Chantale Reve:

As I prepare to hit the road again (hopefully not literally, should I get punked into taking those ski lessons on Le Massif), my thoughts turn to a travel memoir that I penned while unreeling memories of my first trip to France. For now I’m a bit smitten with the vestiges of New France. Besides, I desire to put the finishing touches on my novella “The Counterfeit Princesse,” so Old France will have to wait.

[An aside: People really need to stop referring to Quebec province as "France in America" -- especially labeling Quebec City and le Vieux-Montreal (Old Montreal) as Aix-en-Provence and Paris, respectively. French Canadian language and culture are uniquely *douce*. Well, not always sweet. Don't think that with Quebecers dousing everything in maple syrup (sucre--accent on the "e"--not douce), they can't go off the deep end. Piss off a Quebecois driver, and his road rage might be laden with blasphemy in the form of Catholic saints rather than effin'-dees and -daat.]

So here’s my effin’ travel essay, first published in 2010: “To Be Black, American, Female and ‘Un-Invisible': A Brief Paris Memoir.” Yeah, ya *see* me now?

Originally posted on Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog:

Eiffel Tower and Sky

I could’ve titled this essay “The Dark Side of Paris,” but I’m no Jackie Collins, and despite my penchant for black eyeliner, I’m not a whore.  This isn’t meant to be any kind of travelogue.  The tone of this memoir starts off on a bitter note because I decided impulsively to see Paris after the life of someone close to me ended.  And, just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, spiteful colleagues sent me on my way, not with a “Bon voyage!” but with mean-spirited comments about how nervous and lonely I would be, how I “should’ve waited until you landed a boyfriend first,” and with questions concerning why I would “want to go there anyway.”

These colleagues, all of them White and female, had just returned from leisurely vacations in various European countries.  Those misguidedly envious women couldn’t have been more off-target because not one of them could ever know what it was, and…

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No surprise here:

Many children of hetero* parents in the United States of America are reared without their biological fathers in their lives, or with them partially in their lives; and a combination of factors — father’s fault, mother’s fault, government’s fault — figures in the perpetual breakdown of the American family. However, never are the children to blame.

Now for the heavy:

Many Black Americans and other Black people born elsewhere in the Americas can count among their not-so-distant great-grandfathers white men who were slaveowners — scores of whom sold their own infants into slavery.

Examine your surname and those of your recent ancestors, and, except for those surnames passed down through voluntary interracial unions (read:  non-slave-and-master sexual violence [read:  rape]), why not mull over how fucked-up colonial American and antebellum family values really were?  Then think about what’s really in a name and how rooted your dignity really is.  And hug, HUg, HUG, and love, listen to, respect and PROTECT your children a lot more deeply from these words forward.

 

*Footnote: Many gay and lesbian parents desire children but continue to struggle for equal rights, such as to marry and to receive domestic-partner benefits. As the years go by, their parenting has proven to be stable. What must be remembered: Without Black people in the U.S.A. launching the fight for civil rights — and yes, that struggle became integrated as the civil-rights movement gained momentum — there would be no gay-rights movement and no women’s-rights movement.

 

(c) 2014 Chantale Reve

All Rights Reserved


Originally posted on Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog:

 

Circus clowns are tragic creatures.  That’s something she learned all too well from the numerous family trips into New York City via the Long Island Rail Road to witness the excitement of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  No cotton candy for her – the stunning feats would leave her mouth agape.  Sometimes she felt as if she couldn’t catch her breath until the end.

When death arrived at her family’s suburban door, winter came early.  That she thought of the circus was cosmic justice in that she always identified with the tragic clown in times of stress.

Now, reflecting back on how death brought with it alienation as easily as neighbors used to walk through their side door with Sunday’s lemon meringue pies, she wished that she had paid more attention to the acrobats tumbling high above the stage at Madison Square Garden, than to the bumbling clown.  Then…

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Cul-de-Sac

2014/10/14


And to clear things up –

Before the lump in my throat

Grows any larger,

Blocking my airway,

Causing a stroke –

I just want to say

I intended no harm

By shaking off sorrow

At her grim memorial,

But she was my mother

Safely dead in sealed casket.

Could she spy on my sadness?

If I offended frail sensibilities

By forgoing self-pity,

Commiseration in Chanel black,

By wearing neon-bright colors,

My pretense of composure

Framed in lacy frivolity,

I apologize belatedly

For not appeasing my elders.

But, really, all these decades later,

I wonder if they realize

Now that I was only a child,

Heart heavy with new burden,

Tears like a clown’s disguised

As popcorn-puffed entertainment.

Once home, the circus over,

I put away my makeup,

Slamming the cabinet,

Shattering its mirror

And caught my pained expression.

In shards of glass below me

Distorting my reflection.

I imagined jagged razors

Ripping me from numbness,

Adding to the tally

Of coffin-tight secrets –

A cul-de-sac of repression.

Growing up sheltered,

Suburban normalcy

Couldn’t prepare for the bomb

Dropped on our perfect family.

Terminal sentence looming,

Queen of the house arrested,

We were guilty by association

Like reeking of secondhand smoke

From a funny cigarette

That might have eased suffering

From aggressive breast cancer.

I was fifteen years young,

Embarrassed by death,

Bereft of coping skills,

Complicit in the depth

Of a widower’s grief,

A father come undone.

Where did my youth go?

Overnight made a woman,

I sought divine mercy

For a pass/fail grade,

In a crash course in courage,

A detour on the road

To self-discovery.

I screamed!

That’s all I had to do

And then,

I caught my breath

Effortlessly,

Like trapeze artists

Tumbling in the air

High above a sturdy net,

Pretending to defy

Certain death.


Copyright © 2010 By Chantale Reve


A 1920s golliwog perfume bottleLately I’d been thinking heavily on various connotations of the word pick as a verb and as a noun and, within those grammatical forms, in familiar phrases. Positive contexts include: draft pick, pick of the litter, pick-me-up. … You get the picture. Negative connotations include: pickup artist, pickpocket, pick on and picky. Picket can be neutral or not, and pondering its emotive shades reminds me of the Cha-Cha Slide: positive if one’s politics lean to the left, negative if they lean to the right.

Then, unaware of the button on my remote gliding through channels like a planchette on an Ouija board, I tuned into a show on the Discovery Channel titled “Auction Kings.” It was a séance of a worldly kind, for over the next hour I would learn that contemporary usage of the word picker elevates manual labor to the fascinating realm of collecting. Antiques and vintage-articles, that is. Not only did my triple-pierced ears prick up with each cha-ching! during the auction at program’s end, but also I discovered something mo’ betta: the treasure inside.

First, allow me to rewind. The prince among the “Auction Kings,” the twentysomething son of the owner of a consignment company and auction house — Gallery 63 in Atlanta — tries to convince his dad to incorporate picking into their family business. (For collectors, picking means finding items to resell in the second market through retail and/or auction outlets.) Apparently, he’s a long way from fully understanding the business, for after he explains to his pops that picking would enable their company to keep one hundred percent of the profits, pops in turn warns him that if an item doesn’t sell, there’s a one hundred percent loss. Later in the episode, however, the son learns to heed daddy’s advice when a document described on-line as “a slave warrant” (issued by a slaveowner for the return of, in this case, “[his] Negro slave child”) is determined to be the nineteenth-century version of a police report. Son’s jaw drops upon his visit to a local appraiser specializing in historical documents, who quotes fifty bucks rather than any price near the two hundred smackaroos he paid the shrewd, albeit unscrupulous, on-line seller.

Cautionary tale? Sure, but that’s not where I’m headed. Besides, it’s common sense not to spend lots of money on-line or by phone on antiques and vintage items because one has no way to see and handle them — as at an auction preview — let alone have appraisers in the various fields authenticate the items. I’m pointing out the slavery document because what the appraiser in “Auction Kings” tells sonny boy raised my dark eyebrows and sent my big behind shifting in my vintage Queen Anne chair: He says the slaveowner’s “deposition” (apparently not a police report, as described earlier in the episode) isn’t worth much because it falls under “historical curiosities.”

