I have just landed from a week on the west coast and couldn't wait to share my adventures with you. I was there for business, but managed to squeeze in some quality time to see new and old friends alike. Each of them in their own way inspired me with their sharings. But I too was entertained and expect that we all will be entertained by the projects on which they are working. I was in and around Los Angeles after all, so yes, they were all in showbusiness.
My first stop was Santa Barbara last weekend. The last time I had the chance to experience the mild and sunny, Mediterranean-esque climate, I was in the presence of legendary greatness, a highlight all its own. This weekend of the working/relaxation hybrid was much less eventful and more inward focused. It gave me the chance to contemplate the ocean, mountains, and engaging vistas --- all a panoramic view away. It was just stunning and just what Dr. Feelgood ordered for me to get centered and inspired about the days ahead. Though the airline lost my luggage, I realized that my walks on the beach nor my 'conversation with God' required 'couture'. I got the opportunity to quiet the voices of stress and angst, and spend a little quiet time "with" myself. Plus, the Doubletree Spa and Resort provided me an emergency grooming kit and a quick trip to State Street allowed me a new pair of underwear (just briefs, if you must know). And from calm, pensive, self-reflection to celebration, I proceeded into Old Town with my crew in tow for a daring roll-through that starrred Santa Barbara's locals, painting the town Halloween (though two days shy of it). That night rounded out a lovely and brief two-day stay in the city known for its ecological wonder.
On Sunday night, I traveled from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, also for an assignment. But upon my arrival, I began to receive calls and love from friends and associates via phone as you know I alerted all my west coasters that I was coming to town. My first? Actor Lamman Rucker. You'll recall (from a previous entry), I grew up on CBS Soaps, including "As The World Turns", which tapes in New York. A few years ago, Lamman played Marshall Travers on the daytime story. He was an antagonistic attorney who came into town to cause all sorts of trouble with Oakdale. Playing opposite Tamara Tunie and Napiera Groves, regulars on the show (at the time), we got the chance to see "black folks" be more than token wallpaper in a scene. They were bad. They were viscious. They were conflicted. And when their well-executed and much-hyped storyline was over, his character was killed. Still, it was a very exciting time (albeit shortly run) for blacks on daytime TV (Fortunately, "Young & The Restless" continues to play its folks of color high in the scheme of the high-profile plots). With that, I had a chance to know Lamman socially during that time. We were always running into each other at some party or event - usually me stalking him on where "the character" was in the plot (then, incidentally getting in what Lamman, the actor, had going on. But he was always gracious and willing to chat up the character and his own plans for himself). And since he went back out west to continue his career, we've stayed in touch. You'll recall, he played one of Rachel True's two love interests on "Half & Half" during its last season. And because it was cancelled (again too-soon) on a cliffhanger, we don't know if Lamman's character Chase got the girl. What I do know from the time we chatted and caught up in L. A. this week is that he's co-starring in a theater piece (in Los Angeles, go figure...). I had to leave town before I could see him in the show (which runs this weekend), but it's the Los Angeles African American Repertory's debut production for its 2006 Fall Season, WEBEIME (WE-BE-I-ME) starring Johnny Boyd, Layon Gray, Thom Scott II, Justin Biko, Jason McGee, Eddie Lewis, Jay Jones, and my boy, Lamman. It's tag line is "Many men! One story! One man! Many voices! Eight perspectives! One struggle!". It's poised to run Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through November 19th at THE COMPLEX "Theatre 6470" on Santa Monica Blvd. (See www.LAArep.com and www.mySpace.com/WeBeIMe for more information). If you're in L.A. this month, please go and support this production. Theater can often get dwarfed by TV and FILM in L.A., so it's great to see these visionaries holding the fort and standing on the shoulders of a time when all actors of color had was the Negro Ensemble Theater (in New York).
