Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Alec Mapa, BABY DADDY

Race. Parenthood, Significance.  Bette Davis singing a Miley Cyrus hit.  Alec Mapa made me howl with  laughter. He put tears in my eyes when he talked about being a father.  In the last half of this one-hour, one-man comedy special, Mapa talks about how his adopted son has enriched his life.  That really touched my heart.  Honestly, if my late dad had ever talked about me that way in my youth, maybe there wouldn't have been a 20-year period in which we didn't see each other after he and Mom divorced.  This special aired on Showtime last month.  On social media, many viewers wrote that they cried during the section where Alec talks the journey he and his husband took into foster parenting.  Now I understand their viewer raves.  He got me too.  The comedian/actor (he was a regular on the ABC series Ugly Betty) looks fabulous and he's in top form here.
I grew up in South Central Los Angeles.  Now it's just called South L.A.  I'm older that Alec -- so old that I can remember when only black folks used terms like "booty," "ho" and "baby daddy."  Those were like code words that Caucasian didn't understand.  Nowadays, network TV entertainment reporters as blond as Norse Viking gods talk about booties and baby daddies.  I love that Alec titled his show BABY DADDY.  He reminds me so much of the world I knew growing up in L.A.  Our family lived near 120th and Central Avenue on a cul-de-sac block.  Our neighbors and friends were black, Mexican, Filipino and a few working class white folks who were scufflin' to make a buck just like my parents were.  That's what I saw on my block, in the classrooms and at Catholic masses were I often served as an altar boy.  Alec knows the 'hood.  He also knows the difficulties minorities face finding acceptance and significance in our society.  Especially in youth.  Also, this show was taped before the Supreme Court made its historic marriage equality ruling.

The hour opens with shots of a family in the morning.  A child asleep in a room that looks like a warm, fun room for a kid.  Then two parents asleep in their bed -- Alec and his husband.  Then, time to get up.  The little boy gets ready for the day.  One dad reads the newspaper, the other tries to make waffles on the waffle marker that just broke.  Alec is soon onstage in L.A. telling us about what was practically a "coming out" moment for him.  He watched the Tony Awards with his parents.  Dorothy Loudon was performing a big number from Annie.  As Alec said, "Jesus, take the wheel!"  His bit about being a parent while trying to keep the sexy spark alive with his partner of over 10 years is so funny that it'll make you want to visit the Bank of America in L.A.'s Silver Lake section.  Watch Baby Daddy and you 'll know what I mean.  His tales about sports and parenting tips from Maria Von Trapp, Auntie Mame and Mama Rose in Gypsy are fabulous.  He also talks about being introduced to the world of foster care while working on Rosie O'Donnell family-theme cruise.
About 35 minutes in, his statement "...and if they're African-American...yikes!" catches you.  And you get the golden heart that's behind his occasionally blue humor.  Let's just say that blonde little girls were more highly "prized" over little black boys when it came to foster care.  Wow. Think about images you see on TV.  I watched a local station here in NYC for weeks and was amazed at how frequently the weekday early morning local newscast had surveillance tape footage of black men committing crimes.  I was really amazed at how often that footage came from other parts of the country, not the New York area.  But it was being shown on a local newscast.  That program would end and toss to the network morning news show with several blondes as anchors, contributors, guests or news subjects who needed your help or sympathy.  Alec Mapa's Baby Daddy resonates.

If you've read my posts regularly, you know that The Great Recession went upside my head with a skillet.  I've been lucky enough to work on national TV and radio.  However, I could've made a bigger annual income as a dental hygienist.  That's the reality of the business.  I got as much work as I could, I paid off a lot of my mother's bills (including her mortgage) and I lived modestly in a once-affordable studio apartment.  Until 2011.  I was on a show that got cancelled in 2008 and then could not find any other work.  Not in TV, radio, retail or clerical.  And -- despite having over 10 years of network TV credits on my resumé, I did not have a broadcast agent to help me get new work.  Agents told me what legendary entertainer Lena Horne said Hollywood execs told her in the 1940s when she wanted to act in films: "I wouldn't know what to do with you."  That was a "liberal" way of saying "Whoa.  Black isn't marketable.  You're talented but you're black.  I couldn't get work for you."  I got my own A-list celebrity talk show on VH1, appearances on CBS Late Night, a syndicated game show host gig, a weekly film reviewer spot for ABC News on Lifetime TV, a Food Network host job and was a film reviewer/entertainment correspondent on Whoopi Goldberg's national weekday morning radio show -- all jobs I got on my own while broadcast agents said they wouldn't know what to do with me.  This is why the embrace of racial diversity is so important an issue to me.

I lost my apartment and most of my belongings in it.  I was that broke.  I wound up living with a married relative in Northern California for a couple of years.  Who called me to give me words of encouragement?  Alec Mapa.  And he made me laugh.  That call made me feel so significant at I time when I felt as welcomed as junk mail.  He made a little boy named Zion feel significant.  A little boy...from Compton.
I've been in the New York/New Jersey area since the last week of August last year.  I came out for a 2-week stay.  I'd booked two appearances as a co-host on a weekend film review/interview show.  Thanks to a series of friends who let me crash on their couches or in spare rooms, I extended my stay so I could job hunt.  Almost one year living out of one piece of carry-on luggage.  It's a blessing to have a place to stay.  It's an even bigger one to stay in a place where you know you're wanted and welcomed.  When the sweet declaration "We're very lucky to have you" is said at the end of Baby Daddy....yeah, I was crying.  Whether child or grown-up, we all want to feel significant.
Comedian/actor/writer Alec Mapa, his husband and Zion.  I wish they'd been neighbors on our block when I was a kid.  I would've LOVED to go watch the Tony Awards at their house.  If you can find Baby Daddy on the Showtime website or rent it or buy it....watch it.  Alec Mapa is funny.  He's touching.  He's excellent.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much! I'm so glad you enjoyed the film.

    Zion is so HANDSOME, stylish, and expressive. He's a great kid. It's a blessing to anyone who knows him and he's having a great life with Jamie and Alec.
    I wish you all the best in your own ongoing career.

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