As I said before, the solitary work of writing and creating is habitual for me. Going to others to aid in pulling something off is a work in progress. I am grateful for running across Russell Motley in this regard. Dude networks his ass off! He runs the journalism division here at Florida Memorial University and seems to know everyone most people have resigned to never meeting in their lifetime. With that being said, I have to come to grips with how I held to the stuffy notions that were pressed upon me in grad school at Florida State University’s creative writing program; If you’re good enough, people will find you. And so I have toiled away for years, writing and rewriting in a vacuum (no solid editorial team), putting novels and the like out that have not fully reached their audience. Combine that with a stubborn refusal to kiss ass (I don’t ask for people’s autographs, if the moment doesn’t really strike, I don’t ask to take pics with folks…), and there you have it. I have been in a hotel lobby where Prince was less than twenty yards from me, dined at fundraisers with Blair Underwood, helped escort Gabrielle Union across campus – and that was it. I am an artist and see them as artists as well (artists that found their audience big time, etc.). I try to put myself in their position. People acting silly and mindless over my presence would annoy me. Being appreciative is cool, acting a straight monkey is another story. I crave people to be their normal selves, that’s where I derive my material. So when the opportunity to attend some event full of famous people comes my way and I cannot legitimately come up with a reason to go other than to be around them, I can’t lie to y’all, the very idea of me going makes me feel like a thirsty, needy-assed groupie. Very weak and defenseless.
I might as well go back and tell you the origin of my aversion. My younger brother’s godfather was Billy Henderson of the R&B group Spinners (the chunky light-skinned one). They used to come to our home in Ft. Lauderdale from time to time when I was younger and had it not been for all the fussing my mom put in to get the house “presentable” when they came, I would have just figured them to be regular folks with nice cars. One time we met the group at a hotel. I was just old enough to venture into game rooms alone and did so that evening, where the lead singer, John Edwards, was playing Galaga (that was the game back then , that and Defender). This dark-skinned man had a jheri-curl and this cigarette dangling out of his mouth like he was Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction. All I knew was he was the lead singer. He was the one singing the most on “Cupid” (my favorite Spinner song next to “Working My Way Back To You”). Henderson was regular, but this was the main man! I was not on a groupie vibe. I was just a kid meeting someone he looked up to.
“Hi.” I said that shit at least eight times. Edwards just kept playing, in his polo shirt and bermuda shorts, the ash from his cigarette never falling from his cigarette. He never acknowledged my presence. I stood there for at least ten minutes. It felt like a week. He ignored me so thoroughly, I looked into the glass of the video game to make sure my reflection was there. I never saw anyone rack up a high score that large before, another big deal for me. He just kept on playing, all shiny with cocoa butter, sweat or something in between. Then the fool tapped the ash from his cigarette off to the other side of the video game, put it back in his mouth and kept playing! It was the first time I ever imagined being violent with an adult. I thought about kicking him in the back of his legs, the way kids do prove you’re hungry. Wouldn’t he flip out and tell momma? I wondered what it would be like to punch that cigarette out his mouth and feed it to him. Edwards had this Clint Eastwood-type squint to his eye though, most likely from the cigarette smoke. It kept my impulses in check. I started looking around at other people to make sure they saw me. Upon, confirmation, I looked back at him. Nothing. My throat began to ache. I leaned on the sly against the machine to see if I could slip my hand behind it and pull the plug. Being cursed at, whooped, that I was used to, but this… I walked to the bathroom and threw cold water on my burning face til the red left my eyes. I cleared my throat and stared into the mirror “Fuck Cupid.”
Fast forward to 2013, where I’ve shared my “North of the Grove” screenplay with Motley and his enthusiasm about this being a full feature film has me thinking… I’m constantly telling Motley I am not down with the celebrity culture, that I’m just as much as an artist as the next person. He remained patient with me. Motley hipped me to the importance of networking, going to set up connections for possible future projects. Okay, now that makes sense. That is a solid use of time. The older I get, the more I value my time (what could be more abusive than being time-raped by some fruitless meeting?). I chatted about it with Rob Hardy and Ayodele Vassall-Gore of the Florida Entertainment Connection (FEC). I learned not to expect to drop a fat binder of a screenplay on someone in a club, how not to do business cards as much, to go with emails and calls in order to touch base and follow up.
I attend the FEC mixer at the end of the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), held in South Beach. I get a dirty martini loaded with fat olives and shift about to look comfortable. Someone speaks to me. I lean in to offset the music and respond in kind. We share mutual interests. We build. Cards and emails are exchanged. The martini kicks in. This might work. I meet people like me, who enjoy having chill time – and getting a lil business in. Motley rolls through and gets me to take pics on my camera. The vibe was organic, my kind of vibe. I look forward to more events. I know my purpose for going. If someone’s energy is off, I’m smooth enough to slide over to the next person now, which no doubt, is the best move for all involved. Besides, kickin’ folks in the back of their legs and knockin’ cigarettes from their mouths went out with cassettes.