November 2, 1986 |
He was the first black performer to be enthusiastically embraced by white audiences - yet any theatergoer who didn't already know it could not have been absolutely sure that Bert Williams was, indeed, black. One of the great stage comics of the early years of the century, the light- skinned Williams always appeared in blackface, as did a number of white performers of the period. But while Williams remained in the minstrel tradition, by the end of his career his comic genius had transcended his caricature makeup.
October 30, 1986 |
In the beginning, there were minstrel shows. Then for decades, the silver screen gleamed with predictable racial stereotypes: mammies, sexual superstuds, Uncle Toms, loose ladies and fast dudes - wooden caricatures, without humanity or character. Next came the so-called "blaxploitation" movies, which updated the old stereotypes into unreal heroes for young blacks who needed winning black images, even if the "winners" were pimps and drug dealers. Now, here comes "Soul Man," first entry in what could be a new genre of "black" movies celebrating the subtle New Racism taking us back to the old stereotypes - yes, back to the minstrel shows.
July 29, 1988 |
"Darkie" brand toothpaste and Little Black Sambo beachwear, toys and mannequins. Products from another century? Not at all. "Darkie" is the name of a toothpaste, which commands a 40 percent share of the market in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. The Little Black Sambo line is a hit in Japan, home of the insular and industrious Japanese - who lack sensitivity to the ethnicity of others but do appreciate the color of yen. "Darkie" toothpaste, sold in a box with a wide-eyed, grinning, blackfaced minstrel logo, was on the market without comment for 60 years - until an American living in Thailand mailed a "Darkie" toothpaste package to The Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
October 19, 2000 |
Not long ago, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese were commiserating with the London press about the dumbing-down and sexing-up of Hollywood movies. "The movie industry is dominated by 12-year-olds," Lee groused about the difficulty of financing a serious film. "American Pie? . . . That's a movie?" Wait a minute, he thought, recalling the comedy's most famous scene. "The black version could be Deep-Dish American Pie. Now, I could get that movie made!" Such mordant humor inspired Lee's caustic satire Bamboozled, which arrives in theaters tomorrow starring Damon Wayans as Pierre Delacroix, the token African American writer at a TV network not unlike UPN. Under pressure to boost ratings, Delacroix makes a proposal even more degrading than Deep-Dish American Pie: a black minstrel show set in a watermelon patch where darkies tap-dance in blackface.
October 30, 2000 |
Surprise. Spike Lee has a bone to pick with hip-hop. His new movie, "Bamboozled," centers around the production of a highly offensive minstrel show on a major television network. In promoting the film, Lee has lit some fires under the hip-hop scene by declaring the art form a "21st-century minstrel show. " Are the antics of today's rappers comparable to smearing on black face and tap dancing across the stage? "In some cases, black people are made out to be buffoons by these record labels," said Charli Baltimore, a rapper from West Philly who has a part in the movie.
October 8, 2010 |
THE CAROLINA Chocolate Drops have been earning national attention on outlets like "Fresh Air" and scoring big successes at festivals like Bonnaroo. Earlier this year, they hit No. 2 on the Billboard magazine "Heatseekers" chart with their major-label debut album, "Genuine Negro Jig," for Nonesuch. None too shabby for an act that dwells mostly in old-timey string-band music, from the post-Civil War Reconstructionist era to the 1930s. It's stuff that most people would dismiss as "rustic" or "quaint" for its core scoring of fiddle, banjo, guitar, autoharp and voice, with rhythmic accents of rattling "bones" and mouth-blown jug and kazoo.
September 5, 2003 |
Festival-goers who opt for a front-row seat for Pig Iron Theatre's Cafeteria should be warned of the dietary perils that await them. A vast mound of pasty instant mashed potatoes - a gruesome sight to conjure memories of awful meals in the high school cafeteria - plays a prominent role in the proceedings, and the performers urge a helping on an unlucky chosen few in the audience at the Arden Theatre. The rest of the meal served by the troupe is of varying quality. Pig Iron Theatre Company first presented this droll mix of music and mime at the Fringe Festival in 1997, and the troupe has returned with a new production that features the original cast: Gabriel Quinn Bauriedel, Suli Holum and Dito van Reigersberg.
February 15, 2001 |
The crow, that ungainly dark-winged creature of lore, black as a sinner's soul, floating like a shadow among the trees and shrieking its warnings in a voice of doom, has filled our culture and literature with its image almost since language began. Not as noble as its larger cousin, the prophetic raven of Edgar Allen Poe fame, the crow nevertheless has been a metaphor for everything from racial discrimination (Jim Crow) to obnoxious boasting (crowing) to a confession of a wrongheaded blunder (eating crow)
January 4, 1993 |
Harold Rodgers, 96, the oldest member of the Tacony Baptist Church who 69 years ago was selected as an alternate player on the first U.S. Olympic soccer team, died New Year's Day at Suburban General Hospital, Norristown. He lived in Blue Bell, Montgomery County. Born in Sheffield, England, Mr. Rodgers followed his brother, Ernest, to the United States about 1910. At 16, he joined the Tacony Baptist Church and went to work at the Disston sawmill in Tacony. He played for the company- sponsored soccer team.
August 7, 1986 |
"Do Lord Remember Me," a play by James de Jongh. Direction and set design by H. German Wilson, lighting by Elizabeth Flax, costumes by Phyllis Priester. Presented by Theater Center Philadelphia at 622 S. 4th St., Wed.-Sun. through Aug. 30. The program notes tell us that the author, a professor at City College of New York, fashioned this play from the interviews with elderly black men and women, former slaves, recorded in the 1930s by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration.