Full disclosure: For years starting in 2000, I pitched myself to work for TCM. Not as a host. As a script writer or someone else in the production team. I felt that my VH1 talk show host years provided some info that I could've incorporated into fresh on-air copy for host movie introductions. I never got a TCM job interview. But I did get contacted by a nice TCM producer named Darcy Hettrich when TCM wanted to book Whoopi Goldberg as a Guest Programmer in 2007. At the time, I worked with and sat right next to Whoopi as a full time talent and film reviewer on her syndicated weekday morning radio show. I told Whoopi about the TCM invitation and she immediately said "Yes." I helped Darcy hook it up without her having to go through an agent or a manager. Whoopi was the only black person we saw as a guest host on AMC when it was still American Movie Classics in the 1990s. Its team of regular hosts was all-white. When AMC auditioned for a new host, I had no luck getting into the auditions. And that was after my years on VH1.
So...if Alex Trebek had been unavailable to host TCM's Friday Night Spotlight on Africa for October...who would I have approached? Hmmmm. Maybe LeVar Burton, TV's famous Reading Rainbow host and star of the acclaimed TV mini-series, Roots. After his huge success in Roots, Burton starred opposite Steve McQueen in McQueen's last film, 1980's The Hunter.
Or Wesley Morris. When Morris was a columnist for The Boston Globe, he won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for film criticism. The first winner in that category was the late Roger Ebert. Morris is the only black journalist to win the prize for film criticism.
Other Africa-related films that air Fridays this month on TCM include Sanders of the River (starring actor/singer/activist Paul Robeson), Mogambo, Out of Africa, The English Patient plus the politically potent and still relevant classic, The Battle of Algiers.
To show you the work I pitched to Turner Classic Films for a behind-the-scenes production gig, here are short samples from my old VH1 talk show.