Whoopi's radio show got cancelled. Work for me started to dry up, as it did for millions of others when the Recession began to rear its ugly head in 2009/2010. I wound up here on the West Coast, determined to start over. What did I learn? You've got to persevere and have faith. As Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers sang in Swing Time, you've got to "pick yourself up, dust yourself, start all over again." Plus be grateful for good friends, loving family and lessons learned. Last year, definite signs of new hope appeared. Just like in Greek mythology....or Sullivan's Travels by Preston Sturges...I got a few days on-camera TV work and I co-hosted a TV pilot. And both sweet opportunities took me right back to where I started. New York City.
The producers who booked me to be half of the 2-man host team in the pilot knew more about my career than those agents did. I loved this pilot experience and the whole crew.
Granted the idea of a film review/interview show is not a new one. However, this was new and groundbreaking in that the pilot presents two African-American talents reviewing the new movies and discussing classic films that folks should watch.
There's an agency in New York called The Supporting Cast that had a great reputation for hooking show biz folks up with temp gigs in between performing assignments. In between VH1 and a syndicated game show I hosted, The Supporting Cast got me a temp clerical gig at an office near Macy's. I worked with two cool young women -- one black, one Puerto Rican -- who both wore what John Leguizamo would call "14th Street Door Knocker Earrings." Their earrings looked like Aztec dinner plates. One afternoon, one said to the other, "Girl...it was not as good as Paths of Glory...but it wore...me....out!" My heart had wings. They were talking about Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket.
That's why this pilot project was very important to us. It would change racial images about who embraces and follows the cinema arts. It would add diversity to a field in which it's sorely needed. It could inspire minority youth to appreciate classic films. That appreciation could inspire youth to check out specific literature in a library and to experience live theatre. That's how it happened with me with I was a kid in South Central L.A. Diversity was low on network TV just minutes after the Oscar nominations were announced this year. I switched from ABC to NBC to CBS to see what guest entertainment journalists and film critics were in place to discuss the Oscar nominations. Not one black person. Not even in the panel on The Charlie Rose Show. And one of the top films being discussed was Quentin Tarantino's controversial Django Unchained.
Unfortunately, we got word that PBS will not pick up our show for production this year. We shot the pilot with initial PBS interest. That's how it goes with TV. I still believe that an entertaining show about film entertainment that's hosted by minorities could have a mainstream appeal. Also, our show could provide food for Hollywood thought about social images in its product. For instance: Why is it that, if you're a white girl who's 16 and pregnant, you have a nice suburban home, supportive parents, you go to a good school, you have access to a car, you've got a quirky personality and you're called Juno.
Did you see Chicago? Those two were like the Roxie and Velma of unwed teen mothers.
I love talking about films and interviewing filmmakers. And I love doing TV. As proof, here's a segment I did when I worked for ABC News on its live weekday magazine show that aired on Lifetime TV. I loved that gig. Antonio Mora and I discussed new releases for one of my weekly movie segments on Lifetime Live in 2000.
In the late 1990s, I had a nighttime cable show on New York's Metro Channel. I was able to have a diverse panel on for some lively film discussion. Here's a short clip.
Here's what both clips have: Male, Female, Jewish, Gentile, Gay, Straight, Black, White, Latino...all talking about films. It's my opinion that, in the arts and in discussion about the arts, diversity is essential. That's my message to networks -- other races must feel that they are part of the discussion. Maybe some other company will dig our pilot.
On to the next project. I've got a good new agent and lots of faith. Wish me luck!