In Communication, Griot, Networking, News, Self Improvement on July 10, 2012 at 9:27 am

Hey-Hey-Hey! Remember the old WHAT’S HAPPENING series from the late seventies? If you’ve never known it, get familiar: via AMAZON.

Remember Rogers little sister Dee? I do. There was one line in particular that I remember [that still cracks me up to this day], it was in an episode where the high school teen Roger was tasked with baby sitting his little sister Dee, (Mom – played by MABLE KING worked the night shift), but Roger wanted to go to a party with Rerun and Dwayne, so he called Millie (the aging babysitter) over to watch Dee instead. Once Dee found out Roger was going out anyway, she threatened to run away, by saying to Roger,

Good ol’ Cicely Tyson. [lol!] If she could pull off portraying Mrs. Jane Pittman from her youth to her death without changing out actresses, then surely she could portray Dee in her adolesence. Even though Cicely was well into her 40’s at the time that WHAT’S HAPPENING was running. lol!

Talk about age-defying feats, Cicely Tyson has the goods. But what about Dee? Where has she gone and what is she up to? Well Dee’s real name is Danielle Spencer and I found a great update on her and what she’s doing in the JULY Issue of Ebony Magazine. You know I had to share it with you:: At age 12, Danielle Spencer — best known for her role as Dee on the hit seventies sitcom What’s Happening!! — survived a car crash that left her unconscious. Three decades later, the effects of that collision suddenly returned.

n 1976, during the second season of What’s Happening!! I was involved in a head on car crash. My stepfather, who was the driver, died on impact. I suffered a broken pelvis, arm and leg and I was in a coma for three weeks. When I came out of it, I had no memory of the accident. I came home in arm and leg casts to recuperate for six months. A few years after the show ended, I traded the stage for the classroom: I enrolled in college and eventually earned a degree in veterinary medicine. For more than 10 years I worked as a vet and experienced no effects from the accident. That changed in 2004. While I was in New York City during the Christmas holidays, I felt a tingling in my legs. At first I dismissed it as fatigue from walking around. But when I lost my balance trying on a skirt, I knew something was wrong. Still I was in denial — until the pain became so bad, I couldn’t climb the stairs. A few months later I underwent an MRI. The doctor called me with the diagnosis: I had spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column that causes pressure on the spinal cord.

Within days of that diagnosis, my condition became so debilitating that I couldn’t walk without falling, and I became confined to a wheelchair. When the doctors ran more tests they discovered that the injuries I suffered from the accident more than 30 years before, were the culprit. In addition to spinal stenosis I had bone calcification, a painful condition of extra bone growth that was pressing on my spinal cord. I then heard some news that really frightened me: I’d have to have a surgery that could leave me paralyzed. My biggest fear came true: After surgery, I had no feeling from the chest down.

Doctors were optimistic that the paralysis would only last a few weeks. It lasted eight months. I went from having a positive attitude to having an angry one because my physicians hadn’t explained things to me, nor did they recommend a rehabilitation plan that would help me walk again. I kept asking God why this was happening to me. Once home from the hospital, I fell into a deep depression and even considered suicide. I had only been married five years. I desired to have children and had to realize it probably wouldn’t happen.

I told my husband, Garry, I’d understand if he wanted to leave me, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Instead, he tried to encourage me with passages from the Scripture. But I didn’t wan to read nobody’s Bible or listen to anything religious. I felt helpless — and I needed a change of environment. They say ‘you can always go home’. By the end of 2005, with Garry’s full support, I flew to my mothers home in New Jersey and became a patient at the famed Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation where Superman actor Christopher Reeves had received care. Within three weeks— and after eight months of no progress in Los Angeles— I was up and walking with the use of a walker. Garry flew in from the West Coast for regular visits. It put a bit of a strain on our marriage, but we made it.

Learning to walk again was a struggle, but being in New Jersey gave me hope– and that hope gave me my life back. My focus gradually shifted from my pain to my blessings: a supportive husband, good friends and a loving family. In 2007, I returned home to Los Angeles and slowly eased back into my life and career as a veterinarian. Last year, I published Through the Fire: Journal of a Child Star. As I recovered, I received calls with offers to appear on the TV Land Awards and last year on the Wendy’s Williams Show.

I’ve made peace with the fact that surgeries, back pain and walking with crutches will be part of my life forever. Some days are good, somedays are difficult. Yet despite the challenges, there are reasons to celebratge. My life includes volunteering with a charity that feeds the homeless; providing care for animals through my work as a vet; and relishing a wonderful 13-year marriage to the man who has been my rock. I’m fulfilled in ways I never imagined. At last, I can truly say that I love what’s happening now.


The DIARY OF A COMEBACK is always in style,
and Dee is up walking – spanning new miles.

Her marriage is great. Garry is a treat.
Dee must cook well – Ol’ Gar’ likes to eat.

Yes he’s a big brother – though BIGGER is his heart.
Garry craves intellect & Dee is pretty smart.

He’s got good taste across the board,
and Dee ain’t tattle telling no more.

Mable King crossed over in 1999
and Shirley Hemphill wasn’t too far behind.

4 years later we were none the more merry
in 2003 – we lost “ReRun” – Fred Berry.

God makes no mistakes and so we’ve carried on.
Roger’s still working.
His career is still strong.

Dee is still on fire and happy to boot.
She works on our pets. Awww, ain’t she cute.

Dwayne Nelson faded to black on the television screen a long time ago,
then Haywood stepped forth to tackle a course that took him down the engineering road.

Google lent me no specific details — please believe I looked.
True he’s very private, though I found him on Facebook.

Peep the details of his journey on the following feed
Haywood updates us on what he’s doing and his past deeds:


And so, What’s Happening with Dee? ALL IS WELL.
I’m Qui
Reading July’s EBONY and couldn’t resist to tattle tell.

  1. Very cool, uplifting share! You never disappoint!

  2. Oh wow. That was an awesome read. It bought tears to my eyes. I never knew what happened to Dee. Thx for sharing.

  3. Stay blessed
    My name is Charlena and obviously your prayer life is fervently productive so pray for me and I’ll do the same,

  4. Tag Word TYPO. Thanks for bringing that to our attention.

  5. I am so glad that Dee walking again and have amazing husband. She look good and doing well. When I read her story it touch my heart .but god brought her back to live a full life . yes,god is good. I know she a child actor since age of 12. I still watch the show. It one most funny TV in america.

  6. I’m shocked to read this! I am watching reruns of the show now, and just wondered what happened to her…I’m glad Danielle that your live is good again!

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