Larry Riley (Larry Riley)

Larry Riley

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Larry Riley began acting in high school before studying drama at Memphis State University. He made his professional stage debut in 1971, and went on to appear in various stage productions on and off-Broadway including A Broadway Musical, Shakespeare’s Cabaret, I Love My Wife, and Big River, a musical based on Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In 1982, Riley won a Clarence Derwent and Obie Award for his performance in A Soldier’s Play. He later reprised the role in the 1984 film based on the play. From 1984 to 1985, Riley portrayed the role of Curtis Taylor, Jr. in the national touring company of Dreamgirls. He also appeared as the leading player in the U.S. touring company of Pippin. From 1980 to 1982, Riley portrayed Calvin Barnes in the NBC daytime soap opera The Doctors. He later had guest roles on Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice, and appeared in Louis Malle’s 1984 film Crackers. In 1985, Riley starred in the short-lived sitcom Stir Crazy, based on the 1980 film of the same name. In 1988, he won the role of Frank Williams on the long-running nighttime soap Knots Landing, becoming the series’ first regular African American cast member. The role garnered Riley a Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Actor in a Primetime Supporting Role in 1991. Riley also created a musical tribute to Louis Jordan entitled “Let The Good Times Roll”, which enjoyed success at the Cinegrill of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in 1988. He has also voiced the arch villain Dumping Jack Trash in the children’s animated series Fantastic Max. In addition to acting, Riley was also a musician and singer. He sang in several episodes of Knots Landing and also composed the score for several episodes.

In May 1989, Riley entered rehab for drug and alcohol abuse. The following year, he discovered he was HIV positive. According to his wife Nina, Riley “was not gay. He was not bisexual. He did not use needles at all. He speculated it was from a woman. Because he was quite the womanizer.” Fearful that news of his diagnosis would ruin his career, Riley did not disclose his illness to anyone except his wife and continued working on Knots Landing. To explain his dramatic weight loss, Riley claimed that he was suffering from kidney failure due to high blood pressure. Riley’s true illness was revealed by his wife and doctor after his death. On June 6, 1992, Riley died of AIDS-related renal failure in Burbank, California, only fourteen days short of his 39th birthday. He was survived by his second wife Nina and a son, Larry, Jr.


  • June, 20, 1953
  • USA
  • Memphis, Tennessee


  • June, 06, 1992
  • USA
  • Burbank, California

Cause of Death

  • renal failure


  • Cremated

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