But Jeter had a difficult life, and his struggle with drug and alcohol addiction led him to give up acting for a time. He was working as a legal secretary when the producers of Designing Women hunted him down. His stage career included appearing in the original Off-Broadway production of Caryl Churchill's gender-bending Cloud Nine, directed by Tommy Tune. It was Tune, in fact, who cast Jeter in his most memorable stage role, the impish accountant in Grand Hotel. The following clip features a tremendously exuberant performance which had underlying irony: Jeter's character in Grand Hotel was dying, and Jeter himself was diagnosed with HIV, about which he was bravely public. So, in this clip, a dying man is playing a dying man. But you'd never know it, as Jeter is a fireball. I remember seeing this number on the Tony Awards, and it persuaded me to see Grand Hotel on my next New York visit (in fact, I saw it THREE times; I wrote about seeing the Broadway version here).
Michael Jeter died six years ago this week. His dynamic stage presence is on view in this clip; the audience is clearly responding to his superb physicality (they interrupt the proceedings several times with spontaneous applause); watch as the character swills unaccustomed champagne and gets delightfully tipsy, all in the course of this showstopper: