Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Anne Baxter's Bible Stories

When I was young, we children nationwide waited eagerly every year for the annual network special broadcast presentation of 1939's The Wizard of Oz.  It usually aired on a weekend close to Easter Sunday on CBS.

We don't see The Wizard of Oz as a special network presentation anymore.  But Cecil DeMille's beautifully overdone color remake of The Ten Commandments has now become the Hollywood classic to see and quote on primetime ABC come the Passover/Easter season.  DeMille had done a silent version in the 1923.  His lavish remake has gorgeous color, stunning art direction, fabulous costumes by Edith Head, overbaked dialogue and just about every Jew in Hollywood with a SAG card who worked as a background actor.

The star assets are Charlton Heston, first as young hunky Moses in chains when it's discovered he's not Egyptian but Hebrew...
....and then later as middle-aged holy daddy bear conservative Moses with a touch of grey in the beard when he's tight with Yahweh and ready to part the Red Sea.
Co-starring with stoic Heston, there's bald beefcake Yul Brynner as the bad guy.  He's basically giving you hot, nasty male model realness the way he struts around causing high drama.  He works every single Edith Head costume he wears.  Who else but Yul Brynner could've had the swagger and confidence to make a totally butch fashion statement in those exotic costumes requiring all those accessories?

If there was a Biblical version of Magic Mike, Yul Brynner would've been the Matthew McConaughey character.

The Ten Commandments was Yul Brynner's Project Runway.

But our favorite star asset, the tastiest and ripest cherry on the overly-iced DeMille Technicolor cake, is Anne Baxter as Nefretiri.

She's determined to get her mouth on "the Kosher meal" in this drama -- and that's Moses.  She puts her bad girl vamp powers on ramming speed.
Remember Anne Baxter as "the little witch," Eve Harrington, in All About Eve?  She wants the stardom and the man that one certain Broadway legend has.  She schemed to snatch occupational and romantic territory away from kind-hearted Margo Channing (Bette Davis) the way Pharoah wanted to snatch land and freedom away from Jews in The Ten Commandments.                         
Eve manages to win the Sarah Siddons Award for Broadway acting.  In her genteel, humble acceptance speech -- a greater performance than the one she probably gave on stage -- she says "...although I am going to Hollywood to make a film..." Remember that?
DeMille's 1956 The Ten Commandments, to me, is exactly the kind of movie that Eve Harrington would've high-tailed it to Hollywood to make.  She would've worked with a famous director, had a starring role, and she would've been a vamp onscreen and off.  Eve Harrington would've been both Nefretiri and "the burning bush" in her dressing room with the married leading man.
Think about that the next time you see The Ten Commandments and hear Nefretiri coo "Moses" with that low-register, smoky voice with those wet, ready lips.

The Ten Commandments is campy religious fun.  From what I've heard about Noah starring Russell Crowe as the water prophet, DeMille did Biblical stories better at Paramount in the 1950s compared to today's Noah.  And DeMille hired black actors for Tne Ten Commandments -- unlike the director of Russell Crowe's epic.

1956's The Ten Commandments.  It's all about Anne Baxter as Eve Harrington playing Nefretiri.

She gave Bible stories a juicy pulp fiction vibe.  And I'm totally cool with that.  How about you?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Eric Deggans on NPR

I really dig the commentary of TV critic Eric Deggans.  They are sharp, accurate and provocative.  Now he's a contributor on National Public Radio.  He weighed in on the network late night host situation.  I agree with him.  That field of hosts is whiter than a Scandinavian bobsled team.  I've written pieces on that myself here on the blogsite.  Go to the NPR website and look for his "Dominated By 1 Point of View, Late-Night TV Needs New Voices" piece.  Deggans did a good 4-minute Morning Edition segment.
Here's the thing:  His suggestions for changing that color/TV situation are excellent.  Aisha Tyler and Samantha Bee would be fabulous as hosts.  So far, late night has been a predominantly white boys club.  But we know that.  We know women and talented minority men who could rock a late night host gig -- if given the chance.
Instead of telling us who would be good in the spot, I believe we need start asking network executives if those people were ever considered -- and if not...why not.

I've written recently about network weeknight news.  The late Max Robinson integrated that field in the late 1970s and early 80s when he became the first black journalist to anchor an evening network newscast during the week.  He anchored the ABC World News Tonight.  Robinson died in 1988 at age 49.  Since then, no black journalist on ABC, NBC or CBS has yet to become the second black anchor of the network evening news.  Why?  It's 2014.

Ellen Cleghorne was one of the first black women added to the cast  of Saturday Night Live.  The first was the late Danitra Vance.  I spent time with both women.  We talked a lot about race in our broadcast workplaces.  Ellen and I worked in the same building.  During her SNL years, I was asked to  be in place for the premiere of a new weekend morning news program called Weekend Today in New York for WNBC.  One evening, after grabbing a quick bite, Ellen took me up to the SNL offices with her.  When she said, "Those are the writers," it looked like chow time in an all-white frat house.  They were all eating.  They were all white.  Then Ellen took me down a long hallway and, in a room, there was one black man.  She said that it there was a good idea for a sketch featuring her, it usually came from him.  So...the comedy was filtered through a predominantly white male perspective.

Mr. Deggans is a TV critic.  When the network morning shows had weekly movie critics (before the networks had film studios as parent companies), the field of film critics on news and syndicated shows was also a predominantly white boys clubs.  From Gene Shalit, Joel Siegel, Siskel & Ebert, Leonard Maltin, Jeffrey Lyons, Ben Mankiewicz and Ben Lyons to even Cody Gifford (son of Kathie Lee & Frank) for one summer in his mother's hour of Today -- we got a mostly white male perspective of movies.  That continues today.  I can't recall seeing one black film critic on TV or reading a quote from a black film critic in a national ad telling me to see 12 Years a Slave.  I read quotes from Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine and from Rex Reed.  I didn't see one national review from any critic who, like myself, was actually descended from a black slave.

There are plenty of black and Latino critics in New York City.  I know.  I've seen them.  I've talked to them.  I've had some on my TV shows.  African-American Wesley Morris won a Pultizer Prize for film criticism in The Boston Globe.  Did we ever see him review a movie on Today?  No.  We saw Cody Gifford instead.  Why?
It's not just the exclusion that continues to make steam come out of my ears, it's the disregard for our history that also irritates me.  The groundbreaking achievements of ABC's Max Robinson seem to be forgotten today.  That is a damn shame.  Eric Deggans, a black journalist, did that smart NPR segment on the lack of racial diversity in the area of late-night hosts.  Eric Deggans should have been part of the NPR Fresh Air look at late nights hosts that aired last August.  Look in my blog post archive.  Go into 2013 and click on August.  Read my article, "LATE NIGHT WEEK on NPR."

Why should Deggans have been in that series along with host Terry Gross and contributing TV historian David Bianculli?  Because ... in that 5-day salute to the history of late night TV talk show hosts...a salute that took us from the classic nights of Steve Allen, Jack Paar and Johnny Carson to the modern nights of Leno, Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Myers...not a one of those hour-long shows ever mentioned Arsenio Hall.  It was as if he didn't exist.  Chevy Chase, Joan Rivers and Pat Sajak got mentioned.  Arsenio Hall did not.  Five hour-long shows in a week devoted to Late-Night Hosts.  On NPR.  There wasn't even a mention that Arsenio was returning with a new nighttime talk show.  How did NPR manage to overlook his history?  How did that happen?
When Jeffrey Lyons did his NBC network news Johnny Carson obituary segment, he credited Carson with interviewing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Lyons was wrong.  I contacted NBC to let them know Carson was on vacation that week.  His celebrated guest host booked and conducted the interview in 1968.  The guest host on the Tonight Show that week was Harry Belafonte.
Harry Belafonte sat in Carson's chair and interviewed Dr. King.  That may have been the first time a black talent hosted the Tonight Show for a week.  When was the last time?  I never got a response from NBC. I wonder if NBC even knows this historic Tonight Show edition is in its archives.

