Friday, December 29, 2017



Note: Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Secret Police Ritual

For those of us outside of law enforcement, there are police rituals known only to cops. One of them is the K party, mentioned in Michael Connelly's crime novel, The Late Show (Little, Brown and Co., 2017), featuring Renee Ballard, a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. (The book is a page-turner.)

What is a K party, you ask? It stands for kill party. Connelly describes it this way: "It had once been a secret tradition for officers to gather and drink after one of them had killed someone. It was a way of releasing the tension of a life-and-death encounter."

Connelly probably learned of this "secret tradition" of the LAPD during his time as a newspaper reporter.

It's not far-fetched to assume that such a ritual still exists in the LAPD and other big-city police departments. I'm sure it would be almost impossible to get a police officer today to admit to its existence or their participation in one, fearing the reaction of the public as well as elected officials.

It's also not far-fetched to assume that tensions between the police and the black community being what they are, for the members of that community to say that the "K" in K party stood for the Klan, as in the Ku Klux Klan.

A postscript: The late show referred to in the book's title is presumably what the LAPD in real life call the 11 pm to 7 am shift.

Thursday, December 21, 2017



Note: Today is the first day of winter, my least favorite season. Let's hope spring comes quickly.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Denzel Washington Should Portray The Black Shakespearean Actor Ira Aldridge

The one screen role I would like to see Denzel Washington tackle before he gets too old to do it is the portrayal of the 19th-century African-American Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge (1807-1867), who performed on American and English stages.

After seeing Washington in the film version of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Kenneth Branagh (1993), I am convinced he is more than capable of bringing to life Aldridge and Aldridge's portrayal of Othello and other characters.

There is no doubt in my mind that Washington would deliver a tour de force performance worthy of an Oscar--an actor exploring the life and work of another actor.

This could be a film, like Hidden Figures, that would enlighten audiences about a historical figure they know little or nothing about.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Return Of "The Twilight Zone"

An update of the iconic sc-fi anthology series The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) will be available for viewers via the CBS Access streaming service, according to Browbeat, Slate's cultural blog. It will be executive produced by Jordan Peele, the director of the hit movie, Get Out. (At this writing I have not seen the movie yet.)

"Peele will be a great fit for a show that blends sci-fi and social commentary," wrote Marissa Martinelli on the blog.

I hope the reboot will be far superior to past Twilight Zone reboots that weren't as good as the original series created by Rod Serling, who wrote most of  the show's scripts.

One suggestion: There is a young African-American writer of  several horror/fantasy books named Brandon Massey, who lives in Georgia. When I was given his book, The Other Brother, to proofread I thought it was another badly written urban-lit book. I was taken by surprise by the quality of the writing as well as the fact that it was in the horror/fantasy genre. I admit that I have not read Mr. Massey's other books but I am looking forward to doing so. In the meantime, I hope Mr. Massey is considered for a writing job on the Twilight Zone reboot.

Saturday, December 9, 2017



Note: Tomorrow is Human Rights Day.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Saturday, December 2, 2017





Note: December 18 will mark the ninth anniversary of this blog. I'm looking forward to posting new content in the new year.

Thursday, November 30, 2017



Note: Tomorrow is World AIDS Day.

Friday, November 24, 2017

On Screen, Langston Hughes And His Boyfriend

About fifteen minutes into the biopic, Marshall, there is a remarkable scene that takes place inside Minton's Playhouse, the famous Harlem jazz venue. NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) is seated at a table with his former Lincoln University classmate Langston Hughes and Hughes's male companion who is identified in the end credits as "Langston's boyfriend." The body language of Hughes and the boyfriend telegraphs to the audience their gayness.

Jussie Smollett of the TV series, Empire, is convincingly cast as the young Hughes. (Smollett is an openly gay man.)

The only person I can recall unequivocally outing Hughes as a gay man was Faith Berry in her book, Langston Hughes, Before and Beyond Harlem (Lawrence Hill & Co., 1983). Isaac Julien in his film, Looking for Langston, only hinted at Hughes being gay.

If there is a biopic about Langston Hughes in the works, especially about his early years, I hope Smollett gets picked to play the role.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Spike Lee's Film Debut Cast, Where Are They Now?

There's been a lot of hoopla in the press about Spike Lee turning his 1986 debut film, She's Gotta Have It, into an updated, half-hour, ten-episode television series. (The show premieres on Netflix on Thanksgiving Day.)

We all know what became of Spike Lee, who played Mars Blackmon, one of Nola Darling's three boyfriends. But what about Lee's three co-stars--Tracy Camilla Johns (Nola), Tommy Redmond Hicks (Jamie), and John Canada Terrell (Greer)? Where are they today and what are they doing?

