By Larry Mullins, 1010 WINS
Okay…somebody better pinch me, because I think I’m about to fall out of my seat. Harry Belafonte just walked into the room. Excuse me, “Geechy-Dan” just walked into the room.
This guy was my FAVORITE character, in that old Bill Cosby movie “Uptown Saturday Night”. And the minute his assistant introduced us, I fell out laughing (laughing on the inside, because I didn’t want Mr. Harry to think that I was a kook with a microphone).
So my friend Harry and I (sic) sat there talking for about an hour. You know him from the famous “Banana Boat” tune; DAAAAYO…..DAY AY AY YO…Daylight comes and me wan’go home.
The tune gave him his star, but Mr. Harry told me, that he was a better actor than a singer. He says the fact that he managed to fool people into “thinking” he was a good singer all those years is his proof! I don’t get star-struck too much. After all, in my line of work, I’ve visited and interviewed Presidents, world leaders, superstar celebrities and even kindergarten kids (that last one was tossed in for effect, because kids are really hard to interview). I digress. But sitting in Mr. Harry’s office made you feel like you were at the movies. There are keepsake marquee photos on the walls.
There are trophies everywhere. There are pictures of him with iconic statesmen and civil rights leaders and, and and….it’s like a museum of history in here! In fact, Mr. Belafonte, as many already know, was and still is hugely involved in civil and human rights. He famously went after “W” during his presidency (that’s what he calls former President George W Bush). And listening to him talk about others in the administration (Condi Rice, General Colin Powell [who has also participated in our Black History Program]), it’s clear that Mr. Harry didn’t care what color you were; he went after any and everybody who (in his opinion) didn’t take a stand against oppression, even if you were associated with someone who didn’t stack up. The only thing; and my Executive Producer Sharon Barnes-Waters and I talked about it, is that he seemed a little unsettled about the state of things today. Mr. Harry isn’t too happy with what he described as people in “high places”, who aren’t doing anything to educate, motivate or orchestrate positive unbiased change in America. He wants to see more of today’s generation take a stand and make some noise, in a positive way, to eradicate gangs, drug use, promote higher learning and things like that. You’ll hear it in his voice in the on-air pieces we put together.
But overall, my impression is that this man is truly “down for the cause of ALL people”. Honestly, I didn’t know that he was going to be so deep, during our interview. I thought, only because of the characters he’s played back in the day, that he’d be a bit more laid back, at least behind the scenes. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a cool old dude…but Mr. Harry got intense a couple of times during the interview. But there’s nothing wrong with having passion for what you believe in right? But get this, each time he got “deep” into a thought, and had me sitting on the edge of my seat, he’d tell a goofy story, like when he and Bill Cosby used to buy one theater ticket, and then “switch out” every 20 minutes, so both could say that they “saw the show”. Hah! Each would fill in the blanks for each other on the parts they missed. HaHah!!
I thought about doing that, but the NYPD would put me “under” the jail. But the crowning jewel in my interview with Mr. Harry, was finally being able to meet my father-in-law. Yep…he didn’t know it, but in my mind, waaay back in the day, I was married to Shari Belafonte-Harper, Mr. Harry’s actress daughter. She didn’t know it either. And after I told him that, I also dropped the subject and left; because somewhere in all that historical collection in his office, I was sitting there thinking…what if Mr. Harry has a shotgun in here, from one of his old westerns? I’m out.