Ellen Cleghorne and I became buddies because she was a fan of my VH1 work.  I was the first African-American talent to get his own prime time weeknight celebrity talk show on the cable network.   I was thrilled.  I'd worked long and hard for that kind of opportunity.  When Harry Belafonte hosted the Tonight Show, I was a kid in South Central Los Angeles.  I went to school in Watts.  Our family lived in the curfew area during the Watts Riots of the 1960s, riots that made national headlines for days.

The late 1980s work I did on VH1 that Ellen Cleghorne like a lot was my talk show host work.  Here's a sample.

Here's a clip from my exclusive Paul McCartney interview, taped in London for VH1.
I got good reviews from Sunday's New York Times, TV Guide and People magazine.  My mother was calling all her friends to read them my reviews.

Henry Alford wrote a book of humorous essays called Big Kiss.  It was about his young Caucasian trials and tribulations as a struggling actor.  He worked on VH1 in the 1990s.  If you looked at my two VH1 videos posted, how do you think I felt reading Alford's book when he incorrectly wrote that all VH1 hosts in the 1980s were comics of "the Gallagher variety"?  Did you see me whack a watermelon with a hammer in either of those videos?  No.  I'm not putting myself into major talent category with Mr. Belafonte or Mr. Hall, but I was irked at a young white dude ignoring my history in a hardcover book.  Alford became a contributor for NPR.

Ellen Cleghorne understood my frustration at WNBC.  I could not land a steady assignment at the desk doing film reviews and other entertainment pieces.  I was constantly assigned to "wacky" live segments in the field -- like Jim Carrey's local news character in the first 20 minutes of Bruce Almighty.  It was while meeting executive resistance at two different local news shows during the 1990s to my doing regular film reviews in the studio that I really began to notice the lack of racial diversity in the field of film critics on TV.  I had not seen any black talent on TV regularly reviewing films or covering the theatre scene.  In New York City, of all places.  Full disclosure:  I did weekly film reviews on ABC's Milwaukee affiliate, WISN, for four years before moving to New York.  In fact, PBS Chicago contacted me to audition for Sneak Previews when Siskel & Ebert left PBS for Buena Vista syndication.

After VH1, I was never offered another national talk show host opportunity.  And I tried to get one. I wanted to do a show like Inside the Actors Studio or Later with Bob Costas.  Also, as you know, I could not land a broadcast agent -- even with my national credits.  The agents turned me down.  The usual response was "I wouldn't know what to do with you."  One said that if I did weather, he could get me a TV news job in a heartbeat.  And don't get me started on the "You're not black enough" opinion  Every single TV executive who had that comment about me looked like he fell out of an Ingmar Bergman movie.  They were all so white.  That was another way of saying "You're too articulate." So... predominantly white executives had a fixed notion in their heads of how all black men should move, sound and behave.  And what their level of knowledge should be.  But, somehow, Dennis Miller had a season of work doing jokes about the Byzantine Empire as a color commentator on ABC's Monday Night Football in 2000.  It took years before we could get a black actor -- Aisha Tyler -- on Friends, a sitcom about hip young adults living in downtown Manhattan.  But also in 2000, NBC gave us a sitcom starring Emeril Lagasse.  Yes, that Emeril.  The chef who shouts "Bam!" when he makes a chuck roast.  He had a sitcom.  Emeril lasted from 2000 to early 2001.  But a skilled black entertainer trying to get a late night host gig on NBC seemed to be about as easy as getting a permit to build a Hooters in Vatican City.  Why?

Agents.  There's another issue.  From my VH1 days to 2008 when I was seen on Food Network, heard on national radio with Whoopi Goldberg and played a recurring satirical news character for The Onion, I met with agents in top shops in NYC.  Never did I ever see a black agent.  All the top broadcast agents were white.  Did a black actor/actress ever play a high-powered A-list entertainment agent on HBO's Entourage?  Think about it.  In 2008 it hit me that if you're black, gay, have celebrity interviews to your credit, host a show on Food Network and do political comedy acting, you will be making holiday fondue with leftover government cheese.  That's how broke you'll be from the lack of work.  But if you're white, gay, have done celebrity interviews, host a national cooking channel show and have done some political comedy, you're Mo Rocca and will get your own office for work on the CBS Sunday Morning show.  If you don't believe me, just ask Nancy Giles.

Eric Deggans did a fine segment.  However, as one of the many black performers who knows that the playing field is not level and as one who knows that we're lucky if we can even get an audition let alone the job, I think sharper questions need to be shot at the people in charge.  The people who do the hiring.  We know that talents like Aisha Tyler, Samantha Bee, Kim Coles and D.L. Hughley would make fabulous talk show or game show hosts.  We need to know if they're getting meetings for such opportunities.  We need to know who is doing the hiring and have they seen or considered minority  talents.  If they haven't, ask them why.  If they're unaware of our history, inform them.

Go in .... and go in deeper.

To follow Eric Deggans at NPR on Twitter, his handle is @Deggans.

If you want to see another of my retro VH1 talk show clips, go to my "Michael Caine & Me" post from a few days ago this month.  It's quite festive.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bare Talk with "Cubby"

Please hear me out with Paul "Cubby" Bryant, national morning radio star, on my podcast.  You get entertainment, laughs and some serious revelations.  We bring it.  I had a terrific time catching up with him again in New York City after his show.
To convey fully how Cubby's kindness impacted me when we worked together for Premiere Radio, I told him about a difficult period in my life.  I worked on WNBC at the time.  I was part of the original morning team on the September 1992 debut of Weekend Today in New York.  During my years as a regular on that new early morning news program, doing mostly light-hearted live segments in the field, I lost a partner to AIDS.

Cubby and I met when we worked on Whoopi Goldberg's national weekday morning radio show.  (Yes, Whoopi Goldberg had a radio show.)  Cubby was pretty much the leading man to Whoopi, as I wrote in an earlier blog piece.  He was the co-host to an international film star who has made Oscar history with a Best Supporting Actress victory.
She's a daytime Emmy winner as a member of the team on ABC's The View.  That TV opportunity came to her while she had her Premiere Radio show, Wake Up with Whoopi.  Here's Cubby with Whoopi and the fabulous singer/songwriter Cyndi Lauper.  Her songs delight lots of folks in the big Broadway musical comedy hit, Kinky Boots.
Because this interview is so honest, I really hope people listen to it.  Seriously, my reason for starting a podcast was to keep fresh material out there and help me kick a way-too-long stretch of unemployment to the curb.  Cubby reveals his highs and lows of working with a show biz icon like Whoopi.  I got pretty bare telling Cubby how difficult it was trying to make folks laugh on live TV while caring for a terminally ill partner and not feeling diversity acceptance in my workplace.  Few at WNBC knew what I was going through.  As I tell Cubby, I kept quiet at work about having a loved one with AIDS because I was afraid of losing my job.  I needed the money to take care of us both and I was not under contract.  In the dark days of the AIDS crisis, the 1980s and early 90s, people with AIDS often were treated like social lepers.  Richard had been laid off from work just a few weeks before he was hospitalized for the first time.  He'd been job hunting.  When he was diagnosed, his roommate wanted him out of the apartment.  Richard and I both learned about housing and financial assistance for the disabled, which we technically was when diagnosed.  Eventually, he moved in with me into my studio apartment.

Richard asked me out first.  We'd met through a mutual friend.  I didn't even want to go out but he was so charming and such a sweet guy that I felt "What can it hurt?  It's just Sunday brunch at a nice diner."  That autumn Sunday in 1992, we had brunch...and stayed together until the day he died.  No one ever made me laugh as much as he did.
No one could work my last good nerve the way he could.  No one ever made me cry as much as he did when he was gone.

