Gary Coleman Doesn’t Need Your Pity Anymore.

I don't think this is what Willis was talkin' about.

You won’t find me waxing nostalgic about Diff’rent Strokes.  Television shows about cute little Black kids who are wise beyond their years and taken in by kindly White men reek of Good Liberal Paternalism and Negro Foolishness and I give a wide berth to both.    That’s why when Gary Coleman, the 42-year-old,  4’8″ star of the show died in a Utah hospital from injures he suffered in a fall, I couldn’t figure out why so many people reacted as if it were Arnold Jackson who had just passed away.     

Why is everyone so in love with Coleman now? When he was alive it seemed he lurched  from just one hot mess after another.  To the extent anyone thought Coleman as anything but another child star who hadn’t been able to carry on that stardom as an adult, it was usually because he had gotten into trouble again.   It’s too bad the brother died so young, but this man needed the well wishes and sympathy a lot more  when he was alive than he does now that he’s dead.   

Everyone is talking about the Gary Coleman who played Arnold, the smart-mouthed little kid on a lightweight sit-com.  That was 24 years ago.  As an adult Coleman seemed stuck in one of two modes: in trouble or a sad joke.   Once upon a time he was funny.  Now he just seemed angry, unhappy and permanently pissed off.  

And boy, did he have plenty of reasons to be pissed off.     At the show’s peak he was making $100,000 an episode.    His manager and his own parents screwed him out of his Diff’rent Strokes salary and he sued them eventually being awarded $1.3. million.   He lived with continued health problems.   Coleman had two kidney transplants, first in 1973 and again in 1984.  He required daily dialysis treatments.  

His two child co-stars, Dana Plato and Todd Bridges experienced similar career meltdowns.   Bridges has battled drug addiction and his memoir, Killing Willis (nice title!) spreads the dirt around including allegations Plato gave him a blowjob when he was 12 and she was 13 and by the seventh season of  Diff’rent Strokes Coleman required the use of a walker and a hearing aid.   Plato, whose character was written out of the show when Plato became pregnant, fell hard after the show winding up posing for Playboy, making softcore sex flicks and being arrested for armed robbery.     Her short, unhappy life was over by age 34 after a drug overdose. 

Plato’s death didn’t quell Coleman’s resentment.  He remarked,  “It’s very unfortunate that Dana is no longer with us–she was a wonderful woman, but her death was a welcome, though sad piece of closure to “Diff’rent Strokes.”   “The possibility of a reunion no longer exists now, and thank God.”  Even then it was still all about Gary.  

 

The downward spiral continued in 1998  when he was charged with assault while working as a security guard and he punched a woman following an argument over an autograph.  The woman apparently mocked Coleman for his lack of post Diff’rent Strokes success.   In 2007, Coleman was cited for misdemeanor disorderly conduct following an argument with his wife, Shannon Price.   This started a cycle of troubles between the couple as in 2009 Price was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence.  Coleman appeared on a television program where he argued and cursed out with a host before walking off.  Coleman would suffer a seizure and was treated by celebrity physician, Dr. Drew Pensky who was on the set.  On January 24, 2010, Coleman was arrested on a charge of domestic violence and spent a night in jail.    

Kicking around  Coleman became something of a national joke.  In the Tony-winning musical, Avenue Q,  a character named “Gary Coleman”  is a “washed up child star” who is now a building superintendent.   The role  (which is played  by a  female actor)  features “Coleman” singing a song entitled, “It Sucks to Be Me.” 

It’s hard to think of a group child actors who grew up more miserably than the trio from Diff’rent Strokes.    Plato and Coleman are dead and for a while it looked as it Bridges was headed down the same, sad path.    If the short and largely wasted lives and early deaths of his two colleagues isn’t a cautionary tale for him, they should be for everybody else.   

 Coleman brought a lot of happiness playing the part of a precocious, cute little boy.   There wasn’t much left over for him as a failed and frustrated middle-aged man who outgrew his cuteness.   The outpouring of sympathy and pity for him now comes a little too late to make any difference now.  Maybe he wasn’t good enough of an actor or comedian to repeat as an adult the success he enjoyed as a child, but did that mean simple respect wasn’t in the works either? 

What killed Gary Coleman was a brain hemorrhage but he had to die inside just a bit more with each humiliation and every embarrassment.   It’s one thing to spend your life making people laugh.   It’s something else when what’s making them laugh is your life.   

Mr. Drummond, you sure did a lousy job of raising your kids.

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One Hot Mess in Paris

I see England, I see France, Venus, where's your underpants?

When Venus Williams isn’t playing tennis does she ever cross your mind?   Probably not, but she sure gave everyone something to talk about at The French Open.   Parading around in pseudo-lingerie and flesh-colored undies that show off  her butt crack is such a subtle way of saying, ‘Hey sailor!  Look at MEEEEEEE!”

Let’s not over think this.  Venus wore that outfit for one reason: to give everyone something to talk about.  Her play isn’t enough to get it done (when was the last time you saw either Venus or Serena on the cover of Sports Illustrated?), so give people an optical illusion and see what that does.

