From left to right: Greg, Nate, Joe, Justin, Jenny and the judge.
It's been a looooong time since I did a "Some... Stuff" post, but here goes. On Friday, my brother Joe and his wife, Jenny, officially adopted our nephew Justin (our sister Joscelyne's son... she passed away in 2012). It was a long, arduous process, but thank you Lord, it's done. Congratulations, guys!
Chanell, after receiving her diploma....
Well, at least some Indians are... a few weeks ago, I confessed up to thinking as a kid that Indians were Black. And a few of my Indian/Bangladeshi friends gave me e-props for it (what up?!). One of them, Wafi, passed on this HuffPo article by Rita Banerji from 2015 that goes into fascinating detail about how there is indeed a strong genetic link between Indians and Africa:
Growing up in India, I never met or heard about Indians with African lineages. Then in 2005 I watched a dance performance by the Sidi Goma, a group of musicians from the African Indian community, the Siddi, and I was astonished and mesmerised. Since then I've discovered that India's African roots are much older than the Siddis, and are not only evident in numerous other communities, but percolate through direct descent in the blood of at least 600 million Indians....
Lena Horne (Image Source)
Lena Horne- singer, actress, glamour queen of the 1940's- found herself blacklisted in Hollywood, labeled a Communist betrayer of democracy in the early 1950's. It was a particularly spectacular fall, and Horne was determined to not have her career tarnished by smears of Red.
First, some backstory on Horne from PBS' "American Masters: Lena Horne" page:
Born in Brooklyn in 1917, Lena Horne became one of the most popular African American performers of the 1940s and 1950s. At the age of sixteen she was hired as a dancer in the chorus of Harlem’s famous Cotton Club. There she was introduced to the growing community of jazz performers, including Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, and Duke Ellington. She also met Harold Arlen, who would write her biggest hit, “Stormy Weather.” For the next five years she performed in New York nightclubs, on Broadway, and touring with the Charlie Barnet Orchestra. Singing with Barnet’s primarily white swing band, Horne was one of the first black women to successfully work on both sides of the color line.
(Image Source: Vice)
Last week in the Anton La Vey post, I mentioned how Sammy Davis Jr. became a member of The Church of Satan for a while. This struck me as... well, pretty weird. I could see why the publicity-loving Jayne Mansfield would sign up to be Team Lucifer, but Sammy "Member of Sinatra's Rat Pack" Davis Jr.? He was so... laid-back and... cool. And Jewish. He most definitely had converted to Judaism. So what the what? Let's go to Helen O' Hara at The Telegraph for more:
Sammy Davis Jr, the singer, actor and Rat Pack member whose own philosophy of life drove him to try just about everything that presented itself - women, men, religion, drugs - became involved in 1968. He had noticed a gang of lively young people each with a single red-painted nail at The Factory, a nightclub he co-owned, and was invited to go with them to a party he described as “dungeons, dragons and debauchery”....
Bespectacled Buddy. (Image Source)
Before his shocking death at only 22 in 1959, Buddy Holly managed to make major moves. A native of Lubbock, Texas, Holly began playing the guitar as a kid, and counted a number of Country Music singers as influences. As a teen he began listening to Rhythm & Blues over the radio late at night, and it wasn't long before he combined Country and R&B and began playing the hot new sound of the 1950s: Rock & Roll.
Amazingly, Holly's professional career really only took off when he signed with Decca Records in 1956, meaning he hit the top of the charts, toured the country (and even internationally), and packed theatres in 3 short years (along with his band The Crickets for part of that time).This post is going to focus on one particular set of performances in 1957, when Holly took Harlem. From The Delete Bin:
Rock ‘n’ roll is not a type of music. It was a social phenomenon that threaded together music of many American cultures by the 1950s, and continues to be that today on a global scale. To prove the point of the range of rock ‘n’ roll music of their era, Lubbock Texas band Buddy Holly and The Crickets performed at the Apollo Theatre in August of 1957. Expectations were certainly undercut in the days before the civil rights movement, when audiences and musicians of various races simply did not mix. But, thanks to their historic show at The Apollo, this rule was gloriously broken....
(Master of None, Netflix Screen Grab)
There's a throwback scene at the very top of Master of None's Season 2' episode, "Thanksgiving", during which little Denise, BFF of little Dev, over for the holiday, mentions that she thinks he's Black... like her. Denise's mom gets the convo started by asking Dev if celebrating Thanksgiving is a thing done in the Indian Community (Dev's answer: They eat lunch together and his dad falls asleep watching "The Godfather".)
Denise is confused; what is this "Indian Community" of which her mom speaks? "Dev is Indian," Denise's Momma, played by the ever-youthful Angela Bassett, explains.
"I thought Dev was Black," says a confused Denise....
