Comedy, Red Hats, and Inspiration: Damon Wayans’ Debut Novel

Photo by Brian Solis

Some inspirational words from Lionel Richie, and a chance encounter with a group of ladies with red hats, led to the first novel by actor, comedian, and writer Damon Wayans.

From his early years in movies (as the banana man in “Beverly Hills Cop”) to his days on TV’s “In Living Color,” as characters like Homey D. Clown, Wayans has proven his comedic abilities in many ways. And his novel Red Hats demonstrated his keen ability to create memorable, if sometimes irascible, characters.

Our conversation about his book was a little more sedate than his TV sketches.

So here now, from 2010, Damon Wayans.

Damon Wayans is 63 now, and is reportedly working on a new project with ABC.

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Zane: The Theologian’s Daughter Who Rocked the Erotica World

As the saying goes, sex sells.Books about sex can sell very well, if they are well written. And in the early 2000s a powerful new voice in erotica emerged, and dominated bestseller lists.

She wrote under the pseudonym Zane. Her short erotic stories attracted a loyal following on the Internet, inspiring her to self-publish The Sex Chronicles Before long, she had a book deal with Simon and Schuster.

I met Zane in 2004, when she had just published her novel Nervous. And this soft spoken theologian’s daughter had a lot to say about writing, and publishing.

So here now, from 2004, Zane.

Zane – real name: Kristina Roberts – is about 57 now, She published Strebor Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, publishing as many as 60 books a year.

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Sister Souljah

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Sister Souljah’s Tale of Urban Life

From her earliest days growing up in New York City and later in New Jersey, Sister Souljah was an activist.

Surrounded by the poverty and despair of an urban neighborhood, Sister Souljah made it her mission to try to change things.

She became a strong voice for change, through writing, film, and music.

In 1999,she wrote her first novel, a book called The Coldest Winter Ever. And that’s when I met her.

So here now, from 1999. Sister Souljah.

Sister Souljah will be 60 next month.

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Paul Robeson Jr

Paul Robeson Jr was the grandson of a slave, and son of a prominent and controversial African American actor, singer, and activist.

Formally trained as an electrical engineer, Robeson soon followed in the footsteps of his famous father, becoming an activist in his own right.

He also spent time organizing and archiving his father’s papers, films, and music memorabilia.

I first met and interviewed Paul Robeson Jr. In 1993. We met again in 2007, when he wrote a book called A Black Way of Seeing.

And keep your mind open as you hear this interview, Robeson will challenge you to think differently about everything, regardless of your background.

So here now, from 2007, Paul Robeson Jr.

Paul Robeson Jr. died in 2014. He was 86.

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Alex Haley

It’s a rare privilege for an author to see, in their lifetime, the broad and deep social and cultural impact that one of their books has.

One of those who were so privileged was author Alex Haley. His meticulously researched 1976 book Roots, which traced his own family’s ancestry from Africa, became not just a best seller, but a cultural milepost.

It awakened a new pride of family and ancestry among millions of African-Americans, and it shone a harsh spotlight on the horrors of slavery, four black and white alike.

ABC TV recognized the power of Roots, and turned it into television’s first major miniseries. It was, and remains to this day, a landmark television achievement.

I met him almost 33 years ago, after he had just finished a novel based, in part, on the kind of characters he popularized in Roots.

So here now, from 1988, Alex Haley.

Today, August 11th 2021, would have been Alex Haley’s 100th birthday. He died in 1992 at the age of 70.

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