I also managed to leave Los Angeles with two film scripts in my hand. They came to me at separate times from two different people. Both of them are filmmakers and do work in TV too. First, there was my friend Todd Davis (far left in the four-shot picture; i am far right) in the next picture), who is a screenwriter, film producer, and director. We had a ball, hanging out. He took me to my favorite restaurant (in any city) "Houston's" where we had the chance to be served by a couple of up-and-coming actors Odetta Bassett, a friend of Todd, and Brandon Austin, who says he has already had a small part in a Paris Hilton film. Though some see "Houston's" as over-rated and nothing more than a high-end "Bennigans" or "Applebees", I love its limited menu because 'what they do, they do well' and it's consistent and enjoyable everytime (for me). I had the "spicy shrimp and chicken gumbo" (which is not an option in New York or New Jersey) and the "prime rib" - both of which were perfection. Todd also took my friend Lesia and me to Melrose to shop. I stumbled into an awesome boutique that only had just opened three days before we walked in. It's called Rock & Roll Religion (www.rockandrollreligion.net) and it's a clothing store for men and women with "everything Jimi Hendrix". His iconography is all over the T-shirts, his essence is in many of the button-down, long-sleeved tops (one of which I purchased), and the spirit of his music is in the replicas that they have on display and for sale. It was a great find. Then, we went to West Hollywood for the parade. And again, I got the chance to witness and behold some of the most creative costumes known to man. Zany! Whimsical! Scary! Halloween! But the best and most exciting thing Todd shared with me was the news that he is planning to shoot his debut film, "The Engagement Party", down in Atlanta very soon and it promises to be "a stone gas, honey...", he says. The film - a romantic comedy - focuses on a hot and handsome young man who comes from a wealthy, Savannah family. After he graduates from Morehouse College, he chooses to stay in Atlanta. (Sounds like me, except for the wealthy family! smile!). He falls in love and has the challenge of not only giving his high-society mother the news, but he has to manage the "bumpy ride" that ensues, after she decides to throw an "engagement party" for him --- inclusive of meeting his significant other for the first time. It's a total hoot and to see Todd describe "his baby" with his Houston "twang" to boot makes me really excited to see the project and for this big step he's taking with his career. (And I so think that the lead role is my part. At least, that's what I told Todd. But he ignored me, having other thoughts about who can play the role. I won't divulge just yet, but Todd did note that he and his creative partner Warren Clarke are close to having the project fully financed through their company "Make Believe Entertainment". From there, they will cast. Then, they are off to Atlanta to shoot (and I will find a part for myself yet. Just watch.). Make room, Tyler Perry. There's another filmmaker coming to town. HALLELU-JER!!!
I also had the chance one evening this week to enjoy cocktails and calamari with "Noah's Arc" creator and executive producer Patrik-Ian Polk, who invited me to meet him at The Standard on Sunset Boulevard. It's a boutique hotel with low-slung sectionals and white shag carpeting all up and through its lobby, which leads to the pool area where you can eat and drink. Patrik chose the spot and I can see it as a place where perhaps he goes for "power meetings", etc. (In my mind as I still sometimes get amused at Hollywood's way of being). I just had an opportunity to meet Patrik when he and one of his "Noah's Arc" cast-members Jentsen Atwood came to the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Indianapolis in August (www.nabj.org). I moderated the NABJ LGBT Task Force panel on "Images of Gays in Televsion" on which he and Jentsen participated. We all hit it off well and the session would be one of the most popular and entertaining of the week, according to attendants. "Noah's Arc" is a huge hit on LOGO, yet Patrik says they are still waiting on word from the gay cable network on if it's going to be renewed for a new season. Meanwhile, Patrik is working on another feature film for which he's written the screenplay. It's yet another project with which I have an identification, but unlike Miss Ross (who insisted she play "Dorothy" in "The Wiz" as naysayers pointed out she was too old for the part), I won't act like I can play the starring role of a teenage boy, even if I still have my 29 waist from high school. All jokes aside, "Blackbird" is a film adaptation of Larry Duplechan's book of the same title. It's a story of adolescent awakening, written originally in 1986 for St. Martin's Press. The lead character, Johnnie Ray Rousseau, is a high school student upset at losing the lead role in the school staging of Romeo and Juliet; if that weren't enough, his best friend has been beaten badly by his father, and his girlfriend is pressuring him to have sex for the first time. All the while, he's intrigued by Marshall MacNeill, a fellow drama class member who's surely the sexiest man to walk God's green earth-at least according to Johnnie Ray. Patrik has an awesome wish list for who he'd like to play these parts, but I won't reveal that until the ink dries. Still, I'm excited for him and this project which should go into principal photography before year's end.
And then, just as my week was wrapping, I was reacquainted with a young man named Paul Boese. We both worked together years ago. Well, it turns out that Paul now works for Go Go Luckey Productions (http://www.gogoluckey.com/), the company that produces MTV's hit "Laguna Beach". I don't watch it, but my nephew, a freshman at Morehouse College, does - so much so, when I mentioned Laguna Beach (the location) a few weeks back, he thought I was talking about 'the show' (Like "uncle" like "nephew", huh? We take our pop culture very seriously). So, as soon as Paul told me that, I asked for whatever "Laguna Beach" SWAG (Stuff We All Get) he could provide for my brother's son. He says he'll send it soonest. And Paul's sweet wife who I met as well said she'd make sure of it. I'd be most appreciative. In his best joking impersonation of the "Laguna Beach" youth on the show, my nephew said "... Like, Oh my GOD! That's like so cool!!!". Now, I'm not only one of the "brothers" (black and white) doing it for themselves, but I'm the coolest uncle. Like, really.
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