Back story: Cliffites in Hollywood, continued

Clockwise from top left: Belita Moreno, Edward Edwards and Tim Choate

Clockwise from top left: Belita Moreno, Edward Edwards and Tim Choate

The list of Cliffites in Hollywood continues.

Sunset 1968 graduate Edward Edwards also attended Greiner Junior High. At Sunset, he was — not surprisingly — drama club president and a member of the concert choir, where his talents shone as a cast member of all the school musicals and plays. Also a member of the Latin club, Edwards attended competitions, performing monologues in Latin! A member of the Bison tennis team and the student council, he lived with his family near Edgefield and West Davis, where the Oak Cliff student also worked 30 to 40 hours a week for Ralph Cannon of Cannon’s Dime Store and frequently at the bakery next door, Schindler’s, which Cannon also owned and operated.

Edwards’ first professional acting job was in Dallas, as Gorky the trained bear in Theatre Three’s production of “The Cave Dwellers.” He attended the University of Texas for a year, but moved to New York after his acceptance to The Juilliard School. Edwards became a founding member of an off-Broadway theater company, The Colonnades Theatre Lab, and then performed in two Broadway shows: “Streamers,” directed by Mike Nichols, and “The Nerd,” directed by Charles Nelson Reilly, in which Edwards played the title character.

Now a longtime California resident, Edwards holds a directing resume full of accolades from the LA press and four decades of acting experience. Edwards has been seen in commercials, and his film appearances include “Robo Cop” (1987) and “Last Vegas” (2013). His extensive television work includes roles in “CSI,” “CSI Miami,” “Boston Legal,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” The Wonder Years,” “JAG,” “Chicago Hope” and “Family Ties.” He played the role of Oliver North in the 2000 TV movie “Noriega: God’s Favorite.” Edwards received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1981.

Belita Moreno’s most recognized role — Benny, the cynical grandmother on the now-syndicated sitcom “George Lopez” (2002-2007) — places her face numerous times daily on channels all over the world. First becoming familiar to television audiences as Lydia Markham, the newspaper advice columnist in the ’80s sitcom “Perfect Strangers” (1986-1992), Moreno also has a hefty list of silver screen performances that include “Clear and Present Danger,” “Mommie Dearest” (1981), “Swing Shift” (1984), “Men Don’t Leave” (1990) and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” (2010). She appeared in the miniseries “Tales of the City” and in a string of sitcoms and dramatic programs such as “The Golden Girls,” “Family Ties,” “Valerie” and “Melrose Place.” The SMU graduate also has appeared on stage, including performances both on and off Broadway.

Moreno has served as an acting coach and advisor on such films as “Jerry Maguire,” “Rush Hour 2,” “Almost Famous,” “Parent Trap” and “The Family Man,” and she has also appeared on Disney’s “Wizards of Waverly Place.”

Although she’s an LA resident these days, this Oak Cliff gal attended T. W. Browne Junior High and Kimball High School (class of ’68) and was a member of both school’s drill teams. At Kimball, Moreno was a member of the drama department, where she says she was “greatly influenced by [her] teacher, Mary Curtis.”

“In fact, she was the one who set up my scholarship audition at SMU,” Moreno adds. “She was an artist and a great motivator as well as a positive role model. I am forever thankful to her.”

Another actor from the Cliff, Tim Choate, graduated from Kimball in ’73, a few years after Moreno. A University of Texas graduate as well, Choate next attended Cornell University before beginning his career on and off Broadway and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., often performing Shakespeare.

Moving to the world of film, Choate was seen in “The Europeans” (1979), “Times Square” (1980), “Jane Austen in Manhattan” (1980), “Ghost Story” (1981), “Def-Con 4” (1984), “Girl in the Cadillac” (1995), “Jefferson in Paris” (1995), “Pearl Harbor” (2001) and the Oscar-winning short “Ray’s Male Heterosexual Dance Hall” (1987).

On the small screen, Choate played Zathras on “Babylon 5 and had a recurring role on “Newhart.” He also appeared in several TV movies, a miniseries, and guest-starred on programs including “The Practice,” “Diagnosis Murder,” “Frasier,” “Tales from the Dark Side,” “Highway to Heaven,” “Murder, She Wrote” and “Coach.”

“Tim was a huge Errol Flynn fan,” relates Choate’s high school friend Steve Coulter. “This was unusual since Flynn died when Tim was only 4 years old and all Flynn’s movies were oldies to the rest of us. Nevertheless, Tim was infatuated with him. When Tim later became a father, he named his son Flynn.”