We were still in the early months of dating when he was hospitalized and diagnosed with full-blown AIDS.  He was from a small town in Tennessee and had never been tested.  Not even when he moved to the big city to start a new life and seek a career.  WNBC's early weekend morning news show had just started to click.  I could've cut off from Richard to focus on my TV career.  But I didn't.  Taking care of him brought me a closer connection to a Divine Force than any sacrament I've received so far as a Catholic.  My spirit was changed, renewed.  Our relationship wasn't easy.  The horrors of his illness would come up suddenly, unexpectedly.  Dealing with his illness was like riding a roller coaster at night with a blindfold on.  You couldn't tell when the next turn or drop was coming.  There was the pneumonia.  And the lymphoma.  And the medications.  The reactions to the medications.  I learned how to deal with hospital personnel to make sure he was being administered the correct medications.  And there was the irony that the steroids he was given to battle his pneumonia bulked him up.  He didn't undergo the severe weight loss associated with the sickness.  To many, he didn't look like an AIDS patient.  But he was most definitely ill.  Many times, I went to work at WNBC in the pre-dawn hours straight from having slept sitting up in a chair by his hospital bedside.

I'm not a perfect guy but I believe I was perfect for him.  We weren't married.  But, in my heart, I had committed to doing my best to keep him comfortable, to keep him as free from fear as I could and to make sure he'd never feel alone and lonely.  I kept that commitment.  Richard passed away in June 1994.  He was a great light in my life.
In an on-air work situation, I'd never really talked about that until I was working with Cubby in 2007.  That was the year our show staff, including Whoopi, participated in AIDS Walk New York.

I didn't plan to get that real about myself.  However, I hope it inspires people to realize what a positive force the embrace of diversity is.  Cubby embraced it.  That's one reason why it was so totally cool to work with him.

Please give us a listen when you have time:  BobbyRiversShow.com.  Leave me some comments.

AIDS Walk New York comes up next month.  It benefits GMHC, the organization that was a major help to me when I was taking care of Richard.  The crisis is not over.  For info on the New York, San Francisco, L.A. or other walks...please go here: aidswalk.net.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hot Movie Hunk/Brave Actor

If you've read my previous blogs or have listened to my podcasts, you know that writer/actor Billy Hayes is a longtime buddy of mine.  We attended the same college -- Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I interviewed him for the first time in the 1970s when I worked on a Milwaukee FM rock radio station after I'd graduated from school.  He was promoting the publication of his dramatic, extraordinary story.  He's the young American who was caught smuggling hashish out of Istanbul and was sentenced to a brutal Turkish prison.  So brutal that he wanted to kill one of his oppressors.  Billy managed to escape that prison and return to freedom.  Hollywood wanted to put that thrilling escape story on the screen  -- and did.  Initially Richard Gere was close to playing Billy even though young Richard Gere looked nothing like the very blond Billy Hayes.
Gere didn't get the part.  Billy was played by another dark-haired actor, one who was seen in two highly acclaimed and highly rated TV mini-series -- Roots, the celebrated tale of African-American history, and Sybil, the psychological drama of a young woman with multiple personalities starring Sally Field.  The film adaptation of Midnight Express, Billy's memoir, made handsome actor Brad Davis a movie star.

Midnight Express was a box office hit and it did very well at Oscar nomination time.  Oliver Stone won an Oscar for his screenplay adaptation of Billy's book.  Alan Parker was up for Best Director.  The movie was nominated for Best Picture of 1978.

