Tamara Dobson, 59; 'Cleopatra Jones' Star

From News Services and Staff Reports
Friday, October 6, 2006

Tamara Dobson, 59, the stunning Amazonian model-turned-actress who portrayed a strong female as Cleopatra Jones in two so-called blaxploitation films, died Oct. 1 of complications from pneumonia and multiple sclerosis at the Keswick Multi-Care Center in Baltimore, where she had lived for the past two years.

Ms. Dobson was born in Baltimore, one of four children, and graduated from Western High School. She began her modeling career in fashion shows at the Maryland Institute College of Art before moving to New York. She appeared in many magazines, including Vogue and Essence, and television commercials for Faberge, Chanel and Revlon.

In 1978, when she became the face of Faberge's Tigress perfume, Ms. Dobson spoke about the influence that her mother had on her life. "My mother always told me that being tall was the most wonderful thing anybody could be," Mrs. Dobson, who hit 6 feet at 14, told The Washington Post. "Whenever she saw me stooping over, she'd pinch my Achilles heel. And since I was growing up around tall people, it was different."

With a traffic-stopping, 6-foot-2 hourglass figure, Ms. Dobson was striking as the kung-fu fighting, huge-Afro-wearing government agent Cleopatra Jones in 1973. She reprised the role in 1975's "Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold."

"She was not afraid to start a trend. She designed a lot of the clothing that so many women emulated. With the knowledge from her degree and her natural creativity, she helped develop elegant fashions, especially for tall women," said her brother, Peter Dobson of Houston.

Ms. Dobson also appeared in "Come Back, Charleston Blue," "Murder at the World Series," "Norman . . . Is That You?" and "Chained Heat." She had TV roles in the early 1980s in "Jason of Star Command" and "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century."

She lived most of her adult life in New York, her family said. She was diagnosed six years ago with multiple sclerosis.

"It was tough going through that debilitating disease, especially with her athleticism and involvement in karate," her brother said. "That was something she had to fight, and that fight was horrendous, and being a proud individual, the fight was even harder for her."

In addition to her brother, survivors include a sister.

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