Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I have been having some weird ass dreams. Perhaps it's my pressure pills, or job stress, or that I've finally fallen off the precarious cliff of sanity. If Freud and Jung were still alive, they'd want to cut out my subconscious and freeze it for further study. Listen to this:
A few nights ago, I dreamed I was laying on my bathroom floor. The tiles felt cold against my hot face, and my tongue felt as if I'd been sucking a porcupine Jolly Rancher. I pushed myself up off the floor and felt dizzy, my head weighed down by something other than sobriety. I was clearly not in my right state of mind, yet I couldn't peg this as mere drunkenness. I've been drunk before, but this was different, something I'd not yet experienced in real life. My brain fumbled around for excuses--what was this feeling?--before I concluded that yes, I was certainly drunk, but I was also on something other than booze. I assume I was my subconscious mind's interpretation of high. If I can be less polite about it, I was tore up from the floor up. I turned over and propped myself against the bathtub. "What the hell did I do tonight?" I thought.
Suddenly, there was a loud bang on the door. Immediately, my COPDAR went off. Gay people have gaydar; Black folks have Copdar. I can peg undercover cops just by looking at them. My Copdar suspicions were verified by a loud, ominous voice at the door: "This is the police! Open up!" The officer was a big White guy (my dream cut to the door so I could see him) and he had one of those battering rams. Vocally, however, he sounded like Don Cornelius. This is the only part of the dream I can explain, as I'd just read that Don had been arrested for beating his wife with the Soul Train Scramble Board. My subconscious is like a sponge, and details I pick up during the day make their way into my dreams on occasion.
Officer Don banged again. "Open up this door!"
The jolt of adrenaline seemed to clear my fog momentarily. Panic came over me in waves. I knew I was in some deep shit, a thought notion made real when I looked into my bathtub. There were bags and bags and bags of white powder sitting in the tub. "That shit's drugs!!" I screamed in a voice that didn't sound like me. "Whose voice is this?" I asked myself, but didn't have time to investigate nor think about it. I had to get rid of whatever the hell this was in my tub.
Ferociously, I started ripping the bags open, dumping them in the toilet and flushing. Outside, I could hear Officer Don breaking down the door. The toilet became congested and clogged up, refusing to flush. Powder was flying everywhere. I could hear the door coming off the hinges outside, followed by the rush of several pairs of feet stomping on the floor. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.
Officer Don was now at the bathroom door. "It's all over, honey," he said. "Come out with your hands up."
Did he just call me "honey?!" I asked myself.
"You give me no choice, sweetheart," he said. "I'm coming in!"
BANG! BANG! The door started to give way. I stood up ready to fight. There was a Moet bottle in the sink. I grabbed it and held it, ready to clobber this guy as soon as he broke down the door. Nobody calls ME sweetheart! As I picked it up, I noticed I wasn't alone in the bathroom. There was a woman in there with me. A White woman! "Oh LORD!" I said in my odd dream voice. "How did I wind up shitfaced in the bathroom with a White woman? I'm so dead! I am DEAD!"
Then I realized I was alone in there. The White woman I saw was being reflected in the mirror. And she had a beehive, too much makeup, and killer eyelashes. "What the hell?" I asked, suddenly realizing why my voice sounded so odd, not to mention why it had a British accent.
I was Amy Winehouse.
"What da fu--" I said, just as the door gave way with a loud BAM!
I woke up.
I think it's time to change this blood pressure medicine, don't you?
Monday, November 03, 2008
It's Election Eve, ladies and gentlemen, and once again, I'm here providing a public service message on Big Media Vandalism. On Super Tuesday, I introduced my get out the vote campaign, which I called Vote or Get Your Ass Whipped because Puffy had already trademarked Vote Or Die. I'm a far less violent Negro than Diddy, which is probably why BET wouldn't run my prior ad. I don't expect them to run this one either. Kudos to BMV for allowing me to get the message out.
I'm not here to tell you whom to vote for, because if I had the power to sway you, I'd ask for something more important, like the keys to your BMW or Halle Berry's phone number. This is just to guilt you into voting. I'll let my commercial speak for itself.
(On a university campus)
Ray-Ray: Hey, Dr. Boone!
Dr. Boone: Hello, young man. You're Raymond Aloysious D'Shawn Washington. You're in my Punany Power 101 class.
Ray-Ray: Yes sir. I'm learning so much, but I'm struggling with the homework.
Dr. B: Perhaps I can help. I'm on my way to the polling place. Would you like to walk with me? We can discuss the assignment while we wait on line to vote. Or have you voted already?
Ray-Ray: Naw. I'm not voting, Dr. Boone.
Dr. B: (stops walking and turns to Ray Ray) You're not voting?!
Ray-Ray: Naw, Joe says that my candidate has the vote in the bag already.
Dr. B: Joe? You mean R&B singer Joe?!
Ray-Ray: Yeah, Joe the Singer.
Dr. B: You actually listened to that fool? Raymond Aloysius D'Shawn Washington, come with me! (Grabs Ray-Ray by the arm.)
(In Dr. Boone's office)
Ray-Ray: Dr. Boone, what's going on? Am I in trouble?
Dr. B: (sternly) I need you to talk to a friend of mine. (Throws hands up in the air) MAMA COO MAMA SAH MAKU-MAKU-SAH! ITCHY GITCHY YAH YAH DAH DAH!
Ray-Ray: Whoa! If you practicing voodoo, I need to leave man!
Dr. B: (speaking backwards)
Ray-Ray: I'm out! You possessed by Missy Elliot! (Goes to leave)
(A loud explosion blocks the door)
Ray-Ray: What the fu--?! Holy mac and cheese! Frederick Douglass!
Frederick Douglass: (played by Sam Jackson wearing his Unbreakable hairstyle) Young man, would you kindly explain to me why you're not voting?
Ray-Ray: (in shock) What?
FD: What country are you from, boy?
Ray-Ray: (still in shock) What?
FD: DO THEY SPEAK ENGLISH IN WHAT?!
Ray-Ray: Uh...uh...I'm from Newark, Mr. Douglass! They speak Ebonics and stuff in Newark. I'm not voting because my candidate doesn't need my vote.
FD: Does your candidate look like the President?
FD: (pulls out a whip, one of those Massa-Beat-Yo-Ass whips) SAY WHAT AGAIN! SAY WHAT AGAIN! I DARE YOU! ANSWER MY QUESTION!
Ray-Ray: No, he isn't the President.
FD: Then why are you treating him like your President?
(The whip flies through the air. CRACK!)
Ray-Ray: Ouch! Ouch! TOBY! (Rubs ass) Damn, Mr Douglass!
FD: Answer me, boy! I didn't take all those ass whippings so trifling jackasses like you can piss on my memory! (raising whip)
Ray-Ray: OK OK! I get it! I'll go vote! My vote counts!
FD: You know I once ran as a VP candidate.
Ray-Ray: Oh yeah? Like Sarah Palin?
Ray-Ray: (rubbing ass) Ow! What was that for?!
FD: (under his breath) Smart ass muthafu--
Dr. B: Mr. Douglass, I think the young man has gotten the point. Haven't you, Raymond?
Ray-Ray: Yes sir! Let's go vote now!
