5 reasons to respect Dick Gregory The comedian was an activist for civil rights, women’s rights and nutrition

Comedian Dick Gregory, who died Saturday at 84, was one of the most successful black comedians working at the intersection of comedy and the civil rights struggle.

When Gregory fasted for 70 days in 1981, living off a gallon of water per day, his goal was to raise awareness about civil rights. He put his body on the line in the name of the culture while bringing awareness to food scarcity, health disparities and hunger.

“Years of severe fasting, not for health but for social change, had damaged his vasculature system long ago. He always reminded us, many of his fasts were not about his personal health but an attempt to heal the world,” his son, Christian Gregory, told The Associated Press. Gregory is survived by his wife, Lillian, and 10 children.

Here are five things to remember about the late activist and thought-provoker.

5. he was an athlete

Gregory ran track during high school in his hometown of St. Louis. He earned a track scholarship to Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, where he set school records as a half-miler and miler.

“In high school I was fighting being broke and on relief,” he wrote in his 1963 autobiography. “But in college, I was fighting being Negro.”

His college days were cut short when he was drafted into the Army.

“We thought I was going to be a great athlete, and we were wrong, and I thought I was going to be a great entertainer, and that wasn’t it either. I’m going to be an American citizen. First class,” he once said, according to The Associated Press.

4. He ran for office twice

Gregory ran for mayor of Chicago in 1966 and president in 1968. He received 50,000 write-in votes for president.

3. He made nutrition into an empire

Gregory might just be the greatest of all time in the clean-eating craze. He was ahead of his time, promoting fasting and dieting before it was popular.

Gregory once weighed 350 pounds while smoking four packs of cigarettes and drinking a fifth of Scotch daily. He changed his life and began fasting. He conducted Dick Gregory’s Zero Nutrition Fasting Experiment in 1981 under doctors’ supervision and living off a gallon of water and prayer for 70 days at Dillard University’s Flint-Goodridge Hospital.

The fast prompted his 4-X Fasting Formula. According to yourdictionary.com, his Slim-safe Bahamian Diet products were “sold for $100 million when the special formulation became commercially available in August of 1984. Articles in People and USA Today made the diet a favorite among the general public.”

“Gregory went without solid food for weeks to draw attention to a wide range of causes, including Middle East peace, U.S. hostages in Iran, animal rights, police brutality, the Equal Rights Amendment for women and to support pop singer Michael Jackson when he was charged with sexual molestation in 2004.”

Gregory was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2000 and opted for herbs, exercise and vitamins instead of chemotherapy. The cancer went into remission a few years later.

2. he was the first black performer to sit on the couch of The Tonight Show

“Black folks made me. I’m in a little club making $5 a night three nights a week,” Gregory said during an interview with Reelblack published in November 2015. A gig at the Playboy Club in Chicago helped him move into a career that put him in front of white audiences.

“Where else in the world but America,” he joked, “could I have lived in the worst neighborhoods, attended the worst schools, rode in the back of the bus, and get paid $5,000 a week just for talking about it?”

He once got a call from producers of Tonight Starring Jack Paar. At the time, black performers weren’t invited to sit on the couch. He told Parr he would not accept the invitation unless he could sit on the couch after his stand-up. He became the first black performer to speak with Parr on the couch after his performance.

1. he was a feminist

Gregory marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to the U.S. Capitol with a crowd of more than 100,000 people to push for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Television anchor Jim Vance was a hero in black Washington A fixture on the local news for four decades, he died of cancer

Back in the day, Jim Vance used to double-park his cream Mercedes 450 SL outside Roland’s grocery store on Pennsylvania Avenue in Southeast D.C. He’d run in, grab a magazine, some Junior Mints, often a pack of Marlboro Reds, and dap up every soul in the store who recognized him before peeling away.

This was 1979, when local TV news was king and most every American news anchor was white. The nation’s potentates and poseurs ran the country just down the street. But to black Washington, Vance was a hero, anchoring the leading local news show in the nation’s capital for more than four decades.

Young’uns and old heads alike beamed with pride at his accomplishments and what he represented: an elite African-American professional, playing by his rules.

“They thought he was working for them — and he was,” recalled Scott Towle.

Towle was 20, stocking shelves and working as a cashier at Roland’s in 1979. Today, he is another Washingtonian who felt as if he lost a family member when NBC’s WRC-TV announced Vance had died of cancer Saturday morning — just two months after he told viewers about his diagnosis.

“He became the embodiment of black Washington,” said his widow, Kathy McCampbell Vance, whom Vance often credited with saving him from cocaine addiction in the mid-1980s. They were married in 1987. Through separations and an on-and-off-again courtship, she’d been his closest companion for 40 years.

“He lived in Southeast, in a black neighborhood in Capitol Hill, for years,” she added. “Vance was a bootstraps kind of guy. He was just smart. And he had so much personality and charisma.”

If Birth of the Cool belonged to Miles Davis, Vance was the Continuum of Cool. He read the news with a jazzy syncopation, enunciating every sentence just so. In television, a world of harried producers and directors, he moved at the speed of … Jim Vance. If time hadn’t stood still for him, at least the 6 and 11 o’clock newscasts did.

Jim Vance (left) and Doreen Gentzler prepare to return to the live broadcast after a commercial break.

Andre Chung for The Washington Post via Getty Images

I met him in 2005 through sportscaster George Michael, who invited me to be a panelist on his NBC Washington sports shows. Vance was an unabashed local sports fan who formed a close relationship with Hall of Fame NFL coach Joe Gibbs and many of the team’s best players during Washington’s three Super Bowl victories between 1983 and 1992. He pined for the day when the Wizards would hoist the NBA trophy like Wes Unseld’s Bullets did in 1978. Vance was always curious what Gilbert Arenas was really like, why Stephen Strasburg always looked so angry for a man paid millions to play a child’s game and why Dan Snyder kept getting in his own way, “because Lord knows I know what that’s about,” he told me.

