By Dianne Washington
Fred Allen Berry (March 19, 1951 – October 21, 2003) was an American actor and street dancer. He was best known for his role as Freddie “Rerun” Stubbs on the 1970s television show What’s Happening!!
Berry was born on March 19, 1951, in St. Louis, Missouri, and grew up in an inner-city housing estate. He had aspirations of becoming a successful dancer and actor as a child. Early in his career, Berry was a member of the Los Angeles-based dance troupe The Lockers, with whom he appeared on the third episode of Saturday Night Live in 1975. He additionally appeared on the dance music show Soul Train, and was featured in the program’s signature line dance segment doing the memorable early 1970s dance step “the slo-mo”.
Berry achieved more widespread fame playing the character Freddie “Rerun” Stubbs on the ABC sitcom What’s Happening!!, which aired from 1976 to 1979 as he was in his mid 20s. The role was originally going to be given by that of a skinny and white actor. His earned Rerun sobriquet was chosen because the character had to continuously repeat all of his classes during summer school. He became one of the show’s top characters with a trademark red beret, suspenders, and the dance moves he previously used during his time with The Lockers. In 1985, Berry returned to reprise his role as Rerun in the series What’s Happening Now!!. He was fired before the first season ended due to a salary dispute, when he requested that he receive more money than the rest of the cast.
Berry struggled with drug and alcohol issues throughout the span of his career and life. In 1996, he told People magazine “I was a millionaire by the time I was 29, but then the stress of success got to me. The fat jokes got to me. And I got heavily into drugs and alcohol.” In a 1996 interview, he said that he had been experimenting with drugs and alcohol since he was a teenager, but as he became more successful, he could afford more drugs. Berry had attempted suicide three times, but later recovered and spent his time visiting many churches.
During the 1990s, Berry became a motivational speaker and Baptist minister, and lost 100 lbs after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Berry was married six times to four different women, the first two of whom he married twice each. He has three children: DeShannon, Portia and Freddy, who works as Fred Berry Jr.
On October 21, 2003, Berry was found dead at his Los Angeles home, where he was recovering from a stroke. The cause of death was listed as natural causes. He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles.