Who’s who in the new Hollywood – black celebrities
Along row of sleek stretch limousines and other high-end cars begins dropping off elegantly dressed passengers at the chic Hollywood eatery Georgia.
The Academy Awards telecast has just ended and celebrities, both Black and White, are flocking here to party with host Debbie Allen at the popular restaurant partly owned by her husband, Norin Nixon, and actor Denzel Washington.
Although it is located in the trendy Melrose District of Los Angeles rather than Beverly Hills, Georgia attracts a virtual Who’s Who of Hollywood. And it is not insignificant that a Black-owned restaurant specializing in solid food is the most glittering example of Hollywood’s new social order. For the days when a few black-tie restaurants in Beverly Hills and on West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip attracted all the town’s principal movers and shakers are long gone.
The New Hollywood also differs from the past in the number of influential Blacks who are considered a part of the upper echelon of powerbrokers in the entertainment industry. Superstar Michael Jackson, Motown founder Berry Gordy and entertainment mogul Quincy Jones have become powerful forces in Hollywood. They have been joined by executives like Dennis Hightower, president of Walt Disney Television and Telecommunications, and Dolores Robinson, who manages a number of celebrities and numerous music industry executives. Though big-name stars puff in megabucks at the box office, it is those who operate behind the scenes who are most likely to caucus and brainstorm over dinner with powerful White studio and network chiefs and icons like Steven Spielberg.
And Beverly Hills, long considered the most prestigious address for a home, whether one was Black or White, is no longer the hottest place to live. Some of the biggest showbiz names have shunned it. For example, Whoopi Goldberg has a home near the ocean in the Pacific Palisades section of L.A. and a second place near Santa Barbara; Janet Jackson lives on the beach in Malibu; Denzel Washington’s home is in the San Fernando Valley; Lionel Richie and Della Reese reside in Bel-Air. O. J. Simpson’s attorney, Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., lives in the Los Feliz section of L.A. Queen Latifah and Mario Van Peebles have homes in the Hollywood Hills.
Actually, the Hollywood Hills, part of the massive Santa Monica Mountain chain, house far more celebrities than Beverly Hills or Malibu. The Hollywood Hills offer sweeping, breathtaking views of the city and, in some cases, are not easily accessible to curiosity seekers. For many stars, that is a plus.
There are elegant, secure neighborhoods all over the L.A. region and many celebrities look for more than just a prestigious address. However, Beverly Hills is still a draw and is home to luminaries such as Luther Vandross, Marilyn McCoo, Kenny (Babyface) Edmonds, Earvin (Magic) Johnson, Berry Gordy and Holly Robinson.
Director John Singleton shuns those areas altogether, preferring to live in Baldwin Hills, known in Los Angeles as the “Black Beverly Hills.”
Some of the biggest stars avoid Los Angeles altogether and instead live in cities like New York, Atlanta and Minneapolis, heading to Lala Land only when work requires them to do so. Their ranks include such names as Danny Glover (San Francisco), Anita Baker and Aretha Franklin (Detroit), Eddie Murphy and Whitney Houston (New Jersey), and Barry White (Las Vegas).
Rap superstars are a relatively new force in Hollywood. Some have soared to the top of that controversial music genre, hammered out their own deals and even founded their own companies, raking in millions of dollars in the process. Their ranks include Warren G., Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg Dogg. Some, like ice Cube and Ice-T, have found success as both rap artists and screen actors.
These artists have put communities like South-central L.A. and the suburbs of Compton and Long Beach on the map. Some of them, like Warren G., pass on the glitzy habitats and prefer to live in and around the areas about which they rap.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Hollywood is that it is a hot party town. While that might have been the case during the care-free decades of the past, the New Hollywood is decidedly low-keyed. The Hollywood of the 1690s is a place where many of the biggest parties are those organized to raise funds for such diverse interests as politicians, environmental groups, AIDS and homeless shelters.
A rarely stated concern that is always present is the issue of personal safety. Security is among the first issues that come up in terms of parties in Los Angeles, a city that has seen more than its share of crime.
Although areas like South-Central get the lion’s share of negative publicity, statistics show that crime is a region-wide problem, with areas like Hollywood and Beverly Hills being anything but crime-free.
There is also rising concern about those uninvited guests of guests at celebrity gatherings, some of whom end up representing that truly frightening recent phenomenon called celebrity stalkers. And then there are always those general partycrashers.
Still, when hot, A-list parties are given, they are not necessarily hosted by those who have the hottest-selling albums or are movie box-office champions. Dionne Warwick, who frequently tours and records, and former Los Angeles Laker superstar Magic Johnson are considered two of the most successful partygivers in Los Angeles. They receive high marks for being super-attentive to their guests’ needs and for creating are elegant, fun atmosphere. Invitations to their parties are snapped up about as fast as the speed of light.
A trendier, younger set of movers and shakers parties in downtown Los Angeles at Glam Slam, a large club owned by the reclusive artist formerly known as Prince. Glam Slam is one of the top hip-hop spots in town, attracting a diverse mix of partygoers as well as the music industry’s who’s who.
Almost at the opposite end of the party spectrum from Glam Slam is B.B. King’s Place, which attracts a far more mature crowd that prefers down-home blues and jazz. It, too, plays host to major studio receptions and parties. For example, veteran actor Tim Reid celebrated his 50th birthday with a star-studded party on all three levels of B.B. King’s Place. That was one of the more discussed and memorable gatherings of recent years. It attracted the casts of shows on which he and wife, Daphne Maxwell Reid, have worked, including WKRP In Cincinnati, Simon and Simon, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Sister, Sister. The party featured Mississippi blues and Delta cuisine. Reid was roasted by co-workers and lifelong friends at the gathering.
The House of Blues, a huge Mississippi Delta shack, opened on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood two years ago and has lines of patrons consistently wrapped around the block. The House of Blues offers celebrities and other well-heeled individuals VIP memberships. It is part-owned by actor Dan Aykroyd and has featured performances by Al Green, James Brown, George Clinton and Carly Simon. Parties for the Magic Johnson AIDS Foundation, Motown Records, Arista Records and various organizations are routinely held there. Jasmine Guy, star of NBC’s long-running hit, A Different World, is a frequent patron of the House of Blues.
For years, Hollywood, the ultimate land of illusions, has benefitted from the perception around the world of being an exciting, non-stop playland. That is far more fantasy than reality. The New Hollywood is a more no-nonsense, bottom-line community where individuals from various backgrounds work hard and generally play little. When parties are given, though, they are the kind where no expenses are spared and memories are created that last and last. And Black movers and shakers, more and more, are attending and hosting those gatherings.
COPYRIGHT 1995 Johnson Publishing Co.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group