“Work is, after all not just a means to sustenance, it is also a form of social control: It occupies our time, structures our lives and channels passions. When work disappears, social organization breaks down.” From, “Lockdown America”
Book Bits: “The Last Black Unicorn” By: Tiffany Haddish
Here are some interesting tidbits from, “The Last Black Unicorn” By: Tiffany Haddish:
• She talks about why she calls herself, “The Last Black Unicorn.”
• She was close to illiterate in high school, yet she was placed in AP classes in the wealthy school she was bused to. She got over academically because she has a genius-level memory. Her drama teacher eventually caught on, and surreptitiously taught her to read.
• As a teen she went to Laugh Factory Comedy Camp.
• Richard Pryor gave her comedic advice.
• Before her mother’s car accident, which caused her to have severe mental illness, her mother owned two houses, two small businesses, and was a manager at the post office. The car accident forever altered the path of her family’s lives.
• Her stepfather made a shocking confession to her on her 21st birthday about her mother’s car accident that will leave you stunned and flabbergasted.
• She discusses being in foster care, and all of the varieties of abuse she was subjected. [SIDEBAR: Parts of this book will bring you to tears.]
• She was a pimp for a period of time. She got some of her clients from the Bar Mitzvahs she used to perform at.
• She talks candidly and explicitly about some of her personal relationships.
• She got married to a man who was extremely abusive, so she divorced him. However, she also ended up marrying and divorcing him a second time.
• She talks about bombing at comedy shows. She also talks about the love she has for being on stage and doing comedy, and how it makes her feel safe and successful.
• She discusses earning the respect of her male comedic peers who initially looked at her as a romantic conquest.
• She calls Kevin Hart her “comedy guardian angel.”
• She discusses temporarily joining Scientology.
• She talks about going on a swamp tour in New Orleans with Will & Jada Smith. She also shares some of the advice that Jada Pinkett-Smith gave her.
• She talks about how Arsenio Hall helped to boost her career.
• She found out that she is an African princess.
Book Bits: “The Wire: Truth Be Told” By: Rafael Alvarez
Here are some interesting tidbits from, “The Wire: Truth Be Told” By: Rafael Alvarez:
• Dominic West was cast as Jimmy McNulty via an audition tape where he was saying his character’s lines, and leaving silent spaces where the other characters’ lines would be. When the show’s creators saw his audition tape they “laughed uncontrollably.” After they finished laughing, they sought to hire him.
• The actor who played Detective Ray Cole was actually beloved executive producer and director, Robert E. Colesberry. He died from heart surgery after the second season of The Wire.
• During his presidential campaign, Obama cited The Wire as his favorite television show.
• A lot of the storylines from season one came from a case that was investigated by the show’s writer/producer Ed Burns when he was a homicide detective in Baltimore.
• The Deacon in Seasons 3 to 5 is played by Melvin Williams, a former drug dealer who was once investigated by Ed Burns. Melvin Williams was once sentenced to 34 years in prison.
• The pager/telephone code depicted in season 1, was an actual code used by drug dealers.
• By the time The Wire was filmed in Baltimore, the city’s high-rise housing projects had been torn down. An apartment-complex for senior citizens were used to look like projects on the show.
• Actor Wendell Pierce, who plays “The Bunk,” studied at Julliard.
• The nickname of the real “Bunk” came from him addressing everyone he met as “Bunk.”
• The “hat trick” depicted in Season 1 of The Wire was the creation of the real-life Bubbles.
• The real-life Bubbles started using drugs at 15 years old.
• The storyline where Bubbles switched drugs with battery acid to put an end to being constantly robbed by a neighborhood bully, is something that was done by the real-life Bubbles. However, in real-life the bully takes the switched drugs and dies, along with a friend who did the drugs with him.
• Melvin Williams who plays The Deacon is a math genius who had more than a little luck at games of chance. He states that he was never involved in selling drugs until after he was framed on narcotics charges by federal agents. Melvin Williams was said to be a highly disciplined, intelligent man who never indulged in ingesting drugs or alcohol. He spent 26 ½ years incarcerated.
• The character Ziggy Sobotka was inspired by Pinky Bannon, who wore formal wear to work on the docks. Pinky also had a pet duck that he adorned in diamonds, and plied with liquor at the local bar.
