By Bill Vaughan
The entertainment world was delivered another blow with the death of legendary entertainer Johnny Brown March 2 at the age of 84.
The New York native was an Apollo Amateur Hour performer with the Four Gents and June (who would become his wife) and drummer Maurice Hines Sr.’s group with son Gregory Hines called Hines, Hines and Brown.
A good turn from his “mentor, surrogate and friend” Sammy Davis Jr. led to a show-stopping spot in the Broadway musical “Golden Boy.”
He would go on to do only one other show on “The Great White Way,” the ill-fated “Welcome To Morningside Heights,” which closed in one week.
As Brown reminisced to TASTY CLIPS in one of his final interviews: “Sidney Poitier called and wanted me for this part with Lou Gossett, Cicely Tyson, Diane Ladd and David Steinberg. Opening night, you know like people usually come back and go blah, blah, blah. Nobody came back.
“We saw Ossie Davis going across the street. We said, ‘Hey Ossie!’ He said, ‘Hey, how you doing’ and kept walking. We went, ‘Uh oh.’ It was about Lou meeting this white guy and making him a slave. They tried to do a reverse. It would’ve done great off-Broadway, but Broadway wasn’t ready for that.”
Guest appearances followed on just about every classic comedy and variety series including “The Flip Wilson Show,” “The Jeffersons,” “Family Matters,” “Sister, Sister,” “The Parkers,” “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Martin” to feature films “The Wiz,” “Body and Soul” and “Life.”
Then there was his landmark casting as a regular on “Laugh-In,” and as building superintendent Nathan Bookman on the 1970s sitcom “Good Times.”
He got on “Laugh-In,” from Davis’ recommendation to Rowan & Martin.
“When I came on, no one was really friendly,” Brown said. “There were times when I was hardly in the script. I resented it, but what could I do? I never said anything and just went along with it. Then I found out later that there was inside fighting with the producers.
“It was like a war. Since I came in on Rowan & Martin’s team, the others didn’t care about Johnny Brown.”
It was the same thing with “Good Times” after he arrived with a “Laugh-In” producer for some guest spots.
“I don’t know if Norman Lear really wanted me,” he said [though he did consider Brown to play the role of Lamont on ‘Sanford & Son’].
His favorite episodes were the one that introduced Janet Jackson, where he had to pose as the husband of Ja’net DuBois’ Willona character; the one where Esther Rolle’s now widowed Florida is out and catches him in a bar; and the ones where they did the impressions and shows.
As for the constant barbs at Bookman’s expense, it did get bothersome to the actor at some point.
“Sometimes you can do too much of a thing and it doesn’t come natural,” Brown said. “With everybody saying buffalo butt in a scene, it loses something. You have to do it with the sensational thing and you’re going to get a laugh on it, but not in every scene by all five or six actors.
“They even had Janet, who had just come on the show, answering like Mr. Buffalo Butt. Anything like that loses something when you use it too much, because now it’s not effective.
“And they used it in every show. They used it when I walked in the show, all through the scene. When I left the scene, they used it. I couldn’t say anything because I have a wife and two kids to support. Now at my age, I would have to say something.”
Brown is survived by June Brown, his wife of 61 years, daughter Sharon, and son John Brown Jr.
CLIPPETTES: Peacock’s critically acclaimed drama “Bel-Air” has cast original “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” stars Daphne Maxwell Reid and Vernee Watson-Johnson as guest stars to appear in episode 9 of the series …
R&B guitar legend Buddy Guy plays the Saban on March 13; as Dancing With The Stars Live 2022 takes the stage of the Kavli Theatre; the Pan African Peoples Arkestra begins two nights at the Lodge Room; and John Mayer opens three shows at the Forum …
Despite his character seeming to bite the dust in 2007’s “I Am Legend,” Will Smith is in discussions for a sequel teaming him with Michael B. Jordan …
The Weeknd makes good on a previously scheduled date March 15 at the Honda Center …
The power pairing of Megan Thee Stallion and Dua Lipa should reap a new song this week …
March 16 finds guitarist Al Di Meola at the Coach House and the first of two nights at the Microsoft Theater for Cirque Du Soleil OVO …
As the result of a new deal, Sheryl Underwood will stay with “The Talk” for the next three seasons.
