Monthly Archives: August 2010

Shout out to my mentor: Ruby Dee

I was talking to someone the other day about people who are admired and those who are actually worthy of being admired (they’re NOT the same thing, believe me).

We determined that there really aren’t many people we admire for the right reasons. There are too-many-worth-mentioning so-so performers, musical acts, (un-)reality ‘stars’, and just plain ol’ losers that – for whatever reason – people look up to.

I’m not referring to the teachers who taught us how to read; the crossing guard who watched over us daily; the ministers who teach us about the Good Book – all great examples and those whom we should admire. I’m referring to those on the big screen, little screen, or even who might appear on your iPod.

I told my friend that, off-hand, I could find just one person in the industry who is note-worthy of my admiration. In fact, I said, “If I ever met her, I’d blubber like an idiot!”

Hence, I pay homage to the great Ruby Dee.

Class Act

“Ruby Dee? Really?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” I responded. “She represents all that there is [and still can be] of my performing years. Her life made my life possible,” I proudly proclaimed.

Indeed. I cherish Ruby Dee. This isn’t to say that I don’t admire Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, the late Ossie Davis (Ruby’s husband) and all the rest of those who came before me. It’s just that, point-for-point, for me at least Mrs. Davis personifies the struggles, pain, endurance and excelling virtue of many African Americans in the industry. In those early years it was nearly impossible for any one of us to be portrayed as someone other than ‘the help.’ We were slaves, maidservants, menservants and any other occupation associated with servitude. And that was just on the screen.

Off the screen, most Americans didn’t see us for anything other than that. That’s the reality. Just watch any film or TV series prior to the 1970’s. (NOTE: I-Spy and Julia do not count!)

But I digress. To get back to my point: at a time when we were actually living those days, there were the heroes, the dignified icons (like Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, Sydney Poitier and so many others) who waded in it, breathed it in deeply (and daily), had it thrown on them with a shovel – so that those after them (like me) could accomplish my goals, my dreams, my desires of standing before an audience – not merely entertaining (as in minstrel shows) – but to stand proudly for one’s craft; the gifts we were given.

So this is a hearty shout out to Mrs. Ruby Dee Davis, my hero and mentor. While I never met you, I certainly have admired you…and you are worthy of (at least) that much.

With sincerest regards,

Judith Blair Brown, Harrisburg, PA

Ms. Brown is a freelance writer, PR and marketing consultant. Learn more about her rants at and at her Web site at


Rumor 13,042: BILL COSBY IS DEAD…and TUPAC’S STILL ALIVE. What gives?

I never understood the rumor mill. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve contributed to the mill in my younger days (admittedly that was a l-o-n-g-g-g time ago!), but as of late, I think the rumor mill just stinks…like some putrefied raw fish head left baking on the sidewalk in the July heat.

NOT dead!

THAT’s what I think of the rumor mill today, especially when it comes to falsehoods like the latest “Bill Cosby death” rumor. (For the record: BILL COSBY IS NOT DEAD!)

Who starts a rumor like that – and for what? Is there some understated benefit to reporting Cosby’s death that I don’t know about? I mean for most of us who never knew him? I understand his family and friends benefiting (the man’s loaded!) – But the rest of us? What’s in it for us?

It puts me in mind of Mark Twain’s statement, “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Indeed, sir.

Cosby is the latest in a long line of celebrity victims who were pre-deceased

...a hot mess!

before their actual time. I remember the Whitney Houston death rumor. Now in defense of the rumor mill, Houston’s behavior (and her appearance) gave more credence to the rumors than they general do…they just never came to fruition. Thankfully. There was also Paul McCartney’s reported death back in the 60’s (no doubt girls in the U.S. and abroad were fainting out of hysterics over that one!); Eminem’s deadly car crash in 2000; Paris Hilton’s unfortunate demise is 2007; John Goodman’s 2005 “fatal heart attack,” which was even accompanied by an obituary; and too many more to mention.

Gone too soon

I don’t know which is worse: reporting a false death – or not allowing the (truly) dead to rest in peace. I remember my daughter trying to convince me that Tupac was still alive…he’d only left the country to start a new life.

There are the extremely devoted Elvis fanatics – rivaled only by the “it-cannot-be-true!” fanatics of Michael Jackson. Remember the endless rumor that President John F. Kennedy was really hidden away for several years following the Texas shooting (as in the film “Dave” starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver)? This one left me bewildered as a kid, but proves the theory that the rumor mill was in effect long before the Internet.

But that’s the danger of rumors…people tend to believe in them. But again, what value is there in creating these falsehoods and does anyone ever give thought to what such rumors do to the family and friends of the so-called “deceased”?

In short, I’ve concluded that folks who have nothing better to do than to start a rumor of someone else’s death, AND their counterparts (those who refuse to let the dead rest in peace) should all GET A LIFE! (And yes, the pun is intended.)