The Wild, Weird Celebrity of an Animation Artist

This is strange. This is an ad that appeared in a national magazine back in the nineties. It seems my partner, Leo Sullivan and I were a part of a big shot award show that was taped in the Bay Area. If I recall correctly, the affair took place at a former opulent movie house called the Paramount Theater in Oakland. It was a rather weird time in my life and I think I pretty much sleep-walked through the whole weekend. The awards show was one of the events put on by the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and the show featured many high profile black celebrities.

I do remember meeting Mario Van Peebles’ mom and having breakfast with Nell Carter and Margaret Avery. Each morning I recall seeing a very mild mannered Keenen Ivory Wayans walk down the hallway to breakfast. I think his hotel room was right down the hall from mine. I think my biggest thrill of the weekend was meeting jazz legend, Dizzy Gillespie. Well, I didn’t exactly meet him. The two of us happened to get on the elevator together and I recognized him immediately. Naturally, as the two of us stood silently on our long ride to the hotels upper floors I kept thinking of what to say to the amazing musician. I had played tenor saxophone when I was a kid. Jazz musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie were among my heroes. Not wanting to sound like a gushing fanboy or a dimwitted musical geek, I simply stood next to the jazz legend and never uttered a word. 

Having come from the world of show business this celebrity stuff wasn’t all that new to me. I wandered backstage observing the marvelous, organized chaos that’s always a part of putting on a show. My observations included seeing the beautiful actress, Jasmine Guy along with actors, John Amos and Roscoe Lee Browne. Mr. Browne was a Shakespearian trained actor with a magnificent speaking voice. He told me his secret desire was to one day perform the voice of a Disney cartoon character. Surprisingly, his Disney dream came true when my pal, director, George Scribner cast Roscoe Lee Browne as one of the villains in the animated feature cartoon, “Oliver and Company.” I met the lovely actress, Esther Rolle, who you might remember from the television show, “Good Times.” Actor, Lou Gossett was also backstage and he seemed like a dignified gentleman and very nice man. However, pop star, M.C. Hammer impressed me as a pompous jerk.

The show went off without a hitch and once over, I hopped a Southwest flight and returned to my normal world of cartoon making in Southern California. I never did see the television special when it aired, but some people informed me that they had watched it and found the black tie affair to be most enjoyable. I never understood why I was included in this wacky mix of Hollywood celebrities. I’m always baffled by the world of opulent hotel suites, stretch limousines and screaming fans. It’s simply not the world of an animation artist. If we truly wanted fame, money and celebrity - we damn sure wouldn’t be in the cartoon business.

 The fancy invitation to a television award show that featured top Hollywood celebrities and ... me.

The fancy invitation to a television award show that featured top Hollywood celebrities and ... me.