The movie's success and his Oscar win gave Oliver Stone the clout to make Platoon.  Billy became a celebrity and his book continued to sell.  He and Brad became good friends.
Brad went on to act in Chariots of Fire, an inspirational sports-related film also based on a true story.  That won the Best Picture of 1981 Academy Award.  On TV, he starred as the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy in a mini-series biopic.  On CBS, he played the paranoid Cmdr. Queeg on trial in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.  The character was famously played onscreen by Humphrey Bogart in 1954.  On stage in New York City, he originated the role of gay activist Ned Weeks in Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart.  The play opened in the mid-1980s during the AIDS epidemic.  For years, there was talk of Barbra Streisand directing a film version.  That never happened.  Ryan Murphy, the man who gave us Glee, has directed The Normal Heart for HBO.  It premieres next month.  Mark Ruffalo takes on the role originated onstage by Brad Davis.  Here's the HBO trailer.

Actor Brad Davis died of AIDS in 1991.  He was only 41.  He was survived by a wife and daughter.  The HBO production stars actors who are openly gay and are getting work.  Back in the 1980s and 90s, actors were in fear of coming out because the revelation could halt their careers and their income.  That's what the attitude was like then.  I know. I remember.  I was there.  Brad Davis was a brave and openly bisexual actor.  He was intimate with men.  He was intimate with women.  He was a serious actor.  Like today's Bradley Cooper, he could've just coasted on his good looks.  But he didn't.  He was committed to doing the work and challenging himself.

Billy Hayes and I did a second part to our previous chat.  In the podcast that's still up this weekend, Billy shares great memories about Brad Davis -- a good actor who should not be forgotten.  He talks about how they met and and he has funny stories about the making of Midnight Express.  Could not using deodorant for a week help one get an Oscar nomination?  Apparently it worked for one crew member.

Did Brad's willingness to play gay characters on screen and on stage limit his job opportunities in Hollywood?  Billy talks about that.  And he talks about his new stage project.  He's gotten excellent reviews for his one-man show telling the rest of the story after his escape and on the rocky road of being a news/show biz celebrity.  Since we recorded the interview, Billy took his New York City stage production on tour to London.
Hear his warm memories of Brad Davis, the late star of Midnight Express and The Normal Heart on my podcast: BobbyRiversShow.com.

Billy, thank you for your generous and gracious time, your good humor and your good advice.  I wish you continued success and happiness with Riding the Midnight Express.
Funny about life.  One of the worst things that could've ever happened to young Billy Hayes when he was vacationing overseas became the best thing that could've happened to the movie career of Brad Davis.

Friday, April 18, 2014

NPR Sex Talk

Do you frequently listen to National Public Radio?  If you've listened to hosts like Ira Glass or local hosts on your listener-supported station, then this is for you.

This is my idea of a future National Public Radio host getting lucky on a college graduate weekend in Vegas:

"Yes, yes.  You like that tumescent male organ, don't you?  Don't you?  I'm awaiting your response.  Please answer and then could you fondle my testicles?  I'd greatly appreciate that."

Being a Vegas hook-up, the encounter might end with "The money is on the dresser.  Right next to my PBS tote bag."

Not all of them, but a few of the NPR hosts sound way too whitebread.  Can you imagine what Ira Glass would sound like during a hot "Who's your daddy" moment?  Or, in the NPR fashion, a "Who's your father figure" moment? Wow.

Maybe that could be one of his shows.  "Hi.  I'm Ira Glass.  Next on This American Life, I get my freak on! Bitch!"  That would be the episode that would actually make millions of us working class African-Americans want to listen to the show.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wake Up with Paul "Cubby" Bryant

What does Paul "Cubby" Bryant have in common with Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, Maggie Smith, Sally Field, Neil Patrick Harris, Tom Bergeron and Barbara Walters?  He's worked opposite Whoopi Goldberg.

We talked about that.  And I tell him how his embrace of diversity and contributions to AIDS Walk New York inspired me to be more authentic on the air.  I told radio listeners about the AIDS loss in my personal life.  I never felt the freedom to be open like that on local TV news programs that employed me.  With Cubby, I felt free.  Working with him was one of the coolest times of my long broadcast career.  It was worth getting up before the crack o' dawn to go be in a studio with him.