For centuries Black people have been — not were, for We still are — considered historical curiosities. So I eased up and leaned back in my creaky chair mulling over the word picker again. For some reason the phrase cotton picking mind popped into my antiques-picking one, and that’s when a Discovery Channel moment helped me discover the treasure inside of myself — buried treasure that you too can mine. So, tuck your plastic and/or billfold in your jacket or purse, pack your blacklight and get to picking, for you could be an estate sale or flea market away from bartering historical finds for cold hard cash.

Collecting U.S. slavery documents and artifacts and/or slave-made art, as well as slavery-era items that often are advertised on-line and in print as “Black Americana” or “Black memorabilia” shouldn’t be perceived as a field ripe for picking only by Civil War enthusiasts. We as Black people of the African Diaspora — and I am referring to those of Us who identify as Black not out of convenience or wigganess but in total consciousness and love — would do well to school Ourselves and each other on picking as it relates to converting articles into wealth. You talk about reparations? Maybe the closest We can come to that is via the world of collecting.

Once We were forced onto the shores of Brazil (more Blacks there than in the United States), the Caribbean, Central America and the American colonies — having been triangularly traded for sugarcane, rum, etc. — We continued to be whipped and chained into submission. (Quentin, I’m giving you the finger. These days when I mention “Django,” my listener thinks I’m referring to your “western,” when I’m waxing jazzical about Reinhardt. Don’t even get me started on when I mention “Benson.”) During the Trans-Atlantic slave trade Europe grew materially richer; Africans’ various skills were exploited. For example, those of us from agricultural areas were forced to grow, among many staples, rice. This is why in the supermarket aisle I, a person of Gullah ancestry, frown at the face of Uncle Ben and gag at the skyward prices of long-grain rice. What’s wilder is that We Africans picked cotton, tobacco — all kinds of crops — for no pay! In kitchens from plantation to plantation, We fixed meals for white folks while Our babies cried in wooden shacks out yonder, waiting for Us to prepare them some yummy scraps of this and that. Those leftovers are now called soul food — and I’m not referring to gourmet fare such as braised chitterlings with shallots in garlic butter, or sautéed catfish à l’aïoli.

[Don't preach to this sista 'bout her toutin' lard when France ingeniously has raised foie gras to cult status for European and American snobs. (As for Asia, Japan doesn't get off easily, either: auctioning off gargantuan tunas for tens of thousands of dollars in order to fashion them into sushi art.) Raising geese organically and force-feeding them only to slaughter them for their fat livers? Succulent, n'est-ce pas? Tasty -- really?]

If you’ve reached this paragraph, you’re probably angry as hell — and not about the fetishistic murder of geese. Goose! I mean good! Now, if you really want to be down, turn that energy into action. No, I don’t mean only picketing, for We’ll be battling descendants of white slaveowners forever. In my family, they won’t even come to the picnic table — for a real family reunion. And that brings me back to discussing those Black Americana items. …

By no means am I suggesting that We Black folks should collect only Black Americana. We are connected by recent historical experience but also to other human experience and to Planet Earth. In other words, there are numerous things that We may wish to collect: from stamps, historic letters and books; paintings, photographs and posters; to baseball cards, bobble heads and comic books; dolls, watches and clocks. Many of these material objects vibrate with echoes of human stories and can cast spells on the picker with deep pockets. The trick is really a social art, that of haggling — hey, they practiced it at the slave markets all-those-not-that-many-years-ago (the reason I flinch, as if scourged, when I see a brotha smiling on the block in a bachelor auction. What price booty? NOT!)

As at open-air markets throughout the world, even those of Us who are cash-poor can find objects to collect or flip (like comic genius Wilson in his Geraldine wig) at estate sales, flea markets, yard sales, garage sales, stoop sales, street fairs, bazaars at numerous types of venues, and, yes, on-line. However, by highlighting collecting Black Americana — from mammy toaster covers and Aunt Jemima clocks to runaway-slave posters and slaves’ dog tags and shackles — I’m drawing your attention to the irony of Us collecting items that, for the most part, were created to dehumanize Us.

There’s a plethora of categories of Black memorabilia intended to be derisive in addition to demoralizing. Screw the old standby, the coffee table book (though The Big Penis Book always catches a visitor’s eye in my home — why I added that rider to my renter’s insurance policy). What better conversation pieces than the following symbols of Black Americana: boxes of toothpaste displaying sambo images (to prove to non-Blacks that they too could brush to the rhythm of a dang-good shoeshine until their choppers gleamed, though without that “darkie” pop!); grinning or passive-eyed mammy figurines (both attitudinal types complete with kerchief, apron and flour-sack tits); a topsy-turvy doll (because even guests would agree as the cocktails multiply that hiding under every Black chick’s skirt is a white chick); and glossy-black, red-tire-lipped lawn jockeys for Black homeowners (to start the conversation before guests ring the doorbell). C’mon now, isn’t it time that We had the last laugh?

Hell yeah, I’m talking about Us displaying these offensive items in Our curio-cabinets, on shelves and whatnot (not hidden in trunks and closets), so that We never forget and so that we can remind visitors to Our homes, wherever We reside: rural towns, suburbs and inner cities — the latter from Compton, Chicago’s South Side, Brownsville, North Philly and Newark to the favelas of Brazil, Haiti and South Africa. In whose hands better to land than Ours, but each of Us needs to cherish the treasure inside — our love and respect for, and gratitude to, Our long-suffering African ancestors and, by extension, the pride in Ourselves and the unconscious but magnetic yearning for our Mother-Land?

As for the “family business” all-capped in the title of this essay, instead of me and you and Us sitting around watching others, including the descendants of U.S. slaveowners, become wealthy or wealthier on wonderful TV programs such as “Antiques Roadshow,” “Market Warriors,” “Pawn Stars,” “American Digger” (an entire episode of which — “Unearthing Controversy” [2012: Season 1, Episode 9] — focused on slavery artifacts excavated from a young South Carolinian couple’s backyard on the site of a former cotton plantation), “Auction Hunters” and “Auction Kings” — on which they often flaunt family heirlooms such as Confederate flags and rifles and sterling silver platters that Our foremothers and forefathers shined with as much perspiration as polish — let Us create family businesses with each of Our extended families. To cultivate the new family businesses, We could pool the monies earned after picking and reselling and/or auctioning.

From trust funds to consignment companies to (egad!) Black-owned auction houses (yeah, “egad” — just because I’m Black doesn’t mean I can’t collect vintage Archie comics), a larger-concept Family Business is one in which stashes of cash are invested into a vehicle that can make literal reparations in the U.S. South possible. Hmmm … Mi-humpback humpback-i-humpback humpback-i-humpback humpback-i sounds like the first state for picking. Or maybe South Carolina; in the aforementioned “American Digger” episode, there was another white family whose backyard was a graveyard of slavery artifacts, but the matriarch refused to let the pickers excavate out yonder. She didn’t hold back on ignorance, recommending that history be left alone. Hmmm, I wonder how much her family racked up at the pawn shop in the days, weeks and months after that taping. Buried secrets, my ass. Your, my, Our African surnames of the distant past — they’re buried secrets … to Our identities!

Unlike the tight-lipped woman of the house in S.C., not all of Us have inherited an ancestor’s pot to cook with or piss in — as for the latter, porcelain potties (with or without an antique wooden chair that has retained its awesome patina) — because so few of Us have documented proof that We are legitimate descendants of Europeans. Here, I’m referring to specificity, not the results of genetics testing showing European admixture. The day has not yet arrived when, at least in the U.S., land of the hushed-about “one-drop rule” or “one-drop theory,” possibly up to twenty-five percent of the white population — a.k.a. legitimate descendants of Europeans — go around bragging about their Sub-Saharan African admixture.

For those whites in the U.S. who are really Blacks hiding in plain sight but are ready to come out bolder than Jesse Collins, I say: Tain’t no Mardi Gras; unmask yourselves and embrace your Blackness! And while you’re at it, share some of those family heirlooms with Us, your bloodbrothas and -sistas. But alas, the truth in the tragic romance of Kate Chopin’s “Désirée’s Baby,” a key short story in American literature, unfortunately (for those of Us out in the open as Black and bearing the scars from both the hata camp and, unconsciously, the wigga camp) will remain fiction. Why? America will not allow one of its darkest truths — that millions of white people continue to “pass” as white through the generations — to emerge in the light of day.

Enough with this pseudosociological dissertation. Let’s start picking each other’s brains. In the names of Our ancestors — who laid down blueprints for Our future in the midst of Their private and public pain but also Their private and public triumphs — let’s really make it rain!

© 2013 Chantale Rêve
All Rights Reserved

Photo Caption:  Example of a golliwog perfume bottle from the 1920s

Photo Source:  Wikipedia


Woman Behind Flowers

Afro DivaWoman With Medusa Style Hair

 

 

For readers and voyeurs of the Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog who think Chantale is too damned serious, this one’s for you:  rewritten lyrics parodying Black women’s perpetual hair battles and their repercussion in the workplace and, more importantly, in the bedroom – or both, for the friskier (read:  riskier) among Us.

 

 

“Hair Biz”

by

Tiana Irie


Flashback, who’s wack?

“10” bitch shoulda known that

Pam Grier woulda owned it

Like the rack above her ribs.

 

Who screamed “da Sheen!”

I’m not talkin’ Charlie

Or the late Bob Marley

But the latter’s got ma love

 

Now don’tchu have no doubt

I’m gonna stomp and shout

Until I sweat ma press ‘n curl.

 

Hair talkin’ floats ma boat

And I just wanna note

That inside Africa’s alive!

 

I’m talkin’ hair biz to ya, bayBEH

Hair-hair biz

I’m talkin’ love – that is

That is, that is

 

I’m talkin’ hair biz to ya, baybee

Hair-hair biz

I’m talkin’ love –

Hair biz, hair biz, hair biz

 

 

[Rap Intro]

Whassyoname, love?

Madame C.J. Walker?

 

Well, they call me Slick

 

Now, don’t leak all over me (heh-heh-heh-heh)

 

 [Sung]

I’mmmm

Taaaalkin’

Hair biz

 

I’m talkin’ hair biz to you-ou

 

 

I’mmmm

Taaaalkin’

Hair biz

 

I’m talkin’ hair biz to you-ou

 

[Rap – Edited Version]

 

Baby, whasshappenin’

I’m between relaxers.

I know of many sistas given grief and so they take to the scissors.

I heard the rumors ’bout ma mixed textures

But I don’t fall in debt on weaves.

Happy with “knotty,” “kinky” or “nappy” –

Long as I keep my dignity.

So can you dig it while we speak a while

About getting locked up in self-love

Cos no matter how straight tresses come and go 

 Hairy gossip can’t crimp ma style.

That’s what I’m talkin’, behbeh,

Hair biz

   Hair biz …

 

(Original Song:  “Square Biz” by Teena Marie)

* * *

“Relapse”

by

 Fannie Goes Straight to Avoid Wood

 

 

[Cue the synthesizers: bowm, bowm, BOWM]


Relax!

Just do it

 If your Afro pick’s through, yeah.

Relax!

Just do it

If you want the job.

 

Relax!

Just do it

If you cannot comb through it.

Relax!

Just do it

If you want the job.

 

Relax!

Just do it

Or you’ll have to suck to it.

Relax!

Just do it.

 Straight hair or bossman’s cum.

 

Relax!

Jump to it

Unless you’d like to unglue it.

Relax!

Don’t screw him.

He’ll find another bone.

 

Relax!

Just do it

Wavy-smooth or you’ll blow it.

Relax!

Jump to it

If you want the joooob

If you want the joooob

If you want the joooob

If you want the joooob …

COMMMMMMMMMB

 

(Original song:  “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood)

* * *

  

 

“Grazing in the ‘Kitchen’ ”

by

Cousins of Extinction

 

[Chorus]  I can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it / She can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it / They can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it

Oh, let’s wig-it

(baritone) Can you wig-it, baybeh?

 

I can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it / She can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it / They can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it

              Oh, let’s wig-it               

(first tenor) Can you WIG-it, BAYbeh?

 

[Bridge]  Every new growth you can see, gotta hide it

Everything smooth is all right, shout about it

                                                                                     

And it’s reallllllllllllllll

So real, so real, so real, so real

Though you bought it

Woo-hooohhhh!

 

[Chorus]  I can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it / She can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it / They can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it

Oh, let’s wig-it

[baritone] Can you wig-it, baybeh?

                                     

I can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it / She can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it / They can wig-it, wig-it, wig-it

  Oh, let’s wig-it

[first tenor] Can you WIG-it, BAYbeh?

 

 

(Original song:  “Grazing in the Grass” by The Friends of Distinction)

 * * *

“If It’s Too Thick”

by

K.Y. Loeb

 

 

If it’s too thick

Don’t force it

Just relax and letitgo

Cos, look, that’s how they wannit

Bone-straight, flowin’ out tha do’

 

 

(Original song:  “If It Don’t Fit, Don’t Force It” by Kellee Patterson)

 

 

 

* * *

“Baby, It’s Frizzin’ Out There”

by

The Fu-Aqua Nets

 

Don’t let me go outside

In the rain

Cos, boy, I’d rather hide

From the rain–ain-ain-ain

 

 

(Original song:  “In the Rain” by The Dramatics)

* * *

 

 

“Doo Rag, Baby”

by

Priscilla

 

 

Here we are,

Not a kinky strand between us

Lucky our hair just lays right down

You want my wavy stuff like I want yours

So make a scarf of my gown.

 

Fling it, baby

Spritz me all over

Palm me with pomade love

 

Your Dax been teasin’ me for far too long

Hottie, you know,

 Good hair’s what wet dreams

Are made of

 

Doo rag, baby

Like you never tied before

Oh, give it to me

Work that nylon, boy, once more.

 

C’mon, doo rag, baby

Fasten tighter than before

Ooh, I want it now

Snatch one from my bottom drawer

 

 

(Original song:  “Do Me, Baby” by Prince)

 

 

* * *

  

 

“Missing Hair”

by

The South Side Lacefronts

 

 

[Bridge] Why-y-y, oh-h-h why-y-y-y

Didn’t I just weave it and walk away-y-y-y

Now I must pay-y-y-y-y.

 

It’s been used,

Flung when flings were over –

Now it’s lo-o-o-o-ost!

Year’s salary, lo-o-o-o-ost!

 

[Chorus] Oh, I searched every surface in my trailer home

In the tub, even on the vibrator

Have you seen it (my wig)

Tell me, have you seen it (tell her that I love her)

 

 

(Original song:  “Have You Seen Her” by The Chi-Lites)

* * *

 

“Hooked on Your Gloved Love”

by

The Baldwin Sistas


That singed-hair smell

Gives me happy thoughts of you-u-u-u (yeah, babe)

I’m so turned on by conkin’ –

And your greasy sheets, too (oh-oh, baby).

 

 

[Bridge] You free the other woman in me (ah-hai-hai-hai)

Blonde, brunette,

Cain’t you see-ee?

I like the way you tug and tease,

Say, “Ooh, baby, take me

And drop to your knee-hee-hee-hees”

 

What can I do

With this weave all

Hooked on your gloved love, gloved love

 

(Uhm-hmm-hmm-YEH!)

