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McNair in 1967.
|Birth name||Barbara Jean McNair|
March 4, 1934|
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Origin||Racine, Wisconsin, U.S.|
|Died||February 4, 2007
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, McNair's family moved to Racine, Wisconsin shortly after her birth. With her parents' persuasion, McNair began singing in school productions and during church services. McNair studied music at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago.
McNair's big break came with a win on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, which led to bookings at The Purple Onion and the Cocoanut Grove. Described by the New York Times as “a gorgeous looking woman with a warm, easy, communicative personality and a voice that can range from softly intense ballads to the edges of gospel", Barbara soon became a popular headliner and a guest on such television variety shows as The Steve Allen Show, Hullabaloo, The Bell Telephone Hour, and The Hollywood Palace.
In the early 1960s, McNair made several musical shorts for Scopitone, a franchise of coin-operated machines that showed what were the forerunners of today's music videos. In 1967 McNair traveled with Bob Hope to Southeast Asia to perform for U.S. troops during the Vietnam War. McNair's acting career began on television, as a guest on series such as Dr. Kildare, The Eleventh Hour, I Spy, Mission: Impossible, Hogan's Heroes and McMillan and Wife. McNair posed nude for Playboy in the October 1968 issue. She caught the attention of the movie-going public with her much-publicized nude sequences in the gritty crime drama If He Hollers Let Him Go (1968) opposite Raymond St. Jacques, then donned a nun's habit alongside Mary Tyler Moore for Change of Habit (1969), Elvis Presley's last feature film. She portrayed Sidney Poitier's wife in They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (1970) and its sequel, The Organization (1971), and George Jefferson's deranged ex-girlfriend Yvonne in The Jeffersons (1984).
McNair starred in her own 1969 television variety series The Barbara McNair Show, becoming one of the first black women to host her own musical variety show. The show, which was produced in Canada by CTV (at CFTO/Toronto), lasted three seasons in first-run syndication in the United States until 1972. She married Frederick (Rick) Andrew Manzie, who managed McNair and produced the show with Burt Rosen. The show starred A-list guests including Tony Bennett, Sonny and Cher, The Righteous Brothers, Johnny Mathis, Freda Payne, Mahalia Jackson, Della Reese, Lou Rawls, Rich Little, B.B. King, Ethel Waters, Debbie Reynolds, and Lionel Hampton.
McNair was a headliner at Las Vegas hotels like the Sahara. She also appeared on TV game shows in the 1960s, including You Don't Say, Hollywood Squares, and The Match Game. She was also a VIP guest on the talk shows of Johnny Carson, Joey Bishop, Mike Douglas, and Merv Griffin.
McNair's recordings include Livin' End, The Real Barbara McNair, More Today Than Yesterday, Broadway Show Stoppers, A Movie Soundtrack If He Hollers, Let Him Go, I Enjoy Being a Girl, and The Ultimate Motown Collection, a two-CD set with 48 tracks that include her two albums for the label plus a non-album single and B-side and an entire LP that never was released.
McNair was married four times, to Jack Rafferty (1963–71), Rick Manzie (1972–76), Ben Strahan (1980–86) and Charles Becka (1992–2007). On December 15, 1976, her second husband, Rick Manzie, was murdered  in their Las Vegas mansion. Mafia boss-turned-FBI-informant Jimmy Fratianno later claimed in his book The Last Mafioso that Manzie had been a Mafia associate who tried to put a contract on the life of a mob-associated tax attorney with whom he had a legal dispute.
Later years and death
Into her 70s, McNair resided in the Los Angeles area, playing tennis and skiing to keep in shape and touring on occasion. She died on February 4, 2007, of throat cancer, in Los Angeles, survived by her husband Charles Blecka, sister Jaquline Gaither, niece Angela Rosenow, and the nephew of her late husband Frederick Manzie, John Thomas and his family.
- Spencer's Mountain (1963)
- If He Hollers Let Him Go (1968)
- Venus in Furs (1969)
- Change of Habit (1969)
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (1970)
- The Organization (1971)
- Fatal Charm (1990)
- Neon Signs (1996)
- Front Row Center (Coral CRL57209, 1959)
- The Livin' End (Warner WS 1570, 1964)
- I Enjoy Being A Girl (Warner WS 1541, 1966)
- Here I Am (Motown MS-644, November 1966)
- The Real Barbara McNair (Motown MS-680, April 1969)
- More Today Than Yesterday (Audio Fidelity – AFSD 6222, 1969)
- Fox, Margalit. "Barbara McNair, 72, a Singer, Actress and Host of a TV Show, Dies ". The New York Times, February 6, 2007.
- Barbara McNair - 1934-2007
- Burt Rosen at the Internet Movie Database
- The Miami News https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=9To0AAAAIBAJ&sjid=cesFAAAAIBAJ&pg=940%2C2107694. Retrieved 2013-12-26. Missing or empty
- Bobby W. Miller (2012). "Barbara McNair - Abyss of Consequences". Bobmillerwrites.com. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-12-26.
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