Anton La Vey and snake. (Image Source)
So far in this series, I covered Jim Jones who believed himself better than God (if there was, in fact, a supreme deity); Father Divine, who claimed to be God incarnate; and Aimee Semple McPherson, who despite being a twice divorced female pastor, held to the usual standards of historic, orthodox Christianity, i.e., The Trinity, Virgin Birth, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, and salvation through the grace of God and faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
But for this entry, I'm going to step away from Christians (or those who started off that way... fun fact, Jones, Divine and McPherson all had early roots in the Methodist church), and over to the other side: Anton La Vey, who founded The Church of Satan in 1966 in California (um, another thing I noticed, is Cali's place of prominence in this series... Jones' Peoples Temple flourished there, and Semple's Angelus Temple was based in L.A.... even Divine's movement had success with satellite communities in the Golden State).
Reading up on La Vey, who died in 1997, is a challenge, because there's so much conflicting information. The man's actual birth name is even up for debate. A number of Christian sites add to this hodgepodge; while attempting to impress on readers the seriousness of La Vey and occultism in general, some of the articles play fast and loose with dates, quotes and the teachings of The Church of Satan. Augh... this does a great disservice to their entire message. If you can't get major tenets of their church right, why would people take anything you have to say to be true?...
Sam Cooke (Image Source)
Earlier this spring, when rapper Kendrick Lamar dropped his critically praised album, "DAMN", it shot up to the top of the Billboard charts. Thing is, it wasn't just a hit in Hip Hop; it was a certified success in the realm of Pop, too. Slate boasted, "Kendrick Lamar’s New No. 1 Proves He’s Not Just Our Greatest Rapper. He’s One of Our Biggest Pop Stars."
Rappers can be Pop Stars, yes. Twenty years ago (!), the recently deceased Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hypnotize" spent most of May '97 atop the Hot 100 Charts until being bumped by Hanson's "Mmmbop" (!!). But it wasn't long before Biggie's producer/ B.F.F./ kind-of-a-rapper... kind-of... Bad Boy Records founder- buddy Puff Daddy knocked the blond brothers from number one with "I'll Be Missing You". It was an ode to Biggie that featured fellow Bad Boy artists 112 and Faith Evans, Big's widow.
In other words, Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, a young Black music producer of Urban music, with a roster of Urban acts (Lil' Kim, Mase, The Lox), and a performer who sampled some of the best classics of old school Soul music... became not just a Pop hit, but a definitive Pop star....
Black Panther Bobby Seale with actor Marlon Brando. (Image Source: San Francisco Bay View)
In a San Francisco Bay View film review for the 2015 documentary "Listen to Me Marlon", the story of Marlon Brando's press-making eulogy for slain Black Panther Bobby Hutton is retold:
In the late ‘60s, Marlon Brando and Jane Fonda are credited with helping to bring the Black Panther Party and their politics to a mainstream white audience. In 1967, Brando gave a speech at the funeral of 17-year-old Black Panther Bobby Hutton who was unjustifiably murdered by Oakland police.
Aimee Semple McPherson, the Pentecostal Preacher who could've been a Silent Screen Star. (Image: Foursquare Church)
Aimee Semple McPherson was... so much. A Canadian missionary to China as a young newlywed; a widow with a sickly infant daughter a few years later; an acutely depressed and miserable mom of two and housewife in New England in marriage number two; and a traveling evangelist headlining packed tent revivals for Whites and Blacks, even in the segregated U.S. South. Oh yes, and that was all before she was 27 years old.
Thing is, when Aimee is remembered today (actually, if), she is reduced to the scandal that irrevocably altered her perception in the eyes of the public. She suddenly disappeared from a public beach in California in 1926, and was presumed by thousands to have drowned. After a month, she reappeared just as abruptly in Mexico, with claims that she been abducted by a trio of baddies looking for a steep payday by ransom. She ruined their plans by escaping out a window and walking for hours through the scorching desert. However, this tale was just too tall for many to accept, and alternate theories for Aimee's being M.I.A. abounded, most notably that she had been on a secret rendevous with a married lover.
In October 1951, Grace Kelly, just beginning to make a name for herself, decided to have a night out on the town at famous Manhattan nightclub, Stork Club. Also at the club that night was Josephine Baker, internationally renowned singer, dancer and famous ex-pat who was in the States to perform a series of concerts after years living in France.
Unfortunately, Baker wound up leaving the eatery after an hour of non-service; she stormed out claiming she had never received her dinner because of her race. Some dispute this, but one person who did not was Kelly. Observing the scene, she was shocked and left, too. From Mental Floss:
When the racist staff refused to wait on Baker, Kelly, who was dining with a large party of her own, flew into a rage and walked out of the club in support of Baker.
Basically my face everytime I actually try to sing the lyrics to this song over the past fifteen years. (Image via Vevo)
Welcome to the first in my new series, "Come Clean", where I'll admit something. Or some things. Today, I'll admit that despite bumping Glenn Lewis' "Don't You Forget It" on the regular during the Early Aughts epoch of Neo-Soul, I didn't actually have a clue what he was talking about. Sure, I heard the chorus admonishing "Don't forget your way home for that little girl", but I wasn't sure who that little girl is. The unknown protagonist, looking back at her younger self? Then who is he to her? And what the heck do these words have to do with the video, which was pretty much one long "Whoops, just missed you!" If you need a refresher, here's the vid:
(Madame Sul-Te-Wan, Image Source: BlackPast.org)
And no, I absolutely do NOT mean last year's controversial Nate Parker flick, "The Birth of a Nation". I'm talking the D.W. Griffith, 1915 film that celebrates the supposed end of the "treachery" that was Reconstruction and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan. From Wikipedia:
The Birth of a Nation (originally called The Clansman) is a 1915 American silent epic drama film directed and co-produced by D. W. Griffith and starring Lillian Gish. The screenplay is adapted from the novel and play The Clansman, both by Thomas Dixon Jr. Griffith co-wrote the screenplay (with Frank E. Woods), and co-produced the film (with Harry Aitken). It was released on February 8, 1915.
