Death at the brink of Hollywood fame

ERIC Black was poised to make his name in Hollywood but today his Suffolk relatives are preparing for his funeral after he was killed in a US road accident.

ERIC Black was poised to make his name in Hollywood but today his Suffolk relatives are preparing for his funeral after he was killed in a US road accident.

The 36-year-old twice-married scriptwriter, actor and comedian, had been walking along the central reservation on the Detroit interstate, at about 2.30am on September 21 when he was in collision with a car.

Today his close family back in Spring Road, Ipswich, are united in remembering him for the good times – and his dedication to making people laugh.

They recalled how at the tender age of 19, Mr Black packed his bags and left his home on the Ipswich council estate of Whitton, intent on making his name in the land of stars. Having been born in New York, he returned there to stay with relatives – just as his mum Janet Turner had also done at the age of 19.

After attending Whitton infant and junior schools, the popular pupil enjoyed performing in school plays at Thurleston High School in Ipswich.

When he went to America, he studied theatre at the University of Michigan.

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His dramatic talent and flair for improvisation shone when he auditioned to win a place to train and perform at Second City in Detroit. The renowned institution had been host to celebrities like the late John Candy and John Belushi, who also both died young.

Mr Black's face became known worldwide when he appeared in an advert for Ericsson mobile phones a couple of years ago, in which he watched aliens beam a cow into their spaceship, and decide it tasted like chicken.

He was also taken on to the books of the same acting agent as Vinnie Jones.

Mr Black was due to meet with executives at kids cable channel Nickelodean on Tuesday , to discuss turning one of his plays 'Daft Buggers' – which had already won approval from Stephen Spielberg's company Dreamworks but been too expensive to produce as a movie - into an animated series.

That series may still happen, and a host of his other works are also being touted by his friends in LA.

Despite the Transatlantic distance, Mr Black maintained links with home, phoning his family three or four times a week - often at 6am to counter the time difference.

He had been in Ipswich earlier this month when his holiday included a break in Cornwall. He flew back to Los Angeles on September 11 to be in Detroit last Saturday for Second City's 10-year anniversary in which he performed. That was the night of his death.

Mrs Turner said: "I am pleased we spent that time with him.

"I do have a cry but he was just such a happy, funny person and that's how we remember him – for his sense of humour."

Mr Black's eldest brother Dwayne Black said: "He was always the joker of the pack.

"Whenever I saw something funny I would give Eric a ring and say 'check this out for a one-liner.' The sense of humour runs through all the family.

"Eric never made it to the silver screen, but his work is out there and it is an inspiration, a dream for any other young man from Ipswich who wants to make it in Hollywood."

Mr Black's sister Vanessa Black, other brother Ted Black, and Mrs Turner also paid tribute to his ardent sense of equality.

He is also survived by his father Ted Black, stepdad John Turner, and 91-year-old grandmother, known as Nana Thorpe.

A tribute to him by Second City said: "This was a tragic and sad end to an otherwise wonderful weekend for the Second City. Eric's death is a heartbreaking and painful contrast to the brilliant wit, joy and laughter he brought to his fellow cast members, friends and family. He will be dearly missed."

Marc Evan Jackson, a longtime friend and former cast mate in the US, added: "He was prolific. He was relentless. He was consistent and he was hilarious."

His body was flown home to Ipswich yesterday , in keeping with the wishes he had expressed.

A memorial service was held in the US on Wednesday , and his funeral will be at St Mary's Church, Whitton, at 2pm on Wednesday..