Thursday, July 30, 2009

Goodbye, Reverend Ike

The Right Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II died this week. He was 74.

The name probably means little today. But in the late 1960s and 1970s, there was probably no bigger name on the cultural/religious landscape than Eikerenkoetter's--shortened to the better-known "Rev. Ike."

The flamboyant, money-loving and wavy-haired Rev. Ike was heard by more than 2.5 million people on radio and television. He preached the gospel of prosperity, encouraging his faithful to envision themselves rich. In the Big Apple, subway billboards for his NYC based church would read: "Don't wait for pie-in-the-sky, by and by. Get yours now, with ice cream on top!"

Then he'd put the call out for donations and he himself got rich. But credit where credit is due: he didn't hide his riches or apologize for them. "My garages runneth over," he once said.

The New York Times, Fortunate Magazine--even the London Times--wrote about him. Ike was famous enough that his name became a punchline on shows like "Sanford & Son" and "Good Times." And Richard Pryor's cameo in the 1976 movie "Car Wash" as a flamboyant preacher surrounded by riches and honeys was clearly a jab at Rev. Ike. And if it wasn't, Pryor's work here, on his short lived NBC show a year later, was:

Ike's popularity waned in the 1980 and 1990s--and no wonder with so many other prosperity preachers getting in the game. He had a stroke in 2007, according to the New York Times, and had been laid low since.

Monday, July 27, 2009

"JD's Revenge"

A guilty pleasure: "JD's Revenge," a 1976 film about a slain 1940s New Orleans gangster who possesses the body of a bookwormish law student--played by Glynn Turman--in order to get his, well, revenge.

"JD" is one of the more unusual films of the blaxploitation genre. It has the customary low budget, but rises above it with sharper-than-normal writing, use of the supernatural--and the casting of the Turman who has the acting chops to convincingly play a law school student and a reincarnated, swaggering, switchblade-carrying hoodlum.

The dialogue is at times hilarious. The movie is worth renting if only to see the scene when Turman tells his woman: "Whatsa matter baby? Don't you like yo Daddy's conk?" And if you can't wait to rent it, check out the entire movie here.

The cast includes Lou Gossett, Joan Pringle (who is lovely as all get-out), the dependable Carl Crudup as Turman's best friend.

"JD" is something of a cult film now. I would say a remake would be in order, but in some ways, the very entertaining 2001 Snoop Dogg/Pam Grier film "Bones" kind of accomplishes that:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Old School Detroit TV: The Scene

It's Friday afternoon and I just got back from lunch with two friends. One of them is Peter Cook, an architect from D.C. whom I've known for years. He praised The Soul Closet (as is customary, of course), but mentioned a tv show from his youth in Detroit called "The Scene."

"It was kind of a, well, low-budget 'Soul Train'," he said. Indeed it is. And it is fun to watch. There were dozens of these local dance shows across the country in the 1970s and 1980s. Anyway, here's more of "The Scene."

(I'm likin' the dance in white spandex and red cowboy hat in this one:)

My buddy, the esteemed Professor Lester Spence of Johns Hopkins University--a native Detroiter--puts a little perspective on this when I put a link to this post on my Facebook Page: "There was a moment there, when folks are straight banging to house and electro."

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Time

The Soul Closet ends the week with the title track from The Time's 1984 album, "Ice Cream Castles."

Monday, July 20, 2009

When Hip Hop Came to Madison Avenue

Two clips from the early days of the marriage between rap/hip-hop and advertising. Above is Young MC's groundbreaking 1990 commercial for Pepsi Cola. Next is one of the late 1980s spots the Fat Boys did for Swatch watches:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ce Ce Peniston

The Soul Closet closes for the week with this jam from dance music diva CeCe Peniston. Her biggest hits included 1992's "Finally" and "We Got a Love Thang." But for my money, I'm liking "Keep on Walkin'," which is today's featured clip.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Soldier's Story

I saw "A Soldier's Story" in a packed theater in 1984 a few days after its premiere. It was kind of an event: a serious film with a black cast--adapted from black Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Fuller's play--that dealt with racism and identity in the context of a southern army base in World War II. And it was a murder mystery on top of that.

The movie starred Howard Rollins Jr., as an Army captain sent to the base to investigate that murder. Rollins (who died in 1996) was an A-list actor, then, having been nominated for an Oscar for his performance in "Ragtime" a couple of years earlier. But the film really belongs to the supporting cast, which included Denzel Washington, David Alan Grier, William Alan Young (the cat who would later play the daddy in "Moesha"), and Robert Townsend--when they were all young and on the come-up.

Adolph Caesar (who died in 1986) turned in an Oscar-nominated performance as the bitter and conflicted Sgt. Waters, spitting lines with the fury of a machine gun (as the clip above can attest. (Warning: if you haven't seen the film, there are spoilers in the above clip.) There is even a musical performance by Patti Labelle:

Despite all this, "A Soldier's Story" is kind of a forgotten movie. Looking at it now, the film is plagued by its low $5 million budget ("The Color Purple," which was released the next year was made for $15 million). And Rollins, the star of the film and a compelling actor, seems to have little to do under Jewison's direction. As a result, the heaviest lifting, actingwise, is done by Washington and Ceasar, who played the same roles in Fuller's play. (Warning: course language in this clip below)

Still "A Soldier's Story" is worth checking out. So check it out.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Sylvers

A reader suggested I post some clips of The Sylvers. I think she was suggesting this as penance for putting up that clip of Celine Dion singing "Bad" while dressed as MJ. So I'll post two Sylvers, a Debarge and a Five Stairsteps and hope for absolution.

And the Five Stairsteps (singing live!)