 

What can I do (unh)

With this weave all

Hooked on your gloved love, gloved love

(Hooks a-clingin’, yeh-yeh-yeh)

 

What can I do (ooh-baby)

With this weave all

Hooked on your gloved love, gloved love

 

 

[Bridge] Eh-h-h-heh, every day

Nothin’ to be rad about

Eh-h-h-heh, nothin’ to smear on the lye about –

 

I like the way we get it o-o-o-o-on

Don’t you understand my weavin’, baby

Just beweave in me (oo-oohhh-ohh-yeh)

 

[Chorus] What can I do (whatcanIdo, baby)

With this weave all

Hooked on your gloved love, gloved love

 

(I hear you, yell-yell-yell)

What can I do, baby 

[Repeat chorus, ad-libs to fade]

 

 

(Original song:  “Hooked on Your Love” by Curtis Mayfield, sung by Aretha Franklin on the original soundtrack album for Sparkle)

 

* * *

“The Tracks of My Fears”

by Ajun Extensions

[chorus]  So take a good look at  the trace

Of naps I’ve pulled away from my face

A frozen smile feigns my warm embrace of

The tracks of my fears (ooh-hoo-oo-oo-oo-hoo)

(Original song:  “The Tracks of My Tears” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)

 

*    *    *    *    *

 

This hair-raising post is dedicated to these ladies and the gentlemen among them:

 

Wendy Williams and RuPaul, because if you’ve got the disposable income to buy more wigs than a doll manufacturer or an opera company, life can never be a drag;

Vivica Fox, because she was ingenious enough to create her own wigs and, judging by the million faces of Eve on eBay, she’s making it rain – oh, sorry, wrong expression for Us sistas when the hair’s the money-making thing;

Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, because she’s so damned pretty and such an underrated actress;

Oprah Winfrey, because there wouldn’t be any be-wigged or natural-haired sistas executive-producing and hosting their own TV talk shows with amazing longevity if it weren’t for her (I mean: Herprah).  Damn that Oprah, who set the bar so high that only a trapeze artist can achieve that kind of fame — and with a safety net;

Whoopi Goldberg, because — besides reigning as a Queen of Comedy and a wonderful comedic and dramatic actress — she rocks the locks without an eyebrow in sight like no one else;

Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and Terry McMillan, because they are some of my favorite authors and make that certain age look fabulous from head to foot;

Ja’net DuBois as lovable gossip and sistafriend “Willona Woods” on the hit sitcom “Good Times,” because whether she was stylin’ in an Afro wig or one of many short, perky straight-hair wigs, she knew how to make her hair dance high above those neck rolls and eyerolls whenever John Amos as “James Evans” would toss a love-hate quip her way;

Angela Bassett, because when she donned that long brunette wig in portraying Tina Turner in the 1993 biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It and did the charley horse or cake walk or whatever those hot pony moves with the Ikettes were, I  totally forgot she was Angela Bassett — which, of course, was the point;

Viola Davis, because no matter how she switches it up – natural hair or wig – she’s beautiful and a kick-ass actress who’s finally getting her due;

India.Arie, just for singing “I Am Not My Hair” – and for affirming the intoxicating sensuality of Palms Cocoa Butter Formula (plug, plug – give me my money!) in her midtempo love song “Cocoa Butter”;

Jayne Kennedy, because she was foxy as a sports journalist and a go-go girl on “Laugh-In” and still got it goin’ own-annn-annn-own-annn-own-annn-OWN (plug for Oprah totally inadvertent or simply subliminal [watch "Oprah Prime"]); and

Flip Wilson as “Geraldine,” because, back in the day, “she” was the It girl, working those wigs and some characters’ last nerve, sucka.

 

 

There are so many more dedications I’d love to make, but time doesn’t permit.

 
First published on the Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog on October 7, 2013

 

© 2013 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved

 

 

All Photos:  www.publicdomainpictures.net

 


 

 

I’ve just completed a blog post about valuing oneself and not identifying by occupation.  There are times, however, when it’s totally appropriate to ask where a person works.  Those are moments when you find yourself singing the melody of that cautionary Jackson Five song (but with the lyrics slightly altered):  Stop, the life you save may be your own.

Some years ago, I reluctantly attended a company party at an upscale jazz club-restaurant on the East Coast.  Of course, the event took place at night and in the middle of a week that didn’t contain a payday.  That meant – for the non-promiscuous among us – going home alone by subway, not by taxi.  I say that I reluctantly attended the shindig because I knew most of the co-workers would be talking out of their asses the way they did back at the office, except they’d be full of more shit after taking advantage of the open bar and buffet.  (I was right.)

Ah, but there was yet another reason I’d decided to go to the bash:  Just as I know that all humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, I knew that my upcoming performance review hinged on how I navigated the testy waters of the company party.  I had my eye on a promotion, and since I wasn’t willing to kiss any female manager’s ass or sleep with any male manager with a perpetual hard-on, the company party would be my last opportunity.

The grapevine gala was going on its second hour, with voices growing louder as bottles of differing shapes and sizes emptied faster than a well-serviced drainpipe during a torrential downpour.  By then I’d already stretched the rayon of my little black dress by returning to the buffet tables for thirds of fried spicy wings, jambalaya and cornbread.

Meanwhile, a live band took a break from 1970s disco tunes, and lots of silver-haired folks ambled toward the dance floor upon hearing the opening strains of the American standard “I Remember You.”  The change in pace prompted them to channel the confidence of “Dancing with the Stars” competitors and deliver their best imitation of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – and, when the rhythms switched to swing, their best impersonation of Frankie Manning and Freda Washington (look ‘em up, y’all).

I knew a little tango and a lot less foxtrot, so I had no inclination to join the brave on the dance floor and glide amid the royal blue and lavender spotlights.  My exuberant co-workers, however, began goading me to “get out there!” because they knew I’d begun taking formal lessons at I-wouldn’t-have-dared-tell-them-where.  (Actually, I had been dancing for many years, but not ballroom dancing.)

I ignored their girlie chanting, holding my purse to my chest and bearing my weight into my shoes and into the chair.  They laughed loudly, perfuming the air with mingled spirits – and I don’t mean joie de vivre, either – as they attempted to pry my purse from my tight embrace.   I must’ve flattened my “D” cups to a set of “B’s” that night in a fierce attempt to fight off those drunkards.  In contrast, I was chain-drinking sodas.   This was like one of those pseudo-lesbian scenes from a bad 1980s women’s prison flick, except we remained fully dressed.  (Come to think of it, were there any good movies of that subgenre in the ’80s?)

Out of nowhere stepped a rather charming, handsome man.  He looked nothing like Astaire or Gene Kelly or either of the Nicholas Brothers, but, more importantly, he wasn’t dressed to the nines like most of the employees at the party.  However, he smiled so widely and his teeth were so bright, that I guess he had us blinded from his purpose.   Then again, our company was quite large, so none of us couldn’t possibly know everyone present.  The guy stood about six feet, had a lanky physique and reddish-brown complexion, and he kept smoothing back black, wavy hair brushed close to his head.  I didn’t try to guess if he had a conk; he had a cock, which made him a man — at least in the semidarkness of our table — so I knew to be wary.  His smile appeared a bit fake, as if he was contemplating:  Which of you sisters will I be bedding tonight?  I thought:  Not this one!  And just as that thought flashed through my mind, his gaze zoomed in on my face. Damn, damn, damn, I cursed inwardly while trying to snarl outwardly.

Just then, Mr. Charm extended his hand and grinned under a mustache thinner than Don Ameche’s.  I played coy because I was embarrassed as hell.  Glancing up at him, I said, “Merci, monsieur,” while shaking his hand.  I’d just returned from Quebec and was still feeling Frenchified, when what I should’ve have felt was too petrified to lift a limb.

Excusez-moi, mademoiselle.  Êtes-vous française?” he asked before raising my right arm higher to give the back of that hand a slo-mo peck.

Smiling and struggling not to imagine growing a wart on my hand, I replied:  “Non, je suis americaine.”  Then I snapped myself into my non-French reality and re-answered, “No, I just came back from vacationing in Montreal.”

“Montreal, eh?” he said, pronouncing his beloved city “MAWH-ray-YAHL.”  He raised an eyebrow and smiled back at me before practically dragging me tango-style onto the dance floor.

