Tuesday, June 3, 2008

"What's a 'cliche'?" "A black woman serving pancakes to a white kid" (15/50).

I was fairly young when Gimme a Break was on TV, but I was glued to Nell Carter’s directness and what some would call, sassy love towards her family. I lived and died for each time she sang a song on the show. I was drawn to her, but had no idea why (well, you know, besides the fact that even at the age of 10 I was theatre fag in the making).

What I also didn’t know at the time was that the role of Effie White in the musical “Dreamgirls” was originally written for Nell Carter.

I also didn’t know that she won a Tony for her role in “Ain’t Misbehavin’”

I also didn’t know that it was Nell Carter who performed the song “White Boys” in the movie version of Hair.

I also didn’t know that, during a visit to New York 15 or so years later I would go to Feinstein’s and watch Nell Carter perform and affect me in a way that no other performer ever has.

In that intimate cabaret, she made me feel safe and connected and special. None of which I had felt for most of my life.

I wanted to write her a letter to thank her for a moving performance, but I also didn’t know that Nell Carter would die before I ever put pen to paper.

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