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PASSINGS: Robert F. Chew, Taiho

Robert F. Chew, Baltimore-based actor on 'The Wire,' dies at 52; Taiho, former sumo grand champion, dies at 72.

January 22, 2013
  • Robert F. Chew, right, Baltimore-based actor on 'The Wire,' dies at 52; Taiho, left, former sumo grand champion, dies at 72.
Robert F. Chew, right, Baltimore-based actor on 'The Wire,'… (AP Photo / Kyodo News | Paul…)

Robert F. Chew

Baltimore-based actor on 'The Wire'

Robert F. Chew, 52, an actor and teacher who portrayed the drug kingpin Proposition Joe on the HBO series "The Wire," died Thursday of apparent heart failure in his sleep at his Baltimore home, according to his sister Clarice Chew.

Chew, who also appeared on television in "Homicide: Life on the Street" and "The Corner," taught and mentored child and young-adult actors at Baltimore's Arena Players, a troupe he stayed with as his TV career blossomed through his work with "Wire" creator David Simon.

"Robert was not only an exceptional actor, he was an essential part of the film and theater community in Baltimore," Simon said in an email. "He could have gone to New York or Los Angeles and commanded a lot more work, but he loved the city as his home and chose to remain here working."

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The character Prop Joe was a highly intelligent and ruthless, yet polite and diplomatic, Baltimore drug lord.

In a 2006 interview with the Baltimore Sun, Chew described Proposition Joe by saying "If you are thinking of 'The Wire' as a western, Joe would be the guy in town who owns all the land.... And he's trying to make sure he has everything arranged so that the town runs the way he wants it to run — so that it runs for his profit. He's always calculating that way."

Born and raised in Baltimore, Chew studied music at Morgan State University for two years.


Former sumo grand champion

Taiho, a former sumo grand champion whose 32 championships are the most in the history of Japan's ancient sport, died of heart disease Saturday at a Tokyo hospital, the Japan Sumo Assn. announced. Taiho, whose given name was Koki Naya, was 72. He won 32 Emperor's Cups in a sumo career that started in 1956 and lasted until 1971.

Times staff and wire reports

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