LBJ LIBRARY PHOTO BY KEVIN SMITH
I love the above picture. I love that in 1968, Eartha Kitt, singer, dancer, Catwoman, invited to one of those oh-so proper "Ladies who Lunch" type-lunches by THE First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, wife of LBJ, at the White House, and kept it really-real on the Vietnam War. From The Hollywood Reporter:
Debuting on Broadway in 1943, Kitt, born dirt-poor on a South Carolina cotton plantation, built a multifaceted show business life that included stage acting, dancing, singing (a come-hither 1953 hit version of "Santa Baby") and movies. When she made the 1958 film Anna Lucasta with Sammy Davis Jr., THR said her performance "is best summarized by the word 'great.' " In 1953, Kitt was making $10,000 per week ($90,000 today) singing at the El Rancho Vegas casino/hotel. By 1968, she was playing Catwoman on ABC's Batman — and was famous enough to be invited to the 50-women luncheon the first lady hosted (with seafood bisque, chicken and ice cream on the menu) to discuss "What Citizens Can Do to Insure Safe Streets."
Joan Crawford in 1959, by Eve Arnold.
I wrote about FX's "Feud: Bette And Joan" during my Lenten series of blog posts. I just watched the finale, "You Mean All This Time We Could've Been Friends?", and I'll admit, I may just have shed a tear or two at Jessica Lange's heartbreaking portrayal of the last days of Joan Crawford.
To be clear, I was far less impressed with "Feud" in it's entirety. While the casting was on point (how fun was Judy Davis as Hedda Hopper?), and the settings were great, the pacing on a whole was off. Some episodes zoomed by ("And The Winner Is..."), while others seemed like slow-moving, unnecessary filler ("More, Or Less"). Also unnecessary was all of the MANY times the audience was explicitly told just how sexist Hollywood was. Hopefully, there will be less telling and more showing, for the next "Feud".
My friend Brittany passes on this excellent piece on Crawford by Angelica Jade Bastien at Roger Ebert.com, published last year:...
(Image Source: NewsWorks)
I first heard the name "Father Divine" as a child from my mom, musing over her grandmother's occasional penchant for following (via correspondence, radio or TV) some rather interesting ministerial leaders. Her mom, my Nana, was no stranger to church hopping. She was a "spiritual seeker" decades before it became a thing. Raised Baptist, Nana left and checked out Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholicism and even Christian Scientists before settling on Holiness Pentecostal. BUT... Father Divine was way too much for her, and scoffed at her mom's interest in a man who would deign himself the Lord God incarnate. She needn't had worried; my great-grandmother's attention quickly flamed out for Reverend Major Jealous Divine.
More recently, I came across Divine's name last month when his widow, Mother Divine, passed away at the age of 91. The NY Times euologized:...
If you don't know by now, I'm a huge fan of "The Simpsons". The classic, early years AND the current episodes. I never stopped watching, even during that *very* rough period in the ealy aughts.
Why? Just watch the video below from Vulture which celebrates the landmark show's thirty years on television (it first appeared as a series of shorts on "The Tracey Ullman Show" in April 1987 before getting it's on show in 1989).
For more fun, check out this Complex article from 2012 showcasing "The Simpsons" love of high brow art, or "The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'Oh! of Homer", a book that critically analyzes the family from various views such as American anti-intellectualism, Aristotle and Sartre, or this Traveller article on the funniest takes on international travel from Homer and co....
(Image and Caption from "The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones & The Peoples Temple")
I just finished "The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones & The Peoples Temple" by Jeff Guinn and, really, I'm not trying to sound cliched or hackneyed here, but the book is stomach-churning, frightening and by it's end, downright disturbing. This is actually a compliment to Guinn; he vividly captures the horror of the story of Jonestown and the turbulent societal years that led up to it.
Speaking of hackneyed, despite occurring a few years before my birth, I was quite familiar with the Jonestown Massacre. At least, I thought I was. Much like my experience of watching the OJ Simpson documentary "Made in America" last year, what I "kind-of-sort-of-pick-up-from-pop-culture" is most definitely not the same as learning the actual facts of a case. Below are some facts that surprised me most:...
Happy Easter! Sunday was very warm, bright and sunny. Our church's sanctuary was decorated with many lilies and tulips, and the smell of incense wafted through the building. The sun's rays poured through the stained glass windows depicting various scenes of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry. The organ accompaniment, the crisp taste of the consecrated host, followed by the sweetness of the wine- attending Easter services at an Episcopal church is a rhapsody for the senses. Here are a few pictures of our day. I hope you all had a Blessed Resurrection Sunday.