Tony Award-winning actor and legendary hoofer Ben Vereen (pictured) has decided to call his 36-year marriage a wrap, reports TMZ.
Vereen, who is best known for his unforgettable portrayal of the character “Chicken George” in the 1977 epic saga “Roots,” reportedly filed a petition on Thursday morning citing “irreconcilable differences.” Vereen is also allegedly asking the court not to pay his wife spousal support.
While Nancy and Vereen reportedly met on the set of one of his plays and tied the knot in July 1976, according to court papers, he and his estranged wife, Nancy, have been living separately since March of this year.
Together, he and Nancy have endured the death of his 16-year-old daughter, Naja, who was killed when the vehicle she was a passenger in was struck by a tractor-trailer on a New Jersey highway ramp back in 1987. Vereen has stated that, at the time, he could not cope with his daughter’s death and wanted to take his own life, so he began dabbling with mind-numbing addictions that eventually took a dangerous toll on him.
And the couple remained together even during Vereen’s self-destructive plunge that resulted in an obsession with liquor and cocaine that he just could not shake. He wound up entering a rehab facility in order to combat his addictions, and has since regained his spiritual balance.
Nancy also supported Vereen, when in 1992, while walking along a dark road one morning near his Malibu home, he was struck by a large SUV and almost died: While the actor was pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital, miraculously, his life was spared, although he was told that he would have to find another profession because he would never sing, much less walk or dance again.
Ten months after his doom-and-gloom prediction, Vereen was back on Broadway and co-starring with the late Gregory Hines in the Broadway hit “Jelly’s Last Jam.”
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While Vereen was married once to Andrea Townsley back in 1966, there’s now talk that there could be someone else waiting in the wings for the veteran performer. Songstress Brenda Russell’s name has been tossed around, but at press time, this has not been confirmed.