DESTINATION (ATL): Mary J. Blige has partnered with Pepsi to produce the first Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit (Mother’s Day Weekend May 6-9) in Atlanta featuring the superstar with Chaka Khan, Xscape, Ella Mai, City Girls, Kiana Ledé, Sevyn Streeter, Queen Naija, Kierra Sheard, Le’Andria Johnson, Ms. Pat and more. Visit: soawfestival.com for details.
Atlanta’s Trap Music Museum opened its Women’s History Month-long exhibition “Honor Roll.” The works of art and installations (accompanied by a curated playlist) acknowledge shakers such as Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Tokyo, Big Latto, LaKeyah, Lil Kim, Kimora Lee, Krystal Garner, Angela Yee, Ebonie Ward and Dina Marto.
TASTY QUIP: “I’ve given 40 years of my life building up a name and legacy that Prince and I came up with. A name that while he was alive, he had no problem with me using. However, now that Prince is no longer with us — suddenly the people who control his multimillion-dollar estate, want to rewrite history by taking my name away from me, thus impacting how I feed my family.” — MORRIS DAY revealing that the Prince Estate will not allow him to use Morris Day & The Time on tour or merchandise.
TC ON TV: March 11 – “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey” (AppleTV+): A six-episode series based on the acclaimed novel by Walter Mosely who adapts and executive produces along with its star Samuel L. Jackson. Dominique Fishback (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), Cynthia Kaye McWilliams (“Real Husbands of Hollywood”), Damon Gupton (“Black Lightning”), Omar Miller (“Ballers”) and Walton Goggins (“Justified”) round out the cast. “Wendy Williams” (Syn): Guest hosts Kym Whitley and Finesse Mitchell welcome El DeBarge.
March 12 – “Cruel Instruction” (Lifetime): Cynthia Bailey (“Real Housewives of Atlanta”) joins Camryn Manheim in this movie based on real-life youth residential treatment center abuse. “Saturday Night Live” (NBC): Zoë Kravitz (“The Batman”) hosts with musical guest Rosalía
March 13 – “Critics Choice Awards” (CW/TBS): Hosted by Taye Diggs and Nicole Byer live from the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel, the 27th annual edition will honor Halle Berry and Billy Crystal. “Friends Speak” (Reelz): R. Kelly “Unsung” (TV1): Monie Love “Uncensored” (TV1): Stevie J “Game Theory with Bomani Jones” (HBO): The Emmy-winning sports journalist and commentator gets a six-episode series discussing timely issues.
March 14 – “Bob ♥ Abishola” (CBS): Cedric the Entertainer and Tichina Arnold make cameo appearances as Calvin and Tina Butler from “The Neighborhood.”
March 15 – “Live with Kelly & Ryan” (ABC): Kevin Hart, Freestyle Love Supreme “Young Rock” (NBC): As the 2032 election nears, Dwayne Johnson reflects on what it means to be a father in flashbacks to 1984, 1987 and 1996.
March 16 – “Miss World 2021” (Reelz): The 70th edition from San Juan, Puerto Rico. “Beyond The Edge” (CBS): A reality series from the producers of “Naked and Afraid” placing nine celebrities (including Ray Lewis, Metta World Peace and Eboni K. Williams of “The Real Housewives of New York City”) in the dangerous jungles of Panama for two weeks.
March 17 – “DMZ” (HBO Max): Rosario Dawson, Benjamin Bratt and “Queen Sugar” leads Rutina Wesley and Henry G. Sanders (Prosper!) are featured in this DC Comics-based show from executive producers Ava DuVernay and Ernest Dickerson. “Millennials” (AllBlk): Another season of the series from the Bentley Kyle Evans hit factory with Kyle Massey, