Entries from February 2005 ↓

Oscar Observations

To my own surprise, I actually stayed up and watched the entire Oscar telecast last night. More surprisingly, it ended before midnight. As awards shows go, it wasnít the worst, but then Iím hard-pressed to come up with an example of the best. But playing Monday morning quarterback, here are some things that jumped out at me.

I realized before the show started, I had not seen a single movie nominated. Not one.

Was it just me, or did Chris Rockís opening monologue go on just a bit too long? I sensed he was playing to an audience only half of whom were thrilled to see him. Thereís nothing harder than trying to make people laugh who donít think youíre funny.

His man-on-the-street interviews with the people at the Magic Johnson Theater was hilarious. I wonder how many folks in the audience got it?

I wanna be Morgan Freeman when I get old. He is so cool. Always has been, ever since he was Easy Reader on The Electric Company.

Not that I found anything wrong with her singing (honestly, I didnít), but why did Beyonce get to do three songs? Her hair, makeup and wardrobe people got a workout.

Why was P. Diddy even there? What connection does he have to acting?

Martin Scorcese got dissed for the fifth time. Does anyone else think that east coast (read: New York-based) creatives get short-shrift in Hollywood?

While it sped up the telecast, I thought the way in which the technical and smaller categories were introducedóeverybody on stage or with acceptance speeches given out in the audienceócreated a very clear class distinction.

Iím happy for Jamie Foxx winning for Best Actor (he even mentioned my hometown in the press conference), but Iím miffed at the lack of attention Don Cheadle has gotten from Black media and Black folks in general. Cheadle has paid his dues, and done good work throughout his career, but everyone jumped on the Jamie bandwagon and stayed there.

Sean Penn is an example of what people dislike most about show business types. Some can be incredibly self-indulgent and egotistical. It was a joke, Sean, just like you. You and Jude Law are just ACTORS. You read lines other people write. You didnít find a cure for AIDS or bring about world peace. Get the fuck over yourself.

I forget when it was, but there was an audience shot, and I could see Lou Gossett Jr. in the background doing some serious nodding off.

I thought the camera direction for the broadcast was off all night. Some weird shots, called before the cameraman was set, others held too long on people, or just overly repetitive. And what was with the empty seats in the audience? They usually hire seat fillers to sit down when someone gets up, so the place always looks full. There were glaring gaps in the audience.

Steal my headline, why don’t ya

How original.

I guess certain reporters read my blog.

(And for the record I am not Billy’s press agent.)

Blogrolling

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve added some new names to my blogroll. More online friends with interesting takes on life from different perspectives. I find them good reads and hope you do too.

There may be some others added in the days and weeks to come. All the really cool people have blogs you know.

Ghetto Fabulous!

I don’t often rave. My reaction to most things is in measured, balanced terms. I usually see grey where others see absolute black and white.

Billy Porter02.jpgTuesday night, I saw a performance that touched my heart, made me laugh and cry, and just thoroughly and completely entertained me. Ghetto Superstar (The Man That I Am) is the new one-man show written and performed by Broadway and recording star Billy Porter, playing at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater, and while I can’t find one bad thing to say about it, there is a whole lot to love.

Porter is a self described “Black Broadway Bitch,” a playful jab at his diva-like behavior, as well as the title of his rousing opening number. How he came to be that way forms the basis of this autobiographical production.

A Pittsburgh native, who grew up in the Pentecostal Church and was the only male in a house full of women, Porter is openly gay in a profession where many find it preferable to stay in the closet in order to further their careers. He wasn’t always out however, and life was hard from the very beginning. Finding his calling and learning how to stay true to himself has been a lifelong journey.

Through mostly original songs, Porter tells a bittersweet story about a little boy who always knew he was a sissy. Growing up in the church his vocal skills developed quickly and he decided early on he would always sing “higher, louder and longer than anyone else.” “Sissywhippers,” a self-written song, tells about the torment he faced from neighborhood kids who picked on him daily.

When a therapist told his mother he needed the guidance of a man to show him how to be a man, she shortly afterward met and married his stepfather. That didn’t change him, but did subject him to many years of sexual abuse. However when a Tony Awards telecast featured Jennifer Holliday in a scene from “Dreamgirls” it was a life altering moment. A career in the theater would be his goal and his escape.

Porter, who was in the original casts of Miss Saigon, Five Guys Named Moe and Grease, gives equal parts joy and pain in recounting his life; confusing first sexual experiences, bluffing his way into auditions and then winning roles on his talent and charm (he does a dead-on Sarah Vaughn telling how he won a junior high audition), but also the sadness from his mother’s rejection because of his sexual orientation, and the disappointment when his record company let Celine Dion record his song, sung note for note.

To describe Billy Porter as a phenomenal singer would be the world’s greatest understatement. Billy Porter is an engaging personality and an extraordinarily gifted vocal talent who sings from the very depths of his soul, wraps it in Broadway theatrics but never betrays his gospel roots. In a world of Grammy Award winning pretenders, he could blow them all off the stage.

Ghetto Superstar (The Man That I Am) is produced by George C. Wolfe (who was seated right in front of me, furiously taking notes) and directed by Brad Rouse. It runs through March 26. You should run, not walk, to the Public Theater and see it.

One Moment In Time

Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did, you would know him. And if you knew him, you would know why we must honor him: Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood!

Ossie Davis, delivering the eulogy for Malcolm X, February 27, 1965.

It was Sunday afternoon, February 21, 1965, around 3:00 pm. The Organization of Afro-American Unity had scheduled a rally at the Audubon Ballroom on 165th Street and Broadway in Harlem. Just a week earlier, a fire bomb had destroyed the home of Malcolm X, nearly taking his life and that of his wife and children. As people arrived for the rally, they were scrutinized closely by security guards, but not searched.

Malcolm_X_assassination.jpgAs Malcolm made his way to the podium to speak, a scuffle broke out between two men. This drew the audience’s attention away from the stage and distracted his personal bodyguards. When that happened three other men rushed towards towards him and unloaded a volley of gunfire. Although supporters and police rushed him across the street to a Columbia Presbyterian Hospital clinic, Malcolm X was dead on arrival. He was 39 years old.

Widely believed to be a conspiracy involving the Nation of Islam, with either full knowledge or complicity of both the FBI and NYPD, Malcolm’s murder left a scar on the psyche of Black America that many would argue has never healed. It would be one moment in a very violent decade when people fighting for civil rights would be cut down by oppressive forces determined to maintain the status quo.

Now forty years after Malcolm X’s death, his family is working to carry on his legacy, ironically at the site of his passing. Audubon Ballroom.jpgThe once empty and unused Audubon Ballroom has been renovated and is preparing to
open as the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Education Center. A memorial ceremony will be held there tonight, though its official opening will be on May 19th, on what would have been the Malcolm’s 80th birthday.

”It’s our responsibility to make sure that we do preserve and document our history to empower future generations,” said Ilyasah Shabazz, the third of six daughters born to Malcolm X and wife Betty Shabazz.

Interestingly, as Harlem remembers him, the city of Lansing, Michigan, where he spent much of his youth, struggles to come to grips with how it treated young Malcolm Little and other Black people in the 1930’s.