Since they helped make She's Gotta Have It a cinema classic, they deserve some attention, too. Maybe not as much as the actors who have taken over their roles for the upcoming series, but at least tell us what's happened to them over the past three decades.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Cherokee Bill, Wild West Outlaw

The first time I learned of the outlaw Cherokee Bill was in The Adventures of the Negro Cowboys by Philip Durham and Everett L. Jones (Bantam Books). The paperback edition was published in 1969.

Years later while watching on DVD an episode from Season Five (1961-1962) of  Have Gun Will Travel, Cherokee Bill's name was mentioned among the names of other outlaws by a character speaking to Paladin (played by Richard Boone). I replayed that part of the episode to confirm what I thought I heard. No further information about him was offered.

According to Durham and Jones, Cherokee Bill (1876-1896) "was part Indian, part Negro" and was "an outlaw who fascinated women, murdered countless men for fun and profit, and died on the gallows only a month after his twentieth birthday."

His criminality terrified the Indian Territory, today known as the state of Oklahoma.

Surprisingly, no one, as far as I know, has made a movie or a miniseries about him.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Meditation On Black Male Sexuality

Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America by Scott Poulson-Bryant, Doubleday, 224 pages, illustrated.

"Hangature" is a new word that you'll learn from Scott Poulson-Bryant's second book, Hung: A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America. It's one of those words you know only a gay man could have coined. (Actually, Poulson-Bryant admits to having learned it from a friend, "a self-described 'dick connoisseur.'") The author defines it as "the amount of ability a dick had to hang." In other words, it's all about the size. For men, playing "[t]he penis-size  game" transforms the penis into "a measuring stick of self-worth, of capabilities and fallibilities, of winning and losing."

Put in that context, the penis symbolizes masculine power in all  its manifestations--social, political, economic, physical, and of course, sexual. And since men for the most part have dominated the world, they get to conquer lands and people, build empires, construct the biggest and tallest skyscrapers (the ultimate phallic symbols), and make the rules. Those men who don't measure up are considered weak and get trampled upon and marginalized.

Even in the 21st century, things haven't changed all that much when it comes to the penis's symbolic power in the minds of men. And the black penis in particular: throughout Poulson-Bryant's travels and life experiences, he's noticed that "a  black man's dick is something the whole world finds interesting." Using historical and cultural examples as well as personal anecdotes (his nickname at Brown University was "Scott-Pulsing Giant" because he wrote a homoerotic tell-all article for a campus magazine about himself and others called "The Big Phallacy" that dealt with penis size), he examines the preconceptions and myths about the "big dick-ness" of black males.

He traces the roots of these myths to the colonial days of the United States when the enslaved black man was "considered a cultural savage, a religious heathen, and a  social inferior." The inferiority of the black male was of course constructed as a way to justify the slave system, while the notion that the black man had a "desire to conquer pristine Southern white womanhood" was concocted to ease the guilty consciences of white slave masters who routinely forced themselves on their female slaves. In their minds, the black man, out of revenge, would do the same thing to white women if given half a chance. So the myth of "big dick-ness" was invented to control the sexuality of the black male by casting him as a "sexual terrorist" or a sexual Svengali, and by putting him in league with Satan himself. (It was the "strange fruit" that Billie Holiday would later sing about--hanging from a  Southern tree.)

Poulson-Bryant, an openly gay pop-culture journalist who's written for the Village Voice, Essence, and The New York Times, and is the senior editor of America magazine, discusses the black penis from a variety of vantage points, including the film and porn industries and the hypermasculine hip-hop culture. Many of his chapters have titles that include a double entendre, such as "How's It Hanging in Hollywood?," "The Long  and the Short of It," and  "That's the Way the Balls Bounce."

Hung is a treatise not only on the black penis and black male sexual prowess and self-image, but also on how black men in America measure up when it comes to political, economic, and cultural power in a white-dominated society. Clearly, there are elements of both fear and envy in this comparison. The big black dick is an invention of white men, writes Poulson-Bryant. "How awful it must be to have invented the big black dick, then to have to spend so much time ensuring that it doesn't overshadow one's own sense of self-worth, that it doesn't somehow destroy your own stature." Although there are black men who proudly embrace the stereotype and unconsciously aid in their own oppression, there are others, like Poulson-Bryant's friend Simon, a successful Wall Street professional, who sees his ten-inch penis as a burden. "As hung as he is, he feels un-hung when it becomes the center of his definition as a man."

Gay men, like their straight counterparts, have been influenced by the myth of the big black dick. Unfortunately, there aren't all that many stories about gay men included here, despite the presence of the "homothug" in hip-hop culture, defined as "the gay or bisexual black dude who has no problem reconciling his homo-ness with his hip-hop-ness." Another disappointment is the chapter on the porn industry, "Pass the Remote," which includes no discussion of its gay and bisexual branches, where the myth of the big black dick also reigns supreme.

Despite these shortcomings, Hung, a small book about a very complex subject, succeeds in covering its topic as well as offering insightful commentary on the arduous journey over the "hills and valleys" of the American cultural and psychological landscape that black men have had to negotiate for the last 400 years. All of this is done in an entertaining, humorous, and forthright manner.

