Tamara Dobson, the stunning Amazonian model-turned-actress best known for her leading role in two films as kung fu-fighting government super-agent Cleopatra Jones, died Monday in Baltimore from complications of pneumonia and multiple sclerosis. She was 59.
A native of Baltimore, Dobson studied fashion illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art and began modeling there. She soon attracted the attention of the New York fashion world with her 6-foot-2, traffic-stopping hourglass figure and huge Afro hairstyle.
After moving to New York, she appeared in many magazines, including Vogue, Redbook, Ebony and Essence, and television commercials for Faberge, Chanel and Revlon.
Her film career began in 1972 with a small role in "Fuzz" as the girlfriend of the "deaf man" villain played by Yul Brynner.
Her big break came the next year when she was cast in the title role of "Cleopatra Jones" -- the first black superheroine in the "blaxploitation" genre -- a striking, fierce and fashion-conscious spy.
She reprised the role in 1975 in "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," her brother, Peter Dobson of Houston, said.
She also appeared in "Norman, Is That You?," "Murder at the World Series" and "Chained Heat." She had TV roles in the early 1980s in "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" and "Jason of Star Command."
Dobson lived most of her adult life in New York, her family said. She was diagnosed six years ago with multiple sclerosis.
In addition to her brother, Dobson is survived by a sister, Darilyn Dobson of Baltimore.
A memorial service is planned for Oct. 13 at Union Baptist Church in Baltimore.