Muhammad Ali, the three-time world heavyweight boxing champion who helped define his turbulent times as the most charismatic and controversial sports figure of the 20th century, died on Friday. He was 74.
His death was confirmed by Bob Gunnell, a family spokesman.
Ali was the most thrilling if not the best heavyweight ever, carrying into the ring a physically lyrical, unorthodox boxing style that fused speed, agility and power more seamlessly than that of any fighter before him.
But he was more than the sum of his athletic gifts. An agile mind, a buoyant personality, a brash self-confidence and an evolving set of personal convictions fostered a magnetism that the ring alone could not contain. He entertained as much with his mouth as with his fists, narrating his life with a patter of inventive doggerel. (“Me! Wheeeeee!”)
Ali was as polarizing a superstar as the sports world has ever produced — both admired and vilified in the 1960s and ’70s for his religious, political and social stances. His refusal to be drafted during the Vietnam War, his rejection of racial integration at the height of the civil rights movement, his conversion from Christianity to Islam and the changing of his “slave” name, Cassius Clay, to one bestowed by the separatist black sect he joined, the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, were perceived as serious threats by the conservative establishment and noble acts of defiance by the liberal opposition.
Loved or hated, he remained for 50 years one of the most recognizable people on the planet.
In the simpler media landscape of the late ‘70s, networks considered a show a blockbuster if it was watched in three of every 10 households. When “Roots,” a 12-hour miniseries exploring the multi-generational story of an African-American family, made its historic premiere on ABC during the last week of January in 1977, it could be found on more than half of the nation’s televisions (that night in Los Angeles, the share was 67 percent).
When putting the estimated audience of 130 million into perspective, one network executive said, “it’s like millions of people reading the same book simultaneously.”
Author and journalist Alex Haley made his name exploring different chapters of the African-American story, from Malcolm X to Miles Davis, and the blockbuster miniseries adaptation of his best-selling 1976 masterpiece “Roots” was a prologue to them all. Haley’s family story tells “the symbolic saga of a people,” a tale far more universal than even the most compelling celebrity interview.
Chasing the answer to a simple question of origins, which required the author to spend 6,500 hours in 57 libraries and archives, led to profound answers.
Barneys has agreed to a $525,000 settlement for racial profiling after a nine-month investigation found that the security and staff personnel of its flagship store on New York’s Madison Avenue were targeting minority customers.
According to the New York Daily News, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigators interviewed nearly a dozen complainants, including customers and former employees, who noticed a pattern of racial profiling began last year following a “dramatic spike” in shoplifting and credit card fraud.
“This agreement will correct a number of wrongs, both by fixing past policies and by monitoring the actions of Barneys and its employees to make sure that past mistakes are not repeated,” Schneiderman said.
In April 2013, a 19-year-old college student named Trayon Christian said he was racially profiled and accused of fraud by two undercover cops after purchasing a $349 Ferragamo belt at Barneys. Two months prior, 21-year-old nursing student Kayla Phillips said she was also accused of credit card fraud by four plainclothes cops after buying a $2,500 Celine bag.
Rap mogul, Jay Z, came under fire last fall after teaming with Barneys for a holiday collection. He issued a statement, saying, “I am against discrimination of any kind, but if I make snap judgements, no matter who it’s towards, aren’t I committing the same sin as someone who profiles?” Continue reading
A little over a decade ago, VH1 premiered one of its many mediocre television biopics, Hendrix. Playing well against type, Wood Harris starred as the iconic guitarist, alongside Vivica A. Fox (as girlfriend/groupie Faye Pridgeon), and Billy Zane. A general overview of Hendrix’s life, the film chronicled his time playing with black artists like Little Richard, his period as a recording artist in London, his breakthrough performance at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, and his untimely death at the age of 27. It had all the hallmarks of most rock ‘n roll biopics: the tough childhood, the discovery of genius, the hit single, the hard partying, the groupies, the hangers-on, the drug problems, the fall from grace. But it was missing something, one major element. The music. Getting music rights has been an uphill battle in many a musical biopic, and last year, with the announcement that a new Hendrix movie called All is By My Side was set to begin production, getting rights to the rocker’s extensive discography once again became an obstacle for filmmakers. Hendrix’s estate withdrew all support for the movie, and barred writer-director John Ridley (who paradoxically also wrote 12 Years a Slave and Undercover Brother) from using seminal Hendrix songs like ‘Purple Haze’, ‘The Wind Cries Mary’ and the ‘Hey Joe’ cover in the movie. Ridley, determined to tell his version of the Hendrix story, sidestepped this slight inconvenience by crafting a story set specifically before the debut of Are You Experienced. Andre Benjamin plays Hendrix, discovered by Keith Richards’ girlfriend Linda Keith (Imogen Poots) while playing backup guitar at New York’s Cheetah Club. The two strike up a romantically-tinged friendship, as Linda works tirelessly at helping him find a manger and get a record deal. Eventually, under the management of former Animals member Chas Chandler (Andrew Buckley), Hendrix moves to London, shacks up with feisty party girl Kathy Etchingham (Hayley Atwell), and begins his journey towards starting The Jimi Hendrix Experience and becoming one of if not the greatest guitar players of all time. Continue Reading
I’d gotten an imdbpro membership and, after rifling through the endless stack of business cards that I’d amassed after attending Sundance in 2011, (and considering the nature of the film that I wanted to make) I started contacting every single film person that I could think of that had financed, produced or cast an independent feature film that featured a young, African-American cast between 2007 and 2011. Additionally, I reached out to countless people that I knew, personally, and approached them for private equity investments.]
Concerning the film producers I’ve spoken with, these past few months, feedback that I got on my draft of latest All The Wrong Places, has been: “Yeah, I don’t know, I liked it, but to me, it just kind of read like the Black version of ‘Girls.’” – anon Producer of a feature film that had gone to Sundance, that year “I liked it, but we don’t make those kinds of films anymore.” – anon Producer of a feature film that had gone to Sundance, years before “I don’t work on feature films that have a budget of less than $500,000.” – anon Producer of several Sundance-selected movies “Yeah, I’ll read your draft, but due to familial issues, I can’t really afford to take on projects of this scale.” – anon Producer of several Sundance movies “I’m getting to the point in my career where I can’t take on projects of this size, but I’d be more than happy to read your draft.” – anon Producer with a movie that had just premiered at Sundance. Suffice it to say that this was a small sampling of the people that I’d reached out to, at the time, and that it seemed that the chances of getting the film made were not looking good.