Rewind: Hattie McDaniel

Black History Month ends today.  There have been arguments that there should no longer be a month long recognition for the accomplishments of African-Americans.  Since Black History is American History it should be recognized and celebrated everyday.  Regardless of where you stand on the issue, I am happy we are in a leap year so I can highlight the Black History Month moment from today’s date in 1940.

At the Ambassador Hotel in Hollywood, Hattie McDaniel won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Mammy in “Gone With the Wind.”   That night she took a long walk from a segregated table in the back of the Coconut Grove ballroom to accept the award, all the while becoming the first African-American to be nominated and win an Oscar.  Such incredible irony.  Other than the wait staff, she was the first African-American allowed in the ballroom.  Oh, God Bless America!

This photo is deceiving because the Oscar McDaniel took home was not the Oscar statue.  Instead, she received a plaque – the type of Oscar awarded to all Best Supporting Actors and Actresses at that time.  (See below)

I wanted to find more concrete evidence to what appears to be an edited acceptance speech.  Speculation is the speech was recorded separately and then edited into the telecast.  It does look like it. The wide shots before and after her close up do not appear seamless.  Some even said the speech wasn’t even her own words; someone from the Academy wrote the words to ensure “quality.”   Whether that speech was from her heart or not, here are some additional Hattie McDaniel zingers.  It sounds like she was a character; an Oscar award winning character!

Why should I complain about making $700 a week playing a maid? If I didn’t, I’d be making $7 a week being one.

When I was little, my mother taught me how to use a fork and knife. The trouble is that Mother forget to teach me how to stop using them!

What do you want me to do? Play a glamour girl and sit on Clark Gable’s knee?

I’m letting no man handle my bank account.

I sure am tired of drinking this colored tea.

As for those grapefruit and buttermilk diets, I’ll take roast chicken and dumplings.

Faith is the black person’s federal reserve system.

I did my best, and God did the rest.

For The Record

On this date in 1984, Michael Jackson won eight Grammy Awards for the groundbreaking album Thriller.  To this date he holds the record for being the most decorated male artist in one night.*  It was a special time in music.  Thriller raised the bar and set the benchmark for all artist that followed.  If you didn’t have his poster on your wall or an MJ inspired leather jacket in your closet, you more than likely tried to dance like him.  Who didn’t?  Almost 30 years later, people are still imitating him.  Maybe today, you’ll hike up your trousers, slide into some penny loafers and moonwalk your way through the nine tunes that still make up the greatest selling album of all time.

  1. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
  2. Baby Be Mine
  3. The Girl Is Mine
  4. Thriller
  5. Beat It
  6. Billie Jean
  7. Human Nature
  8. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)
  9. The Lady In My Life

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*In 2000, Santana tied MJ’s award count for Supernatural.  Santana holds the record for most Grammys won by a group in one night.

Not So Rinky-Dink

As a child growing up in the 1970s, spending time at the roller skating rink was hip and what was happening.  Practicing your turns, skating backwards and watching who would get asked to go on the floor for “couple’s skate” was a Saturday treat.  I thought Tootie on The Facts of Life was so cool because she got to roller skate inside The Eastland School.  It was definitely a sign of the times, but nothing my mother wanted me to emulate in our own house.

At the end of the decade I went to my first Ice Capades show and was captivated by the figure skaters.  Having four wheels on the bottom of a boot seemed like the perfect equation for balance.  Gliding on ice with just a blade seemed like magic to me; a balancing act I wanted to try. I asked if I could take ice skating lessons at a local rink in the county and my parents obliged.  I learned the basics, earned a few badges along the way but I knew I wasn’t in it for the long haul.  There would be no Ice Castles movie starring little ol’ me.  My fascination with the sport didn’t waiver though.  Pairs skaters Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner made a huge impression on me.  They were the heavily decorated U.S. and World Champion gold medalists at the time; so poised, talented and such a striking “couple.”  I was glued to the TV during the 1980 Winter Olympics, and was crushed when Tai and Randy couldn’t compete because Randy got injured.

From watching Katarina Witt and Kristi Yamaguchi to Oksana Baiul and the Nancy Kerrigan-Tanya Harding scandal I was a faithful fan every four years when the Winter Olympics entertained the world.  But for me, the biggest stand out of all was a young woman who competed in the 1988 Games while she was a full-time student at Stanford University – Miss Debi Thomas.  She was three years older than me, and I was in awe of her.On this date, she earned the bronze medal and a place in the history books as the first black woman to win a Winter Olympic medal.  She went on to replace that medal around her neck with a stethoscope, and became an orthopedic surgeon.  Not too shabby; not so rinky-dink.  Go ahead Dr. Debi!