OF COURSE it looks like hell.  It’s supposed to.  But showing off your lady parts works for Lady Gaga and Erykah Badu, so why wouldn’t it work for Venus?

On a slightly unrelated subject, Christina Aguilera dropped a new video, “Not Myself Tonight” where she works really hard to shock and awe the viewer.  Too bad for her all she does is bore and annoy with some of the most obvious rip-offs of Madonna and Lady Gaga ever seen.   If you watch the video for God’s sake, turn off the sound and soak in the  Weak Sauce.   Ooh,  Mommy’s wearing bondage gear!  Mommy’s playing lezzie!  Mommy’s having an orgy’s at the church.   Mommy sit yo’ tired ass down!  My God, how many ways does this video completely blow, suck and swallow?  You’re embarrassing yourself.

I know why you’re Not Myself Tonight, Christina.  You’re trying to be Lady Gaga.  STOP TRYING!

"Madonna? Lady GaGa?" Total fakes. I'm the real deal."

Venus Williams has won 20 Grand Slam titles, seven in women’s singles, 11 in women’s doubles and two in mixed doubles.  Her 20 Grand Slams are second only to little sister Serena.    The Williams Sisters run women’s tennis.  They dominate it, but it’s not enough.   Venus and Serena don’t get the commercial endorsement, the sponsorships or the spotlight many of their White counterparts enjoy.   Why?  I don’t know, but it seems they spend a lot of time engaging in some of the most obvious and blatant self-promotion I’ve ever seen.

Christina Aquilera is in a competitive field where you’re only as hot as your last hit.  Biting off of old Madonna and young Lady Gaga videos aren’t going to help her cause.  You can never be as dirty as you want people to think you are.  You can never go as far as you want to imply you’re going to go.   When you’re playing catch-up and all you can do is imitate because you can’t innovate, you end up like Aquilera.

Venus shouldn’t have that problem.  She’s at the top of her game, unlike Christina Aquilera.  She doesn’t need to pander for attention to be paid.   When you’ve accomplished as much in your sport as she has, do you really need to flash your tits n’ ass to get some face time on ESPN?    The willingness to trade on one’s sexuality does work in the short-term.  Serena has posed in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue and posed nude for ESPN the Magazine though Playboy hasn’t come calling.   Big booty Black girls must scare Hugh Hefner.

Venus can wear whatever she wants and whatever the tennis officials will tolerate.  It could be argued she’s just a young Black woman who is supremely confident and comfortable in her skin.   She enjoys being sexy and showing her well-toned body.   I have no problem with this.

What I do have a problem is what is the message Venus thinks she’s sending?    Her skimpy outfit isn’t affecting her play one bit.  She’s worn the lace n’ lingerie gear at The French Open for two matches and won them both going away.   When asked about her eye-raising clothing Venus explained, “Lace has never been done before in tennis and I’ve been wanting to do it for a long time.  The illusion of just having bare skin is definitely for me a lot more beautiful.”

Booty–I mean beauty–is in the eye of the beholder.    The tennis court as a catwalk?  If that’s where she does her job, I guess that’s where Venus struts her stuff.

Some of us are paying attention to Venus Williams now.  For all the wrong reasons, but she got what she wanted.  I had thought one day I needed to write a blog lauding the Williams Sisters for being so great.  I never got around to writing it.  Good for you, Venus.  I’m paying attention now.   Just not for the right reason.

Media manipulation.  It’s not just for dinner anymore.

Remember kids, Crack kills.

Revisionist history rides again: Slavery wasn’t so bad.

Look at the bright side. At least there was no unemployment during slavery.

I could be blogging about the oil spill in the Gulf or the Texas Board of Education’s crazy revisionism of their history books or the president mobilizing the National Guard to protect the border between Arizona and Mexico.   Or I could be blogging about how within two days, Jack on Lost, Jack Bauer on 24 and Jack McCoy on Law and Order all went off the air and how I don’t care about any of them.

But what I’m blogging about is slavery.   Henry Louis Gates Jr., my erstwhile boss at The Root penned an essay for The New York Times explaining why the election of Barack Obama effectively voids the calls for reparations for slavery.

In David Remnick’s new book “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama,” one of the president’s former students at the University of Chicago comments on Mr. Obama’s mixed feelings about the reparations movement: “He told us what he thought about reparations. He agreed entirely with the theory of reparations. But in practice he didn’t think it was really workable.”

About the practicalities, Professor Obama may have been more right than he knew. Fortunately, in President Obama, the child of an African and an American, we finally have a leader who is uniquely positioned to bridge the great reparations divide. He is uniquely placed to publicly attribute responsibility and culpability where they truly belong, to white people and black people, on both sides of the Atlantic, complicit alike in one of the greatest evils in the history of civilization. And reaching that understanding is a vital precursor to any just and lasting agreement on the divisive issue of slavery reparations.

Thomas Sowell: 79 years of being a damn fool.

I’ve  never been a proponent for reparations.   Not that I can’t understand the rationalization for it;  this country made enormous profits from centuries of unpaid, uncompensated free labor by Black slaves.  Maybe someone should be on the hook for paying for that.

