Sherman Hemsley dances during an episode of "The Jeffersons." (YouTube)Today, the world is remembering the legacy of "The Jeffersons" star Sherman Hemsley, who passed away at the age of 74. And pretty much any reference to Hemsley brings up memories of the equally famous theme song from "The Jeffersons" 1980s TV sitcom.
But Hemsley reportedly had a little-known passion for psychedelic rock music and … LSD. A former keyboardist, he even recorded an unreleased album with Jon Anderson, singer of the band YES.
The primary evidence supporting Hemsley's psychedelic leanings is a 1999 Magnet Magazine interview with musician Daevid Allen of the seminal prog-rock band Gong. During the interview, Allen describes how he was shocked to learn that Hemsley was a huge fan of his work. In fact, the actor paid for Allen to fly to Los Angeles, where he described plans to create a tribute to one of Gong's songs along the famed Sunset Strip. But things only got weirder from there:
"I thought, 'Well, even if he's a nut case at least he's coming up with the goodies.' The tickets arrived and we had this great honeymoon in Jamaica. Then we caught the plane across to L.A. We had heard Sherman was a big star, but we didn't know the details. Coming down the corridor from the plane, I see this black guy with a whole bunch of people running after him trying to get autographs. Anyway, we get into this stretch limousine with Sherman and immediately there's a big joint being passed around. I say, 'Sorry man, I don't smoke.' Sherman says, 'You don't smoke and you're from Gong?'"
"Inside the front door of Sherman's house was a sign saying, 'Don't answer the door because it might be the man.' There were two Puerto Ricans that had a LSD laboratory in his basement, so they were really paranoid. They also had little crack/freebase depots on every floor. Then Sherman says, 'Come on upstairs and I'll show you the Flying Teapot room.' Sherman was very sweet but was surrounded by these really crazy people."
And as the website Dangerous Minds points out, there's more evidence. Back in the '70s he reportedly danced to music from the band Gentle Giant during an appearance on the Dinah Shore Show. And at the end of the following clip from "The Jeffersons," during which Hemsley dances to a song from the band Nektar, his George Jefferson character says, "It's great music, what did you turn it off for?"