• Actor, Chris Bauer, had to don a fat suit and be cosmetically aged to play Frank Sabotka.
• McNulty’s partner when he is on the marine detail is a real-life marine officer in Baltimore.
• Kurt Schmoke, the mayor of Baltimore from 1987 to 1999, who also became the dean of Howard University Law School, was a politician whose political career was torpedoed when he suggested drug addiction be decriminalized and treated as a health issue. [SIDEBAR: This is telling considering how the “opioid epidemic” is currently being handled.] Kurt Schmoke played a health commissioner on two episodes of season 3 of The Wire.
• The Neville Brothers sang the theme song for season 3 of The Wire.
• There were Baltimore politicians who were not happy with what was depicted on The Wire. Because of this, there were times The Wire had difficulty getting permits to film in the city.
• The actor who plays FBI Special Agent Terrance Fitzhugh is a former Golden Gloves boxer.
• Susan “Tootsie” Duvall, who played Vice Principal Marcia Donnelly is an acting protege of Jean Stapleton, who is known for her role as Edith Bunker.
• Susan “Tootsie” Duvall also worked on doing background sounds on The Wire. As did Fran Boyd, the woman whose life was depicted on the HBO miniseries, “The Corner.”
• The real-life De’Andre McCullough (also depicted on, “The Corner”) played Lamar, Brother Mouzone’s sidekick.
• In 2007, Fran Boyd married Donnie Andrews, the man whose Omar’s character is partially based off of. Donnie Andrews also had a role on The Wire. He was one of Omar’s comrades inside of jail and outside if jail.
• Maestro Harrell, the actor who played Randy Wagstaff, played a young Muhammad Ali in his 2001 bio-pic.
• The actor who played Detective Jimmy McNulty directed episode 57 of The Wire.
• Bill Murphy, Clay Davis’s attorney on The Wire, is actually one of Baltimore’s most prominent attorneys. He once successfully represented Don King in court. He is also a drummer and a jazz music enthusiasm.
Book Bits: “Brave” By: Rose McGowan
Here are some interesting tidbits from, “Brave” By: Rose McGowan:
• She faced great opposition to the publication of this book. She said she had parts of her manuscript stolen, and was hacked, stalked, and spied on.
• The cover of the book is a picture of her getting her hair shaved off. After reading the preface of the book, you understand why she made this image the cover of her book.
• She was born in Italy. She was also born into a cult.
• As a child, she escaped the cult with her father and her siblings, but her mother was left behind. She eventually was reunited with her mother, in America, at the age of 10.
• As a child, she was sent to live in America. She immediately hated the food in America, and the aggressiveness of the people.
• For part of her teen years, she was a runaway.
• She suffered through a lot of abuse growing up, including parental abuse, and a beating by a police officer.
• She was sexually assaulted by a Hollywood executive as a very young teen. However, being a naïve child, she didn’t see it as an assault at the time that it happened.
• She was in an abusive “relationship” with a grown man as a child. This relationship was the catalyst to her eating disorder.
• She was randomly “discovered” to be in a Hollywood movie on the street, while waiting for a friend. She went through a humiliating audition to get the role.
• She describes what it was like working on movies such as: The Doom Generation, Scream, Jawbreaker, Phantoms, and on the television show Charmed.
• She went to an arranged meet-up with a high-powered Hollywood executive, who was unbeknownst to her, a predator. She calls the meeting, “the day [her] life got hijacked by evil.” The response she got from others after the rape included: An actor saying, “I told him to stop doing that.” Her manager telling her to think of it as something that would help her in the long run. Her management company’s power player saying, “I just had an expose about him killed in the LA Times; he owes it to me not to do this.” A criminal attorney she consulted telling her, “You’re an actress. You’ve done a sex scene. You’ll never win. You’re done.”
• She describes what it was like being in a relationship with Marilyn Manson.
• She talks about the effects of being trolled online.
• She astutely describes how Hollywood and the entertainment industry fosters bad behavior in society and an obsession with the frivolous and unnatural.
• Her Rolling Stone cover-shoot was her breaking point with Hollywood.
Book Bits: “Up Till Now: The Autobiography” By: William Shatner
Here are some interesting tidbits from, “Up Till Now: The Autobiography” By: William Shatner:
• He discusses the start of his love for acting.
• He has a strong friendship with Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock on Star Trek.
