Shaun Robinson talks with Reginald Hudlin:Comment + Permalink
Shaun Robinson talks with Reginald Hudlin:Comment + Permalink
The latest in our series of writers unearthing hidden gems is a recommendation for an eye-opening documentary about an often unsung entertainment industry titan.
Thu 24 Sep 2020 04.01 EDT
The first time I saw The Black Godfather, the 2019 Netflix documentary on black entertainment giant Clarence Avant (and not the 1974 Blaxploitation movie of the same name), I found myself tearing up during most of it. I didn’t know if it was tears of joy, because I was enjoying the whole thing, or tears of anger, because I had never heard Avant’s whole story until now.
People who usually read the liner notes of R&B albums have probably come across Avant’s name before. In the 1970s, he founded Sussex Records (the name a merging of the two things Avant claims everybody wants – success and sex), the label that launched the career of black folk/soul legend Bill Withers, who died earlier this year. The following decade, he created the Tabu label, which dropped several hit singles thanks to in-house producers (and future Grammy winners) Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.Advertisement
But, as the film tells it, Avant has done so, so, so much more. He managed such artists as Little Willie John, Jimmy Smith and Lalo Schifrin, whom Avant brought to Hollywood when Schifrin wanted to break into film and TV composing (we all know the Mission: Impossible theme by heart, thanks to Avant.) He promoted Michael Jackson’s Bad tour. He organized concerts and fundraisers for politicians. He brokered deals for many movers and shakers in the entertainment industry. He even told Bill Clinton to stay put in the White House when he was getting impeached.
“He knows everybody,” is the line that’s echoed throughout the movie, and the director Reginald Hudlin practically rounds up all the famous, powerful and successful people Avant knows and has known: Clinton, Withers, Jam and Lewis, Quincy Jones, Barack Obama, David Geffen, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Snoop Dogg, Kamala Harris, Jamie Foxx, Jim Brown, Hank Aaron, LA Reid and Babyface, Lionel Richie, Cicely Tyson – even the Netflix co-chief Ted Sarandos pops up to salute the guy.
Avant surprisingly takes all of this in stride. Now in his senior years (he’ll turn 90 next February), he’s usually seen sitting in a chair, hands clasped, peppering his words with a flurry of four-letter expletives. He’s certainly an ornery, gravelly-voiced cuss (imagine Oscar the Grouch in the body of those old brothas you see in the barber shop). Even when he’s en route to get a well-deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he grouses about how he got wrapped up in all of this nonsense.
It all started way back in the late 1950s, when Avant, then a manager for a New Jersey lounge, caught the eye of legendary jazz manager Joe Glaser, who took Avant under his wing. Even though Glaser had a rep for being “connected” he was still the closest thing Avant (who grew up in North Carolina with a deadbeat biological dad and an abusive stepdad little Clarence tried to poison) had to a father figure or role model.
Much like how Glaser helped him out, Avant would go on to help out others. He got then football star Jim Brown into the movies, eventually becoming a 70s action hero. He practically stormed into the offices of Coca-Cola and demanded an endorsement deal for Hank Aaron, who was on the verge of hitting his record-shattering, 715th home run. When Sean Combs had to get out of LA the same weekend Biggie Smalls was murdered, Avant was the one who gave him safe passage. And do you wanna guess who made the phone call to get Obama’s career-launching speech at the 2004 Democratic convention on primetime?
Mostly, Avant made sure black people were getting the right deal. A bona fide numbers man, he would encourage his fellow brothas and sistas in the biz to not settle for less. In fact, they should demand more. As Combs bluntly puts it: “Clarence makes sure that you don’t get [screwed].” He would also be there for fellow, younger moguls in the black music industry, including Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell, who also died earlier this year.
What’s moving about the film is how it presents Avant as both an unsung industry icon and an African American savior. Even though Avant says he was never active in the 60s civil-rights movement – “If I get hit,” he says, “I’d hit back” – he nonetheless did more for black people than he’d like to admit. He used his resources to aid those who wanted to make something of themselves and inspire others.
Maybe the tears that were coming out of me came from watching a man who cares a lot influencing others to do the same. At a time when it seems like the truly powerful would rather watch the world burn than lift a finger to help those in need, The Black Godfather gives us a shining look at a man you wish there were a lot more of.
PUBLISHED: 04:27 EDT, 24 September 2020 | UPDATED: 12:50 EDT, 24 September 2020
Meghan Markle offered royal fans a glimpse into her new dream $14 million Californian mansion during an appearance on America’s Got Talent today.
