Goodbye to Benson

Robert Guillaume, the urbane actor who received two Emmy Awards for portraying the acidic butler Benson on a pair of ABC sitcoms, died Tuesday. He was 89.

Guillaume’s polished portrayal of the imperious family retainer Benson DuBois endured for nine years, first in three seasons on “Soap” (1977-80) and then on the spinoff “Benson”, which ran until April 1986.

Benson’s personal arc went from butler/cook to state budget director and finally to lieutenant governor. He even ran for governor against his former boss, Eugene X. Gatling (John Noble), but that race — a season-ending cliff-hanger — went undecided because the show went off the air.

Guillame also was the voice for Rafiki in The Lion King movie, and was the first African-American to play the title role in The Phantom of the Opera.

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