Gene Anthony Ray, who briefly found fame as dancer Leroy Johnson in both the movie and TV versions of Fame, died Friday in New York.
Ray, who was HIV-positive, succumbed to complications of a stroke suffered in June. He was 41.
Ray's natural talent proved perfect for the role of the sure-footed, street-smart Leroy, brilliant in performance, but frustrated in the classroom by his illiteracy. The 1980 movie, and subsequent TV series, followed the hopes and dreams of students at New York's High School of the Performing Arts. Ray attended that school for a time, but was kicked out. "It was too disciplined for this wild child of mine," his mother, Jean E. Ray, told the New York Times.
Born in Harlem, Ray attended Julia Richmond High School. He skipped class to audition for the Leroy role in the hit movie that won Oscars for the title song and for Best Original Score.
He reprised the part on the NBC series, which debuted in 1982. Low ratings led to the show's quick cancellation, but Fame continued in production for MGM Television as a syndicated series from 1983 to 1987. During the show's run, Leroy graduated and became an assistant dance instructor at the school.
Ray's later film credits included Out of Sync, directed by Debbie Allen, star of the Fame TV series. He also appeared as himself in an episode of the 1998 TV series Linc's, on which Allen is also credited as director. He appeared as a dancer and was credited as assistant choreographer in the 1996 movie Eddie, starring Whoopi Goldberg as an NBA coach.
His link to Fame was never severed. In the '80s with other cast members he had performed in Britain in a series of concerts--a tour that was filmed and shown in the U.S. in 1983 as the The Kids from Fame TV special. He joined several cast members for a reunion special that was included on the recently released Fame DVD and, earlier this year, he took part in the BBC documentary Fame Remember My Name, which has not yet aired.