The Duchess of Sussex, 39, made a surprise appearance on the season finale of the talent show to send a video message to singer Archie Williams, 59, a humble man who had been wrongly incarcerated for 36 years.
Meghan spoke from her sprawling nine-bedroom and 16-bathroom mansion in upscale Santa Barbara which she shares with Prince Harry, 36, and their son Archie.
While Prince Harry and Meghan have provided occasional glimpses into their home over the last few months, the former actor’s appearance from her plush living room sofa offered royal fans the best look into the lavish Montecito mansion so far.
Her appearance offered a sneak peek into the private life of the Duke and Duchess and the objects and personal treasures they hold dear including feminist titles and books on race.
1. Vase of green hydrangeas
On the left hand side of the frame is a bouquet of large white flowers, placed in a huge statement vase.
The Duchess has long favoured mid-century modern furniture and a white colour palette, and added vibrant pops of colour with accessories such as a huge bouquet of flowers.
Meghan has always been a fan of fresh flowers, with pink peonies declared as her favourite.
2. £47 Diptyque Tubereuse candle
Among the candles decorating the sideboard was the £47 Diptyque Tubereuse candle, which features a ‘sensual, generous and luscious’ scent
The £47 Diptyque Tubereuse candle can be seen on the Meghan’s shoulder on the side board.
The Sussexes took out a multi-million-pound mortgage to buy their spectacular home.
Sources say the couple are ‘proud’ to have bought the home without help from family.
Deeds show they took out a £7.25million mortgage to be paid back, plus interest, by 2050 – indicating they put down a deposit of around £3.8million.
Mortgage repayments will cost them some £30,000 a month and they will also have a yearly property tax of £220,000.
This is on top of the cost of maintenance, cleaning, staff and security and utilities which could run into tens of thousands of pounds a month.
The couple are also paying back the £2.4million spent on renovating Frogmore Cottage in £18,000-a-month instalments.
It is not clear how the duke and duchess will pay for all of this. When they quit royal duties they made a point of stressing that they wanted to become financially independent
The scent is described online as ‘sensual, generous and luscious’ and ‘full of the heady and intoxicating fragrance derived from the sought-after Mexican white flower’.
According to it’s online description, it can ‘create an elegant ambience in the home for any occasion.’
The scented candle may be another piece selected by the Duchess, who has long been a fan of the brand.
She was known to have selected the Diptyque’s Figuier, with fresh wood, green notes and crushed fig leaves, for her home in Toronto.
3. Monochrome artwork
Three large pieces of monchrome artwork can be seen directly behind Meghan’s shoulder, which feature a bold black-and-white design.
While the pieces are currently unidentified, it is a bolder design than the Duchess’ usual choice, who often selects fine art for her home.
4. Artfully mis-matched throw pillows
The Duchess appeared relaxed as she lounged on a huge white sofa with a variety of monochrome scatter cushions.
Her lavish home shows her love for white furnishings and luxury accents such as a the striped black-and-white cushions thrown on the sofa.
5. Plush stone-coloured sofa
Despite having two dogs with muddy paws and a young toddler, the royals have bravely opted for a white couch in their living space.
It appears to offer a place in the room to relax and recline when not working, or perhaps a space to take meetings.
6. Cathedral candles on rustic holders
Directly behind Meghan’s right shoulder, three large cathedral candles can be seen on opulent candle sticks.
While the couple appear to have scented their home with fragrant candle, they have also decorated with the accessories to create some ambiance in the room.
7. Decorative bowls
The Duke and Duchess have artfully arranged books around the room, but turned one into a design features by perching them underneath several black decorative bowls.
Meghan performed a similar styling trick while working as an actress in Suits and living at her Toronto home.
8. Wood and Iron: Industrial Interior
‘We’re in your corner’: Meghan sends message to AGT finalist
Meghan and Prince Harry’s reading taste can clearly be seen displayed to the right of the image, where there is several books perched in a decorative pile, with one of the books revealing the couple’s taste in interiors as ‘industrial’
Meghan and Prince Harry’s reading taste can clearly be seen displayed to the right of the image, where there is several books perched in a decorative pile.
Another of the books within the pile is the interior design hardback Wood And Iron: Industrial Interiors, which offers a guide to those wanting to decorate their home in the distinctive style.
According to it’s online description, it allows readers to dip into the world of industrial style, ‘presenting the most influential names in the genre, anonymous pieces salvaged from junk shops and carefully selected interior design projects.’