FD: I'm glad I could help, Dr. Boone. Now excuse me, I have to go put my righteous foot in the ass of the fool who switched the Obama button with the McCain button on those voting machines in swing states.
Dr. B: Peace out. Let's go Raymond.
Announcer: Vote, or get your ass whipped by the ghosts of your ancestors!
Do it, people! VOTE!
Sunday, October 12, 2008
by Steven Boone
Eight years ago, after quitting my job as an associate editor at a popular corporate website, I landed at a virtual repository for failed, aspiring, poor and clinically insane writers. It was a firm that companies hired to monitor the television commercials of their competitors. At a midtown Manhattan high-rise, in an office that resembled a regional cable newsroom in its last days, about ten writers per shift scrolled through 24 hours of videotaped TV programming from every channel known to man. We were cataloging the :15, :30:, :60 and 1:20 second spots for soft drinks, painkillers, long-distance telephone services, automobiles, chocolate bars, you name it. We wrote shot-by-shot summaries of the ads. It all went into a bottomless database, the video digitized and filed away. Special jargon, codes, Bible-sized guidebooks, and Byzantine procedures fostered the jumpy atmosphere of a live television control room.
We earned $8.75 an hour.
I worked the 4:30pm-to-11pm shift, with Kurt, the smallish 40-year-old virgin who resembled a teenage Vulcan and whose brain was a vast database itself, so long as the data had to do with Charles Bronson flicks; Lorna, the obsessive-compulsive finance writer who Lysoled and alcoholed her workstation religiously for the first 15 minutes of every shift, then upholstered her swivel chair with plastic Shop-Rite bags; Diggs, the video digitizer, who showed me his stash of porn and music on the office server whenever he wasn’t bragging about his other career in S&M fiction (“I am published in several languages. Can you say that?”); Benjamin, the Jim Crow-haunted elderly black archivist who, during the 2000 Republican National Convention, shouted things like “CRACKER MOTHERFUCKERS!” and “DON’T HAND ME THAT BOOWULSHIT!” at the telecast playing in the tape room.
Ah, the 2000 election. That brings up memories of the crew member I interacted with least but who left the biggest impression: Jeff. Jeff was a screenwriting hopeful. He was somewhere in his early 40’s and dressed in crisp J. Crew ensembles that made him look like he already toiled happily in the DreamWorks story department. I think he was cooking up some kind of smoky neo-noir at the time. His wife was a lawyer or something fancy like that, which explained how he could afford to bullshit here with us misfits while pursuing his Ho’wood dream. If someone had taken a group portrait of us all at the time, Jeff would have stood out as the one who appeared to have his shit most fully together. Square-shouldered and built for rowing, he looked more like the boss than the real boss (Edgar— another obsessive-compulsive who kept notebooks tallying the number of steps he walked to work, the running times of films he watched, etc.). Jeff was the classic Authoritative White Man.
Early in the summer of 2000, a bunch of us were sitting around talking about the Presidential election. I mostly shrugged my shoulders and muttered, knowing very little about the contenders, aside from Al Gore’s personality deficit and George Bush’s cocaine chronicles. Jeff easily held the floor: “I like this George W. character— and I’m a registered Democrat! Something about this guy. He’s not like a politician. He’s decisive, just goes with his gut, makes a decision, moves on, none of that backpedaling. That’s what we need right now. The whole cowboy thing. A real maverick. I just like his style: American through and through.” I’m plucking from murky eight year old memory, of course, but I’ll never forget the sober, serene conviction with which Jeff articulated his endorsement. Tugging at his wire frame glasses and fondling his copy of The Economist, he looked ready to go work for Dubya.
For me, Jeff—far more than Cro-Magnon voters or neocon mass manipulators— is the smiling face of an eight year nightmare: An educated American who looks, dresses and acts the part of someone who knows what’s best for city, state, nation, world.
In the new century, the Jeffs among filmmakers swarmed Ho’wood and claimed it in the name of "the complexity of post-9/11 American life.” They kept us busy and distracted from the very thing their films and TV shows purported to examine, luxuriating instead in process, know-how, exotic menace, techno-toys, post-trauma psychobabble, war crimes apologia and Hans Zimmer music. True mavericks.
Friday, August 01, 2008
First, John McCain ran an ad featuring Barack Obama and two of the Whitest women this side of Lisa Stansfield, calling it an ad about "celebrity." Then the McDaddy said Obama played the race card when Obama stated that he "doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills." Then Chris "Ludacris" Bridges wrote a rap song that got Obama in trouble, even as Bill Clinton was probably dancing to it back at his office in Harlem. It must be yet another "Remind Everybody Obama's A Black Guy" week!
Mr. Obama's team said "Barack Obama in no way believes that the McCain campaign is using race as an issue." Thankfully, his team doesn't represent Odiebama. Odiebama doesn't speak for Mr. Obama, nor would our Democratic candidate be crazy enough to be seen within 5,000 yards of such a tactless bastard as the Odienator—especially if he wants to win. Odiebama is Big Media Vandalism's fantasy character, the guy who answers "what would Odienator do if HE were running for President and this shit happened to him?" Let's find out. Here's the transcript of Odiebama's latest speech addressing the issues.
My fellow Americans.
Once again, I must answer hints and allegations made by my esteemed Congressional colleague and fellow candidate for President. There's a reason the Republican party's symbol is an elephant, because there's an elephant in the room that people pretend to ignore, simply because its acknowledgement courts trouble. I am here tonight to first point out that elephant, then to address the latest comments leveled against me. I implore you: Open your eyes, America and see the elephant in the room!
My fellow Americans, I'm an African-American male. Whether you acknowledge it, or choose to faux-ignore it like a fart in a polite establishment, it remains constant, unchangeable and incontrovertible. I am African-American and no amount of wishing and hoping and praying and thinking and Clorox is going to change it. This is not a case of Watermelon Man-style tint alteration; I have been this way since God granted me life here in this great country we call America.
Now, I know some of you still have black and white TV's, so you may not be aware that I am of African descent. I wanted to point it out explicitly since I am being accused of finding some way to implicitly inject this fact into every single thing I say. I categorically deny that I make constant reference to my racial background verbally. I quantify that statement with the word "verbally," because my racial background gets referenced every single time my drop dead gorgeous mug hits your retinas. That, I'm afraid, is God's fault. If my competitor has issue with that, he will have to take it up with a higher authority.
Many of you in the press have asked me what I think of Ludacris' new rap song. Let me first ask you a question. Most of you in the press are the same racial background as Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, John Wilkes Booth, and Tara Reid. Am I, or any member of, say, Ebony Magazine's staff, asking you your thoughts on Ms. Reid's latest drunkfest? Are we blaming you for the sins of the aforementioned? Of course not, because I wouldn't hold you responsible for every sin perpetrated on society by other members of White America. Ludacris is an African-American, but he's not the spokesman-slash-representative for Black America. We are not some kind of Borg. I'm here tonight to tell you that Black people can act independently! We can, and we do!
When I look in the mirror, I do not see Ludacris. Ask me about my politics, but don't ask me about other bruvas. As the Emotions once sang, "Don't Ask My Neighbors, come to me." I'm sure Luda feels the same way. Ask him about his rap, not me. I hear he's an easily accessible celebrity, and contrary to what you saw in Crash, I'm sure Luda won't pull a gun on you.
Speaking of celebrity, I must address the latest commercial from my competitor, which states that I am the biggest celebrity in the world. As my Mama used to say, "if the shoe fits…" However, I take issue with the celebrities I appear with in this ad. For someone so quick to state that I am using the race card, you would think he would put some other brown faces in the commercial besides me. Instead, the ad puts me next to two White women, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Neither Ms. Spears nor Ms. Hilton have reputations I would call chaste, which increases the likelihood that, if given the chance, they would engage in relations with me if so offered. Why couldn't I be in the ad with J. Lo and Beyonce? Or Will Smith and Denzel? Or even Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise, all of whom are celebrities of my stature and not talentless has-beens like Britney and Paris? I think it's to pull a Harold Ford, to put thoughts of a Britney-Odiebama-Paris reverse Oreo Cookie love-a-thon in the minds of one's voter base. A Beyonce-Odiebama-J.Lo Five Dollar Footlong doesn't have the same impact. At the end of the day, all it reflects is hateration and envy on their part. Do not hate the player, hate the game!
Lastly, since I am quote-a celebrity-endquote, I thought I'd have a little fun with the notion. I asked filmmaker Steven Boone to help me make this short clip to close out my speech. Thank you and God Bless America.
Title Card: Warn A Bruva Pictures Presents: Dark as Knight
Odiebama (dressed as the Joker): I know a way to fix your problems here in Gotham. Problems with health care, with Iraq, with the economy, mortgages and high gas prices!
Well dressed man: How? What do we need to do?
Odiebama: Let me run things! After all, everyone loves me! I'm the biggest celebrity in the world! Here's my card. (Gives it to man)
Well Dressed Man: This card has Al Jolson on it!
Odiebama: Mmm-sorry! That's my race card! Here, take this one! (Gives card with a big colorful ODB logo on it.) Don't forget to vote for me, not Batman! He's like 80!
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Time to embrace my inner troublemaker. You have 5 seconds to leave this blog if you are easily offended. Five…four…three…two…
I stared at my calendar this morning until the numbers blurred. Nowhere did I see an indication that this was “Remind Everybody Obama’s A Black Guy” week. But it damn sure felt like it. The last few days have brought news items that play as if Obama were doing skits on Chappelle’s Show. Except Dave would be funnier.
First, Jesse Jackson, knowing full well he had a live mic hooked to him by a conservative network, whispers that he wants to cut Obama’s nuts off for talking down to Black people. The mic recorded these comments, as microphones are known to do, and suddenly Jesse was on TV singing “I’m Sorry, From Jackson.” After I saw the comments, which were lovingly sprawled over half the Internet, I wrote a friend of mine. “I bet you Jesse dropped the N-word too, but they just didn’t show it.” He wrote back “Aw, c’mon! Jesse wouldn’t be that dumb!”
Famous last words.
Fox confirmed in the transcript that Rev. Jackson said the exact same word he’s been trying to ban. Jesse wants us to stop using the word, something I fully endorse. But after I heard about his use of it, I was reminded of the time when a former football player came to speak to us about drugs back in my high school days. “Don’t Do Crack!” he told us. Little did I realize he meant “Don’t do Crack…so there will be more for me.”
Is that why Jackson told folks to stop using the N-word? Was he afraid that if we didn't, we’d run out of it and there wouldn’t be any left for him? “He’s trying to tell niggers how to behave,” complained Jackson about Obama. Pardon my ignorance, but isn’t this the pot calling the kettle African-American? As long as I’ve been alive, Jesse’s been on TV telling us how we should live. It’s part of his job as a spiritual and religious figure, for Christ’s sake!
I get so much flak over my comments on Christian hypocrisy (and yes, I’m a Christian too), and I never argue back because I let my examples speak for themselves. “Do as I say, not as I do” seems to be the credo of these so-called moralists who have religious titles. How come I can’t sin as much as they have AND THEN repent, as they did? It’s always “I did it, but now I see the error of my ways. You can’t do it!” Spoiling my fun, these heifers.
Jackson, who is in Spain right now, had no comment. I like to think that, if he had, he would have said something like “Um…I was just advertising Nas’ new album and Dick Gregory’s book!”
Obama forgave Jesse, but I wonder if that was a political move. He can’t vent his Black id because he’s an upstanding man with tact. In other words, you can’t get ass out on the campaign trail. I, on the other hand, can never be president for a variety of R-rated reasons you’ll have to read my autobiography to discover. So I created Odiebama. Odiebama is not real, nor does he speak for Mr. Obama or anybody on his staff. Odiebama is a fantasy that asks “what if the Odienator were running for president, and this shit happened to him?” Here is what Odiebama would have said:
My fellow Americans, I am here today to address the comments made by civil rights legend, Reverend Jesse Jackson.
As churchgoing Americans, I know you'll relate when I talk about how sermons on Sunday morning can sometimes feel like the pastor is talking directly to you. Looking deep into your soul and chastising you for your sin, telling you to live more righteously and to repent, to cast out that sin. Sometimes we don't want to hear what the pastor is telling us, but we know he or she is right. That's why we feel offended, or react in a defensive manner. Nerves have been hit. Deeds done in the dark have come to light. Shame washes over us because we know we've done wrong, and we don't like being told we have.
When I came to my fellow African-Americans a few weeks ago to discuss fatherhood and family, I did so because I want to see us as a people succeed, to elevate ourselves to the upper echelon of the life God wants us to lead, to live the American dream. And yet, I was met with resistance and insult by a member of the very movement that should be proudest of my standing up here before you running for President.
Some in the press say that Rev. Jackson's time has past, that he's a member of the quote old guard endquote and therefore lives in the past. I don't see it that way, nor do I think Jesse is irrelevant in this day and age. No, I think that the good reverend's hateration came from that feeling he got when I spoke to those Black churches. Jesse Jackson felt like one of those Black people I allegedly am talking down to, and it's probably because he hasn't done what I'm asking our people to do.
Reverend Jackson was pushing more than equal rights and equality at PUSH, and that resulted in somebody besides Mrs. Jackson granting him another heir. Jackson's reaction to my speech indicates that he, a man of God, may not be doing right by this Commandment breaking faux pas. Perhaps he thought I was preaching about him, so he went on a conservative network and, knowing full well he had a mike on, chose to express his unhealthy desire to put his hands on my sack.
Now, I can vouch for just how desirable it is to get a hand on dese nuts. So I don't blame Jesse for wanting to do so. But as someone far wiser than me once said, don't worry about the snakes in the grass, worry about your own Black ass. Jesse, you need to stop fantasizing about my skeet shooters and focus on the issues created by yours. If anybody should be making any comments about pulling somebody's nuts off, it should be Mrs. Jesse Jackson. If I did what you did, I would have had a live grenade dropped down my boxers. I accept your apology, but in future, think before you open your mouth. Especially if your laundry is dirtier than mine.
Thank you, and God Bless America!
That was satire folks!