When Michael died in 2010, Vance took it hard and delivered a profound eulogy for his friend. “George Michael was the first man to tell me he loved me,” he said. “When I told him that the L-word made me feel uncomfortable, George replied, ‘Get over it.’ ”

Vance grew up in Ardmore, a suburb of Philadelphia. His father, James Howard Vance Jr., drank heavily, dying of cirrhosis when Jim was 9. His mother left him in the care of his grandparents. He blamed his father’s death on himself, once lamenting, “I was convinced I was such a piece of s— that he’d rather die than hang out with me.” He earned a degree in secondary education from Cheyney University, a historically black college where he roomed with Ed Bradley, the longtime 60 Minutes correspondent.

He taught high school English for three years and got a job as a television reporter in Philadelphia through a career placement agency in 1968. With America’s racial cauldron boiling, he was recruited to Washington within a year. By 1972, he would become NBC4’s lead news anchor for much of the next five decades.

Winner of 19 Emmy Awards, Vance went to Vietnam. To South Africa. And to Southeast D.C. He fished with President George H.W. Bush. Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry sought out Vance first after being arrested in 1990 for smoking crack cocaine.

Vance knew where the mayor had been, because he once put himself through the same hell. He entered the Betty Ford Center in 1984 after many years of free-basing cocaine. But he relapsed upon returning to town.

“This was the pre-crack cocaine era,” Kathy Vance said. “I just think free-basing was so seductive to Vance that it just pulled him in.” At his lowest, Vance stuck the shotgun he used for bird hunting in his mouth one evening out by Great Falls, but he didn’t pull the trigger.

Vance’s sobriety from cocaine, which began in 1985, lasted until he died. He became active in Washington 12-step groups, partnering with longtime advocate and D.C. politico Johnny Allem in 1991 to open the Cardozo Club at 14th and V streets, which catered to some of the city’s poorest in need of a recovery group, and the nonprofit Columbia Recovery Center.

By 1989, he had combined forces with Doreen Gentzler, weatherman Bob Ryan and Michael. Ratings soared. More people in Washington watched NBC4 for the next 20-plus years than all the national cable news networks combined.

Jim Vance takes a phone call in his office.

Andre Chung for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Gunner of Harley-Davidsons, slayer of hundreds of king and sockeye salmon each summer outside of Ketchikan, Alaska, connoisseur of tequila, jazz and the good life, Vance began wearing a golden hoop earring in his left ear in 2006 after the death of his friend Bradley, who had worn one.

“He was such a … man,” said Rock Newman, host of The Rock Newman Show and the former boxing manager for Riddick Bowe. “He was such a cool character. Sinatra-like. When he did my show, he walked in with some beautiful sweater, leather coat over it and jeans on. That’s some cool s—.

“No matter who you were, how much money you had, what color you were, you saw Jim and you smiled. He was a magnet for everybody.”

He also wasn’t afraid to be polarizing. Vance emotionally advocated for Washington’s NFL team to change its name in 2013 in his Vance’s Views forum — even though the team had a business partnership with the station that had dated back decades.

CBS’ James Brown, a D.C. native, credits Vance with pushing him toward broadcasting during a lunch they had in the early 1970s. “I was trying to seek safety in the multitude of counsel, deciding whether I should stick with the corporate route or pursue my passion, broadcasting. He said to go with what I really wanted to do, that nothing would take the place of that. I still remember that, that he was one of those sage voices that took the time to reach out to a literal nobody at the time. And he was like that with everybody.”

Donnie Simpson, the District’s DJ for life, moved from Detroit to Washington 40 years ago. His first radio gig in D.C. was housed in the same building as NBC4.

“When I saw that anchor desk, all those black faces — Jim, Sue Simmons, Martin Wyatt, the sports anchor at the time — and Jim Vance was the lead? All I could think was, damn, this was the Chocolate City. Black folks really do have some standing in this city. And Jim Vance represented that.”

Craig Melvin, a former NBC4 reporter and now an anchor with NBC and MSNBC, recalled that when he was hired at WRC in 2008, he was told, matter-of-factly, “You gotta get Jim Vance to bless you.”

When Melvin finally introduced himself, Vance said, “I know who you are. I know why you’re here. Meet me at this address.” He then slid a small piece of paper across the table with the address on it. “Best steaks in the District. I’ll meet you there between shows at 7:30.”

“I’m fairly nervous, to say the least,” Melvin said. “I get there early because it’s Jim Vance. But there’s no steakhouse. Just an interesting-looking building with an awning.” A brawny doorman brought Melvin to a private room.

“Then he walks in — in a top coat, top hat, lookin’ cool as s—,” Melvin said. “He sits me down in a corner. It’s then I realized where we were.”

Vance had had Melvin meet him at a strip bar called Camelot. “We sat there. We talked over what was, surprisingly, a pretty good steak.”

“I was testing you,” Vance finally said. “A punk would’ve walked in here and turned right around. But you’re my kind of guy.”

Kathy Vance knew the deal.

“He had his flaws, his demons, and they were his undoing,” she said. “But on the other side of that he lived the life he wanted, and he left a lot of good behind.

“The thing I remember is he looked you in the eye when you spoke to him and talked as if he was really, really listening to you — because he was. … He read people. And he responded. He didn’t wait for you to tell him who you were.”

The irony is Jim Vance didn’t know who he was until much later in life. And even when he found out, he still perplexed the ones he loved.

“I think I’ll be asking questions for decades to come about who he really was,” Kathy said.

Jim Vance was 75 years old. He is survived by Kathy, three children from two previous marriages, a daughter-in-law, three grandchildren and everyone who ever saw him grace the television of their family room.

