Monday, June 29, 2015

Rescuing More Books Found On The Street

This past Saturday I found several books that someone threw out. They probably were moving and had to get rid of them. The books were in a pile at the curb on 113th Street near 8th Avenue. I couldn't take them all (I already have a lot of books in my apartment) and only took the ones for which I had a particular interest. The  books I took home were Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization: Volume 1: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985 by Martin Bernal (Rutgers University Press, 1987); The Best American Non-Required Reading 2003, edited by Dave Eggers (Houghton Mifflin, 2003); and Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York by Luc Sante (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, paperback edition, 2003). Since I have an interest in New York history, the  latter book really caught my attention.

It's a good thing I rescued these books when I did because later there was heavy rainfall.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Humphrey Bogart's F.Y. Fund

In 1934, Humphrey Bogart starred on Broadway as a gangster in Robert Sherwood's The Petrified Forest. The play (later to become a movie also starring Bogart) was so successful, it allowed Bogart to put aside some money in what he called the F.Y. fund. (The F.Y. no doubt stood for Fuck You.) The F.Y. fund, writes Stefan Kanfer in Tough Without a Gun: The Life and Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart (Vintage Books/Random House, 2011), was "money that would give him the freedom to spurn trivial roles from now on."

We should all follow Bogart's example and establish a F.Y. fund. It would be the perfect safety net.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Jury Fraud, A Threat or Not?

Cornelia "Libby" Winslow is a novelist and the protagonist in Laura Van Wormer's 1995 novel, Jury Duty (Crown Publishing). Libby is also juror number three and brings up an issue that has never crossed my mind and, unlike jury tampering, never gets reported on in the news--jury fraud.

After recently serving two days as a potential juror, her thoughts struck a chord with me: "Not once in this entire process had anyone ever asked her for an ID. For all they knew, Cornelia Winslow could have paid someone to show up at jury duty for her. Then she wondered what would happen if someone was found not guilty in a trial, only to find out later that one of the jurors had been an impostor. What happened then?"

At a time when many state and congressional legislators are clamoring about voter fraud and advocating that voters show photo ID before they are allowed to vote, this particular issue doesn't seem to be of any concern to them.

It would be interesting to learn if jury fraud has ever happened in the history of American jurisprudence. And if so, what were the consequences?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Letter Of Recommendation

The following is a letter of recommendation that I wrote in 1995 regarding the Oakland, California-based writer Kheven LaGrone when he was applying for the graduate program at Emerson College in Boston.

Dear Applicant Reviewer:

I am the editor of an essay anthology Words of Fire [later renamed Fighting Words] to which Kheven Lee LaGrone is a contributor. His essay, "Beneath the Veneer," which explores the issues of sexual and racial identity, is  a combination of Mr. LaGrone's experiences and readings. It exhibits his ability to deal with complex ideas and understand how they interconnect with other ideas and issues.

His essay will be one of the highlights of the book because it holds no punches as it sheds light on its subject.

I originally saw this article in an issue of SBC, a Los Angeles-based magazine, about three years ao. The issues discussed stayed with me. I would love to see this essay made into a good, controversial short subject film about sexual and racial identity.

I have had the opportunity to read other pieces by him and see the great promise he has as a media professional. Mr. LaGrone's writings reveal someone who has great potential as a hard-hitting journalist and as a profound thinker. We need more like him who can go beneath the surface of current events.

I believe Mr. LaGrone will be an asset to your graduate program in particular and mass media in general.

Sincerely yours,
Charles Michael Smith

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bill Clinton, Gentrifier?

In Edward Klein's riveting nonfiction book, The Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas (Regnery Publishing, 2014), he wrote that when Obama campaign advisors David Axelrod and Jim Messina visited Clinton's Harlem office to get his support in reelecting Obama, Clinton "pointed out that Harlem had experienced a renaissance since he moved his post-presidential office there, and that he was largely responsible for Harlem's revived economy and gentrification."

The truth of the matter is that gentrification in Harlem was happening long before Clinton set foot there or in the White House.

New York magazine, in its July 23, 1979 issue, ran a story by James Mannion called "Who Will Inhabit Harlem?" The article stated that "as middle-class blacks have come to Harlem, so too have whites. Bankers and realtors report that over the past three years, young white families have begun buying homes in Harlem."

Furthermore, "Harlemites are asking themselves how many more whites are going to move in and what that will mean for the most visible black community in America."

For Bill Clinton to puff out his chest and claim that his presence in Harlem brought about its economic prosperity and gentrification is nothing more than hubris.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Police Officer Under Stress

Naked City, a one-hour New York-based police drama that aired on ABC (1960-1963), had an episode that I haven't seen in years but is still very memorable. The episode, "Today the Man Who Kills Ants Is Coming," aired March 7, 1962, and guest starred John Larch as a uniformed police officer whose mind snaps after a button on his uniform coat pops off. He later returns to the precinct house and at gunpoint takes his fellow officers hostage.

I don't know if such a thing has ever happened or could ever happen but that episode underscored the tremendous stress members of law enforcement endure daily and showed how it might make them act in an irrational way.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Somali Food Comes To Harlem

A new Somali restaurant recently opened in Harlem. Safari, which is family-owned, is the only Somali restaurant in New York City, according to Adam, its manager.

I am looking forward to doing a feature story about it for this blog.

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Gay American In Paris

The format of the following script was based on CBS News' American Treasury 60-second between-daytime-program spots that were broadcast in the late 1980s. They highlighted famous American men and women and Americana.

I wrote this script and one other nearly ten years ago with the then-new gay channel LOGO in mind. I don't recall if I actually submitted  them to the cable channel. I do recall talking to someone at LOGO's California offices via phone about writing such scripts.

LOGO like CBS is owned by Viacom.

American Outlooks--Program 2
Writer: Charles M. Smith
June 18, 2005

            (CELEBRITY NAME):

             I'm______with American Outlooks. His book be-                                                                                    came the first of its kind by a black American author.
             Who he was, after this.

            (CELEBRITY NAME): CONTD:

           James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room is the story of two 
           gay lovers, one American, the other Italian, in post-war
           Paris. Baldwin was advised not to publish the ground-
           breaking novel for fear that its homosexual theme 
           would ruin his career. Baldwin ignored the advice and                                                                            the book, published in 1956, became a gay American

CLOSING LOGO: :02 SECS:                  
            Learn more about James Baldwin in your local 

Note: I had to change the formatting of the script to make it more readable on the blog.


Saturday, June 6, 2015



Rejoice! Summer, my favorite season, is almost here!

Monday, June 1, 2015