This article was originally published in the Gay & Lesbian Review, January/February 2006.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Show The Trailer First, Then The Movie

Last week (November 10), I saw Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 thriller, Rear Window, at Film Forum, the repertory theatre in Lower Manhattan. I've seen the movie many times on videocassette and DVD, probably on broadcast TV, too. But never on the big screen. It is one of the movies I never get tired of watching. As I sat there, I was trying to imagine what it must have been like in 1954 seeing Rear Window for the first time with an audience.

One thing I wish the programmer at Film Forum had thought to do was have the movie's trailer precede the screening to heighten the audience's anticipation.

Incidentally, my friend Velma's former Morningside Heights apartment resembles the James Stewart character's apartment. I could look across the courtyard and see through the windows of the neighboring apartments. Whenever I visited her, Rear Window would come to mind.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Saturday, November 4, 2017



New content on the way.



Saturday, October 28, 2017



Happy Halloween, everyone!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Gay History Website

I just learned today of a website via 1010 WINS, an all-news radio station in New York. The website is called Actually, it's a podcast of past interviews with gay and lesbian luminaries such as educator and activist Joyce Hunter. The interviews are from historian Eric Marcus's archives. I intend to visit it frequently.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

There Are No LGBT Programs On National Public Radio

William F. B. O'Reilly, a consultant for Republicans and a newspaper columnist, stated in his column (published in amNew York, the free daily newspaper, on April 6, 2017) that "National Public Radio [is] home to New York's liberal intelligentsia." If National Public Radio (also known as NPR) is so liberal or progressive, why isn't there a weekly one-hour national and international news and public affairs program dealing with LGBT issues, events, and personalities? If I'm mistaken, and such a program exists, I would like for someone to let me know. I would love to tune in. WBAI, the listener-supported, and progressive, Pacifica station in New York, has a weekly show called Out FM that has been on the air for several years.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Monday, October 2, 2017

Remembering Claus Ogerman

In 2015, the Newark, New Jersey-based public radio station WBGO Jazz 88 announced that the  German-born conductor/arranger/composer Claus Ogerman had turned 85 years old. My introduction to him was via two George Benson albums he arranged and conducted in the late 1970s, Breezin' and Inflight. I later bought an album he recorded called Gate of Dreams at the now-defunct Colony record store in Midtown Manhattan. I thank Kevin Jeff and his Jubilation! Dance Company for inspiring me to seek out the vinyl LP. Jeff used one of the recording's tracks for a dance work he choreographed. The music was so beautiful and moving that I had to buy the album.

I learned  recently via Wikipedia that Ogerman died in March of 2016.



Thursday, September 28, 2017



Note: Banned Books Week extends from September 24 to September 30.

Thursday, September 21, 2017



RIP The Village Voice (print edition). I will post a reminiscence of my time there as a proofreader in the 1980s.



Note: According to my 2017 Amnesty International calendar, today is the International Day of Peace.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Saturday, September 16, 2017



Note: Tomorrow is the annual African-American Day Parade in Harlem. Let's hope the weather will cooperate so everyone will have a pleasant and dry time.

Monday, September 11, 2017



Note: Today we remember the victims of the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Friday, September 8, 2017



Note: Today is International Literacy Day.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Putting LGBT Harlem On The Map

The Sunday New York Times's Travel section for June 1, 2014 devoted several pages to LGBT travel. The one bit of information that especially caught my attention was that Fun Maps, a Maplewood, New Jersey-based company, was planning to publish a Harlem map, pinpointing all of the community's gay venues. As a longtime Harlem resident, I was delighted to learn about Fun Map's plan. The map would be similar to the company's other gay-oriented maps that focused on cities like San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Toronto. Fun Map's slogan on its maps was "30 years mapping the gay and lesbian world." The Harlem map was scheduled for publication in the summer of 2014.

Not long after, the Fun Maps of various cities were no longer available at the places where I would pick them up--the Gay Community Center in Greenwich Village, Les Hommes bookstore on the Upper West Side of  Manhattan, and the Suite, a bar also on the Upper West Side.

I learned later, via the Internet, that Fun Maps was no longer in business. The phone number printed on the maps was out of service.

It's too bad that Fun Maps didn't do the Harlem map before its demise. It would now be a collector's item.

Maybe Harlem Pride,the seven-year-old LGBT organization, would be interested in undertaking such a worthwhile and important project.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Book On The Making of "Thelma & Louise"

I enjoy reading books that take the reader behind the scenes of classic Hollywood movies, especially movies I have seen and thoroughly enjoyed. So far I have read books on the making of Network, Rebel Without a Cause, Psycho, and Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Now, according to Entertainment Weekly magazine (July 7, 2017), a book about the making of the 1991 classic Thelma & Louise has been published. The book, by Becky Aikman, is called Off the Cliff. Anyone who has seen the movie knows the significance of the title. Unfortunately, the title and the front cover photograph are spoilers.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading it.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Hollywood Dream Job

How would you like this as a dream job: scrapbooker for a Hollywood celebrity?

