When I was at BB King’s Blues Club in NYC this past week, I noticed that Dick Gregory was scheduled to do two shows with Paul Mooney on November 2. Yes, he was still active up to the end of his life. The club’s description is a good place to start:

“An activist, philosopher, anti-drug crusader, comedian, author, actor, recording artist, and nutritionist, Dick Gregory was on the front line in the ’60s during the Civil Rights era. Today he continues to be a ‘drum major for justice and equality.’

“Born in 1932 in St. Louis, MO, his social satire has drastically changed the way white Americans perceive African Americans. After beginning to perform comedy in the mid-’50s while serving in the army, Gregory first entered the national comedy scene in 1961, when Chicago’s Playboy Club (as a direct request from publisher Hugh Hefner) booked him as a replacement for white comedian, ‘Professor’ Irwin Corey. His tenure as a replacement for Corey was so successful – at one performance he won over an audience that included Southern white convention goers – that the Playboy Club offered him a contract extension from several weeks to three years.”

Dustbury shares the fried chicken joke.

“By 1962 Gregory had become a nationally known headline performer, selling out nightclubs, making numerous national television appearances, and recording popular comedy albums.”

Though Mark Evanier knew Gregory from his LPs, I was more familiar with him from his books, especially From the Back of the Bus, my father’s paperback copy, which I devoured.

Early on, he became a civil rights activist, working with Malcolm and Martin, among others.

I have mentioned on these pages, most recently on 20160603, that Dick Gregory ran for President in 1968, and that my parents, especially my father, were inclined to vote for this black man for President. I couldn’t yet vote, but I lobbied strongly for Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic candidate, stating that Richard Nixon, the Republican, was too dangerous. What they did in the privacy of the voting booth, I’ll never know, but I STILL have the campaign button.

“Although Gregory’s steadfast commitment has limited his opportunities to perform, he’s still found ways to share his powerful and often comedic message with audiences across the country. In 1996, he took the stage stage with his critically acclaimed one-man show, Dick Gregory Live! The reviews of the show compared him to the greatest stand-ups in the history of Broadway…

“Although Gregory announced in 2001 that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma, he was able to battle the cancer into remission with a regimen of diet, vitamins, and exercise… The new millennium has found Gregory continuing to write, perform, and shape public opinion. ‘I’ve lived long enough to need two autobiographies, which is fine with me,’ he laughs. ‘I’m looking forward to writing the third and fourth volumes as well.”

Dick Gregory has died at the age of 84, and the world is diminished by that fact.

For ABC Wednesday

Lynn Mabry, Sheila E., the niece Rebecca Jade in Philadelphia. We saw them Aug 18 in NYC!


Hymn: A New Poem by Sherman Alexie. The author addresses the hatred currently plaguing the United States

Children of Catholic priests live with secrets and sorrow

Salt Lake County Mayor posed as a homeless person

How we talk about ‘ethnic’ food matters

Why top chefs are starting to give dishwashers their due

The Symptoms of Dying

Questions for Me About Dying By Cory Taylor

Etiquette and the Cancer Patient

Female Lawyers Can Talk, Too

Actually, I was biologically designed to be an engineer

The Many Lives of Pauli Murray, an architect of the civil-rights struggle—and the women’s movement

For ‘Little Mermaid’ star, a rude awakening in Middle America

A study of the 1947 short Don’t Be a Sucker suggests old attitudes about fascism in America have never gone away

Mark Mishler: WE WHO WILL DEFEAT WHITE SUPREMACY

With teamwork and hustle, Toledo Blade dominated after Charlottesville attack

Robert E. Lee was against erecting Confederate memorials

Is there a Confederate general in my lineage?

Yorkshire Pudding of the UK wrote: “My initial definition of ‘trumpish’ is “egotistical, arrogant and boorish, having the capacity to swat away all criticism and blunder ahead in the unsophisticated manner of the 45th President of the USA”

HOW DONALD TRUMP AND ROY COHN’S RUTHLESS SYMBIOSIS CHANGED AMERICA

He’s A Racist In Public, And ‘In Private.’

He has a fake Civil War monument at his golf course and Lies About His Reaction To Charlottesville

The Real Story Behind All Those Confederate Statues

Silence is complicity; ‘support’ is collaboration

John Oliver: North Korea

Scott Pruitt Is Turning the EPA into the KGB

Border wall at National Butterfly Center violates property rights and worse

David Letterman Reflects on Harvey Pekar

The World’s First Robot Lawyer

Upstate New York is waiting for the next eclipse: April 6 2024

The Moral History of Air Conditioning

How (not) to memorise mathematics

The Meaning of ‘Mamihlapinatapai’

Yes, Your Manuscript Was Due 30 Years Ago

A Social Media-Fueled Bestseller List, of Poetry

Notes from a Baby-Names Obsessive

Albany’s Nipper the dog history

Safe and Healthy Formulas for Your Feline Friend

The day Captain Kangaroo visited Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

Will Disney stop publishing Marvel comic books?