A letter of gratitude to Stuart Scott Scott was beacon of light for the athletes he covered and the North Star for aspiring black sports reporters

“See,” my Uncle John said in the summer of 1998. He pointed toward the television in his Washington, D.C., apartment. “That’s gonna be you one day.” A fluorescent light from his fish tank dimly lit the apartment. My uncle and I were up watching Stuart Scott on SportsCenter. Scott talked about sports the way we talked about sports. Scott wasn’t just relatable. He was us. My uncle said, “I’m gonna be watching you do that.”

I loved the way Uncle John approached life. The way he interacted with people and made them feel comfortable. He never came off lame, or corny. My parents had divorced when I was 2, and John treated me like a son. This was when I had no memory of my biological father and didn’t care to know who he was.


John and I loved sports. He was a Washington fan, and I was a diehard Cowboys fan. The last conversation we ever had was about just that. We both loved Michael Jordan, Shaq and Penny, Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds. But SportsCenter was our drug of choice. We loved the infectiousness of Linda Cohn; same for Dan Patrick’s and Kenny Mayne’s dry humor. But our favorite combo was Rich Eisen and Stu Scott.

I played basketball as a kid, and my uncle and I decided early on that going pro wasn’t my calling. I was 9, and I purposely moved in the chair so the barber would take a plug out, forcing him to shave my head. Talk about taking “be like Mike” to the extreme — I also purposely got myself sick hoping to mimic Michael Jordan’s “flu game.” My mom was rightfully pissed. She yelled at me — and said I looked more like a light bulb than Jordan. “She’s right,” Uncle John said with a laugh. “Let’s be more like Stu than Mike. That’s our route.”

Me and my Uncle John (circa Sept. 1998).

Courtesy of Justin Tinsley

Uncle John died of colon cancer on Jan. 2, 1999. We were in what used to be known as MCV Campus Hospital at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. It’s unclear how the room was cleared of everyone except for him and me. John alternated between looking out the window and looking at me. It was as if he had prepared his entire life to deliver his own eulogy. I couldn’t talk, for fear of crying. That winter morning remains the single most important moment of my life. I felt childhood end, and adulthood arrive. John knew death waited around the corner: the cruel reality of dying at the age of 42. He seemed at peace. With life. With death. With everything. But he made me make a promise.

“I’m still going to watch you on SportsCenter one day,” he said. “Make sure you keep your promise.”


July 19, 2017, would have been Stuart Scott’s 52nd birthday. He should be here hosting SportsCenter. He should be here presenting teams with their championship trophies. He should be here making JAY-Z 4:44 references on SportsCenter, because that’s who Stuart Orlando Scott was. In the way that Marvin Gaye’s 1970 What’s Going On changed the direction of Motown, in the way Eddie Murphy altered the scope of comedy, in the way Gwen Ifill brought so much authenticity and excellence to her journalism, Stu was just that for ESPN, and for sports media, period. The way he spoke was the way so many athletes wanted and want to be spoken about: with unparalleled charisma and respect.

More importantly, he should still be here as a daily presence for his two daughters, Taelor and Sydni — although, even in death, he remains just that. He should be here congratulating Leah Still, who received the Jimmy V Perseverance Award a year after Stuart did. It’s been three years since most of us last saw Scott, who was transformed into an icon by his landmark and emotionally charged speech at the 2014 ESPYS, when he was honored for his inspiring fight against cancer.

It’s impossible to forget Stu. He brought swagger and rebelliousness to sports broadcasting — and he had more catchphrases than Ric Flair and The Rock. He came up in the same era as did cultural bibles VIBE and The Source, and in the vein of those magazines, Scott helped inject the culture, the cockiness and confidence we loved and cherished, into mainstream consciousness. It didn’t matter if America wasn’t ready for what he had to say and how he had to say it. His generation and the one following, mine, were ready to be heard. In our own voices. In our own skin. Stu did this on television, where the idea of diversity — not only in skin color, but also in train of thought — is ever more complex and necessary.

Scott died Jan. 4, 2015. The very next day I moved to Los Angeles to start my career with ESPN.

And it is absolutely impossible to forget Scott at the ESPN campuses, where his pictures remain on the walls — and even on the set of Jemele Hill and Michael Smith’s The Six, the 6 p.m. SportsCenter with deep roots in Scott’s meteoric rise and impact on the company. It’s impossible to forget about Scott at ESPN, because no one would dare.


Scott died Jan. 4, 2015. The very next day I moved to Los Angeles to start my career with ESPN. The night before I was to get on the first one-way flight of my life, my mother — the same one who told me I looked like a light bulb with a bald head — sat me down. “You may not realize it for years down the line,” she said at our kitchen table, “but this means something. You’ve looked up to this man your entire life. You’ve talked about ESPN your entire life. … It’s destiny.”

Working at The Undefeated, in the year since its launch, has been the most incredible experience of my life. My first television experience was when I went on SportsCenter to talk with Linda Cohn about O.J. Simpson. This type of stuff just doesn’t happen. These blessings are the gifts I fantasized about when watching Stu was as much a part of my routine as was brushing my teeth. I prayed for this while watching my ceiling fan twirl, while begging God for a chance to do something impactful with my life.

But if there are regrets? There’s the fact that The Undefeated never had the chance to work with Stu. There’s the fact that I never got a chance to buy him a beer, and tell him how his tweets to me after the Super Bowl in 2013 meant more than he could have ever realized. I never got the chance to chop it up with him about sports, music and his journey. Or tell him he was as important in the lives of myself and my Uncle John as Jackie Robinson was to generations before.

Or that when I had no memory of an actual biological father, nor any desire to acknowledge his existence, Scott helped to solidify my most critical bond with an older man. Had it not been for Stu being Stu that day in the summer of 1998 — and my uncle, growing more ill by the hour, pointing at his TV, predicting my life’s course and giving me a North Star — there’s no telling where I’d be right now. Not writing this, for damn sure.