In 2004, while riding his motorcycle to a play practice, Choate was struck by a car and killed. His memorial service was at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, and he is interred with many other Hollywood celebrities at Forest Lawn, also the resting place of Errol Flynn.

Next month’s installment will be the final leg of the Cliffites in Hollywood tour. See you then.

By |2013-07-24T16:46:55-05:00July 8th, 2013|All Columns, All Magazine Articles, Back Story|11 Comments

About the Author:

Gayla Brooks
GAYLA BROOKS co-authored the books "Images of America: Oak Cliff" and "Legendary Locals of Oak Cliff" and writes a monthly history column for the Oak Cliff Advocate. She can date her neighborhood heritage back to 1918, when her father was born in what was then called Eagle Ford. She was born at Methodist hospital and graduated from Kimball High School. Email


  1. Virginia February 27, 2016 at 3:49 PM

    Too late now, but Mark Murphy is younger brother of Michael Martin Murphy (singer-guitarist). Mark and Jill were both acting proteges of Mary Curtis, married, and went on (I was told) to work in Shakespearean theater somewhere in WA. state. About all I know – their parents were Pink and Lois Murphy of Oak Cliff. Miss your column.

  2. Gayla Brooks
    Gayla July 19, 2013 at 2:20 AM

    Thanks, Jan. Glad you approve. I write so others will know about our great old neighborhood.

  3. Gayla Brooks
    Gayla Brooks July 17, 2013 at 11:35 PM

    Shanna, This link should do it. Thanks for reading.

  4. Keri Mitchell July 11, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    Shanna, good news! You can find all of Gayla’s stories at this link:

  5. Shanna Fitzgerald Boals July 11, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    Hi, Gayla. Is it possible to see the older articles about Cliffites in Hollywood? I missed the first installments somehow. Thanks!
    Shanna Fitzgerald Boals
    Kimball 1967

  6. Jacquie Hatton July 11, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    Gayla, love your stories about Cliffites in Hollywood. Have you mentioned Jayne Mansfield? I know she lived in Highland Park, where she went to high school, but I also know she spent some time living on Canterbury Court. Is that right?

  7. Gayla Brooks June 26, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    Hey, Dano! It’s easy to write when one has such great subjects! I feel sorry for all those poor folks who had to grow up “across the river.” Oak Cliff rocked…and still does!

  8. Gayla Brooks June 26, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    Hey, Dano! Thanks. I have such great subject matter. It’s easy to write when one has such amazing subjects. I feel so sorry for all those poor people who had to grow up across the river. Oak Cliff rocked…and still does.

  9. Danny Smith June 26, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    Another great story chronicling the great talent arising from Oak Cliff! Looking forward to hearing the next one, Gayla!

    Danny Smith
    Kimball HS 1968

  10. Gayla Brooks June 26, 2013 at 3:39 PM

    Thanks for the info, Virginia. And his name is Stephen! I’ve emailed with him quite a bit and he’s been great to work with. And, I’m glad to know Mary Curtis’s last name. I had thought it was Messner or Messer. I went on the Eastfield Web site but couldn’t find her. I’ll try again. I have to admit, I don’t know who Mark and Jill Murphy are. Can you enlighten me? (Sorry, but perhaps I’m just not remembering.) I know what you mean about WPD!! That WAS a challenge, wasn’t it? I just got in touch with Jane Abbott (“Evening Shade”) and we’ve been emailing and calling. She’ll be in next month’s column. Belita and Edward have also been great to check all my writing and answer all my questions. Hey, I’ll take all the help I can get!!!And…thanks for the compliments!

  11. Virginia Barton Mehaffie June 26, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    So thrilled to see Belita give Mary Curtis Forrest some of the credit she is due! Even as a first-year teacher in 1963-64, with WPD looking over her (very young) shoulder, she managed to teach and inspire numerous students, i.e., Steve Tobolosky, Mark Murphy and his wife to be Jill, and many others to make acting a lifelong career. Additionally, out of a large group of us who began teaching at Kimball during that time, Mary has persevered and is still teaching and inspiring students at Eastfield (I believe), one of the numerous Dallas County Community Colleges that sprang up in the mid-60’s. Thanks, Gayla, once again (and please correct the spelling of Steve’s last name if I botched it)! I do always read and appreciate your columns in The Advocate.

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