Speaking of satire, that leads us to the New Yorker cover. I am not putting it on here because it would distract me. Forget about Malibu Muslim Barbie Barack Obama and the flag burning in the fireplace. Let’s focus on Michelle Obama. I’ve always found her attractive, as I would any strong Black woman, but that Angela Davis afro made her the epitome of Pam Grier hotness. I had completely forgotten how beautiful we can look with our ‘Fros. I would have killed to have mine look like that one; whenever I got a blow-out kit it looked like an electrocuted porcupine died on my head. If Michelle went retro, she’d scare the shit out of Bill O’Reilly. Imagine her, in high def making a speech, her afro covering half the screen! Or even better, imagine her and Barack in that famous 70’s Black Love velvet painting, the one with the intertwined, Afro-clad naked Black bodies. I’d hang that on my wall. Too bad I can’t draw. Too bad Jet doesn’t do satire on its covers.
Lastly, here’s a story about “When Keepin’ It Privileged Goes Bad.” Doron Braunshtein is being sued by a woman who bought a $70 t-shirt that he designs. Let’s stop here. It’s a t-shirt with a slogan on it. There’s no bling, no rhinestones, no sparklies, no fancy designs, no signature from a rapper or a fashion mogul, and you still have to manually put it on. And there’s nothing on it but words. This shirt costs $70. I am not about to hate the player on this one. I have to give props to this hustle! I’m going to open up a shop in NYC that sells those day of the week panties for $100. A day. $150 for Saturday, because other people will probably see those.
But back to the shirt. A female grad student goes to Braunshtein’s store and buys a shirt that says OBAMA IS MY SLAVE. I don’t have to tell you what color this woman is for two reasons: 1. She paid $70 for a bland-ass t-shirt and 2. It said OBAMA IS MY SLAVE. Had it said “USHER IS MY SHEPHERD” we might have had to clarify the racial make-up of this individual. Grad school lady is bopping down the street in Union Square, listening to her iPod and wearing this shirt when suddenly, she’s accosted by four girls who want to whip her ass. Since women of all races like Obama, I must clarify that these were some ‘round the way girls. They gave the grad student a thesis on intimidation, spitting on her, yanking those damn iPod earbuds out of her ears and cussing her out so badly that Jesus wept. Grad student gets away with neither cuts nor bruises, upon which time she should have found her guardian angel and kissed his holy ass. Instead, she’s suing the guy who sold her the shirt.
Now before you come after me with all that Freedom of Speech bullshit, it’s time for the Big Media Vandalism word of the day. Kudos to my favorite book in the universe, Webster’s Dictionary for this definition.
Repercussion: an action or effect given or exerted in return : a reciprocal action or effect.
When I was in school, they told us that, just because you have Freedom of Speech, it doesn’t mean you can yell “Fire” in a crowded theater. But I think it does. However, as Spider Man tells us, with great power comes great responsibility. You can say whatever you want so long as you are ready to deal with the repercussions that may arise from your actions. People today seem to be missing the general notion of a consequence, so narcissistic are they that they believe their actions exist in a vacuum. I can go to Little Italy, grab my crotch and start yelling out certain words that begin with g or w, but I’d better have an asshole big enough for the feet that are going to be visiting it. I know not to do something like this, because somewhere along God’s assembly line, I got an infusion of common fucking sense.
Grad student allegedly was behind the door when God was handing out common sense. So I’m hoping they throw this case out of court with a quickness. I completely disagree with a shirt that contains such an inflammatory message, but the onus of responsibility in this case rests with the buyer. Now if only those girls knew the address of that store...Caveat Emptor, baby.
I can’t wait to see how the rest of this Presidential race plays out. I’m sure I’ll be back here in this troublemaking capacity again. I stand ready for any repercussions that shall arise.
Monday, July 14, 2008
I hear there is some dispute over where he gives his speech. The Red Army Memorial in Treptow is better than the Brandenburg gate. I, of course, will be drinking a Berliner Pilsner in a leather jacket, my Godard sunglasses setting off my square jaw in the sunlight, on this occasion I will be smoking an unfiltered Gaulioses, even though I stopped smoking years ago.
Monday, June 02, 2008
Midday, May 27, 2008. I was on the edge of East NY, Brooklyn, looking for a shop that sold $10 Boost phone cards. Not the $20 ones– what am I, Trump?
Somebody told me to go over to Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville, across the L train tracks. Once there, I stumbled across a great commotion at the Vad Dyke Houses housing project. Crowds were gathered and men with walkie talkies darted about. A crime scene. No, a movie shoot. I went up to a short black woman with dreads, a headset and a hardware store full of items hanging from her cargo pants.
“What’s shooting?” I asked. “Brooklyn’s Finest, a movie,” she said. “Cop stuff, huh?” “Well, sorta. It’s the director who did Training Day, Antoine Fuqua.” “Ah, Fuqua,” I said, remembering how much I love that director’s tactile widescreen compositions but mostly loathe his vision of humanity.
To read the rest, go to Spout Blog.
Friday, May 16, 2008
A halfway house in East New York, Brooklyn. Spring, 2008. The male residents––ex-junkies, parolees and disability recipients––all gathered for their nightly movie ritual. Four to a room, two bunk beds, one cheapo DVD player and a 13-inch Coby TV set. Audio commentary provided by the audience of (on average) five men: two on the bunks, three hunched around the screen on milk crates. The core crew of film fanatics is Kid and Hef, two old-timer felons, each of whom could be mistaken for a black variation of Walter Brennan in Rio Bravo.
It’s a strange festival. Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins, Hoodlum, Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion, The Bank Job, Why Did I Get Married?, Tsui Hark’s Vampire Hunters, and lots of TV-on-DVD: Annie Oakley, CSI, Boston Legal, ancient anime shows. No rhyme or reason in the selections, just whatever’s on hand from the $3 bootlegger or the public library.
But a festival theme emerges, a word hovering in the air unspoken during each screening: justice.
To read the rest, go to Spout Blog
Friday, March 14, 2008
by Lady Scorpio
Aw, c'mon everyone else got to play, why not me? The fall of uber goody-goody New York Governor Eliot Spitzer came as a shock. And, really, he must've been a hell of a goody-goody for people to be shocked when a politican is caught participating in, shall we say, extracurricular activites. But, hey, at least Democrats do it in the vagina. (Well, if you don't count "Gay American" Jim McGreevy, who we still joke about dressing up as Evita Peron while the masses intone "McGrEEVY! McGrEEVY!" beneath his balcony. "Mis demicasados! Mis Newarkiriquenos!")
So, let's cut right to the sordid. Many talked of the governor--or "Client Number 9," if you like to pretend the whorehouse was on the same island as The Prisoner--being into things that "weren't safe. I know the immediate thought is "barebacking," but I, being me, decided it was blood drinking. Think about it: With that bald head, those beady eyes and those pointy ears, I betcha Spitzer gets himself up in some Nosferatu drag and gets stone cold freaky.
Now, to the lady in question, "Kristin" aka Ashley (But she already had a hooker name!) Yeomans or Dupre or Dupree or St. Ives or whatever her name is. Of course, there are women who pity her as a more downtrodden victim of male exploitation, a poor aspiring singer forced into the world's oldest profession. One columnist even had the unmitigated gall to compare her to Marilyn Monroe. And let me tell you, a hooker who lives in an $5,000 a month apartment likes--okay, not likes, has done the math and has accepted--her job. She is not working the bare minimum to get by because she hates sucking married dick. She's not living with roomates in a crappy apartment so she can save up enough money to quit faking orgasm while some asshole sweats all over her. Nu-uh. No way. I ain't buyin'. This broad is lining up her reality show auditions right now. I don't care if she's a fellow female and I must stand by her. Hell, no! I don't see man/woman, I see people and people are venal, deceitful, greedy and corrupt.
