"Omar Gooding, my son and Cuba's brother, just signed on to play the lead role in John Singleton's next movie," the 56-year-old singer and actor boasted. "Cuba, as you know, has a lead in Men of Honor, which will hit theaters Friday. But what you don't know is that the movie was originally called Navy Diver." And the Gooding boys may have to make room for their big sister.
"My daughter, April, is now a model and actress," Gooding said, almost in awe. "And she is doing things . . . well, I don't remember what's she doing right now. But be on the lookout."
He says that his 33-year-old daughter was reluctant to enter showbiz despite the family's successful track record on stage, TV, the movie screen, and the pop charts.
"You know, she once condemned the entertainment industry because of the decadence her mother told her I had participated in. I don't know where she got that from," he said with a facetious laugh.
In the early '70s, Gooding earned gold records and appeared frequently on Soul Train as the lead singer of the Main Ingredient. The former teenage "doo-wop singer on the corner" in Harlem sang background for the Main Ingredient before replacing lead Donald McPherson, who died of leukemia in 1971. It's Gooding's elastic tenor that is featured on the group's 1972 signature smash, "Everybody Plays the Fool." The vocal trio toured constantly through the United States and Europe as the record ascended the charts, and he says he was rarely at home with his wife, Shirley, and their growing family.
The couple divorced in 1979 after eight years of marriage.
"My wife and I divorced because it was a case of children raising children," he said. "I wanted to be Frank Sinatra. I didn't want to raise any babies."
After a second marriage crashed and burned, Gooding and his first wife tied the knot again two years before their 32-year-old son screamed and bounced down the aisle at the Academy Awards ceremony three years ago when he won the best supporting actor Oscar for his role as the football star who shouted, "Show me the money!".
"I have just a little dirt for you," Gooding confided with a wink. "I have an older son whom I met for the first time 19 years ago. Thomas is 37, and he's my tour manager and bandleader when I'm on the road with the Main Ingredient."
The group hasn't had a hit record in nearly 20 years, but Gooding says that audiences still appreciate good lyrics and melodies.
"I hear myself on the radio more today than I did in 1973," the Harlem native who now lives in Southern California said. "But I don't get a royalty check. You talk about pimping and prostitution. That's the record business."
Looking like an older, diamond-pinkie-ring-wearing version of Cuba Jr., Gooding says he isn't bitter about his misfortunes in the recording business. But he wants to make sure that younger entertainers don't make the same professional mistakes.
"I'm taking responsibility for the generation that came after me," he said. His generation "dropped the ball" when it came to monitoring business affairs, he said. "We were too busy chasing white women or fighting racism or going to Europe or getting high - too busy to make sure that the generation after us had the type of role models we had, like Sammy Davis Jr. and Ella Fitzgerald."
Although he was mostly absent during his children's formative years, Gooding said he likes to think that he passed on something positive: "Cuba is with his family and raising his family because I was busy hustling and didn't do the same for him. And he thanked me for the example - positive or negative."
The veteran entertainer has finished an unpublished memoir, aptly titled Everybody Plays the Fool. He is also developing resortlike properties in Barbados, his father's birthplace.
Gooding had to start preparing himself for the stage in less than 10 minutes, but before he excused himself, he wanted to make it clear that his connection with his children is solid.
"Listen, regardless of how many drugs I may have taken," he said, " or how many women I may have [been involved with] or how many divorces I may have had, the end result is only the sixth black person to win an Academy Award. How about that?"
Rashod D. Ollison's e-mail address is email@example.com