TV’s Original SPIDER-MAN Breaks His Silence

Woman Sues Cap’n Crunch Because ‘Crunchberries’ Are Not Fruit

Now I Know: A Penny (or 2,500) For Your Misdeeds and The Man Who Liked Himself So Much, He Went to Jail and The Balloon Expedition to the North Pole That Was a Bust and LEGO’s Grayscale Color War

MUSIC

Sheila E. Stands Up for Freedom in ‘Funky National Anthem: Message 2 America’

Pachelbel’s Canon in D, scrolling score

Rubber Soul

Back Alley Oproar

i got music, part iii: i like my hands (and will not cut them off)

More random music recollections based on the book Never A Dull Moment.

By today’s standards, or even by the criteria of rock benefit concerts later that decade, George Harrison had no idea what he was doing as a benefit organizer. The Concert for Bangladesh, initiated after the former East Pakistan suffered from massacres and famine, happened because the former Beatle saw the effect the tragedy had on his friend and teacher Ravi Shankar, a Bengali.

Harrison was able to line up Ringo Starr. Would there be a Beatles reunion, the press wondered? Er, no. The mysterious Klaus Voorman, who designed the Revolver cover, and played bass on John’s Live Peace in Toronto, was on board. But John wanted Yoko there too and that was the end of that. The only place the Beatles would all be together would be on the charts.

Longtime session musician Leon Russell was hot off Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. A drug-addled Eric Clapton was such an uncertainty that George had Peter Frampton show up at the rehearsals, just in case. Keyboardist Billy Preston, drummer Jim Keltner, the band Badfinger, and some of Russell’s cohorts completed the band. Both Harrison, who never had to be the front man before, and Bob Dylan, who had been out of the spotlight for some time, were nervous.

August 1 was the only available date at Madison Square Garden for the Bangladesh concert before Disney on Parade took over. Two shows at 2:30 and 8 pm. “There were no plans to broadcast the show live on radio or to record for TV.” Of the three cameras used to capture the show, “what survives is largely thanks to the camera that was in the pits.”

Meanwhile, Warner Brothers Records in Los Angeles was signing up artists with seemingly little concern for their immediate commercial viability. Randy Newman, Lowell George of Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder. Asylum Records, under David Geffen, was signing Jackson Browne and an unnamed group that would become The Eagles.

There were lots of accidental meetings of troubadours. Graham Parsons finds Emmylou Harris. Kris Kristofferson and Paul Anka meet on a plane, see each other’s gigs, and this led to the signing of Steve Goodman and John Prine. Jerry Jeff Walker hears an Anna McGarrigle song and pitches it to Linda Ronstadt; it was Heart Like a Wheel.

It was a magic, synchronistic time.

Listen to:

What is Life – George Harrison here or here

Willin’ – Little Feat here or here

City of New Orleans – Steve Goodman here or here

Hello In There – John Prine here or here

Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers here or here

Heart Like A Wheel – Kate and Anna McGarrigle here or here

Science fiction is not particularly my favorite movie genre. I don’t dismiss it, but I’m not necessarily motivated to see films either.

And SOME of the films are, I’ve heard, monumental.

As part of my Lazy Summer Blogging series, here’s the first half of Rotten Tomatoes’ Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time.

A * indicates one of the paltry number of films I’ve actually seen.
The link in INTERSTELLAR is to my review.

100. A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (2001) – I actually thought to see this at the time. That will be a recurring theme.
99. SPLICE (2010) -barely remember it being advertised.
98. SIGNS (2002) – I guess this was one of the GOOD M. Night Shyamalan films
97. PACIFIC RIM (2013) – had no interest
96. PREDATOR (1987) – one of those Arnold films where you say, “You didn’t see THAT?” I probably had some comic book adaptation, though
95. SUNSHINE (2007) – don’t remember this at all

94. VIDEODROME (1983) – now this I remember being advertised, because director David Cronenberg was practically a god to FantaCo’s horror fans.
I should note that, in addition to selling comic books, FantaCo sold magazines about films, especially horror films, and even published books and magazines and comic books about the sub-genre. It wasn’t my thing, personally, but I became quite conversant about movies that I had never seen, just by reading about them.

* 93. STAR TREK III – THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (1984) – finally, a film I saw, and at the movies. I was emotionally invested.

92. WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005) – the was the year when we had an infant; we missed LOTS of movies
91. JURASSIC WORLD (2015) – wasn’t interested

90. DREDD (2012) – I actually used to read the comic books, but wasn’t ready for on-screen “bombastic violence”
89. PROMETHEUS (2012) – didn’t need a “quasi-prequel to Alien”

*88. INTERSTELLAR (2014) – I agree that “its intellectual reach somewhat exceeds its grasp”

87. MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME (1985) – probably saw bits and pieces of this on TV
86. ALIEN: COVENANT (2017) – nah
85. GATTACA (1997) – another “I thought about seeing that”
84. THE THING (1982) – also in the “I was aware of it because of FantaCo”
83. PAPRIKA (2006) – had not heard of this
82. TOTAL RECALL (1990) – another Arnold movie I’ve seen bits and pieces of on TV
81. METROPOLIS (2002) – don’t remember if this played around here

80. PREDESTINATION (2015) – not remembering this at all
79. THEY LIVE (1988) – another John Carpenter film from my FantaCo days
78. STAR TREK VI – THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY (1991) – after the terrible Star Trek V movie, I never saw another Star Trek film until the first reboot; I need to catch up on thesest
77. SERENITY (2005) – came out in the new baby period
76. THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976) – on the list of the films I want to see

*75. STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983) – a suitable ending of that first trilogy

74. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011) – saw the violence of the trailer and opted out
73. STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005) – after loathing Star Wars I, never gave II or II a chance

*72. WESTWORLD (1973) – very effective. No, I haven’t seen the more recent iteration.a

71. ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981) – another John Carpenter film from my FantaCo era
70. LOS CRONOCRÍMENES (TIMECRIMES) (2007) – don’t know it

*69. ALTERED STATES (1980) – I LOVED this movie at the time, though I have not seen it since. It “attacks the viewer with its inventive, aggressive mix of muddled sound effects and visual pyrotechnics.”

68. TURBO KID (2015) – don’t recall hearing about this
67. SUPER 8 (2011) – yet another “I was going to see that
66. AKIRA (1988) – thought it’s animated, I sensed it was too violent for my taste
65. MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (2016) – not remembering this
64. TWELVE MONKEYS (12 MONKEYS) (1995) – considered seeing this and didn’t for some reason
63. THE ABYSS (1989) – not the only James Cameron film on this list I haven’t seen
62. AVATAR (2009) – this one, for instance, only the #2 all-time domestic grossing film (and #15, even accounting for inflation)

*61. ROBOCOP (1987) – I found it a “surprisingly smart sci-fi flick that uses ultraviolence to disguise its satire of American culture.”

*60. STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982) – my favorite Star Trek movie, and the one that was most parodied. “KHAAAAAAN!”

*59. THE MATRIX (1999) – I was glad to have seen this, not enough to see the sequels, mind you.

58. STAR TREK BEYOND (2016) – I hadn’t seen the previous film when this came out; I’ll probably catch it sometime.
57. THE HUNGER GAMES (2012) – I know it’s a YA favorite, but I suspect it’s too violent for the Daughter’s taste, and probably mine
56. ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011) – from the Shaun of the Dead people, but I don’t know it
55. MOON (2009) – don’t know it at all
54. THX 1138 (1971) – I suppose I OUGHT to see George Lucas’ feature

*53. PLANET OF THE APES (1968) – I was really taken by this film when it first came out, even before I knew Rod Serling had written the screenplay from Pierre Boule’s novel.

52. GALAXY QUEST (1999) – I had intended to see this but did not
51. MAD MAX (1979) – I’ve seen bits of this on TV; looked intriguing

Meh, 9 of 50. The next fifty next week; I’ve seen a lot more of them.

While sitting in the middle school parking lot, waiting for the Daughter to come home from a three-day trip to Washington, DC, we heard on the radio Randy Cohen interviewing Ruth Messinger, the liberal firebrand on the New York City Council from 1978 to 1989, representing the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Then from 1990 to 1998, she served as Manhattan borough president.

The most interesting thing she said was that she had always been very clear on her political priorities. She was pro-women’s rights, pro-choice, anti-death penalty. (I noted aloud that, over the years, I’ve been far less certain than she proclaimed to be.)

Someone in the City Council had proposed providing a needle exchange for drug addicts, a response to the HIV/AIDS crisis, in which many people spread the disease through the use of shared needles. Messinger, concerned that providing needles would only encourage the addicts to use, opposed the measure.

Ruth Messinger said that, apparently as a result of her long-standing liberal record, the bill’s supporters decided that she was, her word, “educable”. At 11:30 at night, just three miles from her posh district, bill supporters took her to meet some of the people who could be affected by the bill, with their illegally acquired, clean needles. They told their stories of addictions they could not, at that point, overcome.

Ruth Messinger changed her mind. I tell this, not on the specifics of the issue, but rather over the belief people had in her that she could be swayed by the examples.

Too often, I read about the person who, in attempting to “cross the aisle” or even sound conciliatory, is branded a traitor, a RINO (or DINO) – Republican (or Democrat) In Name Only. People who vote for a Presidential appointee that someone doesn’t like are considered irredeemable. Saying something nice about an individual from “the other side” is considered selling out.

I’ve read, in publications from both sides, that we need a new system. But short of armed insurrection, how do you get there? By working with the folks you have now without expecting ideological purity.

Most civil rights change has come from people who used to see things one way but came to believe another. That’s Politics, with a capital P. And you work electorally to remove the obstructions. It’s S-L-O-W, often intentionally so, but (crosses fingers on both hands) achievable.

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