According to the August 14, 2006 issue of Time magazine, action-movie actor Bruce Willis "hired a childhood friend to be his personal scrapbooker," a job that involved "organizing treasured photos, videos and memorabilia in exchange for free room and board" at the actor's home in Los Angeles. A good deal, right?

Here's the unfortunate part. Willis ended up suing his childhood friend, also named Bruce, reported Time, "for $1 million."

Why? Because his friend, continued the magazine,"threatened to sell Willis' personal effects and write a tell-all book...unless Willis paid him $100,000 and bought him a car." A great show of gratitude and friendship, right?

It would be interesting to learn, eleven years later, the outcome of Bruce Willis's lawsuit. And whether or not he hired someone else for the scrapbooker job. He might have decided to do the scrapbooking himself or hire a family member.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Unusual Names

I have worked as a phone interviewer for a national public opinion research firm in New York for nearly seven years. And during that time I have come across very unusual names that have appeared on the computer screen such as Pansy Nettles, Tyrell Thrower, Sunshine Brown, Sylvia Tickles, Anthony Amen, Michelle Cheese, Cha Cha Bryson, and William True.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Saturday, August 5, 2017



A Bad Movie's Tell-Tale Sign

You can usually tell that a movie is a real turkey when print ads quote critics you've never heard of representing publications you've never heard of.

Monday, July 31, 2017



Note: Keep enjoying summer while it lasts. Old Man Winter is eagerly waiting to make his reappearance.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Harlem, Then And Now

Speakeasies, drag balls, the Cotton Club, literary salons, Alexander Gumby's bookstore, hot jazz. All of these activities and venues and much, much more were a significant part of Harlem's social scene in the 1920s. This historical period is now known as the Harlem Renaissance.

The Harlem Renaissance, or the Harlem Awakening, as one scholar in Negro Digest magazine preferred to call it, was an intellectual and cultural movement--involving literature, art, music, and the theatre--out of which emerged such notables as writers Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen, and Claude McKay; musicians Duke Ellington and Ethel Waters; and artist Aaron Douglas, to name a few.

What's happening in Harlem today has been called by real estate developers, "the second Harlem Renaissance." Actually this "second renaissance," if it can be called that, is really about real estate, gentrification, and displacement of longtime residents.

The attempt to rename Harlem by calling it SoHa (an acronym for South Harlem) to make it more trendy and attractive to gentrifiers is designed to erase the glorious history of an area called the Capital of Black America, an area that has contributed a lot culturally to America as well as the world. Thankfully there are those in Harlem who are rebelling against the renaming of this world-famous community.

Thursday, July 20, 2017



New content will be coming soon.

Saturday, July 15, 2017



A reminder: July is National Ice Cream Month. The third Sunday of the month is National Ice Cream Day.

Monday, July 10, 2017



I'm taking a brief break from the blog. I will be back with fresh content.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Saturday, July 1, 2017



Summer has finally arrived! Enjoy it!

Monday, June 26, 2017



I hope everyone's Pride Day was enjoyable.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday, June 17, 2017



Happy Pride Month, everyone!

Note: While spring cleaning, I found interview transcripts I did in the 1980s and 1990s. I plan to post them on this blog. So please stay tuned.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Learning About The Human Eye Via A Grammar Textbook

Recently, while browsing through an old English grammar textbook, published in 1958, and designed for ninth-grade students, I learned something very interesting about the human eye--that we actually see the world upside down.

In a ten-sentence sample essay about how the eye sees objects, sentence seven begins, "Do you know that pictures of things around you enter the eye upside down?" The next sentence explains that "Your brain reverses the images for you." I never knew that.

To verify the accuracy of that bit of information, I asked my ophthalmologist about this and he confirmed it. So it is possible to learn something about biology even from an old grammar textbook. And what I learned underscores how amazing an organ the brain is.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Searching For The Word "Upscuttle"

I recently flipped through an old, battered dictionary that I own with the express purpose of looking up the definition of  "gulag." My search was prompted by a radio interview I  had heard that detailed the brutalization of inmates by guards at an upstate New York prison.

That brought to mind the late "Grandpa" Al Lewis, a former cast member of the 1960s sitcom, The Munsters, and his comparing American prisons to gulags, or Soviet prison camps, on his weekly New York-based radio show on WBAI.

While looking up the word, I found a slip of paper tucked inside the dictionary on which I had written the word "upscuttle" and the name of the person I had heard use it, conservative talk show radio host Barry Farber. I probably heard him use the word sometime in the 1980s when he was on the air late nights on New York's WMCA. ("Upscuttle" is not a word you hear every day.) Unfortunately, I neglected to write down how he used the word in a sentence.

I searched for the word in the same battered dictionary, but I couldn't find it. Neither could I find it in five other dictionaries in my apartment, including the Canadian Oxford Dictionary and a huge dictionary that weighs almost as much as a ten-pound bag of sugar.

Here is 's definition of "upscuttle": "When everything in a given area seems to go topsy-turvy at once. A sudden capsizing of circumstances and conditions."

Thursday, June 1, 2017

What Do You Call A Massachusetts Resident?

I knew that a person from New York State is called a New Yorker, a person from California is called a Californian, and a person from Texas is called a Texan. But what do you call someone who hails from Massachusetts or Connecticut? None of my dictionaries were helpful on this particular question.

So I finally consulted the ever trusty Internet to solve this mystery and learned a new word--demonym. 

What is a demonym?  It's a word used by geographers to describe where a person comes from. The website I consulted via my cell phone listed the demonyms for all fifty states alphabetically.

I learned that a resident of Connecticut is a Connecticuter and a person from Massachusetts is a Massachusettsan. Do the people in those states know this? The next time I talk to someone from either of those states I will ask them.

Here are some other demonyms: if you are from Iowa, you are either an Iowan or an Iowegian; if you call Illinois home, you are an Illinoisan (pronounced, I assume, Ill-leh-noy-an) or an Illinian (pronounced, again I assume, Ill-len-nee-an); a resident of Maine is called a Mainer or a Maineaker
(pronounced either Main-ah-ker or May-nee-ack-er). The last one sounds a little insulting. Maineite or Mainester might be better. And if you are firmly rooted in the state of Wyoming, you are a Wyomingite.

I now know --as well as lexicographers, I hope--what to call persons living in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"Moonlight" Should Be On Broadway Or Off-Broadway,Too

Moonlight, released in 2016, and the Best-Picture Oscar winner earlier this year, is a beautifully made movie about the coming-of-age of a young black gay man living in Liberty City, Miami's inner-city area.

The movie, directed by Barry Jenkins, is based on fellow Miami native Tarell Alvin McCraney's play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. The play to date has never been produced. I hope all the accolades bestowed on Moonlight will encourage a Broadway or Off-Broadway producer to bring the movie's source to a New York stage. A radio production on NPR or a live telecast on one of the TV networks would also be worth doing. No doubt the gay community, especially the black gay community, would support these efforts.

The one thing we don't need is a Broadway musical version of the movie or the play.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Demon In Men's Minds

"We might say that we have far more to be afraid of today than the people of Salem [,Massachusetts, in the 1600s] ever dreamed of, but that would not really be true. We have exactly the same thing to be afraid of--the demon in men's minds which prompts hatred and anger and fear, an irrational demon which shows a different face to every generation, but never gives up in his fight to win over the world."--Shirley Jackson, American author (1916-1965), from Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin (Liveright/W.W. Norton, 2016).

Note: I love this quotation. It is so applicable to current events.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

When New York Rents Were Cheaper

It's hard to believe sometimes that at one time people in New York City paid, at least by today's standards, much more affordable rent. They weren't paying two-thousand or three-thousand-dollar rent to keep a roof over their heads.

In author biographies that I recently read, I learned, for example, that Shirley Jackson and her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, in October of 1943, in Greenwich Village, were paying $75 a month for a second-floor apartment.

Howard Fast, his wife, and one-year-old daughter moved into a 13-room duplex apartment on Central Park West, where the rent was $154. (Imagine that!)

Allen Ginsberg paid one-fourth of his monthly income as a newspaper copy boy (which was $120) for an apartment on the Lower East Side that he shared with fellow scribe William Burroughs. His rent payment was $30.

Robert Gottlieb , the book and magazine editor, lived on the top floor of a brownstone on St. Mark's Place, in Greenwich Village, with his wife and young son. Their monthly rent was $96.

James Baldwin, when he lived on Horatio Street, also in Greenwich Village, according to his biographer David Leeming, "paid $100 a month for three large rooms."

I'm sure that back then those rents weren't considered cheap since people didn't make as much money as they do now. But if current rents were comparable to those in the 1940s and 1950s, there would be much less homelessness in New York City.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Rod Serling's Rejected Teleplay

Rod Serling's daughter, Anne, wrote a foreword to Mark Dawidziak's Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press). It's a fascinating self-help book that reveals the life lessons to be learned in various episodes of The Twilight Zone, Serling's iconic science-fiction/fantasy television series that ran on CBS from 1959 to 1964.

Ms. Serling writes that the 1955 murder of  the Chicago teenager Emmett Till in Mississippi "profoundly affected my father." So much so that he wrote a television script called Noon on Doomsday, "his first attempt," she further writes, "to tell the story and it was turned down by the sponsors who were afraid it might offend their southern customers."