‘True Blood’s’ Nelsan Ellis, dead at 39, was a unique and undeniable talent He made Lafayette Reynolds an important character rarely seen on screen

Hooker, you left way too soon.

I imagine that’s what True Blood’s Lafayette Reynolds would say about the untimely death of Nelsan Ellis, the actor who created him. Ellis, a 2004 Juilliard graduate, died of heart failure at age 39, his manager said Saturday.

On True Blood, which aired on HBO from 2008 to 2014, Ellis brought to life one of the most important depictions of queerness on television, in a series that bubbled with crazy camp improbabilities. His short-order cook who moonlighted as a drug and vampire blood dealer was enticing and bawdy, femme and butch, learned and country AF. He was open and unapologetic about his love of sex and the male form while living in the tiny fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana — the type of place where it’s not necessarily safe to be gay, or black, and certainly not both at the same time.

Nelsan Ellis portraying character, Lafayette Reynolds in the show HBO show “True Blood.”

HBO

As Lafayette, Ellis expanded the country’s collective imagination of what a queer black man could look, sound and act like, starting just months before California passed Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, and years before President Barack Obama announced an “evolution” in his thinking about gay rights. And for queer black people, he was a reflection of a truth rarely seen on screens big or small, especially after the Logo series Noah’s Arc went off the air in 2006.

“Important” often implies that something is the cultural equivalent of kale: fiber-packed, nutritious, but not exactly fun. For example, Red Tails is arguably an “important” film because it’s about the Tuskegee Airmen. It’s also … not very good.

But in Ellis’ hands, Lafayette would deliver acerbic quips with the expert raise of an eyebrow, succinctly summarizing the pitfalls of patriarchy without making your eyes glaze over. He could just as easily spread his glossed lips into a smile and flutter his fake eyelashes as he could hem up a delinquent customer in a full nelson, a quality that made him eminently GIF-able.

Lafayette existed before Dan Savage launched his It Gets Better project in 2010, a nonprofit aimed at stopping queer kids from committing suicide when their adolescent years seem interminably, hopelessly miserable. And that’s significant. Certainly, it’s important for a suicidal teen to know that life improves as you get older and get away from people and attitudes that fill your life with hate. But Lafayette provided a different, necessary sort of queer hero, shaped in part by the gender-bending provocations of New Orleans sissy bounce queens Big Freedia and Katey Red, a boi that you couldn’t just push around.

My favorite scene of Ellis’ is also one of his most famous. It’s from episode five of the first season of True Blood, when a customer at Merlotte’s, the restaurant where Lafayette works, sends his burger back to the kitchen because, he tells his waitress, he doesn’t want a burger with “AIDS.”

Lafayette, fully and perfectly made up despite sweating over a hot stove, pulls his earrings off and comes swaggering out of the kitchen, head wrapped in his glittery take on Louisiana’s famous tignons. His body is a mass of gender-nonconforming contradictions: From the neck up, he’s practically coquettish, but he’s wearing a tank top that shows off his toned biceps, black Timbs and camo shorts that hang off his butt, held just so by a belt perhaps best described as ghetto fabulous.

Lafayette delivers a read in his signature Louisiana drawl, informed by Ellis’ childhood spent growing up in Bessemer, Alabama: “’Scuse me,” he says. “Who ordered the hamburger wit’ AIDS?”

“I ordered a hamburger deluxe,” the customer responds.

“In this restaurant, a hamburger deluxe come wit’ french fries, lettuce, tomato, mayo — AND AIDS,” Lafayette says, raising his voice. “DO ANYBODY GOT A PROBLEM WIT’ DAT?”

“Yeah,” says the customer. “I’m an American. I got a say in who makes my food.”

“Well, baby, it’s too late for that,” Lafayette retorts. “F—-ts been breeding your cows, raising your chickens, even brewing your beer long before I walked my sexy a– up in this m—–f—–. Everything on yo’ gotdamn table got AIDS.”

Lafayette’s altercation with the customer gets physical. “B—-, you come in my house, YOU GON’ EAT MY FOOD THE WAY I F—ING MAKE IT!” he bellows. “DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?”

And just as swiftly, his temper recedes. “Tip your waitress,” he says before sauntering back to the kitchen, every set of eyes in the restaurant on him.

It wasn’t just that Lafayette was a self-affirming queen who didn’t take no mess. He was country and proud of it, providing the sort of regional stamp on queerness that would later set Moonlight apart because it was so steeped in the specifics of Miami and, furthermore, the Pork and Beans of the Liberty Square housing projects. It’s part of what makes Omar Little (Michael K. Williams) such a memorable part of The Wire — his gayness isn’t the defining feature of his character. He’s gay in a way that feels unique to the projects of Baltimore. Similarly, Williams added a regional flair to his depiction of Leonard Pine, one half of the Texas duo Hap and Leonard. Those characters — Moonlight’s Black, Lafayette, Omar and Leonard — offer a counterweight to prevailing tropes of queerness that’s white, polite, well-off, neatly domesticated, sexless and almost always cosmopolitan. When it first aired in 2005, Noah’s Arc in many ways felt like a black response to the overwhelming whiteness of Showtime’s American adaptation of Queer as Folk, another landmark show that challenged what it meant to see gay men on television. Noah’s Arc centered on a group of middle-class gay black men living in Los Angeles. It was a way to say, “Hey, black people live in gentrified gayborhoods and drink cosmopolitans and battle HIV stigma too.”

But characters like Leonard and Lafayette offer depictions of men who are able to make space for themselves in the places they call home, without having to move out of one’s oppressively small hometown.

Nelsan Ellis portraying character, Lafayette Reynolds in the show HBO show “True Blood.”

