Film, TV and stage actress Beverly Hope Atkinson, remembered as the sassy prostitute smart-mouthing off to George C. Scott in “The New Centurions” (1972), died Dec. 11 of cancer at Midway Hospital in Los Angeles. She was 66.
Atkinson, who studied under Lee Strasberg in the 1960s in New York and became a member of the Actors Studio, brought street smarts and humanity to the roles of prostitutes and drug addicts. On exec producer Steven Bochco’s breakthrough TV series “Hill Street Blues,” she was featured in the recurring and daring role of Vivian DeWitt, an addict willing to “sell” her young son for drug money.
But Atkinson also played other types of women: She starred a domestic in the 1982 TV movie “Maid in America” and played Judge Allan in a 1987 episode of “thirtysomething.”
Born in New York City, she graduated from Hughes High School in Manhattan and studied at City College of New York before being bitten by the acting bug. She was a member of the Cafe LaMama in New York, and Theater West in Los Angeles.
As a young actress, Atkinson traveled abroad with “Skin of Our Teeth,” which toured Scandinavia, and “Tom Paine,” which played London’s West End. At the Seattle Repertory Theater, she performed in “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Lysistrata” and “The Blacks.” She also was featured with the Meadowbrook (Mich.) Repertory.
Moving to Hollywood in the early 1970s, she was featured in such films as “The New Centurions,” “Heavy Traffic” (cartoon voice, 1973) and “Cornbread, Earl and Me” (1975) and co-starred in “UFOria” (1980).
Her TV movies included “Never Forget” with Leonard Nimoy (1991), “Skag” with Karl Malden (1980), “Outside Chance” with Yvette Mimieux (1978) and “Hustling” with Lee Remick (1975).
Also on TV, Atkinson appeared in “The White Shadow,” “Good Times,” “Police Story” and “Sanford and Son.” In recent years, she studied languages, traveled, painted and taught acting.
She is survived by her mother.
A memorial will be held on the West Coast at 2 p.m. Jan. 19 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 2 at the William Grant Still Community Arts Center, 2520 S. West View Blvd., Los Angeles. For information, call Lou Myers at (818) 787-3182.