Lately there have been live telecasts on network TV of musicals such as Peter Pan and Hairspray. Wouldn't it be wonderful if one of the networks decided to air a live telecast of Rod Serling's rejected teleplay? It's probably as relevant today as it was back then.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Customer Service With Courtesy And Know-How

It's been a while since I read the late journalist Nat Hentoff's Boston Boy, a memoir of his youth, but I remember a section of the book regarding a Boston candy store where he worked. The store management required all employees to master from cover to cover the store's rule book before they could be promoted from,say, a stock person to a counter person.

I wonder sometimes how many stores today are as meticulous as that Boston candy store was about training their employees in dealing with customers (especially the difficult ones) as well as the merchandise.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Detachable Book Mark

I found a discarded copy of the April 2017 issue of the Reader's Digest. On the front cover was a detachable book mark (courtesy of Geico, the insurance company, with an ad for the company on the reverse side). The book mark listed selected stories in the issue and their page location, like "13 Things Pharmacists Won't Tell You," on page 124. I don't know if the Reader's Digest does this every month. If not, they should. It's an excellent idea because it offers a reader an alternative to dogearring a page. Other magazines of similar size should adopt this idea.

Note: Today is Earth Day and Record Store Day.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Naked Apartment Cleaning

While recently perusing an issue of the New York Blade News from the year 2000, an ad in the classified section of the now-defunct gay weekly newspaper caught my eye: "NAKED APARTMENT CLEANING." The ad went on to say, "Satisfy your voyeurism & my exhibitionism." The message was followed by a pager number.

Cleaning a stranger's apartment fully clothed is risky enough. Cleaning an apartment while nude is riskier. If the cleaner is in a room far from his clothes and other items, he would be in a very vulnerable position. What if he--I'm assuming it was a he--had to make a quick exit from the apartment in the face of danger, and had nothing on but his birthday suit?

In a team of three or four other people, he would have a better chance of avoiding trouble. I just hope that the person who placed that ad nearly 17 years ago is alive and well and earning a living doing something less risky.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Letter To A Book Editor

The following letter, dated July 13, 2015, was sent to Jennifer Brehl, an editor at HarperCollins. She replaced Charlotte Abbott, the editor who acquired Fighting Words for Avon Books in 1997. Fighting Words is an anthology of essays by black gay men that I edited. It was published in 1999. At the time of the acquisition,  Avon Books was owned by the Hearst Corporation. It was later sold to HarperCollins, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

Jennifer Brehl, Editor
HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway
New York, NY 10007

Dear Jennifer:

On January 9, 2015, you left me a voice mail message in which you stated that the outline I submitted for a book about the gay and lesbian aspect of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s was turned down. The reasons given were that the sales for Fighting Words "were not as robust as we'd like to see" and that the outline was "not right for William Morrow [a HarperCollins imprint] at this time.We're not doing as much of that type of nonfiction paperback original."

I want to point out that despite Fighting Words's lack of "robust sales," it has been cited in the endnotes of other books. In fact, the late author E. Lynn Harris included Donald K. Jackson's essay, "The Letter," in the anthology he edited called Freedom in This Village.

Also, the Copyright Clearance Center has sent me requests from professors at such places as Dartmouth for permission to make copies of essays from the book for distribution and use in their classrooms.

Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD) not too long ago had an exhibition at the Schomburg Center in Harlem to commemorate the 20th or 25th anniversary of the organization. I was very pleased to see a copy of Fighting Words in a display case featuring other books with a GMAD connection. A few GMAD members, among them Robert E. Penn and Kevin McGruder, were contributors to my anthology.

So you see, even though Fighting Words was not a big seller, it has made an impact in other ways.

Sincerely yours,
Charles Michael Smith

Note: I neglected to mention in the letter that Fighting Words was one of the nominees for the 1999 Lambda Literary Award in the Anthologies/Nonfiction category.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Is There A Trump Sitcom In Our Future?

Entertainment Weekly's April 7/14, 2017 Double Issue is devoted to "Hollywood's Greatest Untold Stories," from the 1970s to the early 2000s. (A great idea!)

One of the stories is about the 1990 British sitcom Heil Honey, I'm Home! that was canceled after one episode. It became "the most controversial TV show ever" because it depicted Adolf Hitler and his wife living next door to a Jewish couple named the Goldensteins.

Geoff Atkinson, its creator, told EW that "I've never felt embarrassed by it, because I know the motives were good. If we were trying to make fun of the Holocaust, we'd deserve [the hate].I never felt we were trying to belittle that at all. But to not get it right, that was frustrating. It was fun, but it came at a price, and I wish I could do it again."

Atkinson also told the magazine this: "As we speak, somebody's probably writing a Trump sitcom. I would love to write a Trump sitcom." And I would love to see a Trump sitcom on TV. Maybe with Alec Baldwin as Trump. It would help us all get through the next four years. No doubt Trump would tweet up a storm complaining about it.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Friday, March 24, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017



Spring is here! Spring is here! Spring is here! Finally! So long, winter!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Saturday, March 11, 2017

In Ben Carson's Mind, African Slaves Were Immigrants

Ben Carson, the new secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Trump administration, may need to bone up on American history, especially that part dealing with slavery.