Not that I'm letting Spitzer off the hook--note those words "deceitful" and "corrupt" in the above paragraph. Still, whenever stuff like this happens, i fantasize about the civil servant in question going stone cold unhinged during the press conference. Think of it. What if he had stood up there--without his wife, who should be in the Bahamas having a massage and a margarita right now anyway--and just gone off. "I have no excuse! I make no apology! I'm the governor and I deserve to get laid!"
Maybe if he even went all pro-New York State on it: "New York has the best pussy in the world! No matter where I am, I gotta have New York tail and only New York tail ! Ask Mick Jagger! He used to have that shit flown to France twice a week back in the 70's! George Clooney has to stay off the Eastern Seaboard or he can't control himself! Are you kidding me?! Empire State trim is easily worth a grand an hour!"
Of course the problem with this argument is that she's from New Jersey. When I was younger, if you fucked someone from Jersey, we made fun of you for getting bridge n' tunnel ass.
Monday, March 03, 2008
The Opening Shot
Spike Does Mike: Bad 25
Get to Know Your Movie Negroes: Part V
The Content of Their Character Actors: Brock Peters
Notes on the 1951 version of Native Son
The Richard Pryor Retrospective Field Trip
The Poitier-Cosby Trilogy: A Piece of the Action
Causing Trouble With Odienator: The Princess And The Frog
One Drop of Black Cinema: Sid Haig
Happy Valentine's Day: Waiting to Exhale
Negroes for Rent: The Toy
Three The Hard Way's Stars Team Up Again
President's Day Double Feature: The Jackie Robinson Story
President's Day Double Feature: The Bingo Long Travelling All Stars & Motor Kings
A Different World Appreciation
Cornbread, Earl, and Me, or Furious Styles' First Movie
Happy Oscar Day! Live and Let Die Review
A Raisin in the Sun Appreciation
Black History Mumf 2012
The Opening Shot
Rest in Peace, Don Cornelius
The Black Power Mixtape Field Trip
One Drop of Black Cinema: John A. Alonzo
Spike Lee Bamboozles Big Media Vandalism
Michael Jackson's Thriller Appreciation
The Content of Their Character Actors: Bill Cobbs
Poitier-Cosby Trilogy: Uptown Saturday Night
R.I.P.: Whitney Houston
Everybody Hates Chris Appreciation
Poitier-Cosby Trilogy: Let's Do It Again
President's Day Double Feature: Superfly
President's Day Double Feature: Don King: Only In America
Being Elmo: A Hater's Journey
Another Mumf Field Trip: Cab Calloway: Sketches
Black History Mumf Sight and Sound List (50-41)
Black History Mumf Sight and Sound List (40-31)
Black History Mumf Sight and Sound List (30-21)
Black History Mumf Sight and Sound List (20-11)
Black History Mumf Sight and Sound List (10-1)
Black History Mumf 2011
The Opening Shot
Negroes for Sale: Skin Game
Cleopatra Jones Review
The Content of Their Character Actors: Lynne Thigpen
Good Hair, Bad Odie
Fat Albert Appreciation
Blue Collar Review
Get To Know Your Movie Negroes Part IV
The Content of Their Character Actors: Yaphet Kotto
Trading Places Appreciation
Paul Winfield and A Different Kind of Dog
When I Grow Up I Wanna Be: The Best Man's Quentin Spivey
School Daze Review
The Pondering Odie Returns
President's Day Double Feature: Mandingo
President's Day Double Feature: Gridlock'd
An Odienator's Posting about A Soldier's Story
Black Superhero Movies Are Turrible
Do the Funky Chicken At Wattstax
Happy Oscar Day!
Black History Mumf 2010
The Opening Shot
Boys N The Hood Review
To Dance with the Movie, White Dog
I Wanna Be John Shaft
RIP Eartha Kitt
Blues Brothers Review
One Drop of Black Cinema: Lucien Ballard
Sandra Bullock, You're Black For A Day!
The Cosby Show Appreciation
The Content of their Character Actors: Keith David
This Is It Review
Stir Crazy Review
The Content of Their Character Actors: Delroy Lindo
Gone Are The Days
MLK on The Boondocks
The Pondering Odie
MARRRRRCUS!! Boomerang Review
Your Homework Assignment: Comedy Tonight
Get to Know Your Movie Negroes Part III
New Jack Hustler
I Pity the Fool Who Doesn't Click this Link!
The Content of Their Character Actors: Alfre Woodard
Nothing Like The Mighty Quinn
BHM Extra 2010
Song of the South Review
Black History Mumf 2009
The Opening Shot
Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Documentary
Lady Sings the Blues Review
Bernie, Rudy and Ike
Sanford and Son Appreciation
The Content of their Character Actors: Roscoe Lee Browne
I'm Gonna Git You Sucka review
HBO: The Black List
Something the Lord Made Review
Beat Street Review
Return of Odiebama
Devil In a Blue Dress Review
Scary Black Movies
The Content of Their Character Actors: Kimberly Elise
Happy Valentine's Day: love jones and Booty Call
Eve's Bayou Review
Cotton Comes to Harlem Review
A Rage in Harlem Review
The Content of Their Character Actors: Taraji P. Henson
Me and Miss Jones
Get to Know Your Movie Negroes: Part II
Your Blaxploitation Homework
Wham, Bam, Thank You Pam!
The Content of their Character Actors: Juano Hernandez
The Five Heartbeats Review
Black History Mumf 2008
The Opening Shot
House Party Review
Imagery Saturdays: Schoolhouse Rock
Super Bowl Sunday: Jim Brown and Other Footballers Turned Actors
The Content of Their Character Actors: Diana Sands
Vote Or Get Your Ass Whipped
Coming To America Review
One Drop of Black Cinema: Joel Schumacher
No Way Out Review
Imagery Saturday: Crooklyn
A Moment of Black Clarity
Hollywood Shuffle Review
One Drop of Black Cinema: Michael Kahn
The Content of their Character Actors: Regina King
Imagery Saturdays: Blackface
Get to Know Your Movie Negroes: Part I
Michael Schultz Appreciation
Bustin' Loose Review
All Cullud Daily Double: Cabin in the Sky
All Cullud Daily Double: Stormy Weather
The Wiz Review
Imagery Saturdays: In The Heat of the Night
Oscar Night: Ruby Dee's Chances
Blazing Saddles Review
Where the Hell is Don Cornelius?
Imitation of Life Review
Honorable mention, as promised, to Pat Conolly for doing the homework I assigned and providing us with the whereabouts of Don Cornelius. I'm disappointed that he hadn't become something like Obi-Wan, existing only in the force that is Soul.
