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

 


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.


Thumbnail for version as of 21:10, 30 September 2006


In case you’re wondering:  Who the hell is this guy?  Well, I’ll just have to keep you in suspense, since I love to do that in my short fiction.  I can’t write “hold you captive,” with all these slave movies coming out one after another and so much so that I’ve been kidnapped in my nightmares and whipped with and without a soundtrack playing beneath the rhythms of the lashings and the counterpoint of my screams.

 

Fickle Focus on Existential, Epic Slave Flicks

 

Are you feeling whiplashed between slavery flashbacks?  If so, the last sentence of the previous paragraph probably was traumatic for you, too.  Matter of fact, my digits are still twitching, and welts are rising on my back.  Wait, those are weals from all the b.s. over the latest slave saga, to which I’m severely allergic. It soon will be 40 years since the debut of “Roots” and the concurrent cornrowing of my hair to Mount Kilimanjaro’s elevation — the source of lifelong scalp irritation — and my baby hair still hasn’t grown back.  Maybe I could add to mine from Ginuwine’s.  Or dare I ask “good”-hairy Chanté:  “Puis-je couper, s’il vous plaît?” and risk getting cussed out in the whistle register.

No bones or afros to pick on this captivating subject — I’m just being cheeky.  Hey, you.  Eyes up here or else you’ll get flash-flogged after supper.  I believe in spare the crop, spoil the sub.  Oops, wrong movie.

Of course we need films such as 12 Years a Slave by Steve McQueen!  (If we’re on the same bat channel, you know that I’m referring to the Academy Awards contender, the Black Brit filmmaker, not the legendary star of BullittThe Getaway and The Thomas Crown Affair.)  With 12 Years receiving nine Oscar nods, director McQueen might wind up pumping more than a few of those golden nudes like irons in the fire of controversy.  Now that he has risen above the flames — that is, the hellish heat sputtering from mouths of pitchforked tongues belonging to unseen but heard gremlins in the room, namely the Edison Ballroom in Manhattan — his regal voice will silence his detractors.

Here, I gesture with a peace sign, minus the forefinger, to Slavegate, which got swinging with the stench of “strange fruit” when morons heckled McQueen — a groundbreaking, visionary filmmaker — at the New York Film Critics Circle’s awards dinner last month.  Roast chicken may not have been on the menu at the NYFCC function, but I’m flipping the bird also at the dimwits who continue to whine: “But he’s [McQueen is] British; what does he know about American slavery?”

Most of the whiners have a heap of melanin, so, ironic though the following may sound, I’m not playing “the race card.”  What I am doing is charging them, the whiners, with ignorance in the first degree because they’re uneducated about their own history; for the trans-Atlantic slave trade — which we all know now was operated with some complicity by Africans — benefited mostly non-African economies around the globe and, thus, distributed African peoples everywhere, possibly including some of Steve McQueen’s own ancestors.

Beloved ver2.jpg12 Years a Slave film poster.jpgWhat I’d like to know is:  WTF took so long for McQueen or anyone else to adapt the Solomon Northup’s poignant memoir into 12 Years a Slave?  Did we really have to endure Quentin Tarantino septic music video, which served for some to placate their minds to the extent that they were horrified at the pop-unfriendly scoring of 12 Years a Slave?  I mean, really.

BelovedNovel.jpg

We — and not only Black people — are experiencing short-term memory loss in overlooking the excellent and haunting film Beloved (1998) starring (who else?) Oprah Winfrey.  The Jonathan Demme-directed epic film was based on the novel Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Morrison’s novel was inspired by the real-life story of Margaret (Peggy) Garner, who reached freedom but then was abducted and forced into slavery. Not too long before Morrison’s novel was published, there was a little-known indie film (so limited in distribution and promotion that I can’t recall its title or director) that starts out in contemporary times and involves a Black female protagonist who is abducted by white slavers and forced back through the centuries into slavery in the South.

And although the 1991 indie film Daughters of the Dust, by Julie Dash, didn’t deal with slavery, it’s the only film by a Black female director who address Gullah culture from Gullah people’s perspective.  It even features dialogue in Gullah Creole.  In her poetic film Dash tells the story of three generations of women from a family that lives on St. Helena Island (among the South Carolina Sea Islands), but from the Unborn Child’s P.O.V.   It’s the turn-of-the-twentieth-century, and the sistren are about to depart from their ancestral homeland. (Gullahs are predominantly of African heritage; enslaved Africans working the rice plantations in the Low Country were able to outsurvive the white slavers, who succumbed to tropical diseases, and so they broke free and made the marshy land their own.  Some say Gullah people are descended only from West Africa, but I am part-Gullah, and my fam has ancestors from the Congo, too; which means I have distant cousins among Black people in Brazil, many of whom derived from the Congo and Angola.  Hmmm … could that be why I’m always drawn to capoeira?)  Through stunning visual imagery, the unusual narrative of Daughters of the Dust shows us the women’s meditations about their family’s journey North.