But who?  Every White slave owner and Black slave is long dead.  Do 31 million African-Americans deserve a check from Uncle Sam based on the suffering of their descendants?

For that reason and more, reparations is unworkable as a theory or program.   There is no sentiment in Congress to enact legislation authorizing the payment of reparations, most Democrats would line up with Republicans in opposition to such an idea and I seriously doubt President Obama really wants to be tagged as looking out for Blacks only by paying them off over their hurt feelings over what happened to their dead ancestors.

I’ve been engaged in a running discussion about reparations since and it doesn’t take long before things spin into a discussion about what fueled the call for reparations: the peculiar institution called slavery.   Guess what?  There are some people who don’t think it Black folks had it all that bad when they were slaves.

In the politics and current events forum of the writer’s board I follow, a discussion about Gates’ remarks prompted this remark from one Las Vegas resident:

What I am going to say next will draw great rage but I think it needs to be said – in many ways, SOME who were brought here against their will ended up a thousand times better than they were in their homeland. They no longer had to fear other tribes who raped their women, stole their goods and even killed them. They did not have to fear diseases that wiped out entire villages. They learned usable skills and many learned to read, write and generally improve their lot in life. And, if it weren’t for slaves, many things we currently take for granted would not exist. Where do you think frying came from? [not trying to be snide but to inject a bit of humor into an otherwise dark discussion]

Ha-ha.  Not funny.  Neither was my response.

Right. All they had to worry about was their women being raped by their nice White slave masters instead of those Black tribesmen. How fortunate for them.

Worry about having their goods stolen? Nothing to worry about if you’re stripped naked, chained and brought across the ocean without so much as one piece of carry-on luggage. Nothing to steal! Sweet!

Don’t have to worry about those nasty little bugs and weird diseases native to Africa because as a slave now you’re in an entire new land and exposed to nasty little bugs and weird diseases native to America that a slave would have no immunity and resistance to. Hack-hack-hack. Cough-cough. Anybody got some Robitussin?

Slaves were forbidden to learn how to read or write. It was against the law to teach them and slaves could be killed for doing so.

Useful skills? Oh yeah. Pickin’ cotton. That’s a real useful skill.


The moron who suggested slavery was the best thing that happened to Black folks until KFC created the Double Down sandwich was offended by my response,  My comments were historical – I don’t think anybody can deny what I said about slavery and its history.

You know I couldn’t let that go by.

Your comments were not historical. They were nonsensical. A hopeless drunk babbling at the end of a bar about little green men and flying saucers would make more sense.

Nobody can deny what you said about slavery and history because that would require taking it seriously. Only the most dishonest and twisted reading of what slavery was and what it did to Black people could come up with the perverse suggestion that it was somehow “good” for them.

That sort of degenerate and twisted fantasy is something David Duke might conjure up just before bedtime along with a bottle of lotion and a box of Kleenex.

Am I surprised that in 2010 there would still be some fool who thinks slavery wasn’t all bad?   Nope.  Thomas Sowell,  the favorite House Negro of conservatives recently wrote,

Just as Europeans enslaved Africans, North Africans enslaved Europeans– more Europeans than there were Africans enslaved in the United States and in the 13 colonies from which it was formed.

The treatment of white galley slaves was even worse than the treatment of black slaves picking cotton. But there are no movies or television dramas about it comparable to “Roots,” and our schools and colleges don’t pound it into the heads of students.

Got that folks?  If you think Black slaves pickin’ cotton caught hell it could have been worse.  They could have been a White guy bustin’ his hump as a galley slave.

Uncle Tom Sowell has been a ridiculous sell-out long before he started wailing about how badly White galley slaves had it.  This  is after all, the same worthless sack of shit who defended The Bell Curve which called into question the intelligence of Blacks and Sowell has previously spoken admiringly of how slavery was better for the Black family.

For 79 years now Sowell has occupied a high position on the list of damn fools who need an ass whupping, but he’s bucking for the top spot.

Reparations may be politically a non-starter, but it’s far less offensive than Whites who claim slavery wasn’t all that bad and the self-hating sellouts like Sowell who are always ready to soothe their guilty consciences.

Iron Man 2: A bigger bang, not a better movie.

"Ooh...shiny!"

 

Sequels usually have more of everything than the original.  The budget gets bigger, the stunts are  more eye-popping,  more stars sign on, and the expectations are higher than before.   Iron Man 2 has all of that and then some.   It’s just nowhere as much fun as Iron Man.    

This was supposed to be a critique, not necessarily a review of Iron Man 2 and then I realized the more I thought about the movie, the less I thought about it at all.  There’s some superb action sequences, a good Robert Downey performance, a luminescent Gwyneth Paltrow,  Mickey Rourke is menacing, but terribly underused by director Jon Favreau who seems in a hurry to move on to the next star requiring face time   “Yes, Mr. Cheadle, we’ll be shooting your scene, right after Sam One (Rockwell) and Sam Two (Jackson).”   

For the first time I finally “get” why Scarlett Johansson is considered majorly  hot.   She’s a little young as Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow, but something about her long red locks and skin-tight latex has a way making you forget about that.   Superhero movies have failed to launch with a female  lead and have been uniformly awful  (Elektra,  Catwoman, Supergirl), but I wonder if anyone at Marvel Studios has given any thought to giving Johansson a  Black Widow flick all her own.   If not,  they can feel free to give me credit for suggesting it.    

But a week after seeing it, I can barely remember anything else about Iron Man 2 besides Johansson slinking around.    Even with over two hours of running time, everything about the movie  seems stuck in one of three gears:  leisurely paced at the beginning,  slow like molasses in the middle and rushed at the end.  There’s no happy medium.   

Iron Man 2 is the first big hit of the summer movie season ($232 million as of this writing) and like most summer flicks it has Just Enough of what it takes to be a hit.  It has Just Enough sexual innuendo in the double entendres and sly exchanges between Tony Stark , Pepper Potts and Natasha Romanov (but no actual nudity or even the implied morning after sequence from Iron Man) ,   Just Enough violent action (though the climatic battle at the Stark Expo should have left at least several hundred bystanders dead, maimed and injured) and Just Enough humor to make it clear nobody is forgetting this is a think-free summer flick.    

What I didn’t like was John Debney’s generic musical score, an overstuffed story and the AC/DC oldies.   If there’s a third film it might time to swap the aging Australian rockers for something domestic like Living Colour, Metallica or Van Halen (David Lee Roth version only).    The big reveal after the end credits was totally underwhelming.   Sitting through ten minutes of closing credits to see what looked like a cheap toy hammer from the water damaged section of  Big Lots was a huge waste of time.     

"No, my name ain't 'baby.' It's 'Scarlett.' Miss Johansson, if you're nasty."

 

One of the most enjoyable things to see is a healthy Robert Downey Jr., on a movie screen.   Downey is a charismatic and personable actor who is fun to watch (though even he couldn’t keep me from snoring through Sherlock Holmes) and more than any actor since Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent/Superman, he is perfectly cast as Tony Stark.   Stark has to be a bit of  an arrogant dick here, but you can’t stay mad at Downey for long.     

Other things didn’t make much sense.  Don Cheadle is a great actor, but Iron Man 2 doesn’t need great acting.   All you have to do is stand in front of a blue screen,  be suitably convincing and wait for the fat paycheck.  Stepping into the shoes of James Rhodes,  a role vacated by Terrence Howard after a salary dispute,  put Cheadle in an impossible position.   In the first movie,  time was taken to set up Rhodes and Stark are friends.   They don’t have a single moment here that makes you think these two guys even like each other.      

So the bloom is off the rose of the “bromance” between Stark and Rhodes, but when did Rhodes learn how to use the War Machine armor?    It seems to be assumed he knows how to work the silver suit, but there’s nothing written into the script that alludes to Rhodes having any previous experience.    Driving a Ford Focus on the freeway is not the same as a Formula One racer, but not only does Rhodes seemingly know exactly what he can do as War Machine,  he can fight the far more experienced Iron Man to a draw.   That didn’t work for a lot of people I’ve talked to about the movie and it doesn’t much work for me either.   

"Your license and registration, please, Mr. Stark."

 

It might have been assumed with Ivan Drago, a.k.a. Whiplash and Natasha Romanov both being Russians there would be some link between them but not only is there not one, they don’t even have any scenes together.   The Window’s one-woman SWAT team fight scene against Justin Hammer’s security forces  is one of the high points  but it seems almost as it’s in here to give Johansson something to do besides be  eye candy.   The same goes for Paltrow for whom motherhood has given her a  glow that suits her.  I’m sure she’d like something more to do than playing the straight woman to Stark’s dry wit and hang around waiting him to save her from  yet another armored threat, but she’s probably taking home a nice check too,  so what can she really complain about?   

Favreau keeps Whiplash off-screen for too long.   One of the things that has kept Iron Man a  second-string super hero in comic books is his totally drab rogue’s gallery.  The Whiplash of the movie bears no relation to the Whiplash of the comics and that’s a blessing.   Too bad Rourke isn’t giving much to do than look mean and laugh without humor.    

Iron Man made my list of the best films of the decade, but Iron Man 2 isn’t even my favorite super hero movie of the year.   Kick-Ass was a lot more fun with a lot smaller budget, special effects and star power.   I’ll definitely add Iron Man 2  to my DVD collection but it won’t be the first one I play when I want to see an Iron Man movie.   The comparison that comes to mind is Iron Man 2 is to Iron Man what Quantum of Solace  is to Casino Royale:  watchable and entertaining in spots but mostly forgettable juxtaposed with its infinitely superior predecessor.   

A few months ago, I never would have suggested Hit-Girl would totally kick Iron Man’s armored ass up and down the block but she definitely does.   

"Pepper, there's safe sex and then there's REALLY safe sex.'

Rand Paul is Stuck in the Sixties.

"Shirt, tie, socks, shoes...what am I missing?"

If Rand Paul really wants to be the next U.S. Senator from Kentucky he can either speak only to the friendly folks at Fox News who won’t ask him any hard questions about his embarrassing views on civil rights and disabled people or he can have a nice big cup of STFU until November.   He can’t do both.

Paul, a Libertarian in Republican clothing like his father, Ron Pau,l would like to come off as just a regular guy fed up with Beltway politics, but he just can’t keep his wingnut extremism to himself.  He returned to The Rachel Maddow Show,  where he announced his candidacy,  to take a victory lap, but ended up fumbling badly as Maddow grilled him for 20 minutes on his opposition to  Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.   That’s the provision which bars private businesses from discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of race,  religion and national origin.   It’s okay with Dr. Paul if the “Whites Only” signs go back in the windows of restaurants.

The Civil Rights Act has been settled law for 46 years, but apparently for Dr. Paul (he’s a ophthalmologist) it’s still 1964.

Nobody’s even talking about his likely Democratic opponent  (Jack who?) and the only face time he’s getting is showing up on cable news shows talking about how Paul wants to repeal the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  (and maybe he does, but he can’t say he does.  Robert Bork said Brown v. Board of Education was “wrongly decided” and nobody’s seen him within sneezing distance of the Supreme Court since.

For a political neophyte, you have to hand it to Paul.  Just two days after he cruised to victory winning the Republican  U.S. Senate primary in Kentucky and he’s already  insulted African-Americans and disabled people.   What’s he going to do for an encore next week?

Paul said his victory over Mitch McConnell’s hand-picked choice was a victory for the Tea Party.  But like the Tea Party, Rand Paul seems to have a  problem.   The problem being they don’t much like black folks.

The G.O.P doesn’t much care for the Paul family, but better a Republican they can’t stand than a Democrat they might like.   The  party will pour plenty of money and support to hold the seat.    Fox will say wonderful things about Paul, Sarah Palin will show her stupid face and Michael “fried chicken and potato salad” Steele will drop by to be Rand Paul’s token colored friend.

Got a problem with this sign? Rand Paul doesn't.

Maybe what we’re not considering is how much Rand proves the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

Charles Johnson, a conservative blogger writes on his site, Little Green Footballs, “In 2004, his father Ron Paul was the only member of Congress who voted “NO” on a resolution to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.”

Here’s part of what Daddy Paul had to say.  It sounds a lot like little Randal’s rap:

Mr. Speaker, I rise to explain my objection to H.Res. 676. I certainly join my colleagues in urging Americans to celebrate the progress this country has made in race relations. However, contrary to the claims of the supporters of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the sponsors of H.Res. 676, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not improve race relations or enhance freedom. Instead, the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty; it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society. Federal bureaucrats and judges cannot read minds to see if actions are motivated by racism. Therefore, the only way the federal government could ensure an employer was not violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was to ensure that the racial composition of a business’s workforce matched the racial composition of a bureaucrat or judge’s defined body of potential employees. Thus, bureaucrats began forcing employers to hire by racial quota. Racial quotas have not contributed to racial harmony or advanced the goal of a color-blind society. Instead, these quotas encouraged racial balkanization, and fostered racial strife.

Of course, America has made great strides in race relations over the past forty years. However, this progress is due to changes in public attitudes and private efforts. Relations between the races have improved despite, not because of, the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, while I join the sponsors of H.Res. 676 in promoting racial harmony and individual liberty, the fact is the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not accomplish these goals. Instead, this law unconstitutionally expanded federal power, thus reducing liberty. Furthermore, by prompting raced-based quotas, this law undermined efforts to achieve a color-blind society and increased racial strife. Therefore, I must oppose H.Res. 676.   (July 3, 2004)

Don’t you just love these guys who take a princpled stand against discrimination by defending the right to discriminate?

"If you liked my dad's crazy ideas, you're gonna love mine.".

Hey Rand, you didn’t run looking for minority votes or liberal votes, so  if you don’t support the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 2008 Fair Housing Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act  because you believe private business should have the right to discriminate, OWN IT.

In Kentucky, the average Rand Paul supporter probably eats this shit up with a fork and knife. Rand Paul is scary. In Kentucky, a state where Blacks, Latinos and liberals are in short supply, Dr. Paul’s less-than-mainstream thinking may have little effect on his candidacy. He leads his Democratic challenger by over 20 points.

Those that love Paul aren’t going to change their minds if his views on civil rights are 46 years behind the times and those that don’t love him have even less of a reason to start now.

Arlen Specter Loses (and Obama does too).

Obama: "Arlen Specter? Never heard of him."

In the run-up to fall Congressional election, there’s no such thing as an unimportant race.   Already one Senator, Robert Bennett (R-Utah) has fallen prey to the anti-incumbent sentiments of restless voters.  Yesterday, Pennsylvania voters ended Arlen Specter’s nearly 30 years career in politics.

I’d like to say I feel bad for ol’ Arlen, but the fact is had I been able to vote in the Democratic primary, I would have chosen the challenger, Joe Sestak, over Specter.   In one of the most overtly craven acts of self-motivated survival, Specter had cut a deal with President Obama and the Democratic establishment to leave the Republicans after it became obvious he couldn’t win the party’s nomination against a more conservative challenger.

Sestak, a Congressman and former Navy admiral had spurned overtures and threats from the White House not to run and in pulling off the upset goes on to face Republican Pat Toomey in November.

The hardest thing in the world to stop is an idea whose time has come. Maybe the Tea Party, for all it’s scary far-right rhetoric, is a natural evolution in politics. The vast “Silent Majority” that Nixon and Agnew spoke of, Reagan won with and 20 years of Bush-Clinton-Bush put to sleep have woken up and they don’t much like what they see.

Progressives have never been able to speak middle-class/working class America’s language. The Palins, Becks, Limbaughs and that crew do. The Left tries to appeal to their hopes and dreams. The Right appeals to their fears and nightmares. They fan simmering resentments and fears into roaring flames of anger. White people don’t much like the idea that government seems to be looking out for everyone’s interests but theirs. A pushback was inevitable. Barack Obama was the change they couldn’t live with.

Since Obama’s election there has been all this talk about “bipartisanship” and “reaching across the aisle” to work together. This is engaging in wishful thinking. Working with a moderate Republicans? Who’s left? Charlie Crist? Arlen Specter? The two Senators from Maine? You can count all the Republican moderates in positions of power on two hands and you won’t have to use all your fingers.

When a bland, middle of the road conservative like Bennett in Utah, gets gassed for not being conservative enough, you know there’s a change in the weather and it’s a harbinger of a coming Dark Age of political polarization, animus and rancor of a sort this country has not witnessed in a long time.

Time's up.

Specter and Sestak were both interviewed (separately) on NPR last week and my first response was how nasty Specter came off. He had this arrogant air of entitlement like, “Who is this prick Joe Sestak to challenge ME?”

Specter had every advantage.  Name recognition?  Check.  Backing by the governor and the party elders? Check.   Enthusiastically endorsed by the President?  Check.

Not everyone hates incumbents, but nobody like arrogance or naked opportunism and Specter reeked of both. I’m sure the great state of Pennsylvania will muddle through without Arlen in the U.S. Senate. It’s a huge loss for Harry Reid, Gov. Ed Rendell, the Democratic Party machine, but most of all, for President Obama. You can’t say “I love Arlen Specter” one day and a week out from the election it’s “I know him not.”

Obama didn’t want to be holding hands with Specter when he went down the same way Martha Coakley, Jon Corzine and Creigh Deeds did. Obama’s personal charm hasn’t extended to fellow Democrats lately. He might be spending a lot of time this fall busy in the White House than out stumping for his party.

Obama cut a deal with Specter for his vote on health care and said all the right things about him until it was obvious he was dead meat. Then when he didn’t need Specter and saw there was no upside to trying to save him, he left him to his fate. That wasn’t very noble of the president, but there’s no sense in wasting time on a lost cause. The Democratic voters in Pennsylvania decided they wanted one of their own, not someone who signed on just to save his own ass.

I weep not for Arlen Specter.  He had a nice, long run.  He wasn’t the worst Republican in Washington, but I lost a lot of respect for him during the Judiciary Committee hearings for Clarence Thomas and Specter tried to utterly destroy Anita Hill.    Obama backed Specter all the way—right until he saw Specter was going to lose, then he couldn’t put enough space between them.

Dirty deeds done dirt cheap can come at a high price.  Bye-bye, Arlen.  It’s not that we didn’t know you.  We just had enough of you.

Queen Latifah: Ladies First or Only?

Who's checking out who?

Between Elena Kagan and Queen Latifah, I’m wondering which one is more of a closet case?

While it’s none of my business whom Kagan or Latifah go to bed with, it must be hard to either go to extraordinary lengths to deny your sexuality or to pretend you’re something you’re not.

Latifah’s new movie, Just Wright, dropped this weekend to just okay reviews (46% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes.com) and just okay box office  ($8.5 million gross).  In many of the negative reviews the same words  “miscast” and “no chemistry” between Queen Latifah and her co-star, Common keep popping up.

When I saw the trailer I knew Just Wright looked like a movie made from a script left on the copier.  Just another predictable and safe romantic comedy where the good, but plain girl falls in love with a dumb jock that ignores her in favor of a sexy bad girl.  You can see where all this going miles away before it gets there and apparently the target audience for this kind of trifling fare, young Black women, found somewhere else to be this weekend.   They sure weren’t at the movie theaters to see Common try to act like he’s head over heels in love with Queen Latifah.    Apparently, they liked it better the last time when it was called Love and Basketball.

You might think with Iron Man 2 and Robin Hood dominating the multiplex screens, there would be an audience for two charismatic and good-looking leads in Queen Latifah and Common, even if they are more accomplished as rappers than actors.  But I don’t know anyone who was even mildly interested in this movie.  Then again, maybe even women who love “rom coms” weren’t interested in such a corny, clichéd story.   Or it could be a love story with two Black leads is a tough ticket to soon if Tyler Perry’s isn’t in the title.

And maybe Orville Lloyd Douglas at GayBlackCandianMan.com had the answer why Just Wright was all wrong on a weekend where it should have killed.

