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

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.

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