Mr. Charm looked to be 15 years my senior.  I didn’t understand why he selected me, but then I rationalized that he didn’t want an inebriated dance partner who would spill her guts when he spun her.  That thought caused me to look back at the giggling dingbats at the table.  Whenever I wanted to glance over at them, he would pull me in closer to him.  I think he really was trying to cop a feel, desiring the sensation of my heavy bra on his muscular chest.  Whatever.

It was difficult to place my right palm in his as my hand was still limp from his light kiss in front of my colleagues.  I made up some fancy footwork that I’d watched on those dance championships which aired on PBS every year.  Oh, but he was quite the dazzler, displaying smooth footwork of his own. And those damned chalk-white teeth.  He dipped me so sharply at the end of our twanglo (it wasn’t the tango; but it was twisted), that my left shoe nearly flew off.  A rather embarrassing moment, yes, but one about to be outdone by a horrifying sequence.

When Mr. Charm and I returned to the table, I reclaimed my purse, checking for any missing currency inside while my co-workers asked my dance partner within which department he worked at our company.  The assumption was that everyone at the bash was an employee.  “Leave the man alone,” I urged the intoxicated gaggle.  But no, they insisted on imploring further.

Mr. Charm complied.  Retrieving his scuzzy-looking backpack from beneath the table, he matter-of-factly revealed, “I don’t work for your company at all.”  Then he smiled widely.  That night, he explained while zipping up his windbreaker, he had landed at the Port Authority bus terminal after a 10-hour ride from Montreal.

The other women acted as if his admission was artistic and bohemian.  He said nothing about just finishing an avant-garde installation at a gallery in Montreal; he wasn’t distributing flyers for his upcoming high-wire act in Mont Royal; and he didn’t magically produce an easel and palette to do our portraits there in the club-restaurant.  No, this man had just held my waist, danced cheek to cheek with me, touched my palms with his, and now I was learning with the subtlety of a Band-Aid ripping the hairs off my arm that he was some kind of vagrant!?!  I was terrified that he’d crashed our company party and was even more of a stranger than a co-worker on crystal meth sliding by on HR’s second written warning.

When another co-worker at the table had the gall to ask him what he did for a living in Montreal, he casually replied that he handled cadavers.  Oh, great! I thought to myself while sneering over at her.  At this point, my colleagues were giggling nervously, but I wasn’t.  My jaw felt locked and my pupils must’ve been as dilated as a comatose patient’s.  When the intruder reached into a pocket at the front of his backpack, I held my breath.  What, is he going to retrieve a knife or gun now? I wondered.

Looking around at the other women, I could tell they, too, were having a cardio-pulmonary event.  Any trace of laughter was replaced by grim silence.  Still grinning, the mysterious stranger whipped out a company I.D. card that contained his photo, the name of the hospital, and the department where he worked:  the morgue.

I’ll never forget how “The Addams Family” theme flitted through my mind and how this interloper’s increasingly weird vibe crept through my bones and over my flesh.  I’d just danced toe to toe with a man that tagged toes.  A part of me struggled to escape out of my skin, but I caught myself midflight.  I was above discriminating against anyone’s occupation – unless it was serial killing, rape, armed robbery, etc. – and I didn’t want him mistaking me for one of those paranoid, post-Patriot Act Americans who assume that all foreigners are terrorists.  Still, for all any of us knew at the table that night, Mr. Charm could’ve been a murderer of Ripleyesque or Ripperian proportions.

The next day, I made it a top priority to communicate discreetly to the appropriate department at our company that there had been a security breach at the party.  Perversely, the cliché about “no good deed…” echoed in my head when I was placed under surveillance for having danced too intimately with a company-party crasher.  Yeah, where was the videotape when I was getting my ass groped in the mailroom earlier that year for committing the sin of hand-delivering my manager’s last-minute package after hours?

Alas, the moral of this true story is:  Go with your gut instincts and ask crucial questions because, if you don’t – and especially if mind-altering libation (or another kind of drug) is involved – you could wind up as some morbid statistic.

 

 

 

Article was first published on the Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog on February 25, 2010.

 

“Rethink Passing On (and Passing Out at) the Company Party”  Copyright © 2010/2014 Chantale Rêve  All Rights Reserved

 

 

Clip Art Source:  commons.wikimedia.org


Chantale Reve:

A beautiful read, here is a recent post by talk radio’s G.D. Grace.

Originally posted on Author, G. D. Grace:

Closing my weary eyes I see a life force rising,
slowly emerging from the destitute ashes of over with and absolutely done.
It searches the regions of foreign and unknown looking for recovery with complete abandonment.
It desperately wants to be relieved from that obsession that covers the sun and blinds the moon.

Deep within a battered voice calls out frantically, beckoning to be freed from the ties that bind.
It stood on the opposite side of a desolate street, looking for a secure way across it,
and countless failed efforts manifested into profound desperation,
until that fateful moment when clarity was made clear.

All the material belongings were gone…
Connections with the slim & shady, severed,
And many of the fears had dissipated.
In this powerful vision a lone raft of hope floated towards the curb, and it was filled with faith.
Half measured availed us none, but complete…

View original 79 more words


This morning, while watching two episodes of the early-1970s sitcom “That’s My Mama,” I began reminiscing about the crush I had on the lead star, Clifton Davis.  Davis’ only competition in my young mind was Michael Jackson, whose posters adorned every wall in my pretty-in-pink bedroom.  Once I drifted down from the cloud-nine childhood fantasy of my marriage to Davis, I decided to do a Wiki-peek at Davis’ beginnings and current goings-on.  I was familiar with his acting credentials post-“That’s My Mama.”  For example, I was a die-hard fan of “Amen” (1986-1991), the groundbreaking prime-time sitcom that parodized the (Protestant) African American church, in which Davis portrayed the charismatic, dedicated minister, the Rev. Dr. Reuben Gregory.

As the main story arc charted the Rev. Dr. Gregory’s new career as a minister, another, parallel arc charted the church deacon’s daughter’s strategy to get her man — or, to put it more aptly, her man of the cloth.  Pictured in character in the above photo are (l-r) Davis as the Philly reverend with the legendary Sherman Hemsley as Deacon Ernest Frye and Anna Maria Horsford as Thelma Gregory (née Frye).  “Amen” airs in syndication on TVOne, and as I’m in the Northeast,  I set my DVR for 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

While conducting my Wikipedia research, I recalled that Davis sang in different episodes of “Amen,” but I was totally surprised to discover that he wrote the song “Never Can Say Goodbye.”  The melodic, midtempo song was first recorded by The Jackson 5 and became a big pop and R&B hit for the legendary band.  Years later, disco queen No. 3, Gloria Gaynor (Donna Summer taking the top spot, followed by Sylvester), covered Davis’ song.  Of course it’s the ever-popular anthem and karaoke mainstay “I Will Survive” that placed Gaynor in the disco pantheon.

I also learned in my research that Clifton Davis had been a songwriter before becoming an actor, and that revelation got me thinking about the TVOne program “Unsung.”  I view “Unsung” fairly regularly, and I realize that the show strives for objectivity in its profiles of Black artists, so that’s fine and all.  However, I’m wondering now that the show has been airing for more than two years, why it focuses predominantly on singers, musicians and actors.

I can understand why the network would want to limit its focus to these categories of artists (for the time being), but doesn’t art also encompass dancing, painting, sculpting and photography?  In no way am I attacking TVOne — although when I visited its website, some kind of “toolkit” attempted to attack my computer … hmm — but I ‘m trying to open up dialogue about which art forms get promoted more aggressively in the Black media.

In the realm of drama, Clifton Davis is but one example of a Black artist who is unsung.  Thus, I hope that the producers of “Unsung” come across my blog — since it appears they have ignored my missives — and consider expanding the thrust of “Unsung.”

Regular readers of the Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog already are aware that I love to digress, so I will do that once again.  While there’s a sprinkling of actors profiled on “Unsung,” singers and musicians are featured mostly.  If it’s true that TVOne is responding to what its viewers have requested, then in this blog I’m appealing to those viewers, too.  What am I getting at in this double appeal (i.e., to the producers and viewers of “Unsung”)?  Well, how about:  I’m sick and tired of folks, no matter what the phenotype, thinking of all Black people as musically gifted.