“Nobody wants to see a closeted lesbian Queen Latifah in a straight film role,” Douglas wrote.

Okay, there is that…

The rumor that Queen Latifah is into girls is one that has floated around long before she played a lesbian bank robber in Set It Off.  I’ve heard it, you’ve heard it and Latifah’s heard it and while she’s not flat-out denying it, she isn’t confirming it either as she said in a 2007 interview for Ebony magazine:

Asked about the stories swirling on the Internet and elsewhere that claim she is romantically involved with a female fitness trainer, Latifah immediately says: “No comment on that at all. I’m done commenting on all that … It’s ridiculous, I know me and that’s all I need to know.

“And if the readers don’t know me, then that’s one part they aren’t going to get to know. Those are my people but they don’t sleep with me,” she says in a very even tone that is very consistent with her relaxed mood. “It feels so invasive. It’s the one thing I don’t think people need to know about.”

I seriously doubt those who love or hate Latifah will have any more or less of a reason to do so should she come out. I argued for years with people who were CONVINCED Luther Vandross wasn’t gay. Right up to the point he sang “Killing Me Softly” and didn’t change the gender. At that point even the diehards had to say, “Okay, that’s a little odd…”

Latifah isn’t obligated to be the spokesperson for any cause or advance any agenda except her own.  She might be an inspiration to closeted Black lesbians the same way Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O’Donnell were when they came out, but it’s her call to make

Blogger and activist Jasmyne Cannick weighed the pros and cons of Latifah owning up to her less-than secret life after the Ebony interview

Unlike previous statements where Latifah claimed that she was still “looking for a good brotha” now says she is done commenting on one particular situation which is a private matter.

All I got to say is that you either are or you’re not.  And most of us know which category Latifah falls into.

And while I am not advocating that Latifah be outed in any way, I am a bit perplexed as to how a woman that’s supposed to be a role model for strength can not show any of her own as it relates to her sexuality. All of these word games. I’m looking for a good brotha and It’s ridiculous, I know me and that’s all I need to know.”

First of all, most people who are heterosexual when asked about being gay will emphatically set the record straight.  And they’ll straight up say, I’m straight.  Some men will even try to beat you down if you insinuate otherwise. And in the case of women who are straight, you know the line…“I’m strictly dickly.”  There’s no jumping around the bush and all of that madness about it being a private matter.  To be even more blunt, it’s usually not in heterosexuals nature to be so evasive about being straight.  No, that’s usually reserved for those of us in the closet or those of us that aren’t completely comfortable with talking about our gay sexuality. So that alone would make Latifah suspect in my eyes if I didn’t know any better already.

I’m sure if I asked my 87 year-old grandmother today if she thought Latifah was gay she’s say yes.  And if I followed that up with, but would you still go and see her in a movie, she’d say yes to that too.  The reason for that is simple.  When it comes to celebrities, I don’t think people care the way they would if the person in question were a Senator, Governor, quarterback, short-stop, or point guard.  The other and perhaps most important reason that I don’t think her sexuality would be that much of an issue is that, what most gay people who think they’re pulling off straight don’t seem to realize is that people know.  They may not say anything to your face about it, but they know.  I don’t care how long the weave is, how packed the MAC is, or how high the heels are, you are who you are and it always comes through loud and clear regardless of how hard you try to hide it.  Even in interviews when the simplest answer you could ever give to the question of your sexuality is either yes I am gay, no I am straight, or I am bisexual.  End of story.  All of the shucking and jiving and elaborate drawn out answers that are strangely reminiscent of the dances done by politicians on subjects they’d rather not be speaking on, end up telling the story for you.

 

Ladies first?

 

Elisa Kagan is getting sweated by friends and foes alike wanting to know which team she’s playing on, but then she’s looking for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.  The stakes are a bit higher than the private life of a rapper-turned-actress.  Personally, my life will go on unchanged if Latifah fesses up or not.  Coming out is a personal choice and continuing to keep up a front nobody is buying is her choice too.

In a few weeks after Just Wright quietly slips out of its theatrical run for an equally unremarkable stint on DVD, Latifah will assess why the film tanked and conclude it was Common’s shortcomings as a romantic leading man or audiences preferring her in a supporting instead of leading role.  One stinker isn’t going to squash her career.

What she should be worried about is if supporting roles are all she can do.  Romantic comedies work only when the audience accepts the premise the actors could reasonably have the hots for each other.  That is complicated when there are serious doubts Queen Latifah even likes men.

When a “secret”  becomes a “secret” everybody knows what’s the point?   Queen Latifah likes girls and SO WHAT? Don’t make no difference to me.  I don’t like her any more or less than I did when I thought she was straight.

A King In Search of a New Kingdom?

Will LeBron take a powder?

When the Cleveland Cavaliers crumbled to the Boston Celtics after losing to them 94-85 in the sixth game of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, they lost far more than a shot at the championship against the Orlando Magic.   They quite possibly lost the best player in the league in LeBron James and their claim to being a legitimate NBA franchise as well.

The Cavs looked like champions on paper but championships have to be won on the court. That’s where the problem started–and ended.   James played without passion in a horrific 32-point blowout loss in Game Five, and despite a triple-double in Game Six, he still seeming distracted and disinterested.