HBO

And although he’ll long be remembered for Lafayette, Ellis was more than just one character. In his too-brief career, Ellis exhibited a rare elasticity and was famously circumspect about his sexuality. Ellis’ interpretation of Lafayette was so memorable that of course he’d seem right at home as a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, which he was. Still, Ellis managed to erase all traces of his breakout character in Get On Up, in which he played singer-songwriter and James Brown collaborator Bobby Byrd, and in The Butler, where he played Martin Luther King Jr. By the time he inhabited Mack Burns, a writer obsessed with free jazz in a straight interracial relationship in the 2017 film Little Boxes, Lafayette was nowhere to be found.

Indeed, Ellis found it insulting when entertainment professionals seemed to overlook his Juilliard bona fides by assuming that he wasn’t a character actor.

“I can’t just get upset with regular folk because all they see is the character. But when the industry can’t tell the difference, I’m like, ‘Damn, that’s a little closed-minded,’ ” Ellis told Vibe in a 2010 interview. “… When white people play a character, people expect it to be a character. But black people — we can’t just be character actors, we have to [really] be the things we’re hired for, which is what offends me. I don’t answer that question — ‘Are you gay or not?’ — when it comes down to industry people. But if it’s a regular person asking me, that just says that maybe I’m doing a good job. But when a casting director or an agent asks me that question, it takes on a deeper thing that says, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this unless you are that.’ ”

Ellis wasn’t alone in that regard. Nine years after the last episode of The Wire aired, Williams is still insisting in interviews that he’s more than just Omar Little, despite a litany of roles, gay and straight, since Omar debuted.

During his short life and career, Ellis opened our eyes to new possibilities: You can be queer and country and happy. You can be black and a character actor. You can, in short, contain multitudes. What a shame that Ellis won’t be around to show us more.

Daily Dose: 6/26/17 BET Awards provide many moments for the culture

Sunday night, settle down to the television, get on the Twitter box and go. That’s pretty much the routine when it comes to awards shows, and last night was no different. The BET Awards did not disappoint, but they did run way long.

Where do we begin? Los Angeles was popping with black star power Sunday night, and because of who it was there were also plenty of blunders that were pretty funny. I kept a running thread on Twitter about the various observations I had, but most importantly, it was a come up and a half for Leslie Jones. The comedian, who had an extremely tough year in terms of personal strife, was showing all the way out as the host and was definitely funny. If you root for black women to succeed, which you should, last night was a victory for us all.

The value of a black life seems to be ever-changing. In the case of Philando Castile, it’s apparently $3 million. That’s the amount that the family of the man murdered in front of his girlfriend and her child reached in a settlement with the city of St. Anthony Village, Minnesota. Reminder: The man who killed him while on duty was acquitted in his case. When you ask why people consider violence against black people to be state-sponsored, this is why. If you live there, your taxes are paying for him to be killed and also for the consequences.

Capitalism is a fickle beast. Because in theory, market forces in certain scenarios will help everyone out. But, unfortunately overall, the system doesn’t work unless poor people exist. So when you try to overcorrect for previous forms of mistreatment like low wages, if you go too far you blow up business models that were not created on that math. Instead of everyone just getting more money, people have to stop working. There’s concern right now that Seattle might have done exactly that.

John McEnroe is a hater. On top of that, he is apparently sexist. It’s 2017, and to sell a book he’s still going on with this notion that for any woman to be given her credit as an athlete, she must be compared with a man. That’s a) complete nonsense and b) COMPLETE NONSENSE. Serena Williams is the best tennis player he’s ever seen, and he’s just scared to say that out loud because it would rattle his whole raison d’etre. Instead, he throws out a number that she might be ranked if she were a man. Breaking: She’s not. And doesn’t need to be.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Look. I love Migos. This is not news. But Everyday Struggle has become a show that, for whatever reason, manages to make news. Between DJ Akademiks and Joe Budden, these two create viral moments that are either wildly embarrassing or extremely effective. You can take what you will from this Migos confrontation.

Snack Time: If you thought the Ball family empire was limited to just basketball and clothes, you’ve got another think coming. It looks like LaVar Ball could actually be close to inking something with the WWE, which is fantastic.

Dessert: Q-Tip put on for his fallen Queens homey, Prodigy, on Beats1. May he rest in peace.

Daily Dose: 6/5/17 Bill Cosby trial begins outside of Philadelphia

I didn’t get to see it this weekend, but I can’t wait until I do. Reviews like this will definitely get me to the theater.

Bill Cosby’s trial has already gotten off to an awkward start. He arrived at the courtroom in Norristown, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia on Monday with Keshia Knight Pulliam on his arm. You might remember her as the little girl who played Rudy on The Cosby Show, which is just uncomfortable on multiple levels. He doesn’t expect to testify at the trial, but the woman who accused him of sexual assault will, getting the ball rolling on so many others becoming willing to come out about encounters they had with the comedian. Here’s what to watch while this all unfolds.

Speaking of questionable characters named Bill, Mr. Maher is canceled. Not literally, but as far as I’m concerned he can go away and never come back. This dude, who hosts an HBO show, said during an interview in front of an audience that he was a “house n—–” without one bit of hesitation. Various people came to cape for him, which I’m never going to understand. The list includes Killer Mike, Donna Brazile, Michael Eric Dyson and his wife. Maher apologized, but the damage is done. It’s not like he’s got some great history when it comes to bigotry.

If you’re on Instagram, what you like is public. Meaning, if someone wants to know what it is you’re double-tapping on, all they have to do is go to the activity page and scroll to see that your co-worker is really into lemon trees, or your old high school baseball teammate is now seriously stalking models in Monaco. But what would you do if you saw your significant other like someone else’s butt selfie? Hurt, offended, angry, no big deal? Here’s one woman’s investigation into why her boyfriend hearts a model’s backside.

