Writing, Reality & Racism

One thing I like about posting on WordPress is that I can write any way I choose. I can start a sentence with the word “and” or I can use “I’ve” instead of “I have”. I can even place my commas or periods in the wrong place. We are informal. So, let me begin. The other day a Twitter friend posted an Amos n Andy 1951 television broadcast on Youtube, titled “The Young Girl’s Mother”. It seemed familiar and I remembered that in 1951 the same story had been performed on the Amos n Andy radio program and my mother, Norma Green and Dorothy Dandridge were two of the characters in the episode: “The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show. February 25, 1951. CBS net. “Andy Meets Girl’s Mother”. Rexall. Andy has proposed to twenty-two year-old Brenda Thompson, not realizing she’s the daughter of Madame Queen! Madame Queen is willing to settle for Andy as a son-in-law, if not a husband. The opening is slightly upcut. Bill Hay does one of the commercials. Bob Ross (writer), Griff Barnett (commercial spokesman), Bill Hay, Jeff Alexander and His Orchestra (music), Ken Niles (announcer), Bob Mosher (writer), Joe Connelly (writer), Freeman Gosden, Charles Correll, Johnny Lee, Lillian Randolph, Dorothy Dandridge, Norma Green.” Radiogoldin.library

I was too surprised when I found this out in 2015 since my mother hadn’t bothered to tell me about it. Anywho, I watched the television episode. The episode was funny, however, I could see why the NAACP tried successfully to get it off prime time television (I think it ran a while in re-runs). The Andy and Kingfish characters, Spencer Williams and Tim Moore, had been instructed and coached on how to be the voices of Andy and Kingfish. So they both spoke like this: “I done popped the question and she done accepted”. And this: “You gone with a lot of girls since I knowed you”. And this: “what is I gonna do?”

As I watched this show today, I cringed at the way they talked. I wondered if we as Black people really talked that way back then. Or did Correll and Gosden, the show’s creators, just want them to talk that way because that was how Correll and Gosden talked when they pretended to be Black men when the show was on the radio. I do believe Williams and Moore went along with the script because that was one of the only ways a Black man could make a decent amount of money. Racism was rampant in 1951 in the entertainment business.

But racism was present also in Black families. Take my family, for instance. My maternal grandmother looked White. She listed herself as Spanish on my mother’s elementary school papers. She was not Spanish. Her mother and father were lightskinned Black people. My maternal grandfather was Italian, so my mother looked White. When my father, Eddie, started courting my mother, (here they are on the left) my grandmother would make Eddie come around to the back door as opposed to letting him in the front. Yes, because Eddie was dark-skinned. Fast forward to 1980, the rumor was that I was asked by an older family member to live in and take care of “nana’s” house because I am light-skinned as opposed to asking one of our darker skinned family members. The same person who requested this of me would not even entertain the thought of having a dark-skinned grandchild. Even though her own mother was dark-skinned.

Racism exists everywhere. Still. Today. It is not surprising to me from whence it comes. It exists. As a lightskinned person I have been accused of ignoring a man who spoke to me at a bus stop because I thought I was “too good” because I was light. I have friends today who speak about me as being “high-yellow”. Why do they mention the color of my skin when they see me? Who knows. Everyone has an opinion on something. We cannot censure the thoughts that run through people’s heads and if these thoughts pop out of their mouths, we can’t stop that either.

There has been some so-called “shocking” news in the world today, which makes me believe that people are refusing to live in the world of reality. They seem to want to believe in a fictional world. Which is why I have written this post. I try and find a way to express my opinions without being nasty, and because if I say nothing these thoughts just keep me awake at night.

The thing is, in my opinion, is that not everybody is going to be ok with everybody. Not just in the area of skin color, but in what school you attend, or whether you say tomato or tomawto. Or whether you mention your religious beliefs online. Some people will not have it. There was a time when I let that stop me from sharing my thoughts on how I worship, now I know that other people’s opinions are their opinions and that the reality is their opinions have nothing to do with how my life is lived.

In writing my books about The Jeffersons and about the TV sitcom Maude, I have had to figure out how to connect the fiction of a television program’s scripts with real life in order to be able to write an interesting, relevant and entertaining book. And believe you me, some of these shows dealt with some serious and controversial reality issues, even while providing laughs. For instance, in the Maude episode “The Kiss”, Maude catches her next door neighbor, Vivian kissing her (Maud’s) husband, Walter. Walter gives her an explanation about how Vivian and Maude are such good friends and how that spills over to Walter and somehow they were just consoling each other as friends. And Maude seems to go along with the explanation. Of course, I’m sitting there watching this and screaming at my laptop BS!! I don’t know too many women who would go for THAT explanation in real life!

