ACTORS: Remembering and Appreciating

Hello friends. The fact that I have begun the process of writing a book about The Jeffersons tv sitcom is beginning to make it clear just how diligent I am going to have to be in getting my facts straight. Somehow it seems a lot more involved than corroborating the information I learned about my father when writing his biography. In researching the actors and their participation in their various shows, I have found out that one person will say what they think things were like, some will say what they heard, and some will assume. Getting the actor’s stories in their own words is difficult, especially if those actors are no longer with us.

The three actors pictured, Sherman Hemsley, Isabel Sanford and Mike Evans have all died. Sherman in 2012, Isabel in 2004 and Mike in 2006. Sharing this writing process here on WordPress is so important in helping me with this book-writing learning experience. I am not using this forum to write the book from the beginning but to have some kind of clarity of where I am going.

Today I decided to write about actor Mike Evans who played the character Lionel Jefferson, the son of the Bunker’s new Black neighbors. The Bunkers were the family from “All In The Family” or AITF, with Carroll O’Conner, as Archie and Jean Stapleton, as Edith. Mike Evans began portraying Lionel in this AITF in 1971 through 1975 before moving on up to “The Jeffersons”.

As a child, Mike was “short, and fat, and funny-looking”. His parents divorced when he was a baby. As a young man he used his talent for art by making sculptures out of clothes hangers and selling them to hippies in Hollywood. By 18 he had enrolled in City College and was studying Psychology, then switched to an Acting major. He learned one day that a studio was looking for young, Black actors and so he went to audition and eventually got the part of Lionel. The one downside to this was that his father had died 3 months earlier so Mike was not able to share this with him.

In 1975 AITF produced the spin-off The Jeffersons and Mike continued to play his character. But after one season, Mike left the sitcom. According to The Las Vegas Sun-TV Scene. Sunday, February 20, 1977: He left because he “wasn’t having a good time on the show.” He did, however, return for the sixth through the eighth season. Mike had married in 1976 and his marriage lasted until 2002 when his wife died. Mike would die of throat cancer in 2006.

There is such an upside to writing this type of non-fiction book. The actors, writers, producers that I am able to be in contact with are given a boost just knowing that people are actually interested in them as artists and still remember them. And the relatives of those who have left us are pleased, also. They’ve told me so, and I can hear it in their voices.

I thank you so much for stopping by and for “clicking” on my posts.

🙂

 

 

Interview: Guest “Staras” – Willie Tyler and Lester

Hi there you all. Well, I’ve spoken to my first person who guest starred on the tv sitcom, The Jeffersons. Mr. Willie Tyler, ventriloquist. Lester, his dummy, was not available.  I spoke with Willie for about 20 minutes via cell phone regarding this appearance. I got a big kick out of talking with him.  Willie told me he thinks of Lester as real, that way it’s easier to make him real to the audience. About Lester, according to a newspaper article I found on Fulton Postcards: “You would never know that the little fellow is not human once Willie Tyler sets the flashy little man on his knee and commences an act that has been applauded all over the world.”

Writing a book about The Jeffersons is going to give me the opportunity to talk with many more “staras” as my brother would say, and I’m loving it. I get to research these people and bring back an awareness of their works in the entertainment world. A lot of the people who worked on The Jeffersons are gone now. But not all of them.  Some are still doing their gigs to appreciative audiences. As is Willie Tyler and his buddy, Lester. Mr. Tyler is currently preparing to perform on a Cruise Ship. It’s amazing to me how this gentleman has done his ventriloquist act for more than 40 years. And he still loves doing it.

Willie Tyler and Lester appeared on The Jeffersons in 1978. I intend to share more in my book but I will tell you I found an old tv ad that reads: “George’s stockbroker is a ventriloquist, but is he a dummy? Only Louise knows the answer to that one.” Starring Isabel Sanford and Sherman Hemsley. Tarrytown NY Daily News (1978)

Willie Tyler and Lester appeared on the David Letterman show during “Ventriloquist Week” – take a gander, and, please, keep coming back.

 

Smiling & Twirling & Laughing & Caring

I like to think I am like my father. He was a happy man. He had a great smile. He loved to make people laugh. He was a good friend, with a helpful attitude. And he liked people, period. He was a family man, too. He was married 4 times. Had two daughters, one in 1911 and then me in the 40s. He told the Brooklyn Eagle in 1939 that “the depression doesn’t worry him. He’s happily married (3rd wife), Daughter Hilda is grown up and starting to follow him in show business. He’s got his work, his radio to tinker with and he’s the proud possessor of the first television set in Harlem.” At the time of this interview he was appearing in Mike Todd’s Hot Mikado. As Koko he sang “Titwillow” (Stars Over Broadway, Star Tone (M) ST 214 (Eddie Green with orchestra conducted by William Parson) The Brooklyn Eagle article said he had a “perpetual beaming smile.”

