Kimberly C. Roberts, 63, an entertainment reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune for more than 20 years, died Saturday, May 30, at her home from heart failure.
Ms. Roberts loved writing about music, especially the R&B songs spotlighted at the old Uptown Theater in North Philadelphia.
Irv Randolph, managing editor of the Tribune, hired Ms. Roberts, who had a journalism degree, even though she did not have previous newspaper experience. He said it was because she had a deep knowledge, appreciation, and love for entertainment.
“She really knew entertainment well, and it showed in her work, whether she was writing about film, R&B music, or classical music as well,” Randolph said. “She would write with authority. She knew what she was talking about.”
Ms. Roberts wrote the 2013 book The Joy Ride! The Stars and Stories of Philly’s Famous Uptown Theater. It tells the history of the once-legendary North Philadelphia venue, which featured musical artists such as James Brown, the Supremes, Aretha Franklin, and Smokey Robinson, and comedians Redd Foxx and Flip Wilson.
Linda Richardson is president of the Uptown Entertainment & Development Corp., which is working to renovate the theater at 2240 N. Broad St. She said it was central to black entertainment in Philadelphia from 1959 to 1981, when it closed.
Richardson met Ms. Roberts before she started at the Tribune through Earl Young, the drummer for the Trammps, best known for its 1976 song, “Disco Inferno.” He was a friend of Ms. Roberts.
Richardson said the Joy Ride title of Ms. Roberts’ book came from the name of a song the Uptown played at the start of every show. It was also the theme song for the late radio host Georgie Woods, who was host at the Uptown. The Philadelphia songwriter and producer Kenny Gamble wrote the foreword to Ms. Roberts’ book.
“She was very enthusiastic about the Uptown and the people who performed there,” Richardson said.
Born in 1957 in Philadelphia, Ms. Roberts was the younger of two children of Mary Lucille and Gregory Roberts Sr. After graduating from Germantown High School, she earned a journalism degree from Temple University and was a member of the Epsilon Delta chapter of Delta Sigma Theta.
Derris Cole, a cousin, said the family was close and that she and Ms. Roberts were among six cousins who grew up more like siblings.
“We called her Kimmie,” Cole said. “We always got together on Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
At family gatherings, Ms. Roberts would sometimes talk about the celebrities she had met, such as Patti LaBelle, Gamble, and Charles Barkley. Cole said her relatives wouldn’t believe her. “We would say, ‘Yeah, right,’” she said.
But when Ms. Roberts brought an album of photos she had taken with various stars, they finally believed her.
She said her cousin enjoyed reading and traveling.
Ms. Roberts is survived by her mother, Mary Lucille Roberts; two nephews; a niece and other relatives and friends.