Avon Long was a talented singer and dancer. He appeared as “Sportin’ Life” in the 1942 Broadway revival of Porgy and Bess. He appeared with Lena Horne in Beggar’s Holiday and with Thelma Carpenter in the 1952 revival of Shuffle Along. He originated the role of “John” in Bubbling Brown Sugar and was nominated for a Tony Award for Don’t Play Us Cheap in 1973. He reprised his role of “Brother Dave” in the film version.
Avon was cast in small, but memorable, roles in a number of popular Hollywood films. In Trading Places, he played the recipient of Ralph Bellamy’s meager Christmas bonus. In Harry and Tonto, he played Harry’s (Art Carney) friend, garbage collector “Leroy.” In The Sting, Avon played “Benny Garfield,” the man from whom the bogus betting parlor was rented, uttering the line “Flat rate!” with venomous disdain. He was a favorite for the role of “George Jefferson” on All in the Family, but the role was recast after negative feedback from series star Carroll O’Connor. Avon’s final role was in a science-fiction comedy called Nothing Lasts Forever, which was never released. The film was supposed to star John Belushi, but the comedian died six weeks before production began.
After enjoying two nearly separate careers, Avon passed away in 1984 at the age of 73.