Carson told a roomful of federal employees, presumably all of them employed at HUD, that "There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they, too, had a dream that one day their" descendants "might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land."

A Washington Post report, published in the daily free paper amNew York (March 7, 2017) noted that his comments provoked "an uproar on social media."

It seems that Carson is unaware that an immigrant is someone who chooses to leave one country to settle somewhere else.The African slaves who were brought to America didn't have that option. Therefore they were not immigrants.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Saturday, March 4, 2017

James Baldwin's Former Home In Greenwich Village

Last month, I went to Film Forum to see I Am Not Your Negro, Raoul Peck's extraordinary Oscar-nominated feature-length documentary. It is based on James Baldwin's outline for a book that was never completed. The book was to be about the civil rights movement, American race relations, and the assassination of his friends, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

After seeing  I Am Not Your Negro, I went to the men's room. On my way out, I saw several pieces of film-related literature. The only exceptions were some cards distributed by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. In the center of each card was a color photograph of the bronze plaque placed by this organization on the facade of 81 Horatio Street. The plaque commemorates James Baldwin, who lived in the building from 1958 to 1961.

One of Baldwin's biographers, W.J. Weatherby, mentioned this residence in the biography and wrote that "Baldwin's apartment was two flights up in a rather drab building." Despite the building's drabness, this was one of the places where he wrote the novel, Another Country, published in 1962.

This townhouse, noted the card, "is a touchstone to Greenwich Village's history as an artist incubator, a progressive refuge, and an inclusive haven."

There is a Google map on the reverse side that has a long red line that extends from Film Forum's location on Houston Street to the Horatio Street building."Visit today," encouraged the historic preservation society via the message on the card, "and pay your respects to one of the Village's greatest and most influential residents." (

I haven't visited the site yet, but I intend to when the weather gets warmer.

Friday, March 3, 2017



March is Women's History Month!


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Writer Jamaica Kincaid Wins A Prestigious Israeli Award

The Forward, a New York-based weekly Jewish affairs newspaper, reported in the February 24, 2017 issue that Jamaica Kincaid, a New Yorker magazine staff writer and the author of several novels such as Annie John and a short-story collection called At the Bottom of the River, won the Dan David Prize, "a prestigious Israeli prize in recognition of her cultural impact and literary accomplishment."

Kincaid, born in 1949, on the tiny Caribbean island of Antigua, has written novels, noted the Forward, that "touch on [the] themes of colonialism, blackness, womanhood, depression and displacement."

She converted to Judaism following her marriage to composer and pianist Allen Shawn, a son of William Shawn, the late editor of The New Yorker. They are now divorced.

Kincaid is currently a professor of African and African American studies at Harvard University.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Movie Studio Grows In The South Bronx

On December 27, 2012, I posted on this blog an unpublished letter-to-the-editor that I wrote in July 1977 in which I suggested that the abandoned buildings in the South Bronx be torn down and replaced by "a huge television and motion picture sound stage."

Forty years later, that sound stage in the South Bronx has come into existence and is called Silvercup Studios North.

My suggestion was way ahead of its time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Turning Church Property Into Condos

According to the New York Daily News (February 4, 2017), two churches in Harlem that merged  years ago--Mount Calvary United Methodist Church and St. Mark's Methodist Church--sold Mount Calvary's former (and now rarely used) worship site to a developer for the hefty sum of $7.5 million.

Pastor John Carrington stated in the paper that selling the building, located at Edgecombe Avenue and 140th Street, "enables the church to have money to do more service for the community, as well as for itself."

Here's the problem: the developer plans to turn the church building into condos instead of affordable housing, something urgently needed in Harlem, which is becoming more and more gentrified.

The pastor may want to use the money "to do more service for the community," but if all the churches in Harlem sold their properties to developers, there won't be a community for them to serve.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Federal Troops In Chicago Won't Solve Social Problems

President Donald Trump said that he would send federal troops to Chicago if the murder rate there kept increasing. The truth is the National Guard can only do so much to quell urban violence. The social ills in the black community of Chicago are so deep-seated and have existed for so long that a law-and-order approach can only have limited results. The presence of federal troops might even exacerbate the situation. It will take a slew of people--social workers, religious and civic leaders, psychologists, educators, corporate leaders, and others--to deal with the underlying causes of violence in Chicago and anywhere else. These problems did not occur overnight and they won't be eradicated overnight. To expect a law-and-order solution to be a quick fix is to be living in a fantasy world.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Should "Hidden Figures" Be Turned Into A Broadway Musical?

