Born James Jonah Cummings on November 3, 1952, he grew up in Youngstown, Ohio. Sooner or later, he moved to New Orleans. There, he designed Mardi Gras floats, was a singer, door-to-door salesman, and a Louisiana riverboat deckhand. Then Cummings moved to Anaheim, California, where he started his career playing Lionel from the program Dumbo's Circus (1985).
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