Upon my return from my 20-year high school reunion, I got back into business-as-usual mode. During these summer days of less revenue and more social to-dos, it can be trying (THIS JUST IN: I have to buy a new air conditioning unit for the co-op I own with now-three people in it during this intermittent heatwave-of-a-summer. It's not in the budget right now, but all will work out!). My man is holding the fort for all of us, but we normally thrive off of our collective incomes. Still, we're managing it while loving each other and calling joy forth as much as possible (including hosting my nephew with as much fun fare as possible when he's not working diligently at his internship). Meanwhile, I am working enthusiastically on a few summer projects that will bring in revenue closer to the end of July; Too, I am taking as many meetings as possible towards attracting some new work to pad out the rest of the year; and I am managing my nephew Noot’s, Ant’s, and my social calendars respectively (as there's always somewhere to go... and we make those outings work economically i.e. NJ Transit bus into the city instead of car service; BBQ instead of Houston's; no shopping while re-inventing some classic pieces; etc.. You’ll recall, I saw “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” but Terrance Howard wasn’t there. His very able understudy (and my last-namesake) Robert Christopher Riley was on that night. Well, since one of the show’s hospitality sponsors is Remy Martin - www.remy.com/ (for which I had the opportunity to do a project earlier this year - http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/2/2/beautiful-struggle.html), my friend and Remy brand manager Lamar Johnson made it possible for Ant, Noot, Noot’s Spelman sister Lakeshia (interning at VIACOM), and me to see “Cat” one more time --- front-row seats and Terrance Howard to boot. It was also Phylicia Rashad’s birthday – acknowledged by cast and audience alike (with cake) during the bows. Noot and Lakeshia LOVED it! Ant and I enjoyed seeing the complete cast. They were on fire that night. Great drama! Afterwards, Noot, Lakeshia, Ant, and I got the chance to chat up Lou Myers (who is the preacher in this piece but Mr. Gaines in ‘Cosby-Show’-spinoff “A Different World”). I think Lakeshia and Noot were pleased with this night.
“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” producer Stephen Byrd invited Ant and me to join him for the final performance on this past Sunday. That invite ended up being rescinded as some key folks in charge of the Tennessee Williams Estate requested a larger allotment of tickets. With that, we didn’t make the cut. But we felt honored to be asked... to have seen it twice... and to still be in the number to attend the wrap party with the help of one of the show’s audience development/marketing folks, my good girlfriend Marcia Pendelton. She always takes care of us on the theater tip and Noot was excited to see her as the last time he was here, she was working on "Top Dog/Underdog" and he got to see it and enjoy all of her sharings about the theater and the role she has inside this big business. She couldn't believe how much of "a man" he has become. Even with that, there was a little challenge at the door (as there can be in New York City with its many velvet ropes and lists). Kindly (before Marcia came down and handled it for once and for all), publicist and social activist/advocate Terrie Williams (www.terriewilliams.com/) stepped in and began to right the wrong (simply because that’s who she is and how I have experienced her since I met her in 1995). She went a step further – introducing us guys to one of our favorite pop culture icons “James Evans Sr.” from “Good Times” AKA John Amos. His resume – from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” to “Roots” to “In The House” and on and on, have always impressed and continue to do so. Thank you, Terrie! And Miss Marcia, as always, you are fierce and so supportive! THANK YOU!
That John-Amos intro alone made the night worth the strategy that's involved these days to simply walk out of the house. But there would be more... lots more!!! The party’s backdrop was karaoke club “Spotlight” (www.spotlightlive.com), which is a great venue. B. Smith (www.bsmith.com) catered and what a lovely spread of fried chicken, collard greens, macaroni & cheese, and garden salad. Since my nephew has been on a mission to see stars since he arrived here in New York City, I was excited to accommodate him with a slew of sightings and photo ops. There was Anika Noni-Rose, Ant’s and my buddy who has just been so gracious and kind to us since we met her through our mutual friend Ledisi back in December. Also, Anika’s nemesis in the play Lisa Arrindell Anderson has been kind to us since “Cat” launched. She won’t be taking a break (like Anika). She’s shooting her part in a “Lifetime” film this week. Then, Lynn Whitfield (who once starred as Josephine Baker in a huge HBO film) and Noot got to bond on their cable network in common. Opera diva Kathleen Battle was in the house but like "Big Mama" (her "Cat" character) Phylicia Rashad and play director Debbie Allen (Phylicia's sister), she didn’t grant us a picture (though she looked beautiful and was so nice. So were Phylicia and Debbie who briefly spoke to Noot as he shared with Phylicia that he was a man of Morehouse. Her son graduated Morehouse). There was Tony Chisolm (known for his role in HBO hit show “Oz”) who Ant and I were happy to see. He is a part of how Ant and I got the chance to connect on the night we met at the after party for “The Color Purple”. On that night in December 2005, after my Morehouse brother Mario introduced Ant and me, we spoke and then moved on to continue our evening at the party separately. However, with Mario’s nudging, I got the chance