“I completely related to this show in a “I'm-not-black” sort of way. While living in Germany, we lived in an all-white high-rise apartment that didn't have a fat super. Okay, so in hind-sight, I really had nothing in common with this show except for the high-rise, and even then the rent wasn’t subsidized. But who can forget Janet, er, uh, Penny getting scalded by the iron? Who hasn't that happened to? So maybe I related to it a little too much.”
Continuing on in my series of sitcoms from my yut, I bring you…Good Times.
1974 was a wonderful year. My penis had finally stopped aching from that circumcision my folks insisted I have. As a country, 9 years had passed since the Watts riots; 7 years passed since the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia allowing for the unions of mixed race couples; 6 years had passed since Johnson singed the civil rights act; 3 years had passed since schools were fully integrated (in theory); and FINALLY black families were depicted on television. Albeit, they were poor, under-educated blacks living in the projects, but it was a start, eh? I mean, seriously, you couldn’t have the first negro family sitcom on television be about WEALTHY EDUCATED blacks, could you??? I mean, I guess, technically, The Jeffersons was the first sitcom about black families (cuz they appeared on Archie Bunker’s Place), but they didn’t have their own show…and they were middle-class business owners…and America just wasn’t ready for that. They were ready, however, for Good Times! Good times was LANDMARK for it’s time. LAND-MARK. As mentioned, they were the first glimpse we whities had into the honest-to-god day-to-day lives of BLACK PEOPLE! We learned blacks were all: Funny, stylish, hot, and disciplined their children with hot irons. Rape was hysterical, nothing was funnier than child abuse or racism…except for Good Times.
Let’s face it. John Amos, “James Evans, Sr.” was hot. Who didn’t want to experience that fierce “black discipline”? I know I was standing in line. Yes, I know I was only four…but like I’ve mentioned AD NAUSEAM, I’ve know FOR-EVER! I was completely devastated the season (I think 3?) that they killed James Senior off in a car crash. For a couple of reasons. A) It was my very first notion that your dad could die and you would never see him again. B) I had NO CONCEPT of “acting v. real life” and ASS U MED that John Amos had died IN REAL LIFE. Again, folks, I was four! I was relieved, years later, to see him resurface on such shows as Cosby, Fresh Prince, and the A-Team. More recently he’s starred in Men In Trees, that show, 4 people in America saw before it was canceled. John Amos left the show early because he hated the scripts and couldn’t get along with the producers.
The family matriarch was “Florida Evans”, played by Esther Rolle. I feel like her character was, perhaps, the least believable of any of the characters on the show. Don’t get me wrong, I feel like Esther did a fine job of playing a black woman. But honestly people, think of all the ghetto black women you’ve seen on “Cops” and tell me how many of them were as passive as Florida Evans? Florida was a DOORMAT, and it just isn’t reasonable to believe that a man raising 3 children in the projects is going to be all pushover. Eshter Rolle had a very successful career in the the television industry following her time on the show. She, also, hated the direction the show was going (probably cuz she agreed with what I just said!) and wasn’t in much of the last season(s). Esther Rolle died November 17, 1998 from complications from diabetes.
Show me a person who has no idea what “J.J. Evans’” catchphrase was, and I’ll show you a person who is racist. EVERYONE, and I MEAN EVERYONE who was alive in the 70’s was familiar with “DY-NO-MITE”! Jimmie Walker was a FOOL on this show. He was a first class fool. I wanted to be friends with him. I wanted him to teach me how to make those faces. I wanted to be tall like him. Jimmie Walker did a couple of things in television before going back to his roots (and I don’t mean Africa people, don’t be like that!). He went back to stand-up comedy. I’d love to see him today. I would be willing to bet money that he’s STILL “J.J.”
BernNadette Stanis (google it people, I spelt it correctly!) was the middle child in the show, “Thelma”. She more a more realistic portrayal of what a strong black woman was. She was feisty, hot, confident, and an equal. BernNadette had a bit of a singing career following Good Times and dove into that whole conservative Christian movement. I think she’s another one who could have taken a completely different life path (and not just cuz she’s black, but look what happened to crazy Dana Plato!). She can currently be seen in Nationwide Insurance commercials, and that’s just about as entertaining as Good Times.
Y’all, Ralph Carter was HAWT. I had SUCH a gay crush on Ralph Carter back in the day. He was SO EFFING HOT. Now he kind of scares me a little bit… even after the show, when he focused on his music career, hold up…
HAWT! Ralph played the youngest son of James and Florida, “Michael Evans”. I think it was the ROLE of Michael’s character to show white America how nice, polite, respectful, and HOT young black men could be. His character was, in a word, perfect. Currently he’s a singer, and working that whole Church angle.
Ja’net DuBois played the slutty, sassy neighbor, “Willona”. Willona willnotta take crap from anyone. She will stick a piece of iron in her purse and use it as a weapon against you in a dark stairwell. Willona came off as a bad-ass, but as everyone knows, it was just part of her “act”. She really had a heart as big as she was, and was a warm and gentle character. Of course, none of this was really figured out until the 5th season when she adopted a girl (more on that in a bit!), but Willona was awesome. She was a force to be reckoned with, and she made me wish my mammy was buhlack. Granted, I still wanted to live in my gated community, but I wanted a black mom.
Johnny Brown played “Booker” on the show and showed that all over-weight black men are buffoons and clowns. I always felt sorry for Booker, because he was, more than anyone else (other than JJ) the ass of everyone’s jokes. Willona, particularly, was hard on him. Now, there’s great debate over whether his name was “Booker” or “Booger”. Both are actually correct. His NAME on the show was “Nathan Bookman”, therefore “Booker” was his nickname…however everyone, again, in an effort to make an ass out of him in every scene, called him “Booger”…presumably as a sign of disrespect. Johnny Brown is currently a stage actor/comedian. And yes, I was as surprised as you are right now to learn that he is still alive.
Who is this adorable little whore? Why, it’s Ms. Wardrobe malfunction herself, “Ms. Jackson, if you’re nasty”, Janet Jackson. Good LORD she was cute as Penny. And folks, this story line took off like WILD FIRE. In just a few episodes Penny had wedged her way DEEP into our hearts and consciousness and then BAM! Bigger than shit Willona discovers that Penny’s mom is burning Penny on the back with a clothes iron. Shit snap Cadillac. Penny’s birth mother couldn’t get out of the projects fast enough. Willona had her cornered and fearing for her eva-lovin’ life. And Penny had found her self yet another single parent home to be loved in.
Yes folks, thems were, indeed, GOOD TIMES.