There’s a line spoken by a white character, an executive sports agent, in “The Game,” which is a well-acted dramedy series (returning on January 11, 2011, and airing on BET) that takes a satirical look at the relationships between Black footballers and their agents, and at the romantic relationships of all involved.  I can’t recall the exact quote, but the character is replying to an underling (also white) who compliments Tasha Mack’s (Wendy Raquel Robinson’s) vocal talent.

In the episode, Tasha mistakenly thinks that fellow agent Rick Fox (who from 2008-09 portrayed a fictional version of himself on “The Game”) sabotaged her career, and so she tells him off in song.   Her boss joins her in singing Rihanna’s “Take a Bow,” mocking her and Rick’s situation, until she leaves in disgust.  When the underling comments on Tasha’s great singing voice, his boss shrugs it off by saying something akin to, “They [emphasis mine] all do.”

My detractors will say, “Oh, Chantale, you’re just being too sensitive,” or, “Chantale, Chantale, stop playing ‘the race card.'”  To them I say, “Hey, I’m just keepin’ it real.”  You see, at different times in my life I’ve been asked some of the most annoying questions, or have heard annoying comments, related to music by white people such as:  “You mean you never sang gospel in church?” and “How come you don’t play piano?”  These questions and remarks rank right up there, or I should say smell rank down there, with such asinine questions and remarks as:  “What was it like to grow up in the ghetto?” and, my favorite from 1996, spoken by my white manager:  “Your hair looks too fancy for the office.  You should get your hair braided, to look more corporate.”   That last comment was made by one of the white-feminist bullies to whom I referred in my Paris memoir on this blog, titled, “To Be Black, American, Female and Alone:  A Brief Paris Memoir.”

My point about “Unsung,” though, should be clear.  That is:  Black people are just as well-rounded within the arts as without.  As “Unsung” prefers to focus on Black artists, it would be wonderful and groundbreaking to view profiles of Black people whose art forms have been underreported if not unrecognized.  Here’s a sampling of unsung Black artists by category:  photography (e.g., Rashid Johnson, Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, Deborah Willis and Linda Day Clark), choreography (e.g., Judith Jamison and Bebe Miller), paintings (e.g., William T. Williams, Sam Gilliam, Mickalene Thomas, Louis Delsarte and Kehinde Wiley), sculptures (e.g., Allison Saar and Willie Cole), poems (e.g., Nikki Giovanni, Imamu Amiri Baraka, Rita Dove, James A. Emanuel, Lucille Clifton, Lady Lee Andrews, Quincy Troupe), novels (e.g., ZZ Packer and Tayari Jones), graphic novels (e.g., Lance Tooks), collage art (e.g., Kara Walker), and multimedia (e.g., Betye Saar, Lezley Saar, Faith Ringgold, David Hammons, and Adrian Piper).  Yet all of the above-named artists of color, covering a wide age range, are very much alive as of this writing.  When I was a journalist, I had the pleasure of interviewing and witnessing the art of some of the aforementioned individuals, and I only wish that they could be lifted from the shadows before it’s too late.

As with many forms of change, baby steps are needed.  For now, it’s worth repeating that TVOne’s “Unsung” does a fine job of profiling Black singers and musicians.   Songwriters do get tossed in the mix as commenters on the subject of the profile rather than any of them ever being the subject.  I’m not referring to songwriters who also are performers, such as Angela Winbush and Teena Marie.

I was happy to see Winbush featured, but surprised to find that Lady Tee is unsung!  And in no way is “Lady Tee” Black, just as Dusty Springfield wasn’t, yet she had a soulful voice.  (What, is Joss Stone destined for “Unsung” 20 years from now?)  True, back in the day everybody on the block and beyond wanted to think that Teena Marie was Black, but I did and still do give her props for giving shout-outs to Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni (“just to name a few”) on the smash “Square Biz.”

Another Black songwriter who is unsung is Leon Ware.  The Europeans love him and know who he is.  We here in the United States should, too.  Well, many of us over the age of 40 and Black or Latino or Black and Latino probably know who Leon Ware is.  I mean, the man penned “I Want You,” recorded by Marvin Gaye and later by Fourplay featuring El DeBarge and Patti LaBelle.  Yeah, that’s all, right?  C’mon, people.  Ware also shared songwriting credit with “T-Boy” Ross on “I Wanna Be Where You Are,” which was written for tween-aged Michael Jackson.  Jackson made it a hit, and the song later was covered by Marvin Gaye, Jose Feliciano and many others.  Gen Xers who know Ware’s name probably associate him with the song he wrote for Maxwell:  the groovilicious “Sumthin’ Sumthin’.”

 

*  ~  *  ~  *

 

Above:  Veteran actress Mary Alice, who portrayed the mother in the original Sparkle (1976) as well as memorable recurring TV characters on “Sanford and Son” and “Good Times” (pictured here in 1993 at the 45th Emmy Awards’ Governor’s Ball) definitely is unsung!  Here on the Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog, I have noticed searches for “Mary Alice” by readers who are curious as to what happened to this fine actress.  Why haven’t any roles been created for her and other Black actresses of her generation (including Lynn Hamilton – see her in the photo below) to claim?

Photo Source: en.wikipedia.org

Above:  Veteran actress Lynn Hamilton, who portrayed “Donna,” the fiancée of entrepreneurial junkman Fred G. Sanford (Redd Foxx) in the landmark 1970s sitcom “Sanford and Son,” was phenomenal in John Cassavetes‘ Beat Generation film Shadows, but she’s still unsung!

Photo Source: imdb.com

*  ~  *  ~  *

 

 

While one might not expect a Black painter or sculptor to be featured on “Unsung” anytime soon, could we at least have a few more actors?  I’ve mentioned Clifton Davis (again, an actor who was a songwriter first), and here are other unsung actors:  Mary Alice, Carl Lumbly, Novella Nelson, C.C. H. Pounder, Ernie Hudson, John Amos, Sherman Hemsley, Marla Gibbs, Vondie Curtis-Hall, S. Epatha Merkerson, Richard T. Jones, Lonette McKee, Philip Michael Thomas, Forest Whitaker, Tyra Ferrell, Blair Underwood, Regina Taylor, Viola Davis, Michael Beach, Dennis Haysbert, Reginald VelJohnson,  Andre Braugher, Clark Johnson, Mekhi Pfifer, Jesse L.Martin, Giancarlo Esposito, Jeffrey D. Sams, Wendell Pierce, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Audra McDonald, Mykelti Williamson, LaTanya Richardson (who many folks still refer to as Samuel Jackson’s wife, and while that’s honorable, she should be respected as an actor in her own right).

That’s by no means an exhausted list of underrated Black actors, but  the laundry must get done today.  Then again, all the washing machines probably are stuffed with lazy tenants’ clothes, anyway, so I’ll state further that I cry out for the cardiac paddles when I see a photo of an unsung Black actor in the “In Memoriam” portion of the Academy Awards broadcast.  I had one of those shocking moments when I spotted Alaina Reed-Hall’s photo flash by on screen.  The first time I saw Reed-Hall was on “Sesame Street,” and I find it disturbing and sad that both she and Matt Robinson — who created the “Roosevelt Franklin” Muppet  (the Muppet banished from “Sesame Street”) — were unsung.

It’s hard to believe two other unsung actors are deceased:  from “All in the Family” and its spin-off, “The Jeffersons”:  Isabel Sanford (the ORIGINAL “Weezy”) and Michael Evans (who co-created “Good Times” with Eric Monte).  Sanford passed in 2004;  Evans, in December 2006.  Sanford was the first Black actress to win an Emmy for Lead Actress (1981).  Sherman Hemsley, actor of the stage (“But Never Jam Today” and “The Lottery” with Vinnette Carroll’s Urban Arts Company; and “Purlie,” which was his Broadway debut) and screen (“All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “Amen”), died in 2012.

