Clifford R. Jarrett Jr., 62, actor, TV producer


Clifford R. Jarrett Jr., an actor who was the first producer of Maryland Public Television's The Critics' Place, died of cancer Friday at Coastal Hospice at the Lake in Salisbury. The former Bolton Hill resident was 62.

Born in Baltimore, he attended Gilman School and went into radio broadcasting on the Eastern Shore in his late teens. He recalled being on duty in March 1962 while a major storm lashed Ocean City's Boardwalk and destroyed numerous buildings.

During the later 1960s through early 1970s, Mr. Jarrett worked at WJZ-TV as a producer and floor director for news, prime time and public affairs programming, including Family Counselor, which was syndicated and received an Emmy from the Washington Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

He moved to the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting in the 1970s and produced The Critics' Place, an hourlong weekly show featuring news and reviews of the arts and entertainment.

In 1979, he co-wrote and produced a drama about writer Gertrude Stein, Gerty, Gerty, Gerty Stein is Back, Back, Back, which received a Public Television Program Award for drama from the Corporation of Public Broadcasting.

"He was very good at putting together a complex, weekly program that appeared 52 weeks a year," said Michael B. Styer, a former MPT senior vice president who is now a media consultant. "He was accomplished at handing the diverse personalities that appeared on the show, and he kept it a reasonable, friendly program."

During the 1980s, Mr. Jarrett was managing and artistic director of Children's Theatre Association and appeared in its productions.

"He involved his children in his shows. He never acted at them but acted with them," said Debi Wynn, a fellow actor who often appeared with him. "He was one of the most skilled improvisational actors I've ever worked with."

In 1994, Mr. Jarrett joined the educational staff at the Baltimore Museum of Industry on Key Highway and served for nine years as a docent and special events supervisor. He also appeared as Professor Gizmo for the museum's Theatre on the Harbor.

He appeared in the musical production Professor Gizmo's Invention Show, presented at venues in Maryland and elsewhere, and continued the role with Thirst 'n' Howl musical productions until illness incapacitated him at the end of 2003.

"He believed a successful impact of an education program was achieved when children were excited about the learning process," Ms. Wynn said.

He also appeared in roles locally at Theatre Hopkins, Pumpkin Theatre, Timonium Dinner Theatre, Vagabond Players, Cockpit in Court, the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre and the Carousel Dinner Theatre in Ocean City.

"He had a deep, sonorous voice," said Suzanne Pratt O'Connell, director of Theatre Hopkins. "He was a bright, kind, introverted guy who gave lovely performances."

Mr. Jarrett had small roles in the John Waters movie Pecker and the TV show Homicide: Life on the Street.

He also made recordings for the voices for the old Hutzler's department store animated reindeers Bow and Tinsel, when they were reinstalled at the old Eudowood Mall for one Christmas holiday season after Hutzler's closed.

"Cliff just loved the theater," said F. Scott Black, department chairman of fine and performing arts at the Community College of Baltimore County. "It was his passion."

When urothelial cancer was diagnosed, Mr. Jarrett volunteered for medical trials at the National Institutes of Health and at University of Maryland Medical Center's Greenebaum Cancer Center.

"He would say you have to find a reason to laugh in these circumstances, and he saw laughter as the best medicine when the going got rough," Ms. Wynn said.

Mr. Jarrett, who was residing in Bishopville at his death, leaves no immediate survivors, and at his request no funeral is planned.

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