitten in most of her projects. Playing those sexy characters landed her the opportunity of a life time when she became one the few black women to be shot for a Playboy centerfold. She was featured as the September "Playmate of the Month" for Playboy magazine in 1978. In addition to appearing in several television sitcoms such as What's Happening, Good Times, That's My Mama and the Facts of Life she also did a number of low budget campy films like Chesty Anderson U.S. Navy (1976), where her blatant sex appeal was put on display.
In 1981, the 5'2 starlet made history when she was selected as Miss Golden Globes, a title reserved for a popular actress whose job is to stand on stage and assist with handing out the golden statuettes to their recipients. She was the first African-American to hold this title in the award ceremony's 50 years of tradition. Since then their has only been 4 other black women bestowed this honor. A few years later, Katon landed a recurring role on the hit hospital drama, St. Elsewhere alongside future Hollywood leading man, Denzel Washington (1984). That same year she married Richard Walden, the president and CEO of Operation USA, a non-profit organization that provides aid and relief to Third World countries. Together they have one son, who is autistic. The family was featured in an HBO documentary about the disorder entitled, Autism: The Musical, which also won an Emmy in 2007 for Best TV Documentary Special.
Today, Rosanne Katon-Walden, now 62 years old has stepped away from Hollywood and is very involved in Operation USA. She currently holds a seat on the advisory board of the organization, which is based in California and often uses her creative talents to highlight the great work done by the company. Who would have thought that the petite actress cast as JJ's love interest would have accomplished all of this. Like many black actresses of her time she helped to create another standard of beauty opposed to what was already mainstream. She gave little black girls the idea that they too could be on television or that they possessed a type of unique beauty that was worthy of being celebrated as well. Take a look at this former playmates photos from Playboy as well as her television appearances through out the years. What do you think about Rosanne Katon? Leave your comments below.
By Lisa Mack~
By Lisa Mack~