By 1010 WINS’ Larry Mullins
Not a lot of people knew this, but I used to be married to a girl named Kizzy, who was in the epic mini-series Roots. She just didn’t know it.I got to meet that girl today, along with my Executive Producer Sharon Barnes-Waters. And to say that “triple-threat” actress Leslie Uggams is still “all that” and a certified Diva would be an understatement! Oh my gosh! We went trekking up to her midtown apartment in the rain one afternoon for this interview. And talk about the warmest couple (her husband is her manager also, Graham Pratt) that you’ve ever wanted to meet!
And sitting there listening to her, you feel like you’ve known Les (we’re first name basis now) for years! She rattled off story after story which kept us mesmerized—from the days of playing Ethel Waters’ niece in Beulah (she says Waters was so sweet to her, despite her harsh reputation) to singing for her supper and college tuition (on shows like Name that Tune). And funnnny: She recalls the time on one show where they cheated her out of the grand prize, a car. Oh Les had us whooping when we thought she was about to get into a deep conversation about racism, and instead she breaks out into the hilarious laugh she has, as she explains that her parents couldn’t drive anyway! She says even the fridge that she won in a previous episode had to be sold to a neighbor, because they didn’t have electricity in their Washington Heights apartment! Oh we laughed so hard! So it was that kind of afternoon.
Today she sits on the board at Juilliard, the Professional Children’s school, the Apollo etc. This lady is non-stop-just finishing up a Christmas program in the city, and currently working to bring Lena Horne’s “Stormy Weather” to Broadway.
She’s played tons of roles on TV (daytime soaps as well as night-time dramas like Magnum P.I.), but none like her epic performance in Alex Haley’s Roots. The cast didn’t think Roots would “take root” in fact, because she says the studio heads didn’t really believe in it, and in fact put it on late, and broken into pieces (a multi-part series). They didn’t count on an east coast blizzard, which forced people to sit down and watch it, because there was nothing else to watch! And we didn’t have cable and internet etc. back then, so you didn’t have many viewing choices. It’s still known as one of the biggest viewing events in television history.
And the big-eyed girl who was reared in Harlem was a huge part of it. That’s why I married her back then…in my dreams. (Les, in case you’re reading this, I might as well tell you that we had a nice home, a poodle, and two adorable kids too). Hey, it’s my dream …and I can be as elaborate as I want!