 It came as no surprise when I read via the Los Angeles Times website (January 24, 2017) that Allison Schroeder, the co-screenwriter of Hidden Figures, is "eager to turn [the film] into a musical." Something told me that would be the next version presented to the public.

 I can see the film as a stage play or as a graphic book. But as a story told through singing and dancing, that's hard for me to picture. To me that would degrade and trivialize the monumental achievements and sacrifices of the African American female mathematicians who worked at NASA.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Celebrate Black History Month!

Today is the beginning of Black History Month. Celebrate black achievement in America and throughout the world via books, films, lectures, etc.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

John Legend And A Racist Paparazzo

Gossip columnist Rachael Clemmons reported in "The Word" (Metro New York, January 24, 2017) that recently singer John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen were approached at JFK airport in New York by "a bonehead paparazzo" [Clemmons's description] who made a racist comment about Legend that Teigen later discussed on Twitter. The paparazzo said to her, "If we evolved from monkeys, why is John Legend still around?"

If that had been said to, say, Spike Lee, no doubt Lee would have gone ballistic. But Legend, being very gracious, told Variety that "I'm not hurt by someone saying that to me because I'm smarter, I'm stronger."

I wish Legend had said something like this to the paparazzo: "I have evolved. Unfortunately, it's primitive people like you who haven't evolved. Otherwise such a stupid, backward, and unnecessary comment like the one you just made wouldn't have come out of your mouth."

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Better Word For Suicide Due To Bullying Is Needed

Whenever I hear or see the word "bullycide," the image that comes to mind is someone killing his or her tormentor, not someone killing themselves because they were bullied. I wish someone would come up with a more precise term for suicides caused by bullying. "Bullycide" is not it.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The "Hidden Figures" Book Proposal

Entertainment Weekly (December 30, 2016/January 6, 2017 Double Issue) reports that Margot Lee Shetterly, the author of the New York Times Bestseller Hidden Figures, a non-fiction book about four black female NASA mathematicians, wrote a "55-page book proposal for Figures [that] eventually made the rounds in Hollywood and caught the attention of [film director Theodore] Melfi."

I'm sure there are budding writers and a few long-time pros who would love to see Ms. Shetterly's book proposal in print so they can study it and learn how to write a winning proposal that lures literary agents, book editors, and possibly Hollywood directors.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Cleve Jones's Former Roommate

When I read gay activist Cleve Jones's riveting memoir,When We Rise: My Life in the Movement, I was surprised to learn that he and historian Eric Garber were roommates in San Francisco at one time.

In 1982, at New York's Hunter College, I attended Garber's slide lecture on the gay and lesbian aspect of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. I later interviewed him for the New York Native, the now-defunct gay weekly newspaper.

Garber's research inspired me to do further reading on the gays and lesbians of the Harlem Renaissance like the artist/poet/novelist Richard Bruce Nugent, who I wrote about for Joseph Beam's 1986 anthology, In the Life.

Note: See my 1983 New York City News interview with Eric Garber that I posted on this blog on April 20, 2013.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Chris Brown And Souljah Boy, Two Palookas

It was reported by Rachael Clemmons in her gossip column "The Word"(Metro New York, January 11, 2017) via the website TMZ that rappers Chris Brown and Soulja Boy dislike each other so much that they have decided to "duke it out" in a boxing ring in Dubai. "Chris Brown is being trained by Mike Tyson," writes Clemmons,"while Soulja Boy is being trained by Floyd Mayweather."

Could it be that the two rappers--described by Clemmons as"man-children" --have record sales that are so low and have a craving for attention that is so high that they need to challenge each other in the ring in order to fill up their bank accounts?

Since both rappers like to post full-frontal nude selfies of themselves on the Internet, maybe they can boost ticket sales by boxing in their birthday suits.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Hidden Figures," The Movie

Last night I saw Hidden Figures (twice). This excellent film focuses on three African-American women who worked at NASA in the early 1960s and whose extraordinary math skills helped launch astronaut John Glenn into space aboard Friendship 7.

I have the book by Margot Lee Shetterly on which the movie was based and I plan to read it very soon.

I hope to obtain the DVD of the movie when it becomes available. I'm sure bootleg copies are already on the street. But I'll wait for the official version with all of the features that are sure to come with it: commentary by the director, screenwriter, and actors, a documentary about African-Americans at NASA (with an on-screen interview with the book's author), etc.

No One Can Be Food-Deaf

Book and magazine editor Robert Gottlieb in his memoir, Avid Reader: A Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016), described his lack of culinary skills this way: "...I can't do more in the kitchen than boil an egg, and am generally considered food-deaf."

The term "food-deaf "is an inaccurate description. A person can be tone-deaf because that refers to sound. But a person can't be food-deaf because one doesn't listen to food as its being prepared in the kitchen. The terms that are more accurate, although imperfect, would be food klutz and cooking inept.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017



Happy New Year, everyone! I hope this will be a healthy, happy, and prosperous year for all of us.