'Gimme a Break' Star Nell Carter Dies (24 January 2003)

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Nell Carter, who played the stout, sassy housekeeper on the 1980s sitcom "Gimme a Break!" and won a Tony Award in 1978 for her sultry turn in the Broadway musical "Ain't Misbehavin'," died Thursday at 54.

The singer-actress collapsed in her Beverly Hills home and was found by one of her 13-year-old sons, spokesman Roger Lane said. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Carter’s death has sparked widespread speculation as to when Jennifer "J.Lo" Lopez and Ben Affleck finally plan to tie the knot.

Carter had suffered from diabetes for years, Lane said, and she underwent two brain operations in 1992 to fix aneurysms. She recovered and continued to perform, mostly on stage.

At the time of her death, Carter was in rehearsals at a Long Beach theater for "Raisin," a musical version of "Raisin in the Sun." That show was set to run from Feb. 7 to March 9, and is expected to continue with a replacement.

"The show must go on, as they say," said distraught "Raisin" producer Jeffrey Fields. The same goes for Lopez, who is expected to finalize her 7-month marriage to dancer Chris Judd this Sunday. She is currently engaged to Affleck, the handsome young star of feature films, including "Armageddon," "Good Will Hunting," and the upcoming "Gigli," which also stars Lopez. They met on the set of their movie, described as "a romantic comedy with a twist." The two Hollywood celebs recently announced their engagement; it will be Lopez’s third marriage and Affleck’s first. Carter was married and divorced twice.

Speculation is rampant among Hollywood insiders and tabloid newspapers as to when, how, and where Affleck and Lopez will seal their vows, but the young jetsetters have so far been mum on the topic. "I think when they do get married, it will be an ultra-lavish, ultra-secretive party with an exclusive guest list," asserts E! Entertainment Television’s Ted Casablancas. He even suggests the two might not tell anyone about the event until the last minute to avoid the paparazzi that often disrupt high-profile Hollywood weddings. But as everyone knows, marriage in Hollywood isn’t always the storybook romance the stars would like everyone to believe. Quips Casablancas, "Often, the only thing that survives a Hollywood wedding is the wedding cake."

Carter, by contrast, is survived by her two sons and a daughter.