• He has acted in a variety of mediums: theater, television, movies.
• He has dealt with the perils of Hollywood; including being “propositioned” as a teenager, and being grossly unpaid.
• He is originally from Canada. He moved to New York City to pursue an acting career.
• He began a television career during a time when people thought television was a gimmick and would fizzle out.
• He’s been married several times. He discusses his marriages, including what it’s like to be married to another actor.
• When he was co-acting on a project with Yule Brynner, Yule Brynner continuously kicked him while they were filming. He was too intimidated to put a stop to it.
• He hunted and killed a bear on the Aleutian Islands for a TV show. He felt so guilty about it, he decided to never hunt again.
• He made up a story about being rescued by an alien after he was in a motorcycle accident in the desert. The story was picked up by the tabloids.
• He discussed making the classic episode of the Twilight Zone, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”
• He discusses eking out a living as an actor in a profession where “talent didn’t seem to make a difference between success and failure.”
• He discusses starring on Star Trek and the impact it had on his career. He also discusses Star Trek conventions.
• He has worked as a director in all of the mediums he has acted in.
• He discusses starring as T.J. Hooker, hosting Rescue 911, working with the WWF, being a spokesperson for priceline.com, playing the Big Giant Head on 3rd Rock, and playing the award-winning part of Denny Crane.
• His wife tragically drowned in their pool.
• He has a love for horses, and owns a ranch in Kentucky.
• He discusses his often mocked singing career.
Book Bits: “Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography” By: Richard Branson
Here are some interesting tidbits from “Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography” By: Richard Branson:
• This book is a part two to Richard Branson’s first autobiography, “Losing My Virginity,” which he published in 1998. The first chapter of the book is entitled, “1999.”
• He’s built dozens of businesses is a variety of industries.
• He’s had a couple of interesting encounters with Donald Trump.
• He privatized trains in the United Kingdom, and has built a luxury wildlife reserve in Ulusaba.
• Nelson Mandela urged him to take over the gym fitness industry in South Africa and he complied.
• He has promoted his businesses via some interesting publicity stunts; some of which were dangerous and life-threatening.
• He protested various wars throughout his life. He even visited Saigon and learned the history of the Vietnam War.
• He’s friends with Bill & Melinda Gates.
• Steve Jobs is the entrepreneur he admires the most.
• He officiated the wedding of Google founder, Larry Page and Lucy Page.
• He attempted to get Saddam Hussein to step down and go into exile. [SIDEBAR: It’s interesting to see how successful businesspeople can influence serious international political matters.]
• He had a longtime friendship with Nelson Mandela. He introduced Nelson Mandela to the Dalai Lama.
• He has several record-breaking feats under his belt, including breaking the Guinness Book of Records standing for the fastest crossing of the English Channel by an amphibious vehicle.
• He helped to facilitate a council of elders, including Mandela and Desmond Tutu, for the purpose of world improvement.
• He has created a company that focuses on pioneering space travel and satellite launching. He has aspirations of exploring space and setting up space tourism.
• He has set up a foundation to help start-up entrepreneurs.
• He details the start and finish of Virgin American Airlines, and how he took on the U.S. Airline system and created one of the most successful airlines in America. [SIDEBAR: It wasn’t cheap or easy.]
• He wasn’t in favor of Brexit. Among other things, he feels it will limit the future options of the youth.
• He’s visited Barack Obama at the White Hoses and discussed a bevy of issues with him. He has also enjoyed a 10-day vacation with the Obamas, after President Obama left office.
• When he traced his ancestral background, he discovered that through his mother’s side of the family, he is related to Charlemagne.
• In the final chapter of the book, he lists dozens of his nearly deadly adventures and mishaps.
Book Bits: “Defending The Spirit: A Black Life In America” By: Randall Robinson
Here are some interesting tidbits from “Defending The Spirit: A Black Life In America” By: Randall Robinson:
• He was referred to as a “boy” by young white farmers when he was well into middle age.
• He discusses what it was like to be one of a handful of Black students attending Harvard Law School.
• He was drafted into the U.S. Army after he dropped out of college. He discusses his experiences in the army during the Vietnam War.
• He discusses his experiences with racism and racial politics during every of his life.
• He poignantly discusses the illusions created by segregation.
• He discusses the stellar achievements of his siblings.