Remote “Out of” Control

I think my feet are mad at me.  And they should be.  After working remotely for the past 5 years, last week I began a new job in an office building.  There is something to be said about working from home.  Substituting the rush hour commutes with a stroll from your bedroom to a home office is priceless.  The luxury of walking around in my sock feet and being braless (if I so desired) is now a thing of the past.  My uniform for the past several years was yoga gear and sneakers.  This comfortable attire trapped me – spoiled me.  I wasn’t “forced” to wear “real” clothes everyday.  My “gotta-go-out-into-the-real-world-office” wardrobe had to be dusted off and tested out.  It had been neglected and it retaliated against me.  Somethings didn’t fit, somethings were out dated and even some of my shoes spoke to me by saying:

Girlfriend, please, you know you’re gonna have to re-break me in!

Before life as a remote worker, I lived and worked in New York City for 7.5 years.  That’s 7.5 years of walking and schlepping bags day and night uptown, downtown and cross town.  I remember the first week or two in Manhattan my feet were mad at me.  Maneuvering the concrete jungle was a shock to my body, but at 29 years old I adapted quickly.  Now, once again, I am hitting the pavement and my 41-year-old body is responding a bit differently but in due time it will all be for the better.  During my work day I now have 130 steps from my desk to the bathroom, instead of 10.  It’s just another great way to achieve the suggested 10,000 steps a day.

I remember the days when it wasn’t commonplace to have a TV remote control.  Getting up from your seated position and walking to the TV set was the only way to switch channels.  The word ‘remote’ means far away; implying distance.  Ironically working remotely and using a TV remote control means there is no distance for your body to go – movement is suspended – you can be sedentary.  Although there may be some aches in pains in the days ahead, I am looking forward to regaining control of my stride.  Now I need to go pamper my feet and get ready for the new week ahead.

Really!?!

For 37 seasons Saturday Night Live has been an NBC staple.  With that kind of longevity, it is hard to keep the material fresh and funny.  So, it’s such a treat when there are episodes where sketch after sketch you find yourself crying from laughter.  This season the shows hosted by Melissa McCarthy and Maya Rudolph filled that bill for me and were complete grand slams.  Thinking about these funny gals made me remember last year’s SNL reunion show on Oprah where original cast member Jane Curtin said that during her tenure (1975-1980) it was a misogynistic environment.

[John Belushi] said, ‘Women are just fundamentally not funny.’ You’d go to a table read, and if a woman writer had written a piece for John, he would not read it in his full voice. He would whisper it. He felt as though it was his duty to sabotage pieces that were written by women.

Speaking of sabotaging women — with the great birth control debate in the news the past couple of weeks, I loved how SNL addressed the issue in their popular bit, Really!?! with Seth and Amy.  I also loved how Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, called out the panel by asking the obvious question:

Where are the women? It’s outrageous that the Republicans would not allow a single individual representing the tens of millions of women who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventive health care services, including family planning.

If the House committee wanted to only address a panel of religious leaders why not include women?  Last time I checked there are plenty of female religious leaders that could have taken part.  So much for the expression “You’ve Really Come A Long Way, Baby.”  Oddly enough, the Virgina Slims ad campaign that brought that expression into our daily dialogue highlighted a photo in the background of how men oppressed women, while showing a colorful splashy photo of a happy model appearing in control of her life in the foreground.

Background copy says: In 1962, Mr. Lee Evans made it clear that he wore the pants in the family. But once a week, he didn't mind giving them to his wife.

Background copy says: In 1913, equal opportunity employer Richard Pittman gave women every opportunity to shine.

Looks like the background image and messages from those ads continue to be more appealing to some men and places women exactly where they want them to be — in the background.

Ode to Rebecca

Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) founded in 1848 is the first medical school in the world to formally educate female physicians.  One of those females was Rebecca Lee Crumpler – a Black woman.  On this date in 1864 she became the first African-American woman to receive an M.D. degree from BUSM which was originally called the New England Female Medical College.

Being the first to accomplish a major feat is monumental, for a lack of better words.  To think of women getting educated in the field of medicine in the 1800s still astounds me.  Think about it – American women were denied the right to vote until 1920!  Fifty-six years before a woman could mark ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on a ballot, a Black woman was practicing medicine in Boston.  Crumpler specialized in the care of women, children and the poor.  She accomplished another triumph in 1883 when she provided health care advice for women and their families by publishing a medical guide book called Book of Medical Discourses.  What an inspiration.  I would have definitely taken two aspirin and called her in the morning.