In a 1939 Press Sheet it was said that “Eddie Green still remains one of the greatest of all funny men. He has an irresistible sense of humor and he can squeeze a laugh from the sourest puss in the country!” When making his movies Eddie said that he builds his stories around incidents that are interesting, never offensive. He also said that when working on the radio show Duffy’s Tavern, “It’s grand, working with this show. The informality of it, the tavern setting and the lines which I never have to worry about, turns work into play.”

The Billboard spoke about him in a 1920 article in regard to having a helpful attitude: Eddie sent a note to The Billboard letting them know that if “the boys playing this town (New York) and having a hard time getting rooms they could stop at the Hotel Francis directly opposite the New York City Depot.” The Billboard said his not was an illustration of the many services to one another that actors may accomplish through their news page.

He and my mother were only married for five years and of that marriage I never heard any bad things about my father from my mother. She seemed to have been proud to have been married to him. Eddie was a comedian and as I grew up I always told my mother (whenever I thought I had said something funny) that I was my father’s daughter.  I find that most people  just want to be happy.  And they want to be acknowledged. I like to acknowledge people. It makes me smile to see another person realize they have been heard.

I am a family person, also. My siblings are like parts of my person. This past week I had the chance to see a nephew that I had not seen in over 10 years. He’s not little anymore. He’s grown up (about 6′ 5″, maybe more-so tall!!!). He’s a grown man. I cannot believe how happy it made me to see him. He visited from New Mexico. I have family all over the United States. Some of us have never met in person. I am “working on” putting together a family calendar. I wish I could hug them all at the same time. I LOVE my family. They totally make me smile.

I am working very hard on paying attention to what makes my happy, what makes me smile. There are so many unhappy people in the world today. So many reasons to be unhappy. So much unrest. I am going to try and take how I felt about seeing my nephew (I felt like twirling around in the restaurant!!!) and spread it around.

Thanx for stopping by and for helping to keep a smile on my face. 🙂

 

“The Whole Town is Talking About Eddie Green”

According to today’s news, a new Black female movie director who has just finished directing Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle In Time”, has been chosen to direct Jack Kirby’s “New Gods” for Warner Bros. I have been following her rise, and when I read the words Warner Bros., my father flashed into my mind because he did a Warner Bros. Vitaphone Film.

The film is titled Sending A Wire. I felt that here is a connection (if somewhat remote) I can use to help make Eddie relevant to today. You know, Eddie was Black, he was a director, he worked with Warner Bros. and he was a Trailblazer.

I also communicate via Twitter. So I tweeted this information to the female director, yes, hoping for some type of acknowledgement. I am still in the process of promoting the biography I have written about my father and I am trying every way I can think of to get his story seen. I read somewhere that I should “do the same thing everyone else does, but do it differently”. Huh?? So I’m just doing what I think this advice is saying. I want to bring Eddie back to the fore of people’s minds. Because he was a trailblazer who was the best at what he did. His story can provide that pin-in-the-tush type of motivation for others.

Sending A Wire started out as a skit in a play titled Hot Chocolates and went on to become quite popular. From my book:

There was also “Sending A Wire”, written by Eddie, featuring Eddie and Jimmy Baskette, as a customer and clerk, respectively, in a telegraph office. The New York Age called Sending A Wire “riotously funny”. Evidently, Eddie was “knocking them ga-ga” in his telegraph skit at the Hudson.

James “Jimmie” Baskette, born February 16, 1904, would later become best known as “Uncle Remus” singing the song “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah” in the 1946 Disney feature film, Song of the South.
Connie’s Hot Chocolates was hailed by critics and was touted as being fast, funny and frank. Hot Chocolates would go on to have 219 performances. The closing date was December 14, 1929.

The skit from “Connie’s Hot Chocolates”, “Sending A Wire”, became a Warner Brother’s Vitaphone film that was said to be the funniest Vitaphone comedy act “which has yet been produced”, and that it “kept thousands shaking with laughter.” The film is registered in the Library of Congress as Sending A Wire, Eddie Green and Co. New York Age February 1, 1930.