to research if my inkling about Ant (and what I thought was his attraction to me) was on target. While he was chatting up Tony Chisolm (also a funky monkey in one of my favorite films “The Wiz”), I was interrogating Ant’s coworker and best friend Sabrina for the goods. She highly recommended that I pursue further… and the rest is history (Almost three years later, “we’re STILL together!!!!”). I was moved (albeit shocked) that Noot was excited to see R&B legend Freddie Jackson as he can be such a tad select about who floats his boat (and that usually translates into people who are on the charts right now. This, though he's been reared on old school - in large part because of me). Regardless, Ant and I see Freddie all the time at our various social functions and he's always so kind and sweet. As Noot put it, “He sings ‘You are my lady’!!!!!!!” – a staple on radio’s varied quiet storms nationwide. He performed an impromptu "When I Fall In Love" with the house band. That voice is still tip-top!!!! “Big Brother Almighty” (Giancarlo Esposito), who is in the play, gave Noot some “School-Daze”-love. Designer B. Michael and entertainment journalist Flo Anthony were also in the house. In addition, some of Noot's and my Morehouse brothers (who got to meet Noot for the first time) were in the house, like Charles Reese, Brook Stephenson, etc. Also, Noot (and - the other day at "Cat" - Lakeshia) got to meet co-producer on "Cat" Alia M. Jones who is our Spelman sister. She was such a great presence during the show's run and has spent ten years in marketing, stratgegic planning, finance, and technology. I'm excited to see what her WHAT'S NEXT is after her Broadway debut with this historic production. My good friend, fine artist Glenn Tunstull, was also there (two times in two weeks. We must stop meeting like this unless we come to your art show on Martha's Vineyard in August - www.tunstullstudio.com). And our latest “Amazing Grace” (who Ant and I share and enjoy), Dr. Shirley Madhere (www.drshirleymadhere.com/), was a guest and looked gorgeous. It’s always good to spend time with her and I’m glad she and Noot got to meet. She thought he was so handsome (as many often do, after they say that he looks like me). SMILE! But our highlight was having the legendary Cicely Tyson take a snapshot of Ant, Noot, and me (which she promises she will send to me... and when she does, I'll share it with you). With that, she would NOT pose for a picture with us (and was quite nice and funny about it). However, we managed to snag a shot of her taking her varied snapshots of different people who just had to come by and say HI. I've had the chance to interview Ms. Tyson a time or two (and she remembered our special moments together). It was great to be in her presence one more time.
One final note: I mentioned that my Morehouse brother Michael K. Watts and I are co-producing the “Hall of Fame” Awards luncheon for the National Association of Black Journalists (www.nabj.org), which gathers in Chicago in July. One thing we produce every year is a Memorial Video that looks at all the Black journalists who have died since our last convention. Our first openly gay NABJ President Tom Morgan is in that number. I wrote about him during the Christmas holidays. (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/1/2/dear-god-im-here-im-here.html). Also, a dear friend and fellow NABJ-er Pat Tobin recently passed away and will be missed by many (and me). And just this week, my NABJ Arts & Entertainment Task Force co-chair Greg Dunmore called with the news that a mutual friend of ours K. Maurice Jones passed away. He was an Editor-in-Chief of “Ebony Man” (many years ago) as well as Scholastic Magazine (www.scholastic.com). As his brother reached out to provide us with a picture, I shared the following with him:
Please receive and extend my sympathy to your family. I knew Maurice (or K. Maurice - as I called him). In 1995, in fact, he even asked me to speak to his students at Scholastic (I got to take my visiting father and nephew, who was 5 years old at the time. They were here - along with my Atlanta-based sister - for a week from Savannah, Georgia). Before arriving that day, I thought it was just a career-day-speech I'd be doing. But Maurice designed such a special program and had every step of the agenda so well-appointed that he (who'd given me permission to bring my father and nephew) had gifts (for my father and my nephew) and messages (for my young audience) around fathers, sons, generations, and the importance of communication amongst black men, etc. My father was honored to be there. My nephew, though 5-years-old, remembers that special moment that wouldn't have been without Maurice's thoughtfulness. In fact, my nephew (now 19) is a junior at my alma mater Morehouse and again staying with me (and my partner Anthony) in New Jersey as he interns at HBO for the summer. As I write this (and share the news of Maurice's passing with him), he reminds me that one of the gifts Maurice gave him was a series of 'Goosebumps' books - his first time reading them, but not his last. After he finished those four he was given in Maurice's gift basket, he says he went on to buy more upon his return to Savannah (until he had read each and everyone in the “Goosebumps” series). So, much of my nephew's love of reading and focus on education can too be attributed to Maurice. That's a legacy piece that can't be underestimated and supports the reality and hopefully comforting thought that K. Maurice’s influence on many lives - young and old - will live on.
Patrick L. Riley
LOVE ONE ANOTHER OUT THERE, FOLKS! AND REMEMBER TO CALL JOY FORTH AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. AND MAKE EVERY MOMENT COUNT... TODAY. TOMORROW IS NOT PROMISED!
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