You might recall that Kobe Bryant once scored 81 points in a game. You might also remember that that game was against the Toronto Raptors. If you didn’t know, Jalen Rose was on that team and now is obviously an ESPN personality. I like Jalen a lot and always have since I was a middle schooler trying to emulate him and the Fab Five on the court. But when it comes to asking him about that fateful day, things can get awkward. Someone decided to lean all the way in on that and make a commercial out of it. It’s hilarious.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Graduation season is really fun. Particularly when school administrators aren’t being jerks and actually understand the ceremony is about the kids and not about keeping decorum or whatever nonsense they come up with to hate on fun. This is what graduation should look like.

Snack Time: Pusha T is an anti-gun-violence advocate, and he’s been in these streets delivering his message for quite some time. Recently, he penned a letter to a 6-year-old on the topic, and it’s perfectly adorable.

Dessert: Rest in peace, Cheick Tioté. He will not be forgotten. Tioté, 30, died after collapsing during training in China.

Greg Marius married hoops and hip-hop to revive the Rucker summer league His Entertainers Basketball Classic in Harlem changed the streetball game

Something felt different as I came up the stairs from the 155th Street subway station in Harlem that Monday in 2001. Beneath the midafternoon July sun, the line outside Holcombe Rucker Park stretched down the block behind blue police sawhorse barriers. The crowd was mostly teens and grown men, dipped in standard summer street attire: icy white T-shirts, do-rags, cornrows, baggy jeans and shorts, fitted baseball caps. Security guards in bright orange Rocawear shirts patted down everyone seeking a seat. No weapons, no cameras. Those were the house rules at the world’s most famous streetball tournament, the Entertainers Basketball Classic (EBC).

It was the EBC’s 20th anniversary season, and I had been spending four nights a week roaming the sidelines for a magazine partnership with Greg Marius, the EBC’s founder/commissioner. I knew that Marius, who died of cancer last week at age 59, loved putting on a show for his native Harlem — and that the former rapper yearned to have an impact beyond his neighborhood. The smile on Marius’ wide, brown face when he advised me to get to the park early meant this day would be truly special.

I noticed that the first two teams warming up were not part of the regular rotation. There were no city legends such as Rafer “Skip To My Lou” Alston, Adrian “Whole Lotta Game” Walton, Larry “Bone Collector” Williams, Kareem “Best Kept Secret” Reid, or Malloy “Future” Neysmith. Also absent were NBA stars from that summer such as Ron Artest, Mark Jackson, Cuttino Mobley, Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson. The teams on the court were young, with more white players than usual. They looked out of place. This was Uptown, where local celebrities Al Cisco and Keith Slob did the Harlem Shake. Where famed announcers Hannibal, Boobie Smooth, and the duo of Duke Tango and Al Cash rocked the mic. The crowd came out to see their local heroes. Who were these schoolboys?

Suddenly, a convoy of black vehicles pulled into a restricted area near the handball courts, bringing the game to a sudden halt. Murmurs ran through the metal bleachers. Police and the Secret Service spread through the park. In walked former President Bill Clinton, who had recently opened an office on 125th Street. A collective gasp echoed through the crowd.

Clinton, just a few months out of office, made his way into the VIP section flanked by then-NBA commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver. NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury, a Brooklynite and EBC legend, joined the trio. Marius stood next to the scorer’s table, wearing his Cheshire cat smile as if it were just another day at the park. Like Biggie Smalls said, you never thought that hip-hop would take it this far.

All because of Marius’ signature blend of hoops, hip-hop and Harlem hustle.

The son of a community activist mother and hospital chemist father, Marius was raised in a brownstone in the revered Strivers’ Row neighborhood. His first act was as Greg G, a rapper in the early ’80s group the Disco Four. Recording in the early days of rap on wax, the Disco Four were true ghetto superstars. Marius co-wrote singles such as “Move to the Groove” and “Do It, Do It” on Enjoy Records and “We’re at the Party” on Profile. His writing credits continued as a part of Rooftop Records, which was the early home of artists such as Kool Moe Dee and a young Harlem prodigy named Teddy Riley.

Entertainer’s Basketball Classic CEO Greg Marius attends the Launch of the new Reebok Question Mid EBC & A5 with Cam’ron and Jadakiss at Rucker Park on August 4, 2016 in New York City.

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Reebok

Marius also was a hooper. About 6-foot-5 and solidly built, Marius said he was on the team at St. John’s University during his time as a student there. The EBC was born when the Disco Four, live on the airwaves of WHBI during the legendary Mr. Magic’s radio show, challenged the rival Crash Crew to a game.

The EBC followed a trail blazed by Holcombe Rucker, a city parks worker who invented the concept of summer youth basketball leagues in 1946. Holcombe Rucker’s men’s tournament drew world-class talent to various NYC parks from the ’50s through the ’70s, then fell into decline. In 1987, Marius moved his EBC to a court that the city had recently named Rucker Park, in the shadow of the Polo Grounds housing projects at 155th Street and Eighth Avenue. Those early years were lean for Marius and his partner, a street dude known only as Gusto, who used to run Harlem’s legendary Rooftop nightclub. EBC went nearly 10 years with no sponsors, surviving on loans and skimpy entry fees. Long before YouTube highlights, Marius and Gusto sold VHS tapes from their Entertainers Store on 153rd Street.

Then the rap industry blew up in the 1990s, and EBC began landing five-figure team sponsorships from record labels such as Cold Chillin’, Def Jam and Uptown. Having your name on a Rucker squad bestowed clout in a rap industry that was often synonymous with the streets. And no one can gloss over the fact that EBC exploded along with the crack game. For all of the mainstream polish that would come in later years, the tournament has always been a place for drug dealers and stickup kids — and their rap game cousins — to floss. Yet Marius and Gusto kept it safe, as one of the tournament’s missions was to provide a haven for local youths during the hot summer months.