“Sending A Wire”, would go on to be shown at Loew’s Main St. New Rochelle Theater, December 7, 8 and 9, billed as “Eddie Green & Co.”, featured between the Hearst Metrotone News and Irene Franklin, and, at the Strand Theater on the same program with a Mickey Mouse cartoon called The Jazz Fool.

Okeh Records would record the song “Sending A Wire” with Eddie Green and Company (which can be found at the Library of Congress under Black Films: Paper Print Collection.)


At the time, Commander Richard E. Byrd, an America Naval Officer had started an expedition to the Antarctic, and had set up a base camp named “Little America” in the Antarctic on the Ross Ice Shelf. The Gannet Newspapers, which at the time included the Albany News and The Knickerbocker Press, decided to put together a stellar list of entertainers to perform over radio stations WGY and WHAM to be broadcast to “Little America”, for the enjoyment of the explorers. Commander Byrd would receive the short wave and the broadcast wave lengths to all broadcast listeners in the United States. Amsterdam Evening Recorder: “Tonight’s radio program for Commander Byrd-Radio entertainment, originating in three different cities will be broadcast by WGY and its short wave stations to Commander Richard Byrd and his men in Little America.

Eddie was added to the program specifically to do his “Telegraph Skit” which was said to be “one of the funniest skits on the stage.” Eddie would perform along with Ralph Rainger, the composer of “Moanin’ Low”, who was also invited. Some of the other stellar performers included Rudy Vallee, Fred Allen and comedian Ted Healy. At the end of the program letters and messages from the men’s families were read over the air.

Regarding Eddie Green’s performance on the radio program, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said “The whole town is talking about Eddie Green, prime colored comic, who will put on one of the funniest skits on the stage. He will dash from the Hudson Theater immediately after the final curtain to the National Broadcasting Company where he will re-enact his side-splitting “Telegraph Office” skit for Commander Byrd and his crew.”  (Brooklyn Daily Eagle July 18, 1929).

“The whole town is talking about Eddie Green.” What a wonderful line to read about one’s father in the newspaper.

Thank you so much, for stopping by.

Eddie Green The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer-BearManor Media publisher

Oh No!!

To those new to this blog, say Hi to my father.

This was the look on my face when I realized that the Main Cover photo from this blog has been incorrect for the past three years. One day last week I noticed something was wrong with the photo. I zeroed in on the photo with my eyes. The title of my book was missing one word. Where else had I downloaded or uploaded the photo? My books printed correctly so I must have caught the error at some point. What a maroon!!

 

 

 

 

Well, it’s not that funny! Well, actually, I was able to laugh at myself, eventually. In this post I hope to impart to you the absolute necessity of “Proofreading!”. My error ought to provide propelling encouragement to get the writer immersed in proofreading every  aspect of getting your writings out to the public. Don’t confuse them. One title here, another title there (on the same book).

 

 

 

 

This is my book. Correct title. I love my book. I corrected my oversight on this blog and have forgiven myself.

Blunders happen-my encouraging advice for the day.

Thanx so much, for stopping by.

 

Funny & Fun

My father liked two things for sure: Pretty women and he liked being happy. From the first time he went out on the road with his first song in 1919, through his movie making days in 1939, ’40 and ’41 his ensemble included chorus girls and comedy. He even incorporated dancing girls, tap dancers, singers and comedic skits in his last 1949 movie that depicted Blacks and how they dealt with life after the Atom Bomb. For those new to this blog you can see his last movie on YouTube-it’s titled Mr. Adam’s Bomb. A young lady (Margaret Westfield)  sings a song called “You can Always Believe Your Heart” which Eddie wrote. I am still looking for information on Ms. Westfield.

Eddie became a household name as Eddie, the waiter in the radio program Duffy’s Tavern, during the last ten years of his life. Everyone loved Eddie. February is Black History Month. I am going to inundate social media with “fun Eddie stuff”. I want to get him as much exposure as possible. I want to get as many people as I can to experience Eddie’s good nature and for them to get a few laughs as well. I think our world could use uplifting right now. Eddie’s life story is truly inspiring. I will also be pushing the biography I have written about him, “Eddie Green The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer“, it’s much more fun that that “other” book everyone is talking about these days.

In this still from Eddie’s 4th movie you can see that Eddie (in the striped shirt) liked being silly (which is why, I am sure I like silly jokes: What kind of flower is that on your face? Tulips!!! Hahahahaha!) There were even chorus girls in this movie.

So here’s to a Funny February.

And thanx, for stopping by.