Just as I am

“Just As I Am is my truth. It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. In these pages, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. I am a daughter and mother, a sister, and a friend. I am an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. I am a woman who has hurt as immeasurably as I have loved, a child of God divinely guided by His hand. And here in my ninth decade, I am a woman who, at long last, has something meaningful to say.” –Cicely Tyson

The scenes with Cicely Tyson and Viola Davis in the TV series “How to Get Away With Murder” were raw, unyielding, and true. Before that, Tyson walked many miles in many roles since most of us became aware of her in “Sounder” (1972) and “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” (1974), after some nice roles in the 1960s.

She was the actress I most wanted to meet, not outside some stage door, but at a gathering where we could talk because, in her eyes, I saw wisdom that–now that we lost her January 28th–I hope to find in Just as I Am.

Long-time actors and actresses have much to tell us, partly from their exposure to so many roles and to the business of making plays and movies, but also from finding a way out of hard-times beginnings to success. In many ways, one can see the soul and experience of a performer in the way s/he presents his/her most difficult roles.

If you can find the episodes (possibly on YouTube) of “How to Get Away With Murder” with Tyson that aired (I think) during the series’ two final years you will find her best work of late and understand why authors and others could have learned so much from her had she taught a class.

“I never really worked for money,” she said in her last interview. “I’ve worked because there were certain issues that I wish were addressed about myself and my race as a Black woman.”

She certainly did that,


‘Sex and the City’ is so yesterday, but we still care, right?

“In a turn of events arguably more dramatic and interesting than anything that ever happened on their hit show, Sex and the City stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall have made their private tensions very, very public.” – Flavorwire in “The ‘Sex and the City’ Feud Just Got Very Public and Very Ugly”

While searching for real news that matters, most of us see links for those horribly tedious slide shows with titles such as “Secrets of Mayberry” and “What You Never Knew about Bewitched” and “What the Producers of Bonanza” never told you.”

Since these shows, filmed in television’s stone age, are still airing in reruns and (apparently) have large audiences who also care about the arguments, practical jokes, and other politically incorrect stuff that happened when the shows were first aired, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that cast squabbles from “Sex in the City” still make the news fourteen years after the series ended.

Is caring about these shows in 2018 a nostalgia thing? Is it a respite from the hideous real news we’re subjected to every day? While they’re mindless and filled with more ads than content, I have to admit that those darned slideshows about stars who are mostly dead by now are a very escapist–yet possibly healing–antidote to the polarized Facebook debates about current issues.

Like the comments on many news sites, Facebook “debates” seem to bring out the lunatic fringe of trash-talking know-it-alls who are proud that they have been brainwashed either by the Republicans or the Democrats and gauge the value of their responses to the number of times they use the F word, the C word, and the S word. Gosh, all this makes Opie and Andy and Aunt Bea look pretty good.

Parker – Wikipedia photo

As Flavorwire reports, “‘You are not my family,’ Kim Cattrall told former co-star Sarah Jessica Parker, via Instagram. ‘You are not my friend.'” Okay, but does airing these squabbles in public enhance your lives or your public’s lives? It sounds pretty “high school” to me.

Perhaps I should mention that I never watched “Sex and the City” because it aired on a premium channel and nothing about it tempted me to add HBO to my cable menu. Yes, we had cable in those days and, like the show, cable also is so yesterday.

Like “Seinfeld,” my impression of some “Sex and the City” cast members was that they were basing their lives on one show. So what have y’all done lately, I wanted to know. If those shows were, as Dr. Phil might say, “defining moments,” I can see why y’all can’t seem to move on into the present of 2018. I have a bit of empathy for that problem because even though the good old days really weren’t that good, some aspects of them were defining moments, even if that doesn’t include the episode where Opie shoots a bird out of a tree with his slingshot.

So, I can be nostalgic, too, but isn’t it time to move on?



Letterman just took the last train to the coast

lettermanIn today’s here today, gone tomorrow world, I’m reminded of my age when I remember events, books, and TV programs that the mainstream youth culture has never heard of or considers ancient history.

Today, fewer and fewer people remember Dinah Shore and Steve Allen. Johnny Caron is fading into history. And now David Letterman has pulled the plug. If not the most popular, he was perhaps the most innovative and literate of the late night hosts.

His influence will be felt by people who’ve never heard of him. But that’s okay. After 33 years of sitting behind his desk, he’s bound to have had an impact. One wonders, will he escape the “scene” and fade away quickly like Carson or will we see his name as one of the voices on The Simpsons?

It was difficult to keep up with Letterman after a while because of full-time jobs and the need to get some sleep before sitting in a cubicle all day. Even when I didn’t see the show, I saw clips and felt a sense of things being right with the world knowing he was there with a new top ten list, some low-key satirical jokes, a new band, and some intentionally lame comedy bits.

A lot of notable people came and went on Letterman’s show. Everyone has their favorite interviews. But Dave was more than those interviews: he was middle America trying to make sense of everything outside middle America.

Don’t quote me on this, but Letterman shouldn’t have left even if (ultimately) he had to do the show from a hospital bed hooked up on life support, he should have stayed the course: “Tonight, Ladies and Gentlemen, the top ten reasons I’m still alive.” That would keep our link with the past up and running, making us feel better about ourselves and our world.

This isn’t the say the comedy died. Let’s just say that it’s changed and quite possibly that means the world as we know it is over. Change is a scary thing.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Conjure Woman’s Cat, a 1950s-era novella about Jim Crow, conjure and the klan in the Florida Panhandle.