Friday, February 29, 2008
De Lawd, in His infinite wisdom, saw fit not to grant me the opportunity to get to know my grandparents. By the time I was 5, they were all gone. My paternal grandfather shuffled off his mortal coil before I had the chance to put mine on, and his wife not too long after that. My maternal grandfather died when I was 1-1/2, and I've no recollection of him whatsoever. I find him living in my memory only in the stories my mother and aunts used to tell me about the things he told them and the things he did. I am especially fond of a parable of sorts he told about this old lady who came to a wake with a bowl of soup. When I recall that story, I see my grandfather in my head, based on a picture my Mom had of him, and I imagine what he'd sound like as he told it to me.
With my maternal grandmother, I was granted a little Mercy from above. She lived long enough for me to etch her permanently into my brain, but only in one fleeting memory and two that overflow with detail. It's only fitting that, for someone who loves movies, my fondest and most vivid memory of my grandmother was her telling me about a movie.
In my grandmother's house was a windy, steep set of wooden stairs that led to the second of three floors. Right off the stairs, to the left, was my grandmother's room. Her door was open, and I found her sitting in a room that smelled of incense and sounded like Mahalia Jackson. My grandmother was very religious, and she burned candles and was always listening to gospel music. I was angry when I visited her, my behind still stinging from my mother popping me on it because she overheard me saying "shit." I was upset that my Mom beat my ass, so I went to do what kids always did--I went to tattle on her. I had no power over my mother, but HER mother certainly did. My mother was like a Hebrew National frank: she was about to answer to an even higher authority. I stormed upstairs, and into my grandmother's room, fixing to get my mother in serious trouble!
I found my grandmother sitting on her bed, reading her Bible. She patted the bed next to her and I hopped on it. I can still smell the incense in the room and hear Mahalia singing the song I make so much fun of, In The Upper Room. She had very long, very dark hair that she'd put up in a bun. She was half Cherokee Indian, I was told, which explained not only her hair but her physical features as well. She was obviously Black, but obviously something else as well.
"Mum," I said, as we called her what her children always called her, "your daughter hit me!" She said, in a stern voice, "alright, well I'll take care of her." She then asked me if I loved my mother and I said "No! Not right now." "Let me tell you a story," she whispered to me. "You should always love your mother and this is why."
Now, I was a hyper kid. I couldn't sit still, and any amount of sugar turned me into the Tasmanian Devil. But if you told me a story, I'd sit with rapt attention. I think this is why I was always being told stories by my aunts. They were great stories, and I have gleefully robbed their style and shaped it into my own. This is also why movies mesmerized me. I sat through the entire screening of Gone With the Wind on its 35th anniversary release. That was 1974, the same year my grandmother told me the one story I remember from her.
My grandmother, who must have known I loved movies, told me about a movie she watched years ago, about a mother whose daughter didn't love her. As a result, the mother died of a broken heart, and when the daughter came back to see her, it was too late. All she could do was lean on the casket and tell her mother she was sorry. "But the mother was gone," she told me, "and she couldn't hear her." "Wow," I said. She told me that the mother had the grandest funeral ever given a cullud woman, and that her friend Lana Turner was there. I remember her saying Lana Turner, because I thought she was related to Tina Turner. "So you should always love your mother," Mum concluded, "and tell her all the time. Because she won't hear you when she's gone."
That's where the memory ends.
When I was about 7 or 8, I discovered that Lana Turner looked nothing like Tina Turner. On WPIX in NYC, they used to run Madame X, a 1966 throwback to the women's weepies of the 40's. Lana Turner was on trial, and Keir Dullea was her lawyer. He defended her in a murder trial with no idea that she was the mother who had given him up. I watched this every time it came on. At the end of the movie, Turner buys the farm. While melodramatic music played, I sat there and cried like a baby.
One day PIX decided to really give me something to cry about--they ran the 1959 version of Imitation of Life. My older cousins watched with me, and my eldest cousin warned me that it was going to be very sad. Of course, I thought, it's got Lana Turner in it! (Imagine my surprise when I saw The Postman Always Rings Twice.) When the movie was over, my cousins were crying, but not as hard as I was. I had made the connection that this was the movie my grandmother told me about, and at that moment I seared that memory in my brain, holding on to it for dear life. The moment of revelation was astonishing, something I'd never experienced before. I was too young to fully understand most of the plot, but when Susan Kohner leaned against Juanita Moore's coffin, it felt like a bolt of lightning went through me. I missed my grandmother. I wasn't just crying for Annie Johnson.
PIX ran Imitation a lot, and as I got older I acquired an additional set of emotional responses as I understood the plot. The Lana Turner version was a remake of the Claudette Colbert-Louise Beavers original from 1934, itself based on a best selling novel by Fannie Hurst. It was directed by Douglas Sirk, a director I would grow to love simply because his movies were never about what they appeared to be. He was always running a side hustle, sneakily slipping it in when nobody was looking. Todd Haynes got it right in his homage to Sirk, Far From Heaven, and Fassbinder did too, with Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, a remake of Sirk's All That Heaven Allows that owes more to its source material than Sirk's detractors will give it.
On its surface, Imitation of Life is about an actress named Laura (Lana Turner), her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Steve Archer (John Gavin), and her daughter, Susie (Sandra Dee). Laura has living with her a Black woman she befriended named Annie (Juanita Moore), whose daughter Sarah Jane, is light enough to pass for White. As a kid, Sarah Jane rejects her Blackness, constantly saying that she's White. The movie seems to treat this as a small story in service to the Lana Turner arc. Annie has characteristics of a Mammy character, though something in the movie feels off about that description. In fact, if one pays close attention, the entire main story seems off.
The White story at the front of Imitation of Life is shallow. The performances are good, but these people are in a bizarre dance of repetition. As she becomes more and more successful, Laura keeps pushing away the men who love her, Steve keeps hanging around, and Susie has moments of pure annoyance. Meanwhile, in the background, Sirk is going "pssst! Look over here! This story's more interesting." At first, it's not evident; we think the movie is primarily about Laura's rise to stardom as a glamorous actress. But by the end of the film, Sirk has switched the story completely, and we realize it's been about the secondary characters of Annie and Sarah Jane all along.
Imitation of Life is fascinated with identity, both in its story and in its scene construction. Sirk is always reminding us of the passing for White story, even when the characters aren't on the screen. There are mirrors everywhere in this film, and every character has at least one scene where he or she is reflected in something. Whenever Turner turns down someone who loves her, she has a mirror scene. When Sarah Jane's White boyfriend finds out she's really Black, the majority of the scene is reflected in a store window. When Annie comes to see her daughter for the last time, they are both reflected in Sarah Jane's apartment mirror. And when Annie is on her deathbed, her reflection is seen in glimpses of the picture frame that houses Sarah Jane's picture. Sirk, being an emotional masochist, makes that picture the center of attention when Annie dies.
Sirk also has his cin-togger shoot people's faces in artificial shadow quite a bit, then has them emerge into light. When Turner kisses the writer (Dan O'Herlihy) she has thrown Steve over for, Sirk shoots the kiss with their faces in total darkness, then has the characters turn directly into the light. Since the film has a glossy, bright sheen to it most of the time, these moments call attention to themselves.
Sirk couldn't just do a movie about Annie and Sarah Jane. The studio wouldn't have funded it and nobody would have gone to see it. Instead he makes the front story so paper thin that we have no other choice but to focus on the more ominous back story. He even has stronger musical cues when things happen in the Annie-Sarah Jane arc of the story.