As the ’90s progressed, rappers went from doing shows at clubs to selling out stadium tours. Yesterday’s street dude was remixed as a hip-hop entrepreneur. Everybody seemed to have a record label and/or clothing line. Marius, meanwhile, had EBC at Rucker Park. Making it magical every summer was his full-time job. Each year, the tournament kept getting better and names kept getting bigger. Vince Carter. Allen Iverson. Kobe Bryant. His EBC helped record companies break new artists and records. Corporations realized that his tournament was the key to breaking into the coveted urban marketplace. That street/corporate balance was the power of the EBC.

I met Marius as he was cracking the mainstream in a major way. In the winter of 2000, my partner Jesse Washington, now a senior writer for The Undefeated, and I sat down with Marius at Londel’s restaurant and pitched him a magazine that would document all things related to his tournament. This is before the internet explosion, back when two-way pagers were cutting-edge tech. Think about it, we told him: EBC the Magazine.

Marius silently looked at a picture of himself on the inside cover of the prototype we had made. I could see him calculating the angles. Marius knew the streets had never seen anything like this. He enjoyed making his next move even better than the last one. This could be a power move for both his brand and himself.

Still, Marius was often leery of outsiders, myself included, who approached him with bright ideas on how to partner up and turn a profit. If he didn’t know you, or couldn’t associate you with someone he knew from around the way, then you weren’t in his scope. Marius had to be a wily individual to survive the sharks in the streets all those years. Harlem was his world, yet he yearned for what he had built to be recognized on a bigger stage. Other city tournaments were on the come up, poaching his players and crowds, wooing his sponsors. But none of those other tournaments had a magazine.

Interacting with Marius over the summer of 2001, I came to view him as a hard character to truly peg. At his core he was a good dude, raised by good parents in a good neighborhood. This background stood in stark contrast to the shadowy characters and cutthroat street environments that surrounded his adult life. Doing business with Marius was tricky. Because he was getting checks from so many different places, I never knew when his other hustles would bump up against our magazine. “Hype it up, but keep it separate” is one of his most memorable quotes to me.

The Rucker Park court stayed hot that summer. After Clinton stopped by, Shaquille O’Neal made a cameo after winning the NBA title. Street legends and NBA stars mixed it up game after game. I even found my way onto a team in the women’s division thanks to rapper and EBC team owner Fat Joe. My game wasn’t at its peak, but I managed to knock down a couple of jumpers, grab some steals and rebounds, and even earned the nickname “The Editor,” aka “The Magazine,” from announcer Al Cash.

With Marius at the helm, the EBC not only stayed relevant for 30 years but also revived the Rucker name and spread it across the globe. Marius was able to navigate among the illest of street dudes and still receive Secret Service clearance to host a president in Harlem. Greg’s Harlem.

The basketball world will always know the Rucker. Harlem will never forget Greg Marius.

Daily Dose: 4/20/17 Today’s the day for everyone to make their weed jokes

The great Domonique Foxworth graced us with his presence for the podcast Wednesday, which is fun. We talked about Kendrick Lamar and Carmelo Anthony’s situation, and Terrika Foster-Brasby talked to Alabama’s Jonathan Allen.

Today is April 20, one of the strangest days on the calendar. The Today in History for this date has tons of strange occurrences, as well as celebrity birthdays. It’s also the unofficial marijuana holiday of the year, a trend that in recent years has grown exponentially. Basically, you can expect to be reading about weed all day. That said, here’s an update on what the laws are around the country these days. Also, a bunch of people plan on smoking outside the Capitol Thursday afternoon, if you want to check that out.

Charlie Murphy’s death is still sad. Over the past couple of days, looking back on his work has been a real blessing. His role as a connective tissue between big-time Hollywood through his brother, Eddie, and the grinding comedian world with his stand-up work is remarkable to think about. So when he was finally laid to rest, the people who came out in support were quite the talented bunch. I owe a lot to him personally, for motivating me to be myself on a microphone. Rest in peace, Charlie.

Update from the hip-hop nostalgia train: We’ve got a couple of big projects in the works. First, Dame Dash has announced that he’s working on a biopic about Roc-A-Fella Records, which COULD be cool, except for one big problem — Jay Z. Something tells us that he might not exactly see eye to eye on how this story goes. On a less feudy front, a new podcast is launching next week that will tell the story of Chris Lighty, the music executive who was so instrumental to the rap game. It’s called Mogul.

David Fizdale is a legend in the game. With one news conference, he let the world know that he is not to be toyed with on any level, regardless of whether he’s a rookie coach. You’ll be hearing the phrase “How’s that for data?” for the rest of your sports fanhood life, trust me. But he also got popped for $30K for being so forthright about what he thought was unfair treatment by the officials. Luckily for the Memphis Grizzlies head coach, his squad has his back. Point guard Mike Conley says that they’ll pay his fine for him.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what would happen if Mike Tyson and Migos found themselves in the same place, you’re in luck. GQ decided to put them together and let the former boxer give the rappers a tour of his mansion. It goes exactly how you think it would.

Snack Time: You know what’s a good idea? Uber for haircuts. There was a time when having a barber on demand was only a luxury for the rich. Now, there’s an app for that.

Dessert: It’s official: Bill O’Reilly is out the paint. But he will get big bucks on his fall.

The hilarious and self-aware glory of Charlie Murphy Comedian, actor, screenwriter — and yes, Eddie Murphy’s older brother — was a funnyman in his own right

Charlie Murphy, the straight, no-chaser funnyman who died Wednesday afternoon at the age of 57 after a private battle with leukemia, pulled off the seemingly impossible. Indeed, the older brother of Eddie Murphy, a once-in-a-generation comedian and record-breaking film star, would not have been blamed if he rode the red leather tails of his sibling’s career.

Yet, Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories sketches were central to Dave Chappelle’s Comedy Central gem: The tales of a coke-fueled, slap-happy Rick James and Prince the hoops god serving pancakes to his vanquished and confused foes are eternal. Murphy also became a successful touring comedian. “It’s been a riot,” he told me during a 2013 interview when asked about his move to stand-up.

