Clear 22° Good Afternoon
Clear 22° Good Afternoon

Lynn Manning dies; blind poet, actor and athlete was 60

Blind actor and poet Lynn Manning in Los

Blind actor and poet Lynn Manning in Los Angeles on Oct. 23, 2014. Photo Credit: TNS / Los Angeles Times / Luis Sinco

LOS ANGELES -- After a stranger blinded him with a gunshot to the face at a Hollywood bar, Lynn Manning never thirsted for revenge. He had a life, after all.

At 23, he had to learn how to get around by himself. To stay fit, he took up martial arts and became a world champion in blind judo.

To stay sane, he wrote funny, angry, poignant poems and read them at poetry slams. To grapple with stage fright, he studied acting.

To find his voice on a tangle of profound issues that were wrapped up in having a disability and being an African-American, he wrote acclaimed one-act plays and co-founded a theater company in Watts.

Manning's assailant tangled with him in a pinball tournament and came back with a gun. He was never found.

"I sincerely hope he gets what's coming to him, but I don't dwell much on it," Manning told a Pennsylvania newspaper, the Allentown Morning Call, in 2007.

"Some say it's important for a victim to get closure, but I think if you need that sort of thing to move forward, you're still a victim."

Manning, who last month attended a White House celebration on the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, died Monday at his Los Angeles home. He was 60.

He had liver cancer, said Eric Inman, managing director of the Watts Village Theater Company, a group established by Manning and local activist Quentin Drew in 1996.

The group, which at times has eked by on a bare-bones budget, offers professional theater in one of Los Angeles' poorest neighborhoods. Manning was its guiding spirit and artistic director.

Manning's best-known play is the autobiographical "Weights," which traces his life from a tortured childhood up to the shooting. In addition to his Los Angeles performances, Manning played himself in productions Off-Broadway as well as in Edinburgh, Scotland and Adelaide, Australia.

"In the absence of that vastness, that visual feast, I came to recognize the overwhelming distraction that sight had been," he told his audience.

Within a year of his shooting on Oct. 25, 1978, Manning started his judo lessons at the Braille Institute in Los Angeles. In 1990, he took gold at the World Games for the Disabled in the Netherlands, and silver at the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona.

News Photos and Videos