Tag Archives: Television

I Spy: an exercise in style, stealth, and pace

When you think of 1960s TV, what do you think of? Gilligan’s Island?  Or perhaps The Munsters?  Just don’t forget about I Spy (one of my absolute favorites).  Imagine: the mod, mod world of the sixties, international espionage and thievery, and two American spies:  Robert Culp as Agent Kelly Robinson, whose cover is as a former Princeton law student and Davis Cup tennis player; and Bill Cosby as Agent Alexander Scott, a Rhodes scholar whose cover is as Robinson’s Tennis coach as well as being a language expert (yes: a black tennis playing dude with a gun on TV in the mid-sixties).  The show is an exercise in style and stealth, relying more heavily on crafty spy work than explosions; and the deliberate pace (a testament to the times) keeps me captivated.

My favorite aspects of the show include the great, globetrotting on-location shots, the intelligence of the writing, and the truly global cast of characters represented, all of whom are presented with dignity.  Another notable factor was the palpable bond between Cosby and Culp.  In fact, Cosby recently stated to the LA Times, “We almost had our own language”.

Click here for “So Long, Patrick Henry”, an episode from 1966 in which An expatriate African-American living in Africa must regain his citizenship before enemy agents kill him.

Tapes Lost to Time: Chicago Stories


I am bothered by tapes that disappear, the same tapes that record our collective story.  The sort that get erroneously misplaced, taped over, or buried (true stories, all).  It’s happened often in Chicago to bits of media that palpably documented Chicago Cultural History.  It seems to have happened too many times for my taste.  Here’s a few times that hit especially close to home.

Our People

“Our People” (1968-1972) was Jim Tilmon’s groundbreaking public affairs television series that aired on WTTW.  For, by, and about Black Chicagoans, the show was deemed completely lost for the ages until someone at WTTW unearthed one lonely “lost episode”.

According to WTTW.com, the episode:

“features guests Harold Washington, then a young State Representative who would later become Mayor of Chicago, author James Baldwin at his outspoken best, State Senator Richard Newhouse, and music by the great jazz vocalist Johnny Hartman.”

Our People premiered the week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  It was a time frame remembered in Chicago as the days when the West Side went up in riotous flames (and one Darkjive informant told me of more than a few young men “enlisting” the aid of rifles from the Sears on Kostner for protection).  It should also be noted that The Loop shut down, paralyzed with fear of such riotous activity spreading downtown (it didn’t).

Each week, Our People dealt with issues the Black Community grappled with… and offered a few solutions, as well.  What a remarkable loss.

Below, a clipping from The Hyde Park Herald, Volume 87, 12 February 1969, Page  13.

Dick Gregory, 1451 E. 551h, talks with program producer John Tweedle and host Jim Tilmon on WTTW-Channel 11, Our People, a weekly program focusing on the interests and talents of the black community.

our people 3

The Infamous Paul Serrano PS Studio Tapes

paul serranoSo, Paul Serrano (left) was a hard bop trumpeter here in Chicago that ultimately became a world-renowned Engineer with his own Studio (PS Recording Studios).  He recorded some of the greatest Soul, Gospel, Blues, and Jazz music ever laid down on wax, right here in Chicago.  Built in 1966, the independent studio was on-par with Chess Records’ Ter-Mar Studios and even RCA’s massive Midwest Recording Studios.

Artists including Jerry Butler, the Emotions, Natalie Cole, Ramsey Lewis, Peabo Bryson, the Independents, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, Mary Wells, Chicago Gangsters, Oscar Brown, Jr., Deniece Williams, Von Freeman, Ghanaian Highlife Bandleader Dan Boadi, and Captain Sky recorded there.

The Studio (at one time located on East 23rd Street) shut down in the early nineties, but according to the folk at Numero Group, a bounty of master tapes (some never released) were BURIED at the sight of McCormick Place.  The world may never know.

Below, a slice of funk recorded in the Near South Side at PS Studios.