The King has no clothes.  Or a kingdom.  Certainly not a crown.

If James walks onto the court of Quicken Loans Arena next year wearing another team’s uniform, don’t boo him Cavs fans.  He gave you seven years of his life; the Cavs gave him Mike Brown, one of the most inept and unimaginative coaches in the NBA.  He gave Cleveland basketball respectability where it was once a bad joke and the only wining pro franchise in the city.  The Cavs never gave him a reliable second option to take some of the weight off of his shoulders.

Shaquille O’ Neal? A lock for the Hall of Fame, but he’s running on fumes and memories.  Antwan Jamison?  Inconsistent, doesn’t dominate at the four spot and is on the wrong side of 30.  Shooting guards Anthony Parker and Delonte West combined for ten points in Game Six.  Their jump shots come and go and against Boston they were mostly gone.  Point guard Mo Williams was totally outclassed by Rajon Rondo.  He needs to go knock on the door of the Celtics locker room and politely ask Mr. Rondo for his shorts and jock strap back because he got undressed.

The Cavs had the best record in the NBA during the regular season which just goes to prove how utterly meaningless the regular season is.   It’s not the team that has the best record that dominates in the playoffs.  It’s the team that dominates and the Cavaliers learned the hard way champions aren’t crowned in April.

The Bulls gave the Cavs a nastier fight than they were expecting in the first round and the Celtics exposed them as frauds who were never as loaded or talented as the sports media had hyped.   Too old, too slow, and not athletic enough, the Cavaliers fattened up during the season on the weak sisters of the league, but in a seven-game series they were once again totally dependent on James to carry them to victory.

James is saying all the right things about staying in Cleveland, but he’s going to explore his options and he’s got a LOT of options.  Even if he stays will the Cavs be any better?  They can’t sign any of the other big-name 2010 free agents to help James and he knows that.  The team only leased Shaq for one year and it didn’t pan out.  Zydrunas Ilgauskas is a free agent and he’s old too, so the Cavs are looking at Anderson Varejo as their starting center next season.  Not a happy prospect when the broad shoulders of Dwight Howard are blocking your path.

So fuhgeddaboutit, Cleveland.  You never owned James.  You were only renting him for seven years.  He had a great run, no denying that, but it’s time for him to take his ball and hit the road. There are at least 29 other NBA teams that would move heaven and earth to land King James. There are three that are most likely.

James could be running with The Bulls next season.

New York Knicks:  Why wouldn’t’ the greatest player in the world want to play in the greatest city in the world?   Because the Knicks are a terrible team.  Even James on Broadway isn’t going to change that anytime soon.   The Knicks could add another coveted free agent to compliment him, but if winning is the priority for James, the Knicks are a lot further away than the Cavs.  There’s no upside for James to go from a flawed team in Cleveland to a Knick team that’s a hot mess   Nike would love to build a gigantic billboard in Times Square with James rocking the Knicks colors, but it seems unlikely to happen.  Don’t tell the fans in NYC that.  They’re convinced he’s on the way.

Miami Heat: If anything could get Pat Riley out of the suites and back on the bench is the chance to coach  James to a championship.  The problem for Riles is he’s got his own superstar, Dwayne Wade, thinking about filling out a change-of-address card as a free agent.   Wade has said he’s not going to re-sign until he sees what the Heat do to improve the team.   Maybe the promise to go all-out to lure James from Cleveland snow to South Beach sand might convince Wade to stick around.   The problem here is despite the lack of a state income tax, bringing James to Miami and resigning Wade would give the Heat two good players and not much else on the roster.  And James would be the second-highest player to Wade.   There can only be one Alpha Male and James is a lead singer, but a back-up.

Chicago Bulls: No less than four NBA general managers have picked ‘Da Bulls as the most likely place for King James to rebuild his kingdom.    James knows many a superstar minus a championship was only a great point guard away from being fitted for a ring.  Given a choice between Williams back in C-land, Chris Duhon in New York and Mario Chalmers in Miami, the prospect of playing with a young stud on the verge of greatness like Derrick Rose has got to be an enticement.   There’s other young talent on the roster.  Plus, the Bulls are trying to come up with scenarios that could bring Wade, Joe Johnson or Chris Bosh to the Second City as well.  Some sportswriters have doubts James would want to go to a team where Michael Jordan ruled.  I disagree.  There’s already a statue of His Airness outside of Chicago Stadium.  Pair James with Rose and Bosh and Chicago instantly has its most exciting trio of players since the days of Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant.   That’s when some sculptor will start figuring out how close to Jordan’s statue LeBron’s willi be.

James already announced to honor Jordan he would no longer wear number #23 and would be switching  to #6.   A better way to honor Jordan (and to further his goal of becoming the world’s most popular athlete, a task made easier by the fall from grace of Tiger Woods) would be to win his first NBA championship where Jordan won his last.

In six weeks when free agency opens James will reveal his plans and we can stop guessing.   I’m betting the Bulls shirt I bought recently turns out to be a smart investment.