I appreciate your stopping by and spending some time with me and my thoughts. Until next time, thanx. 🙂 Tell your friends about me. Share the love. Comments and shared experiences are always welcome. Stay safe.

FAME, FORTUNE, AND REALITY

Hi there! Welcome and welcome back.

During the past month I have gotten closer to beginning a second book and during my research on other star’s of the entertainment world I was reminded of a resentment I formed while writing the book on my father, Eddie Green. At one point in time Eddie was famous. It said so in the newspaper articles I found. In 1937 he opened his first Bar-Bee-Q shop in New York. According to the Pittsburgh Courier:

“Eddie Green, star of radio and stage and screen (RCA-NBC television program 1936) has entered another field with the opening of his swanky and cozy Bar-Bee-Q shop on Seventh avenue near 126th Street In the heart of the section frequented by sportsmen, actors and artists of all kinds. In the short space that it has been opened, this food emporium has become a rendezvous for celebrities of the theatrical world. Though well-known for his work on the stage and screen, Eddie Green is best remembered as the radio comedian who appeared for a number of weeks as the featured attraction on the full hour Sunday evening- NBC “Echoes of New York Town” program, sponsored by the light and gas companies of New York cities, and won a marked degree of success for his effort in this spot. Besides, his various guest appearances on any number of programs, including Rudy Vallee’s, Mr. Green just recently completed a week’s contract as star comedian (opposite Gee Gee James, of “Gibson Family” fame) of the Fleishmann Yeast Hour, which costarred Louis Armstrong. His portrayal of the characters selected for him to play, won the hearty approval of metropolitan radio critics.”

Eddie’s Emporium was listed in the local newspapers under the CafĂ© section: Listed under the Cafe Section – Manhattan, under American food:  Eddie Green’s Bar-Bee-Q 2149 8th Ave., New York Specializing in Southern Bar-Bee-Q. Finest South’n hospitality. E. Green. Host. Mind you, Eddie was born in Baltimore and spent most of his years in New York, but he loved “South’n” cooking. (8th and 116th Street today).

My point is that he was well-known in 1937.  By 1939, he had started his own film production company and had made two movie featurettes, Dress Rehearsal and What Goes Up.

My resentment came about as I realized that Eddie’s name was in the newspapers right along with other stars who are still well-known today! What began as an inspirational story morphed into a vehicle to get Eddie out of the shadows and back into the spotlight where he belonged.

Newspapers ran ads like these (minus pictures):

1941Buffalo Courier Express December 14 PLAZA THEATER – Michael Redgrave “SONS of the SEA”

1941 Buffalo Courier Express December 14 SHEA’S BUFFALO – Bette Davis “NOW VOYAGER”

“RIDERS OF THE NORTHLAND” Serial, “OVERLAND MAIL” – Also Eddie Green, Famous Colored Radio Star, in Featurette, “What Goes Up”.

You will notice that he was the last on the bill after the “Serial” and his movie was not in upper-case letters. Even though it says he was Famous. But Eddie was a Black man and the movie was a featurette and this was 1941.

My resentment has faded over time, because as I look at what Eddie accomplished in his life despite any negativity I am proud of him as a person. He was a hard-working man. He loved what he did and he payed it forward in how he got along with others and in helping those less fortunate. He was able, in 1941, to share his profits:

Eddie Green to Play Host To 250 Poor Christmas Eve
“Eddie Green will play host to 250 of New York City’s poor on Christmas eve morning. Along with Arthur Oliver, manager, and about a dozen of the girl employees of Eddie Green’s Bar-Bee-Q, they will assemble at the Eighth avenue link of this popular chain of restaurants where they will pack and hand out Christmas baskets containing roasting chicken and all of the fixings that go to make up a good dinner. Tickets for these baskets have been distributed among quite a few responsible persons who in turn are giving them to families that they know to be in need.”

My father was a Good Man. I only got to know him through writing his biography. And I have been given great insight into what it really is to be “Famous”. I love you, Eddie.

Thanx, for stopping by.