“Soul Train Local”

So, most of us Chicagoans know that Soul Train got its start here in Chicago (at Weigel Broadcasting’s WCIU-TV), where sponsors included Joe Louis Milk and Sears.  The train moved on to L.A. (Grrrrrrrrrr) in 1971, but time has nearly erased that the local version was aired in Chicago until 1979.  Unfortunately, those episodes starring the homegrown talent of Tyrone Davis, The Dells, Curtis Mayfield, Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, the Chi-Lites, and the Emotions were lost to time, many of them taped over by WCIU…repeatedly.  For more on this story, check out Jake Austen’s excellent Chicago Reader article here.


B.B. King on Soul Train Local

I would much rather have any one of these in my personal collection than some of the inane box sets (“Webster”?? Really??) that are being offered up for posterity.  Sigh.

Adjust Your Color….and Believe in Radio

Check this clip from the PBS Documentary called “Adjust Your Color” chronicling the life and times of Petey Greene, a seventies DC-area shock-jock/activist (who was played by Don Cheadle in the film “Talk to Me”).  Makes me believe in radio (again).  And for good measure, below darkjive proudly presents: Life imitating art, Mr. Greene in the flesh.  Wild stuff.

Is it too much to believe that media can save the world?

Dream Big.


It’s easy to feel disheartened in these staunch economic times, but consider a chair with a dozen layers of paint.  It’s full potential is only evident once that paint is stripped away, allowing pure possibility.

That said, one of my favorite television shows right now is nextTV, a local program produced by the Chicago Urban League (and hosted by Chicago Urban League CEO Cheryle Jackson.    According to their website:

“nextTV is a fast-paced lifestyle program focusing on the urban community. [They] take a closer look at people changing their lives through entrepreneurship, their careers and day to day living.”

What I love is that it lifts the gilded curtain to show the meat and bones of a number of businesses (and career paths) in our community that don’t get a lot of exposure (especially to younger people).

Two examples include profiles of Quentin Love (a young man who owns the Quench Restaurants peppered across the South and West Sides) and a chemist by the name of Linda McGill Boasmond, who is President and General Manager of Cedar Concepts Corporation.  We follow their struggles to grow and flourish with the help of the Urban League’s nextONE business acceleration program.   It may sound like a bad time to do such a thing, but a business is everything you put into it.  It’s successes and failures rely on a few.  Why not make that person you?  Besides, there are a number of incentives (many spurred by the Stimulus Package) to get us growing in more entreprenural directions.

Economic Enpowerment is a theme I’ve mentioned a few times here at Darkjive.  I believe it’s a sure route to social change.  And the paint has been stripped.  What else is there to wait for?

It feels to me that now is the moment to move. To dream.  Big.

nextTV airs 8:00am and 12:30pm, Sundays on My50 WPWR-TV

(above photo by Mario Sorrenti)Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “chicagourbanleague’s Channel“, posted with vodpod

Jive on Icon: Daphne Maxwell-Reid


Here’s the original caption that accompanied the above shot:

25 Oct 1967, Evanston, Illinois, USA — Northwestern Homecoming Queen…Daphne Maxwell, 19, of New York, has good reason to flash that bright smile; she was named Northwestern University’s Homecoming Queen October 20th. Daphne, a sophomore who is studying design, is the first Negro ever to be named Homecoming Queen. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

You heard that right: the second Aunt Viv from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air… the one you said you didn’t like as much as the first one… she was the FIRST black homecoming queen at Northwestern.  Wow.   Much respect for that one.  She was also a well known model in the late sixties who was featured in a 1969 Life Magazine issue that heralded “Black Models Take Center Stage” as the cover story. She also starred in Frank’s Place: an 80s TV series that was (and is) highly revered in the black community.


According to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, “Frank’s Place…. deserves a continuing place in programming history. It did, as Tim Reid [Daphne’s husband and co-star] told New York Times reporter Perry Garfinkel, present blacks not as stereotypes but as “a diverse group of hard-working people.”

So there.

NOTE: According to a fairly recent article in the Times-Picayune (out of New Orleans):

‘Frank’s Place’ DVD on the way

Monday, November 10, 2008

By Dave Walker
TV columnist

A DVD release of “Frank’s Place,” the New Orleans-set sitcom that aired on CBS in 1987 and 1988, is apparently growing closer.

No timetable is set, but star and co-creator Tim Reid said he has convinced CBS to allow him to release the show’s 22 episodes on DVD. However, purchasing rights to the music used in the series is still prohibitively costly.