Maybe Daughters of the Dust will make you think twice the next time you’re at a resort, trying to get that ace in the hole at some golf course on Gullah turf in the Sea Islands of South Carolina or Georgia, hunh?  So check out Netflix or go geechee yourself to a Black film festival when one comes to your town.

*   *   *


“Racial Ambiguity:  Take One”

 

Only in the United States, where, historically, the powers-that-be have brainwashed many citizens into thinking along the racial divides of black/white (f/k/a  nigger/white, colored/white, negro/white), because they were/are short in gray matter, does the term racial ambiguity gain any kind of currency.  Just as I abhor the terms black community and African American community, I detest racial ambiguity.  For the remainder of this essay — the first in an irregular series — I will be capitalizing the “b” in Black. and the “n” in Negro.  If I ever need to use the epithet nigger in a scholarly context, it shall remain lowercase because it is a trigger word that belongs in the gutter.

If the word race is a social construct, let’s not deconstruct it. Let’s destroy it … now!  To do that, we need to begin in our minds.  The preceding statement refers to the minds of all citizens of our world because, at some point, a person comes in contact with U.S. social pathology through the media.  There is only the human race.  We don’t need genetics testing to prove that there are so few “pure Black” / “pure African” people in the U.S. and the world at large because miscegenation went hand in hand with the Trans-Atlantic slave trade — just as for aeons, pillaging of foreign lands and the female bodies on them (and of the psyches of those conquered people) was rampant.  In the U.S. alone — which had far fewer enslaved Africans than, say, Brazil — if white slaveholders hadn’t raped so many enslaved African women in a savage form of breeding for profit (and, sure, lust on the part of the colonies-sanctioned rapists), there wouldn’t have been enough slaves to build industries in what is now one of the most industrialized and <cough> civilized nations on earth.

Having said all of the above, how a person self-identifies is at her or his discretion.  Through history, the descendants of enslaved Africans — no matter what “percentage” of European admixture and/or any other admixture (remember the U.S. “one-drop rule”) — have decided to forge ahead in spite of but in full pride of their complexion; pass or pass on passing despite looking like today’s Wentworth Miller  (sorry, can’t use everyone else’s usual target, Mariah Carey, here because, IMO, she looks like she ‘s got that one drop) or the late TV writer David Mills.  Mills wrote many episodes for various critically acclaimed dramatic series, from “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “The Wire” to “ER,” and he collaborated with David Smith on the defunct and underrated HBO series “Tremé”.

Therefore, the term racial ambiguity is being used and perpetuated by people (no matter how much melanin be in their skin) who believe that one requires external validation of their existence within social and socioeconomic contexts.  I plead guilty to dumping, not in person but in certain essays, on people who self-identify as Creoles.  So here I apologize. Let’s be fair, however.  As Steve Zahn’s “Davis McAlary,” a loudmouth liberal deejay on “Tremé,” once said about the continuing mixing of “races” in the U.S. (and here I paraphrase):  “We are a Creole nation!”

In closing, I turn away from the idiot box and toward literary history to highlight a person of African and European descent who conscientiously honored his Blackness in his native France and throughout the world.  Although his family was of the aristocratic class due to his father’s paternal bloodline, the legendary writer Alexandre Dumas, père (pictured at top), decided not to pass in toto.  (The père following his name  distinguishes it from that of his son:  Alexandre Dumas, fils)  Take a good look at his hair alone; he couldn’t, really.  Nevertheless, he could pass in authorship in much the same way that, today, any of us writers can disguise ourselves by gender, “race,” ethnicity, etc.  And the gentleman — and I bet he was gentle, fathering so called (at the time) natural children with as many as forty mistresses — was wittily confrontational when he felt he needed to be.

Author of The Count of Monte CristoThe Three Musketeers and the much-less-talked-about outside of literary circles, Georges — in addition to myriad other books as well as plays — Dumas was the son of a multiracial father born in Saint-Domingue (n/k/a Haiti):  Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, produced from the union of a French nobleman, the marquis Alexandre-Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie, and an enslaved woman (rumored to be Creole), Marie-Cessette Dumas.  The literary Dumas inherited his father’s revolutionary spirit, famously replying to some idiot who had made a disparaging remark about his African ancestry:  “My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey.  You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends.”  (Source:  Wikipedia; boldface emphasis: mine)

Alexandre Dumas’ comeback may not have been subtle but was erudite.  A dollop of anthropological wit with a dash of wise ass.  In contrast, someone calling another “racially ambiguous” is courting verbal whup-ass and is a nitwit and a misanthrope.

 

CUT!

 

 

 

This has been a Black History Month moment.  We now return you to your station in life.