Millions of listeners across the country hear him in the morning now with co-host, Cindy Vero.  While you have your morning coffee or tea, they go on the air in New York City and bring you the hottest new music, entertainment news and interview with top celebrities.

Here's Cubby (far left) at work interviewing Cuban rap star Pitbull, in shades.
I shared on-air time with Cubby during two of the most memorable and, often, two of the most surreal years of my broadcast career.  He was the co-host on Premiere Radio's syndicated weekday morning radio show, Wake Up with Whoopi.  The star was show biz icon, Whoopi Goldberg.  Here she is with Cyndi Lauper and Cubby.
I was the weekly movie critic and entertainment correspondent on the show from its early days in 2006 until its cancelation in 2008.  I really wanted the job.  Honestly, I was nervous about working with Whoopi and Cubby.

I'd listened to him frequently on the radio when I lived in New York.  I loved his work.  But I'd never met him.  He was a definite radio celebrity.  As for Whoopi, I don't know if she ever realized during all that time we worked together -- with me sitting right next to her -- how deeply significant her work and accomplishments are to me.  Especially as a black man in the entertainment industry.  I was a boy when my parents and I gasped and cheered when Sidney Poitier broke the Academy Awards color barrier and was voted Best Actor for Lilies of the Field.  He was the first black man to win the Oscar in that category, the first to win in any competitive Oscar category.  Decades later, as a grown man in an apartment with black and Latino friends, I gasped and cheered again when Whoopi made history and won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.  We all cheered.  That TV moment was as memorable and important to me as Sidney Poitier accepting his Oscar and a kiss from Anne Bancroft.  We understood her struggles.
Whoopi was the second black woman in Oscar history to win that award.  The first was Hattie McDaniel for 1939's Gone With The Wind.  McDaniel was also the first black performer nominated for an Oscar.  Whoopi won for the 1990 comedy mystery, Ghost.
Whoopi, like Sidney Poitier, had made black history within the Academy Awards and not just with her Oscar victory.  Until just a few years ago, she was the only black actress -- past or present -- to have more than one Oscar nomination to her credit.  I mentioned this on the radio show in her presence.  Not only was she the only black actress at that time with more than one Oscar nomination to her credit, she was the first and only black woman to host the Oscars by herself.  Her first nomination was a Best Actress Oscar nod for her stunning dramatic work under Steven Spielberg's direction in The Color Purple.

What a magnificent performance.  It's one of the best Hollywood performances by an actor or actress in the 1980s.  This film work came after terrific reviews for her one-woman Broadway show directed by Mike Nichols.  With a Best Actress Oscar nod for 2011's The Help, Viola Davis became the second black actress with more than one Oscar nomination to her credit.  Her first was a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Doubt.

Whoopi was one of my first guests on my VH1 talk show, Watch Bobby Rivers, in the late 1980s.  Just the two of us for the half-hour.  She was promoting her new film, Clara's Heart.  It co-starred a new teen actor named Neil Patrick Harris.  Lord knows my acting talent is not on the same top shelf as Whoopi's.  However, as black performers in the entertainment industry, we have both had to fight for work and for the chance to get work -- fight for equal opportunities -- simply because of being black and not fitting some executive's notion of physical attractiveness.

Whoopi is a survivor and a star of stage, screen and TV.  Every single week, I could not believe that I was on the air and sitting right next to...Whoopi Goldberg.   For years, she has been an inspiration to me with her still under-utilized acting versatility.  I will always be grateful that she gave Premiere the OK to hire me for the show.

What was it like for Cubby to be co-host/leading man to a star who was not as experienced at doing morning radio as he was?  Doing live morning drive with a Top 40 vibe is not the same as shooting Sister Act.  It's a different area and a different tempo.  He left the show before its cancelation.  Did he ever feel eclipsed by her stardom?