When Annie is on her deathbed, Oscar nominee Juanita Moore milks it for all it's worth. I've heard her character being called a Noble Negro, but this isn't true; Noble Negroes suffer so that the White characters can learn something. Annie suffers and dies so that a BLACK character can learn something. As that Black character, Oscar nominated White actress Susan Kohner is a real bitch, but oddly enough, she's the most developed character in the film. She's the one character who undergoes the biggest change, and the character most affected by what happens. She has the makings of a tragic mulatto, but it's her emotional response that drives the movie's final point home. "I killed my mother," she tells Laura, and as much as you want to feel hatred for her (and I did), you also feel some pity at the price she paid for hiding her identity. And the funeral they throw Annie is grand indeed. White horses pulling her casket down the street as a band plays music. Mahalia Jackson shows up to sing during the service, and that's the moment in the movie I lose it. No matter how many times I've seen it, I still lose it.
My grandfather told this parable: One day a woman showed up at a wake with a bowl of soup. As she was heading toward the casket she was stopped. "Ethel," another mourner said, "what the hell are you going to do with that soup?" She said, "I was bringing some for Tom." "But Tom's dead!" said the mourner. "Yeah, I know," said Ethel, "but if he can smell all those damn flowers, he can eat some of this here soup."
The moral, my grandfather said, was "give me my flowers while I can smell them, because I can't when I'm lying in my casket." I think that was the message my grandmother imparted to me, in a way I could understand, that is, through a movie. It's indicative of how I see and relate to movies, and how I wanted to bring movies to Black History Mumf. I didn't want to do a scholarly analysis, because that bores the shit out of me and I don't pull the wings off my movies. Instead, I wanted to somehow convey the nostalgic and emotional response I have to movies, past and present. That's how I absorb what I see on the screen. I don't go looking for answers, I bring them with me and hope that something in a film will touch an emotional nerve based on my own experiences. I'll leave the theoretical analysis to the arts majors.
So that's all folks. Black History Mumf is officially over, and I can return this lovely blog back to Steven Boone. Thanks to Boone for letting me do this crazy experiment, and for all the people who have read my month-long ramblings. I appreciate all the posts and all the conversations I've had with people, privately and out here at Big Media Vandalism. I'm sure this isn't the last you've seen of the Odienator here.
For now, I tip my fedora and bow out gracefully. Thank you all.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
The problem with having nothing but yes men around you is that there's nobody available to pull you aside and tell you, as gently as possible, "Bitch, you look like a turkey!" I believe this is why so many celebrities get into trouble. Would Britney Spears have been driving around using her baby as an airbag if she had someone in her entourage to tell her just how "not all that" she was? Do you think Eddie Murphy would have been picking up Asian transvestites with pretty feet on Sunset Blvd., or worse, released Norbit, if he had someone around to say "yo, Mr. Fuck You Man, perhaps you should order pretty dude feet from a private escort service. And use the master print of Norbit to light your post-coital cigarette?" Methinks not. Celebrity brings out, to quote Seal, "limousines and sycophants," and any dissenting voice is drowned out by the numerous people whispering in the star's ears and telling them how great they are.
Sometimes the people closest to the celebrities are the biggest yes men. Especially if they're screwing them. Such is the case with Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown and the director of another M word, Mahogany. I admit he had the foresight to see that Diana Ross was all wrong for The Wiz, but he didn't have the sense to believe that Tony Richardson was a better director than he was. Gordy fired Richardson allegedly because Richardson wasn't going to make the movie Black enough. It already had a predominantly Black cast featuring Miss Ross and her Lady Sings the Blues co-star, Billy Dee Williams. The only way the movie could have been blacker was if they'd shot it in the dark. Considering how Mahogany turned out, this would have been a good idea. Director Gordy may have made the movie Blacker simply because he was Black, but he also created a bigger disaster than anything Irwin Allen got his hands on back in the 70's. As a filmmaker, he was worse than Uwe Boll.
Mahogany probably would work better as an event rather than a movie. In New York City, they turned The Sound of Music into a sing-a-long, and gay men and people's mothers (the only people who could get away with liking The Sound of Music) showed up in droves. One guy was interviewed on the news wearing a brown paper package on his head, wrapped up in string. Others showed up dressed as nuns, which did as much for the convent as Ken Russell's The Devils. As much as I dislike The Sound Of Music, I do enjoy public spectacles of bad taste; I'm sure the theater show was better than anything on the screen.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a horrible movie, but if you've ever gone to see it in the Village, it was a lot of fun. I don't know why no one has turned Mahogany into The Rossy Horror Picture Show, because it's a favorite of drag queens and at least one person's mother I know. Imagine people showing up, dressed in the horrific outfits from the film, ripping off their tops and pouring hot candle wax on chests as flat as the one Miss Ross douses in this film. At the end, everyone sings the Theme from Mahogany and drinks Colt 45. If only I had a theater.
What I'm about to commit here is pure blasphemy. I know a lot of people who love Mahogany. My female classmates in high school loved it so much that they voted the theme from Mahogany as our senior prom song. It was my aunt and uncle's first date movie, and they went back to see it twenty-three more times. Fellow blogger cinebeats may never speak to me again, or worse, tell my mother about this piece. Mom is a HUGE Diana Ross fan, and she loves Mahogany, so Lawd help me if she gets wind of this. She'll call me up and sing her favorite "let me guilt the shit out of Odienator" song, Shirley Caesar's "I'm a cheapskate" gospel classic, No Charge ("for the nine months I carried you, growing inside me: no charge"). Then, like Bill Cosby in Ghost Dad, she will come through my telephone, swinging a switch she pulled from the switch bushes she has in her yard, and I will be subjected to the first ass whipping I've had in a long, long time.
It'll be worth it.
I had hoped to use several screenshots from Mahogany, but Netflix didn't have the movie at their local facility (surprise surprise--if it's got Negroes in it, Netflix doesn't have it out here). They had to send it from St. Louis, (why not Detroit?) and it still isn't here. It saves me from having to watch it again, so thank heaven for small favors. Also, special thanks to my blog hijackee, Steven Boone, for scrounging up some pics for me. (Yes, I'm mentioning him so that when Miss Ross comes to kick my ass, she'll save some energy for his too.)
Mahogany is an old-fashioned woman's picture, colorized in a way Ted Turner never dreamed. It tells the story of Tracy (Miss Ross), a fun-loving secretary studying fashion at night school. Tracy dreams of becoming a top fashion designer, so she can get away from her department store job. It's perfect casting for Ross, herself a former fashion student before her rise to the top as the lead tyrant, I mean singer, of the Supremes. It also highlights why Miss Ross should count her blessings; she's a far better singer than clothing designer. Ross is credited with the costume design for Mahogany, and as aforementioned, nobody was around to tell her the truth about her fashions.
Tracy meets an activist named Brian (Billy Dee Williams) and the two begin a courtship after she plays a dumb trick on him involving milk and a megaphone. Tracy causes Brian to be arrested because he gets into a fight, and after she bails him out, instead of him going upside her head with a tire iron for causing the altercation, they start to fall in love. Ross and Williams have dynamite chemistry, as evidenced in Lady Sings the Blues, and it's on display here. Brian courts Tracy, something we didn't see too much of in Black movies of this time (Claudine being a notable exception), and I think this is why a lot of Black women fell in love with the movie. It starts out as a sweet little romance on the streets of Chicago. What woman doesn't want to be wooed, especially if the wooer is as hot as Billy Dee?
