Dancing was his life’s work

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals Wilson’s dance career included being in the original road company for “Guys and Dolls,” in the original Broadway cast of “Oklahoma” and “The Music Man,” theatrical productions in Las Vegas and on television. He appeared in the films “Bye, Bye Birdie,” “Auntie Mame,” “Pete’s Dragon” and he was an assistant choreographer and performer in “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” One of the last films Wilson worked on was “Blazing Saddles” as a “dance-in.” He retired at 65. Wilson became a professional dancer through the GI Bill of Rights after his military service in the Navy during World War II. He studied tap, jazz and ballet. He excelled at ballet and was invited to join a ballet company but declined because his heart was in musical comedy theater. A combination of chutzpah and a twist of fate at the beginning of his military service in 1943, however, resulted in a life lesson that Wilson never forgot. He had been assigned to the submarine USS Shark. While Wilson was taking a break from readying the sub for duty in the Pacific, an officer challenged his time out and his attitude. Wilson was reassigned to the submarine USS Sawfish, which went to the Marshall Islands and waited for the Shark to arrive. The Shark never arrived; she was lost at sea. To his friends and family, he was “Pinocchio” – in fact, his Screen Actors Guild card read Pinocchio Roy Wilson – and when he wasn’t dancing up a storm in films or on Broadway, he collected likenesses of the wooden puppet. Roy Wilson Jr., a World War II veteran, a dancer and a choreographer, was given the moniker by his co-workers at Disney Studios during a stint in a notable professional career. Wilson, a resident of North Hollywood since 1963, died Nov. 9 of a heart attack in Panorama City. He was 82. “He loved to dance. He had a style all of his own,” said his wife, Alice Wilson, a retired dancer. “He was such a beautiful person. I don’t know anyone who disliked him. He was the love of my life.” “My dad told me to always stand up for what you believe, to stick to your guns, and speak your mind,” said Wilson’s son, Roy Reggie, recalling his dad’s advice as the moral to his near-death brush with fate. “He had an outgoing personality. When he entered a room, you knew he was there. He was always in a good mood. He was unbelievable.” Wilson was born Sept. 16. 1923, in Peru, Ind. An only child, he grew up in Detroit, where he began his dancing career with the Civic Light Opera. He moved in 1948 to California, where he performed for two seasons at the Greek Theatre. He met his future wife, Alice Clift, at a rehearsal for a Greek Theatre performance, when he coyly asked her to teach him the steps to a routine that he claimed he couldn’t master without her help. They were married on June 22, 1955. Wilson is survived by Alice; son Roy Reggie and daughter Cindy Wilson. A funeral was held Saturday at Angeleno Mortuary Chapel in Van Nuys. Wilson was buried at Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall. Donations in his memory may be sent to UCLA Kidney Transplant Services, 3371 Ueberroth Building, Box 951796, Los Angeles 90095-1796. Holly Andres, (818) 713-3708 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more