January 16, 2004
Actor Ron O'Neal in an undated file photo released by his family. O'Neal, whose role as cocaine dealer Youngblood Priest in the 1972 film Superfly epitomized the so-called "blaxploitation" film genre of that era, has died. He was 66. O'Neal died Wednesday evening, Jan. 14, 2004, at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a long bout with cancer, according to his wife, Audrey Pool O'Neal. In 1970, he won an Obie Award for his performance in Joseph Papp's Public Theatre production of `No Place To Be Somebody. Superfly was a surprise hit, leading O'Neal to reprise the role and take over directing chores in the sequel, 1973's Superfly TNT. Unfortunately for O'Neal, his bad-boy persona became entwined with the entire blaxploitation film genre, which quickly devolved into parody. Undaunted, he embarked on a long career as a character role player on TV and film, appearing in such low budget films as Mercenary Fighters (1987) and Up Against the Wall (1991), which he also directed. He appeared in 2002's On The Edge.