But then Mahogany loses its gaat-damn mind. Brian turns out to be a sexist bastard, telling Tracy that her dreams are silly and that his activist work is the be all and end all in this world. He wants her to stay and work for his campaign, to help him build HIS dreams. He doesn't need a diva, he needs a maid like Florence on The Jeffersons.
A fashion photographer named Sean (Anthony Perkins) sees Tracy at a fashion show and thinks she'd make a great model. In fact, he just grabs her and says "get me six more of her!" Big dollar signs start flashing in Tracy's eyes. If she can become a model, she can model her own fashions! Sean has some warped ideas about fashion shoots--after all he IS Norman Bates--and Brian sees Tracy helping Sean with some kind of shoot involving homeless people. As Tracy helps Sean take advantage of an old lady who looks like she's had more to eat than the fashion model Tracy is dragging her toward, Brian asks her if she's into exploiting the homeless as a fashion statement. Tracy says something asinine that I don't remember, something like "it's fashion, not politics!" Soon, however, Tracy's right in the thick of politics, working for Brian's campaign after getting fired from her secretary job. Their courtship continues until the aforementioned "your dreams ain't worth shit" speech that sends Tracy to Rome to model for Sean.
Sean gives Tracy the name Mahogany, which is a kind of wood, but when he tries to give her that OTHER kind of wood, he fails miserably. This is because Perkins' character is obviously gay, and a bad gay stereotype at that. He joins the long list of psychotic cinematic gays and bisexuals, except his freak out is hilarious and not to be taken seriously. I should stop here and point out that practically every White person in Mahogany is some kind of fucked up sexual deviant and/or freak. Berry Gordy must have been working through some serious shit with creditors when he made this movie. It's not like the Black folks fare much better--Brian's an asshole and Tracy is delusional and a sweat shop terrorist (more on that later)--but the Whites in this movie are really put through the Eurotrash Cuisinart.
Tracy is fired by Sean after she models one of her fashions in the show instead of the one he's chosen. Ross' creation is met with stunned silence because, well, it looks made by a drunken Japanese red-ass monkey. She is saved from humiliation and ruin by an Italian designer who pays an ungodly sum of money for Tracy's outfit. Tracy is ecstatic, but she doesn't realize he only paid a buck-oh-five for that dress; the rest of the money was for her skinny Black ass.
Tracy offers up her S.B.A. but the Italian (Jean-Pierre Aumont, proving Paris is in Italy) declines "for now." Suddenly, Tracy, I mean Mahogany, is the hottest designer in town. This gives the movie time to showcase more of Ross' designs which, for the most part, are terrifying. There are a few moments when she actually does look decent, but they give way to the big party scene, where Mahogany embraces her inner freaky-deaky, tearing off her top and pouring hot candle wax all over herself. By this time, Billy Dee shows up in Rome (I forget how he got there--damn you, Netflix!) and has an absurd gun fight with Sean. Perkins throws himself at Williams, and I'd say this performance was the nadir of his career, except I've seen Crimes of Passion.
After the gunplay, Brian confronts Mahogany, who has just proven that there's a HO in MaHOgany. And a hog too. She looks disgusting, covered in candle wax and that stuff they put on Christina Aguilera in the Dirrrty video. When Brian tells her off, Mahogany has a Miss Ross style tantrum. "They all love me! Men and women! I'm Mahogany and you're nothing!" This is the first of two times we see the Diana Ross Kitty Kelly wrote about, the diva who was intolerable. Williams tells her "success is nothing without someone to share it with," which sounds like a ghetto version of Love Story's "love means never having to say you're sorry." Both are incredibly stupid lines, but moviegoers swooned over both. My aunt and uncle swooned 24 times over Mahogany's tag line.
Mahogany winds up in a crazed car ride with Sean who, true to the actor who plays him, goes psycho. Mahogany distracts him by getting him to take pictures of her while he's driving (I'm not kidding) and he winds up dead from the ensuing accident. Then, Mahogany, with some help from her rich Italian benefactor, now husband, starts mass producing her Halloween costumes in a factory where nobody speaks English. NOW we get the REAL Miss Ross! Her workers keep saying "non capisco" when she demands things, so she chews them out real good. "I'm sick of this non capisco shit!" she yells. "DO AS I SAY!" I remember in the theater asking my mother "why is she being so mean to them?" and her replying "because she's being a diva." For years, I thought diva meant bitch.
Mahogany's hubby also decides, after all this time, that it's time to cash in on the skinny Black ass he bought under that outfit two reels ago, but he can't get it up either. Now, I'm not one to gossip, but this made me wonder about Mahogany's choices in terms of giving up the nana. Ross appears to be doing a Liza Minelli, which makes sense as Minelli beat her for that Oscar back in 1972.
Anyway, after all the screaming and the cock killing, Mahogany gets to have the big fashion show the movie thinks her character deserves. And it's a success!!! But she can't stop thinking about Brian--broke-ass Brian--and all the Colt 45s they shared when she was a nobody back in Chicago. So she gives it all up to go back and be Brian's woman. The end. The moral, ladies, is that your hopes and dreams mean nothing, especially if you could be that great woman standing behind the great man who's achieving HIS dream instead. For all the fun I've been poking at Miss Ross, this is what makes Mahogany truly reprehensible. The film gives us a Black heroine who MAKES IT, regardless of the hardships, and ships her back home to be barefoot and pregnant behind some activist who'll probably lose his damn campaign. I know people were too busy swooning over the romance, but that doesn't make the message disappear.
Despite having chemistry with Williams, Miss Ross' performance shits on the promise she showed in Lady Sings the Blues. At times, she out Joan Crawfords Faye Dunaway, which would be a lot of fun if the film weren't so poorly done. Gordy doesn't know how to direct traffic--
literally--nor is he any good with actors or transitions. The Wiz put the final nail in her acting coffin, and she's been pretty much off the screen ever since. This is rather sad, because despite my ribbing, I always thought she had talent. She was quite good in Lady Sings the Blues, another problematic romance, except this one is saved by the leads, and she's fantastic in a little seen TV movie where she played a schizophrenic. And even though I dislike the Supremes, I love quite a bit of her solo stuff, including the Oscar nominated song that graces this film, a song that the writers basically had to threaten Oscar with a lawsuit before it could be eligible for its nomination.
However, I'm not blind (I'm only half-blind) so I can't excuse the mess this movie is. But I can understand the love for it. Like I said, it shows a successful Black woman, and how many movies in the early 70's had that? If the movie had ended with Billy Dee coming to be by her side in Rome, or a more explicit depiction of her continuing to have a career while coming back to Chicago, I'd be more forgiving. The fact the movie robs her of success really irritates me. Granted, her fashions were nightmares, but there's no accounting for good taste. She hustled those folks and made them buy her shit. I have to respect that on some level. What I can't respect is this movie.
Your homework assignment:
Don't tell Miss Ross where I live.