 

 

© 2014 Chantale Reve

All Rights Reserved

 

Photo Source (Alexandre Dumas):  Wikimedia Commons


 

                                                 

 

 

2016 Update:  The unauthorized-biopic mentioned in my May 14, 2014, post — a snippet of which appears below — has been shelved as of 2015, according to various published reports. Members of Nina Simone’s family have authorized an more-accurate biopic (release date: TBA).

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 legerdemain of David Blaine and David Copperfield combined 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.

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. For that, the actress need not our applause, for many folks, not only in the United States, but also in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, still dig the “High Priestess of Jazz” — as the classically trained pianist affectionately was called because of her elegance onstage and her command of her audience. That idolizing the icon which her native country rejected qualifies Saldana 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 meat. 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 Jennifer Holiday or oSheryl 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 pause I take with Zoe Saldana wearing a ton more makeup on her face than Natalie Wood lugged around in West Side Story or than Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra 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 Davis 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 Davis wouldn’t need more than a dab of blush and a stroke of ‘stick.  Heck, anybody can don a turban, but that won’t make her the late great Nina Simone. Neither will pouting when one’s naturally superthick lips put the sensual sugah in some blues.

However, I’m just indie-dreaming.  We all know that Hollywood will always be Follywood, focusing on bankable stars who underneath the Sub-Saharan Matte #5 have conventionally beautiful looks.  Hollywood didn’t have a problem with Saldana’s mocha version of “Rosemary” getting her swirl on and, later, having the devil’s spawn in Paris, but it thinks nothing of triple-dipping her and her wispy body in darker chocolate to make Nina Simone’s Africanness palatable to non-Black people and to the Black people who self-hate their thickness in lips and hips.

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 only descendants of the recent African Diaspora (say, the past four-hundred-plus years) 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 Davis blowing our minds in the biographical role.  Heck, when 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 — 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


Well, it’s about damn time that Kasi Lemmons, veteran actress and the director of such idiosyncratic films as Eve’s Bayou, The Caveman’s ValentineTalk to Me and, most recently, Black Nativity — inspired by poet Langston Hughes’ 1961 play — is awarded for her exemplary filmmaking.  Lemmons will be among the illustrious women honored at the 2014 Athena Film Festival Awards, scheduled to take place at Barnard College, New York, February 6-9, 2014.

Other distinguished honorees will include:  Sherry Lansing, former chairwoman and chief executive officer of Paramount Pictures, and former president of 20th Century Fox, who is set to receive the Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award; Callie Khouri, Oscar-winning screenwriter of Thelma & Louise and creator of the TV series “Nashville”; and Keri Putnam, executive director of the Sundance Institute.

My first cinematic memory of Lemmons is her small role in Robert Bierman’s 1989 existential black comedy, Vampire’s Kiss, now a cult classic.  In Vampire’s Kiss, Lemmons portrayed Jackie, the jerked-around boho girlfriend of paranoid yuppie lit agent Peter Loew.  She was quite credible as she hysterically fended off a vampire bat that had intruded on their intense sex play in Peter’s Manhattan flat, and she gained my sympathy pouting every time her batty beau stood her up to take another bite from Jennifer Beals’ predatory vampire, Rachel (even though Rachel was only the product of the protagonist’s hallucination).

According to the “Thompson on Hollywood” blog on Indiewire.com, early-bird passes for the fourth annual Athena Film Festival are available on-line, but individual ticket sales will begin next month.  And attention, all you screenwriters out there:  Indiewire.com also reported that there’s a newly created Athena List calling for three to five “completed screenplays with strong leading female characterd that have yet to be made into films.”  The current list will be announced at the upcoming Athena Film Festival, but you should try out for future Athena Lists.

For more information about the 2014 Athena Film Festival Awards and/or the Athena List, please check out http://athenafilmfestival.com.

And to Kasi Lemmons:  Congrats on your forthcoming award!!!

© 2013 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved

Top Photo:  Director-actress Kasi Lemmons and (partially cropped out at left) her director-actor husband, Vondie Curtis-Hall — what a stellar couple!

Photo Source:  Indiewire.com

2013/03/02


The 10-Minute Ramble

Jumping the Broom is a delightfully over-acted romantic comedy about two professionals in love, from vastly different family backgrounds, who navigate their way through those differences with the power of love to get married before one of them has to run off to China.

It’s about the power of love, really, and the powerful commitment of the female character to remain true to a promise she made to God about sex before marriage.

Of course, love (and a little prayer) saves the day and all ends well.

So it’s a little ironic that the song the producers used to play to introduce the movie over the opening credits is Bruno Mars’ “Marry You.” Have you heard the lyrics to this song?

It’s a beautiful night / We’re looking for something dumb to do / Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you

Is it the look in your eyes /…

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