*Hey Gladiators, by now you may have heard that Shonda Rhimes‘ hit, “Scandal,” was inspired by the real life story of a Washington “Fixer” named Judy Smith and her “Leader of the free world client.” You might even know that the client was former president, George H. W. Bush.
But did you know that when it was clear that the show was going to be green-lit, and Smith placed a call to give Bush a heads up, about a new show that was going to premiere based on their business relationship; but the creator of the show had decided to throw in a new twist, Mr. Bush wasn’t completely turned off by the idea. In fact, he quite liked it.
Prolific writer J. California Cooper, has died at age 82.
Cooper focused mainly on writing plays, until she met Alice Walker who advised her to consider short stories and novels instead, because they were an easier path to a paycheck.
She had been living in Seattle, Washington.
According to her daughter Paris Williams, Cooper died early Saturday; she had experienced a number of heart attacks over the past few years.
Cooper was born in Berkeley, and frequented a local theater there called Black Repertory Group, where a close-knit family of black actors (EURThisNthat editor, DeBorah B. Pryor included) worked under the guidance of founder, Nora B. Vaughn, who produced many of Cooper’s plays. The playwright was referred to as Joan ‘California’ Cooper at the time, wrote more than a dozen plays and went on to have about a dozen books published after switching to prose fiction.
Walker met Cooper after she came to see one of her plays.
“Her advice to my mother was you should write short stories or novels because it was easier to get paid. She went home and wrote 12 stories,” Williams said.
When Cooper asked Walker to write an introduction to her first story collection, the writer who had just been honored for “The Color Purple” asked to publish the book at her own publishing house. Walker also helped Cooper get one of her stories published in Essence magazine and the book took off from there, Williams said.
Williams called her mother a hard worker. She worked a variety of jobs from a teamster on the Alaska pipeline to an escrow officer and a manicurist to pay the bills.
She went to the pipeline to work as a secretary and switched to bus and truck driving after she realized she could make a lot more money, her daughter recalls. She drove welders up to their work site and then panned for gold while waiting for the return trip, Williams said.
“My mother tried a lot of things when I was growing up,” she said. “Writing was something she always did. She just stuck them in a drawer.”
Reviewing her novel “Family” in The New York Times in 1990, Roy Hoffman called it “the sort of book that ought to be read out loud.”
“Never mind that the narrator, Clora, is a ghost,” Hoffman wrote. “In its strong rhythms and colloquial expressions, this book is a living woman’s monologue. At times, Clora even seems to lean toward us, grabbing at our lapels.”
Williams said her mother never took her fame seriously.
“She used to say people have forgotten all about me,” Williams said. “But all her books are still in print. It’s pretty amazing.”
Her mother did not want a funeral and requested instead that she be remembered with personal acts of kindness or charity.
Rest in sweet peace, Ms. Cooper. And give Mr. and Mrs. Vaughn (and Mr. Lamar) a tight squeeze for me.
*Bill Cosby did a remarkable thing for black people and television in general 30 years ago. He used his education, comic genius, courage and skill to demonstrate that people of all races and socio-economic rankings can sit around a television set and watch a show where a family with children go through the same things all families go through.
But this family just happened to be black.
And he made it look effortless. And it was enjoyable. The Cosby Show did change what was possible if you were black and on television. It did show that you didn’t have to play to type, and that there truly is a universality of the human experience. It made you believe you actually could be anything. Unapologetic. Out loud! Whether it be a doctor, a lawyer, heck, a homeboy in outer space. And you can be sure that the eight-season-success of this formula called “The Cosby Show” proved beyond the shadow of a doubt to NBC that with the right kind of support, successful shows, with positive messages, can be brought about by an all-black cast.
But of course this wasn’t the mindset BC: before Cosby. Where the most prominent programming was black sitcoms built on a racist past. Shows like radio’s Amos ’n’ Andy – a staged minstrel-turned-television show that starred black actors playing roles with safe characters who were non-threatening to white folks. Dress these folks up or down, but keep them sassy, with that ham-bone talk coming out of their mouth because these characters were only seconds out of the cotton patch, and now struggling in the big city. Continue reading →
(NEW YORK, N.Y. September 22, 2014) – On October 2, 2014, the eve of National Magic Week,International Master Magician ICE McDonald, the newly elected National President of the Society of American Magicians (S.A.M.) along with S.A.M.’s National Dean, George Schindler and one of the Society’s Senior Officers David Bowers will visit the gravesite of world famous escape artist Harry Houdini. Planning for the huge restoration process will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the Machpelah Cemetery in Queens. Continue reading →
*Shonda Rhimes supporters are going all out to blast the New York Times television critic who wrote an article describing the Queen of Thursday nights on ABC as an “angry black woman” and accused her of channeling that energy into the lead character(s) of her two prime time shows that star African American women.
Any yes, while many don’t seem surprised by the predictable mindset of Alessandra Stanley, the caucasian woman who wrote the article and obviously sees the portrayal of a fearless, no-nonsense, badass African American female character, such as Olivia Pope on “Scandal” and now, law professor Annalise Keating on “How to Get Away With Murder” as an angry black woman, they do seem to wonder why it is still being given a forum.
*Though I didn’t see the episode, I do recall the trailer. Iyanla sat on a porch with Jay Williams, a successful video producer in Atlanta, who had an armful of black baby dolls; which represented the 34 biological children Williams has fathered with 17 different women. The segment was powerful because after a very few moments of intense questioning and attempts at reasoning by Iyanla, you could see that Jay was getting frustrated and he eventually put the armful of dolls that Iyanla had him holding down. Iyanla asked him why he did this, and he responded something like, “because I’m tired of playing with the dolls.”
Now that could have very well been the end of the experiment for a less bodacious host. But not for Iyanla, who didn’t skip a beat when she picked the dolls up again and put them in Williams’ lap saying something to the effect of, “Too bad. Their mother doesn’t get that option.” Continue reading →
Read between the lines. Someone calls the police on a couple who was said to be “having sex in a parked car.” As it turns out, the accused is an actress, a black actress, and a “celebrity chef,” her white boyfriend. When asked to describe the couple the 911 caller said it was “a black woman wearing a shirt and floral shorts, and a white man with a black tank top,” according to police spokesman Lt. Andrew Neiman. What we pulled from that was the race part because, well, you figure it out. But while you’re doing that, ask yourself this: Are we allowing ourselves to become so emotionally engaged in the whole color thing that we are ignoring what may be the facts?Continue reading →
*Chances are you’re going to be as stoked as I am to check out this interview that the legendary Johnny Mathis did with The Associated Press recently.
The 78-year-old singer is up to some pretty interesting stuff. He’ll drop a 13-CD box set of unsuccessful commercial albums recorded from 1963 to 1967, when he left Columbia Records and went to his own production company; he talks about trying yoga for the first time, and even doing a stint on “a show called ‘The Simpsons.'”
And wait until you hear what he has to say about shows like “American Idol.” From the sound of it, don’t expect to see this legend sitting behind the table telling young folks what they should do!
Anyway, it’s classic. It’s the iconic, very elusive, Johnny Mathis. Talking! Yippee!!! Continue reading →