Five-time Emmy-nominated actress Marla Gibbs, best known for portraying sassy maid Florence Johnston on “The Jeffersons,” received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Tuesday in a ceremony that was abbreviated when Gibbs appeared to suffer a bout of heat exhaustion.
Gibbs, 90, was just beginning to speak at the Hollywood Boulevard ceremony when she suddenly fell silent, closed her eyes and appeared to waver as she stood behind the lectern. One of her sons rushed onto the small stage, along with Hollywood Chamber of Commerce staff and City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who brought a chair for Gibbs.
As the staff tended to Gibbs, the crowd occasionally cheered in a show of support. One person in the crowd shouted, “We love you, Marla,” leading to a loud roar of approval from the audience. Gibbs’ son took the microphone and responded, “She loves you all and thank you all very much. God bless you.”
After about 15 minutes, Gibbs recovered and sat on a chair behind her new star as it was officially unveiled. She then remained seated as she posed for photographs with family and other celebrity guests.
Legendary television producer Norman Lear, who developed “The Jeffersons” as a spinoff from “All in the Family,” and Tisha Campbell were among those who spoke at the ceremony outside the El Capitan Entertainment Centre on Hollywood Boulevard. Gibbs guest starred as a tough new housekeeper in a 1995 episode of the Fox comedy “Martin,” whose cast included Campbell.
Before she was overcome, Gibbs thanked the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, her family and colleagues, including Lear, “without whom nobody would know my name.”
“It’s only because of you that they know me,” she said.
“Thank you to all of you who have been fans of `The Jeffersons’ and `227,”’ she told the crowd. “We love you, and it’s because you watched us we were able to excel and I’m able to be here today. Thank you.”
The star is the 2,698th since the completion of the Walk of Fame in 1961 with the first 1,558 stars. Gibbs’ grandchildren and great-grandchildren witnessed the star being made and assisted on it, Hollywood Walk of Fame producer Ana Martinez told City News Service.
Born Margaret Theresa Bradley in Chicago on June 14, 1931, Gibbs was a divorced mother of three children who was working as a reservations clerk for United Airlines in Detroit when she was transferred to Southern California in the early 1970s and decided to pursue an acting career.
Gibbs initially studied at the Watts-based Mafundi Institute and Watts Writers Workshop and appeared in several plays in the Los Angeles area, including “Medea,” “The Amen Corner” and “The Gingerbread Lady.”
After minor roles in the films “Sweet Jesus, Preacherman” and “Black Belt Jones,” she was cast for “The Jeffersons,” which ran on CBS from 1975-85 and brought her five consecutive best supporting actress in a comedy series Emmy nominations from 1981-85.
Following the cancellation of “The Jeffersons,” Gibbs starred in the 1985-90 NBC comedy “227,” portraying a sharp-tongued housewife living in an apartment building in northeast Washington, D.C.
Gibbs’ other television credits include recurring roles on the NBC daytime drama “Passions” and the 1998 ABC/UPN comedy “The Hughleys” and guest-starring roles on “NCIS,” “The King of Queens” and “Touched by Angel.” In 2021, Gibbs has appeared on the CBS comedy “Young Sheldon” and the Disney+ girls’ high school basketball series “Big Shot.”
Gibbs’ other film credits include “The Visit,” “El Camino” and “Stanley’s Gig.”
Gibbs sang and co-wrote the theme songs for “227” and “Checking In,” “The Jeffersons” spinoff that ran for four episodes in 1981 in which Johnston was the executive housekeeper at a New York City hotel. Gibbs released the CD “It’s Never Too Late” in 2006.
Gibbs also operated a jazz supper club in South Los Angeles, Marla’s Memory Lane, in the 1980s and 1990s and co-founded the Crossroads Theater and Acting school with her daughter Angela.