Book Bits: “The Mother Of Black Hollywood: A Memoir” By: Jenifer Lewis
Here are some interesting tidbits from “The Mother Of Black Hollywood: A Memoir” By: Jenifer Lewis:
• She got a role on Broadway 11 days after moving to New York City.
• Like any other Black person in America, she has faced racism. She details some of her encounters with racism.
• She survived an attempted rape after moving to NYC.
• A large portion of her career was spent being the “Queen of High-Camp Cabaret.” She has more than a few “dalliances,” and she recounts many of them in this book…Her actions become understandable when she reveals her childhood abuse, and her mother’s reaction.
• She hilariously tells how she got to be front and center at Barack Obama’s Democratic Party nomination acceptance at the DNC.
• She talks about her encounters and relationships with many artists, and legendary people, such as: Whoopi Goldberg, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Lena Horne, Gregory Himes, Tina Turner, Shirley Chisholm, Phyllis Hyman, Carmen McRae, Bette Midler, Prince Albert, Della Reese, Jon Voight, Shirley MacLaine, Chris Rock, Jane Pauley, Eddie Murphy, Charlie Murphy, Nina Simone, Sidney Poitier, Norman Lear, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Lynn Whitfield, Cree Summer, Robin Williams, Tupac Shakur, Barbra Streisand, Dick Gregory, Whitney Houston, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Isabel Sanford, Naomi Campbell, JFK Jr., Tracee Ellis Ross, Anthony Anderson, Laurence Fishburne. (Note: These aren’t salacious stories. She says her book is not a “tell-all.”)
• She discusses how therapy helped her heal and grow. She also talks about being diagnosed with a mental illness.
• She discusses creating her acclaimed one-woman shows.
• She discusses becoming a mother to a little girl.
• She emphasis that her book isn’t a tell-all; she knows the damage gossip can do. Her book isn’t gossipy, and the reader gets a sense that there are a lot of stories she’s keeping to herself. However, she gets the point across regarding her life experiences, and lessons.
Book Bits: “Guillaume: A Life” By: Robert Guillaume
Here are some interesting tidbits from “Guillaume: A Life” By: Robert Guillaume:
• He grew up in St. Louis during the great depression. He went through a lot of family challenges growing up. Growing up he had to face poverty, racism, and miseducation. He poignantly describes what this was like.
• His early life taught him that American society felt: “What is grace in a white man is arrogance in a black man.”
• He discusses getting roles and building a career as a Black man in America. He also discusses acting, and building a career, outside of America.
• He frankly discusses, and explores, the harsh racial dynamics of America and its affect on his life and his perspectives.
• He discusses meeting, and working with, Sammy Davis Jr. and Harold Nicholas of the Nicholas Brothers.
• He briefly discusses seeing Nina Simone perform, and living next door to Miles Davis
• He details his role as a father and his relationships with his children.
• He discusses his friendship with actor Ron O’Neal, and tactfully describes the affect Hollywood had on him.
Book Bits: “The Rise, The Fall, The Recovery” By: Spencer Haywood
I definitely recommend this book. It was a great read.
Here are some interesting tidbits from, “The Rise, The Fall, The Recovery” By: Spencer Haywood:
• Spencer Haywood had some very interestingly varied life experiences. He experienced the most extreme poverty, as well a fame and fortune.
• He picked cotton in the deep South as a child.
• He poignantly describes the racism that he experienced growing up. His childhood experiences in the deep South, including picking cotton, would have you thinking he grew up in the 1800s, not in the 1950s and 60s.
• He was a trailblazer in many ways, including being the first professional basketball player to go the pros before finishing college. (This involved litigation and a bevy of court cases.) He also pioneered professional basketball players being able to make the high salaries that they make today.
• He became an Olympic gold medalist during the Olympic Games that Tommie Smith and John Carlos famously protested racism in America.
• He played basketball in Venice. He described Venice in a way that makes me want to go there for an extended visit.
• He interestingly recounts his marriage to supermodel Iman.
• He was Nike’s first national representative.
• He was great at investing, although he also got ripped off like a lot of his peers. His investments include ownership in a shopping mall.
• He fell victim to drug addiction. He details the adverse effects of this and how he recovered.
• He studied African history with Dr. Ben. He even traveled to Egypt with him.
• He details how he combated his miseducation, and cultivated his love for Black history.