 

*  ~  *  ~  *

 

 

 

 

 

You know, too bad TVOne didn’t think of expanding the focus of “Unsung” by the start of 2010.  Already we’ve lost a major yet unsung actor, Vonetta McGee, in July.  (My condolescences go out belatedly to McGee’s husband, actor Carl Lumbly.)

Beautiful, elegant and eloquent, Vonetta McGee is immortal for her roles in Clinton Eastwood’s The Eiger Sanction (1975), which also starred Eastwood, and the Blaxploitation-era horror flick Blacula (which scared the bejesus out of me at the time because I was a kid).  However, how many of us recall her role in Charles Burnett’s To Sleep with Anger (1990), which starred Danny Glover?

The photo below shows Vonetta McGee paired with Max Julien in Gordon Parks Jr.’s classic western, Thomasine & Bushrod (1974).  I remember that film better than I do Bonnie & Clyde. I suppose the reason for that is:  As a young child, I was proud that the lead actors resembled folks in my family rather than the folks fleeing my suburban neighborhood.

 

 

*  ~  *  ~  *

 

 

REST IN PEACE, VONETTA MCGEE (pictured above with her co-star in Thomasine & Bushrod, Max Julien, star of the seminal Blaxploitation film, The Mack)

Max Julien

 

“2 Talented 2 B 4gotten”  Copyright © 2010 Chantale Reve  All Rights Reserved

Article was first published on the Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog on December 4, 2010.


GUSTAVO CERATI

Ibero-American Rock Legend

August 11, 1959 – September 4, 2014


May They Rest In Peace Once They Get Justice:

Eric Garner and Michael Brown — Slain in the Streets

 +   +   +

Rest In Peace:

James Garner, Lauren Bacall and Richard Attenborough — Passed Away


Above:  The late Robin Williams as “Mork” in “Mork & Mindy”

Only last night I was viewing, for the umpteenth time on my DVR, the “Tavis Smiley” two-parter in which iconic comedic auteur Mel Brooks had the Black TV host in stitches.  Brooks extolled the exquisite comedic talents of Cleavon Little and Richard Pryor, the latter whom he called “perhaps the greatest comedian of all time” and the former whom Smiley imagined would’ve had limitless potential in the comedy and acting realms.  Brooks’ appearance on Smiley’s PBS program was on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of Blazing Saddles.  And now, before retiring to bed, while searching online for something to chuckle over, I’ve just read that comedic actor (and a damned great straight-up dramatic actor) Robin Williams is dead, allegedly committing suicide at age sixty-three. And yeah, Williams got a chance to appear on the “Richard Pryor Show” in the late ’70s.

Decades before ADD became a household acronym, fast-thinking and -talking Williams blew our minds organically (or so was our wishful thinking) as one-half the titular characters of the 1970s sitcom “Mork & Mindy.”  It took awhile, but eventually he had me at “Nanu-nanu.” He was on top of the worlds — Earth and Ork — during that television breakthrough, but his list of stand-up shows and film credits would become longer.

Williams was an amazing character actor. Some of my favorite films starring Robin Williams are:  Mrs. Doubtfire (the best man-in-drag movie — with or without prosthetics — since 1959’s Some Like It Hot; 1980’s de Palma homage to Hitch, Dressed to Kill; and 1982’s farce Tootsie); Dead Poets Society; Moscow on the Hudson; PopeyeGood Will HuntingPatch Adams; The Fisher King;  Good Morning, VietnamWhat Dreams May Come; Father’s DayThe Bird Cage; and Insomnia.  And I’m not counting his myriad voice work in great animated films such as Happy Feet and Aladdin.

Overlooked among his TV feature film work was his touching role as a sort-of angel (to Susan Sarandon‘s melancholy character) in the  HBO yuletide drama Noël, which included in the superb ensemble cast another actor we lost too soon and this year:  Paul Walker.

Robin Williams is and will continue to be missed.  Despite his mortal departure creating a dark mood, the night sky beams one star brighter.  We Earthlings have a way to keep him in our orbit, for his pan-galactic humor always will be a click away.

 

 

 

© 2014 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved


AND NOW, she rises.

 

 


L
ess than two weeks ago, I smilingly related to my sibling this afternoon, I had reread Poet Laureate Maya Angelou‘s lyrical and profound 1969 novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. So many times, Ms. Angelou’s words inspired me to confront the painfulness of my past lives. Now she, the majestic writer whose first loves outside of the familial were reading and dancing, has made her Transition and is pirouetting with angels in the firmament. I’m sure she’ll give her latest wings a rest now and then — but always will she keep those angels rapt with attention as she recites poetry with that jazzy voice of hers.

 

  Rest In Peace, Marguerite Ann Johnson

Girl Holding a Flower  MAYA ANGELOU     Boy with a Flower

April 4, 1968 – May 28, 2014

 

 

 

 

Text:  © 2014 Chantale Rêve  All Rights Reserved

Barracoon

2014/05/18


Chain

 

 

 

Chained, sin on my lips,
Bruised within my seeded womb,
I long to jump ship.

 

 

 

 

© 2014 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved

 

 

Photo Source:  publicdomainpictures.net

Photographer:  George Hodan

 


 

                                                 

 

 

This will be a brief post, but not as short as a Tweet. Perhaps fewer than two thousand words. After all, I go off on tangents and on people — well, those who deserve it.  It’s just that I’ve got a gripe, not a grape, to peel.  I’ve got no issue with the non-traditional casting of Zoe Saldana  (Center StageAvatar, Guess Who? Colombiana, Constellation — well, two out of five ain’t bad … and guess which two?)  in the starring role in Rosemary’s Baby, but I’m horrified that she would have the audacity to transform into Nina Simone when so many Black actresses and singers could use the work and work their talents — from Viola Davis, Lorraine Toussaint and Tichina Arnold to India-Arie, Angie Stone and Jennifer Hudson.  Not even Pixar’s special effects combined with the magic of both David Blaine and David Copperfield could create the illusion that Zoe Saldana is trying to sell.

I didn’t have an issue with Saldana portraying the freaked-out, incubus-ravaged wife, Rosemary, in the recent, second TV remake of Roman Polanski’s 1967 cult classic because I needed guaranteed comedic relief.  One doesn’t need to be an NYU Film School student and trust fund baby to know that Mia Farrow’s authentically terrified reactions to pure evil in the role of a fashion-forward human host of Satan’s baby were outmatched only by her iconic pixie hairstyle — a Vidal Sassoon masterpiece — and her screams and the surreal scenes are cemented in many of our minds.

Saldana’s performance in the NBC-TV horror melodrama was so tepid that I was more interested in the Paris backdrop than her character’s malevolent “evening sickness.”  In Part 2 of the TV remake, Rosemary’s novelist-husband (never mind holding a candle to John Cassavetes’ Guy; Patrick J. Adams couldn’t even light the match) shares with her that he doesn’t understand why she has morning sickness at night, and Rosemary replies with a smile: “Well, it’s morning in Los Angeles.”  Ha-ha-snoooozzzzze.  Too bad the blurry special effects couldn’t save “Rosemary’s Baby”; in fact, they and not Saldana were the most annoying aspect of viewing the drama.  All the obscure (and obtuse) editing in “Rosemary’s Babble,” er, “Rosemary’s Baby” — for example, the mom-to-be’s chomping on what amounts to steak tartare — makes no sense when one  (or, at least, when a viewer who isn’t homicide-inclined or -fixated) considers that on TV’s “Hannibal,” the title character prepares hors d’oeuvres of human organs before our eyes.  Of course, those appetizers aren’t actually human meat, but they’re supposed to be, whereas Saldana’s Rosemary actually looks as if she’s shoving cherry pie in her … well, piehole.