Of course, Murphy, who flashed his trademark toothy grin as if he were in on the joke, was not oblivious. He’d heard the whispers: that he was piggybacking off Chappelle, as well as his brother. “All the people that have been wondering if I could pull this off, and wondering if it was real,” he said, “that’s human nature.”

Charles Quinton Murphy was a very self-aware person. “I’m not going to make a fool of myself,” he said, “or besmirch my brother’s legacy. Before I started doing stand-up, I knew I had what it takes to develop an act. I went to clubs with not many people there and I just worked on it, man.” That’s the legacy of Charlie Murphy: hard work. Which is why it’s not surprising that there has been an outpouring of heartfelt tributes.

“We just lost one of the funniest most real brothers of all time. Charlie Murphy RIP,” posted Chris Rock, who recruited Murphy to portray the all-too-gangsta Gusto for 1993’s cult comedy classic CB4. Fellow comedian D.L. Hughley glowed about Murphy: “After every gig, he rushed home to be with his kids. He died with gigs on the books.” Oscar-nominated director Spike Lee, who cast Murphy in some of his most acclaimed work — including 1990’s Mo Better Blues, posted on Instagram: “My Late Brother-The Very Funny Charlie Murphy … Rest In Power.” And actress Gabrielle Union praised him as a “kind, sweet, funny man.” Murphy’s wife, Tisha Taylor Murphy, died of cervical cancer in 2009. He is survived by his three children.


The irony, of course, is that early on the acid-tongued, Brooklyn-born maverick wanted no part of the entertainment business. He seemed content with having served in the U.S. Navy as a boiler technician and just trying to figure things out. Even after Eddie became the biggest comedian and movie star on the planet, Charlie, who was honorably discharged in 1983, took on a more supportive and protective role in Eddie’s legendary entourage. He was security. But Charlie was watching and learning.

You could see the progression. A bit role in 1989’s Harlem Nights led to parts in The Players Club (1998) and Roll Bounce (2005). Sure, he mostly played the hated bully, but he did it with a knowing wink. By the time he became a featured player on Chappelle’s Show, his deft and thoroughly engaging ability as a storyteller was on full display.

“I’m not going to make a fool of myself. Or besmirch my brother’s legacy.”

Eddie’s big brother was now more than just a member of a Hollywood clique.

“Let me put it like this,” he explained to The A.V. Club back in 2010 of his newfound celebrity. “I’m at the Four Seasons Maui, and yesterday I was with Joe Rogan. We were standing by the pool, and the waitress came over and she said, ‘We’re getting these paparazzi in the bushes right now filming you guys. We’re going to get them out of here.’ And I thought, ‘You know what? I’ve made it.’ ”

But Murphy — who co-wrote the screenplay for Eddie Murphy’s 2007 Norbit, which grossed $159 million — liked to prove to himself and his peers that he could thrive without a net on the often brutal stand-up circuit. Although his 2010 Comedy Central special I Will Not Apologize was uneven, he continued to perfect his craft. The jokes and timing got sharper. The gigs became more diverse and interesting … and bigger. There was voiceover work for The Boondocks and 2012’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There was a recurring role on Cartoon Network’s criminally underrated Black Jesus. At the time of his death, Murphy was part of the all-star The Comedy Get Down tour, which also featured George Lopez, Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin and Hughley. It was a powerful affirmation that the stand-up he’d worked on so consistently was ready for prime time.

Comedian Charlie Murphy performs during his appearance at The Ice House Comedy Club on December 4, 2013 in Pasadena, California.

Michael Schwartz/WireImage

“A comedian’s job is so dangerous,” he said in 2012. And then two days before his death he tweeted, “Release the past to rest as deeply as possible.” Yes, Charlie Murphy could have been just Eddie’s big brother. But where was the glory in that?

Charlie Murphy dies of leukemia at age 57 Eddie Murphy’s older brother is known for roles in movies and ‘Chappelle’s Show’

Before Chappelle’s Show, a lot of people had no idea who Charlie Murphy was. The thought of Charlie, Eddie Murphy’s older brother, being an actor and comedian was almost a joke in itself. He created a second career through that Comedy Central program, and on Wednesday, TMZ reported that Murphy died at age 57 after a battle with leukemia.

But long before he was telling True Hollywood Stories of legend, Charlie was another dude trying to make it in L.A. He had roles in several black movie classics, including Harlem Nights, Mo’ Better Blues and Jungle Fever, but his breakout role was with Chris Rock in CB4. Charlie also co-wrote Vampire in Brooklyn, another film directed by Eddie, as well as 2007’s Norbit. Charlie Murphy also appeared in 1998’s The Players Club, directed by Ice Cube.

His role as a writer and cast member on Chappelle’s Show transformed him from a famous person’s family member into a household name. It was his stories that kicked off the resurgence of love for Rick James and the infamous Prince basketball story. Those were his actual life experiences, forget the bits. In many ways, Charlie was much easier to like than Eddie because he seemed so much more real.

Charlie was the funny dude on the basketball team in high school. He was the brother at work you wanted to talk trash with about sports. Charlie was a real one.

He brought the phrase “habitual line stepper” into our lives. Don’t forget that. He was also directly responsible for “game, blouses.”

Being completely honest, I had no idea he was sick. I’m fairly certain most people didn’t. But he managed to do the one thing that’s nearly impossible in today’s media landscape that will always be impressive to me: He made a name for himself that wasn’t directly tied to Eddie. I’m sure there’s an entire generation of people who still don’t know they’re related. And understandably so.

A while back, Uproxx broke down his five greatest sketches. But the thing about Charlie Murphy is that he never really seemed to be out of character, no matter what role he was playing. Which is what made him so dope.

http://on.cc.com/1takHYK

He told stories about meeting the greats. I wonder if he knew he’d become a legend himself.