Cubby and I talk about that on my podcast.  We also talk about his early career and radio influences.  He mentions wisdom he got from fellow morning radio show host, Elvis Duran.  Elvis gave Cubby treasured advice on how to approach his radio shows following the September 11th attacks. To Cubby, I open up more about the AIDS loss in my life as we countdown to May 18th's AIDS Walk New York for 2014.

Cubby is quite a guy.  You'll hear some colorful behind-the-scenes stories of when we worked with Whoopi Goldberg.  I learned a lot working with her.  That was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  We'll talk about big star encounters and even celebrity flatulence.  Hear me out with Paul "Cubby" Bryant.  The interview goes up Monday, April 21st on BobbyRiversShow.com.

This coming Saturday, April 19th, see Whoopi Goldberg star in A Day Late and a Dollar Short.  It's a Lifetime TV adaptation of the best seller by Terry McMillan.  That's at 8p on Lifetime TV.  In 1998, Whoopi did fine work in the movie version of McMillan's previous best seller, How Stella Got Her Groove Back starring Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs.

Great Dames on DEVIOUS MAIDS

Let me get right to it.  Give Rebecca Wisocky an Emmy now.  NOW.  And a Golden Globe.  The new season of Lifetime TV's Devious Maids premieres this coming Sunday night, April 20th.  She's delicious in the episode -- just as she was in all her episodes of the previous season.  If you unfamiliar with her versatility and have not seen her on this series, I'll describe her skills this way:  If Meryl Streep had not been available to do the role she did in The Devil Wears Prada, it should've gone to Rebecca Wisocky.
Had she'd been around in Hollywood's Golden Era of movie studios, top directors would've ordered "Get Rebecca!" when casting their sophisticated or screwball comedies.  She'd have been on the A-list for directors like George Cukor, Howard Hawks, Preston Sturges, Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder and Joseph L. Mankiewicz.  Just watch her with the young, shirtless bodyguard this coming Sunday night and see for yourself.  Fabulous.

Rebecca Wisocky plays "Evelyn Powell" on Devious Maids.  She's one of those wealthy, privileged wives who'd rather have her uterus removed than live in a mansion without the services of a Latina maid.

While we on the subject of Emmys, can it really be true that Judy Reyes never got an Emmy nomination for any of her years of extremely funny work on the hospital sitcom, Scrubs?  She was one of the main reasons why I watched that show.  I did the DTST with a beverage several times when she delivered a look or a line.  That stands for "Danny Thomas Spit Take."  Reyes plays one of the Devious Maids and that look of hers still kills me.  She reminds me so much of friends, neighbors and classmates from when I was a kid in Los Angeles.  Judy Reyes needs some Emmy and Golden Globe love too.
I'll use another classic film era reference.  Judy Reyes has got the Thelma Ritter gift.  Think of Thelma in Miracle on 34th Street, A Letter to Three Wives, All About Eve and Hitchcock's Rear Window.  Reyes could take those roles today and knock 'em out of the ballpark.  The scenes that pair Judy Reyes with Susan Lucci are some of my favorites.
Then there's Susan Lucci.  OK, we know that she was nominated for a daytime Emmy every year since she hit puberty, but she won only once.  Shortly before she started menopause.  She was famous for and nominated for playing vixen Erica Kane on the daytime drama, All My Children.

She's now doing comedy as a lovably clueless well-to-do lady on Devious Maids.  I love Lucci on this series.  I never knew she had such good comedy chops.  I only knew her from the soap opera.  Susan Lucci is lots of fun here as the ditzy widow.
From Marc Cherry, the man who gave us Desperate Housewives, this is an entertaining, nicely subversive and wickedly funny show about four Latina maids.  We get to know their lives, their ambitions and their brains as they work for pampered and privileged people in Beverly Hills.  I, for one, am very thankful for Mr. Cherry's attention to minority stories and actors on this show and Desperate Housewives.

If you want to see some great dames doing some groovy work, watch Devious Maids Sunday night on Lifetime TV.