Some film classics simply don’t need to be remade.  Then again, with all the horror flicks that get redone into redon’ts, perhaps there’s a subconscious message in that, which is:  As we continue to rape planet Earth, we try to analyze the horrors within us.  Within Man.  Well, the plot of Casablanca involved the atrocities of war, especially the terrorism and brutality of Nazism, but I don’t see the TV arm of Hollywood forcing that film to undergo a facelift, n’est-ce pas?

Speaking of facelifts …

Earlier tonight, as I bumbled about the Internet instead of slipping beneath the covers, I stumbled into a photo of Zoe Saldana in blackface for her portrayal of the legendary Nina Simone.  Keep in mind that I had just suffered through Part 2 of the aforementioned TV remake of “Rosemary’s Baby” starring Saldana. The Nina Simone biopic is allegedly a personal project of hers.  Yeah, and that qualifies her to portray THE Nina Simone? Really? While an actor doesn’t need to resemble the subject of a biopic, and while he or she can lip sync to lyrics (think of the sheer magic, the spine-tingling soul-channeling, that we’ve witnessed from “The Buddy Holly Story,” “Sweet Dreams” and “The Josephine Baker Story” to “Selena,” “Ray” and “Cadillac Records”), it does help a great deal when the filmmaker and his or her team go to lengths to select an actor who comes close to resembling the biopic’s subject.

As soon as I learned of the Nina Simone biopic, I got a case of “evening sickness,” and not from memories of Saldana’s Rosemary devouring raw beef. Here’s my beef:  Casting Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone is the result of some kind of cognitive disorder that’s on the rampage again in Hollywood.  What if, instead of casting Jessica Lange as the late great Patsy Cline, Hollywood had decided to select Sheryl Lee Ralph?  We all would’ve let out an Ed Norton (not the current actor but the fictional Brooklyn character):  Whaaa-aaa-aaa-aaah!  The only beef I have with Zoe Saldana wearing a ton more makeup on her face than Natalie Wood lugged around as Maria in West Side Story  is this:  The immensely talented Viola Davis, whose beauty is highly underrated, would’ve been right on — as in, with an Angela Davis fist!  Viola immediately came to this writer’s mind and especially because she’s got that roll to her female baritone.  Whether she can or can’t sing a lick (can Zoe sound like Nina?) doesn’t matter; lip synching in biopics is the norm.  And Viola wouldn’t need more than a dab of blush and a stroke of ‘stick.  Hell, anybody can don a turban, but that won’t make her Nina Simone. Neither will pouting when one’s naturally superthick lips put the sensual sugah in some blues.

However, I’m just dreaming.  We all know that Hollywood will always be Hollywood, focusing on bankable stars who underneath the Sub-Saharan Matte #5 have conventionally beautiful looks.  Hollywood didn’t have a problem with Zoe’s mocha version of Rosemary getting her swirly on and, later, having the devil’s spawn in Paris, but it thinks nothing of triple-dipping her and her wispy body in chocolate to make Nina Simone’s Africanness palatable to non-Black people and to the Black people who self-hate thickness in lips and hips.  And I doubt that Donald’s anything but sterling remarks lately will change the self-hatred among Us.

Or, allow me to break it down thusly:  Too many of us — and. here, I’m referring to people across ethnic and cultural lines — can understand Viola Davis portraying a maid in The Help, and some secretly were titillated by her mamminess in that film adaptation. Others, including Oprah Winfrey, rationalized the roles of the film’s two principal (and principled) maids in a psychological act of defiance as if they were the only descendants of the African Diaspora who counted housekeepers among their ancestors.  So, while I’m thrilled that younger generations are intrigued by Nina Simone’s music and her life, we won’t get to watch and listen to Viola blowing our minds in the biographical role.  Heck, white French actress Julie Delpy, as the bourgeoise Céline opposite Ethan Hawke’s Jesse, lip synched through a Nina Simone jazz standard in Before Sunset – the second installment of Richard Linklater’s trilogy — and, honey, let me tell you that I didn’t see a spot of shoe polish on her face and hands!  No, chillens, this sho ain’t a new life or a new world, so Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone sho don’t feeeeeeel gooooooooooooooood!!!”

 

 

“Zoe Saldana in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Remake AND As Nina Simone? What the Devil Is Going On???”  © 2014 Chantale Reve All Rights Reserved


Blades of tall grass bend

As chirping sparrows take turns

Pecking at sweet crumbs.

 

 

 

© 2014 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved

 

 

 


 

 

I must confess

That even if I could

Halve, quarter, eighth or sixteenth

My flesh, bone and blood,

I would not.

 

 

I am raw oxtail teased with spices,

Tossed in with tomato and diced veggies.

My meat has absorbed une mélange de saveurs

That makes lovers salivate over my succotash

Sneak under the cover to lick the pot.

 

 

Despite an atavistic hot mess

From mostly forced miscegenation

Forged through economics, lust, hate and greed

Sprouted from seeds over beaucoup de générations,

Pride I’ve still got.

 

 

I forgive ruthless

Statements that, unlike my hair,

I’m an “oreo,” rootless beneath the skin –

For every moment and in pure love

I live and breathe Divinity and Blackness.

 

 

Poem:  “D.N.A. (deliciously naked authenticity)”  © 2014 Chantale Rêve   All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

Eulogy for a Rose

2014/04/04


If you ever have caressed a petal parted from a rose,

Recall the saline taste of tears and a facial twitch. 

How fragile all of life is, I realized today –

After tossing out with the trash that “life’s a bitch.”

How pungent is the stench of fear to age in our skins,

A genetic mutation of vain minds that propagate the specious

And, with (m)admen, are destined to do us in.

Mulling over my final moments with each withered bloom

Of all the roses ripped from fertile soil and accelerated to decay,

I wonder why we jump to false conclusions in assuming

That our lives do not as delicately slip away.

 

© 1998-2014 Chantale Rêve

 

A Letter from 2065

2012/03/18


Carousel Horse clipart

When your mind drifts to vast deserts of thought,
Take comfort that you will be young again.
Dash out nude into gentle acid rain
To reclaim the confidence some said you lost.

Face the sun and the moon when redemption comes.
Ascend with innate grace to your higher power.
The second hand will not tick past your resplendent hour.
Slip on gossamer wings when that worn shell’s done.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Meet Mommy and me at Nathan’s down on Coney Isle,
Chat with authentic mermaids and swim with dolphins awhile,
Spy on Picasso making art and love up in Montmartre,
And hang tough with herds of regal elephants over in India.

We’ll party with Dalí and Gala by sea cliffs in Cadaqués –
When the surreal revelry ends will be anyone’s guess.
In Africa we’ll learn Wolof, Kiswahili, Moroccan, Shona and Zulu,
Wail and pray about war and other disease — intraplanetary blues.

We’ll fly over the Arctic and Antarctica blowing air kisses
That freeze sea waves into grand glaciers for endangered species.
Hopping on bejeweled carousels stretching across the globe,
We’ll ride horseys with eyes of ruby, sapphire and peridot.

© 2012 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved


Originally posted on Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog:

Stood-up on a rain date in New York City,

I dodged the sunset and hopped a “D” train home,

Where, brimming with blissful solitude,

I urged the Muse to purge me of ulcerous self-pity –

Sonic grooves by Alanis setting the mood

For repentant limerent spectres to roam.

Then ferocious catcalls in the corridor

Ripped me from an entranced state,

Echoed like rutting felines in the alleyway,

Too vulgar and sexual to be ignored,

Intruded on an impromptu mini-holiday —

My solitary, literary weekend escape.

Through a cracked peephole I dared,

Despite my paralyzing, unutterable fear,

To observe lewd gestures of the same

Vicious thugs whose vile words and three-pronged stare

Five years back had degraded me past naked shame,

Had left me drowning in blood and putrid smears.
In an update unbeknownst to me,

Buried beneath grim news headlines,

The terrifying trinity was on parole.

A mockery of justice…

View original 115 more words


Originally posted on Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog:

Blades of tall grass bend

As chirping sparrows take turns

Pecking at sweet crumbs.

© 2014 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved

View original