9. Marc Hom profiles
The Duke and Duchess have a perchant for celebrity photographers, with several portrait books decorating their sideboard, including Profiles by Marc Hom, which features snaps of stars including Angelina Jolie and David Beckham
The Duke and Duchess have a perchant for celebrity photographers, with several portrait books decorating their sideboard.
Marc Hom, an A-list photographer published a collection of portraits in his book, Profiles, in 2017 with the stunning portrait coffee table collection featuring photographs of Nicole Kidman, Alicia Vikander and Sienna Miller.
In one image, Jennifer Lopez wraps herself in a blanket on the floor. Rachel McAdams looks sexy and undone in a slip dress and leather jacket, while Nicole Kidman hangs out barefoot on the steps of her trailer.
Alicia Vikander, Louise Bourgeois, David Beckham, Lupita Nyong’o, Robert Redford, Angelina Jolie, Christopher Walken, Brie Larson, Kate Winslet, Julian Schnabel, Wiz Khalifa, Iggy Pop, Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, and Michelle Obama.
10. The Black Godfather book
In what could be seen as a nod to their new media giant partner, the Duke and Duchess also featured The Black Godfather book on their sideboard, which is an accompanying piece for a documentary released on Netflix last year which tells the story of music executive Clarence Avant (right)
One of the most distinctive covers in the pile is a book bearing the words The Black Godfather.
It is a 2019 documentary film directed by Reginald Hudlin, released on Netflix, which depicts the story of music executive Clarence Avant, told by the people he worked with.
He is known as “the godfather of black music” and very famous in the music industry.
Starting as a manager to pianist-composer Lalo Schifrin, he later founded record labels, served as concert organizer, a special events producer, a fund-raiser for Democratic politicians, and a mentor to several African American exec.
The book could be seen as a nod to Netflix, which the Duke and Duchess signed a megawatt deal with the media giant.
Prince Harry and Meghan announced a new deal with the streaming service earlier this month, and said they wanted to provide ‘hope and inspiration’ with their upcoming projects.Comment + Permalink
DC Reveals First Wave of Milestone Collected Editions
Available For Purchase Digitally
Hardware: The Man in The Machine Available Now
Icon: A Hero’s Welcome Available Tuesday, October 6
Icon Vol. 2: The Mothership Connection Available Tuesday, October 13
More Titles to Follow Ahead of An All-New Static Shock Digital Comic Book Series,
Scheduled for February 2021
Following the announcement on the Milestone panel at DC FanDome: Hall of Heroes, DC revealed today that for the first time ever, titles from the Milestone library are available for purchase now on digital platforms such as Comixology, Amazon Kindle, Apple and others.
Hardware: The Man in the Machine (2010)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie
Art by Denys Cowan and J.J. Birch
On Sale now
This first-ever HARDWARE collection introduces inventor/engineer Curt Metcalf, who begins his adventures by breaking free of his employer, businessman Edwin Alva, who refused to share the profits from Metcalf’s many creations. Discovering that Alva is tied to organized crime and learning that no law enforcement agency would touch him, Metcalf created the high-tech Hardware armor that enabled him to take on his corrupt boss.
Icon: A Hero’s Welcome (1999)
Written by M.D. Bright and Dwayne McDuffie
Art by M.D. Bright
On Sale October 6
The flagship character from Milestone Comics is back in this new printing of the classic title collecting ICON #1-8. This is the title that introduced Augustus Freeman, a successful lawyer who covertly uses his alien super-powers to help those in need. But when a teenaged girl from the streets convinces him to use his abilities to inspire his people and becomes his sidekick, Rocket, the affluent Augustus embraces his true destiny and becomes Icon, the hero of Dakota.
Icon Vol. 2: The Mothership Connection (2010)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie
Art by M.D. Bright and Mike Gustovich
On Sale October 13
In 1869, the life pod of an adult alien crashed in the cotton fields of the South. Discovered by a slave woman, the extraterrestrial’s genetic structure was reconfigured, and he was transformed into an African American baby. Now, over a hundred and twenty years later, Augustus Freeman is a successful lawyer who covertly uses his alien super-powers to help those in need. But when a teenaged girl from the streets convinces him to use his abilities to inspire his people, the affluent Augustus embraces his true destiny and becomes Icon, the hero of Dakota.
More titles will be added between now and February 2021, when DC and Milestone debut an all-new Static Shock digital series. For the latest information on Milestone and the World’s Greatest Super Heroes, visit the website at www.dccomics.com and follow on social media @DCComics and @thedcnation.Comment + Permalink