Curtis Michael Bridgeforth spent much of his life pretending to be someone else. And he was good at it.
As the lead singer of the World Famous Platters, a tribute band for the 1950s rock 'n' roll group, Mr. Bridgeforth performed around the world before his death May 24 in New York after an 18-year battle with HIV. He was 51.
Born in Gadsden, Ala., he moved to Buffalo early in his life with his four siblings. He spent most of his childhood in the area, performing at Studio Arena Theatre and attending Bennett High School, from which he graduated in 1974. He then moved to Monterey, Calif., where he studied musical theater.
Mr. Bridgeforth continued to sing and act after he graduated from college, working on dinner-theater productions of "Sweet Charity" and "Pippin" and touring the West Coast with On Stage Productions.
By the time he turned 26, he left performing arts to pursue other interests, working in publishing, producing films and theater, and working as a professional stylist. He returned to the stage in 1990, when he was diagnosed with HIV.
In 1994, he was chosen to perform with the World Famous Platters, performing the part Tony Williams sang many years before. The group is based in Las Vegas but has played gigs around the country -- even performing for former President Bill Clinton's second inauguration.
Mr. Bridgeforth also found time to run his own production company, CMB Platinum Productions; record a solo CD; and run the Bridgeforth Foundation, a nonprofit AIDS awareness and advocacy organization. At the time of his death, he was also working on a book.
Mr. Bridgeforth left the group in April and returned to New York because of his deteriorating health. About a month later, he died in St. Vincent's Midtown Hospital.
Survivors include two sisters, Berea Wingard and Carolyn Platt, and a brother, Joel.
A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in Thomas T. Edwards Funeral Home, 995 Genesee St.
-- Amanda Erickson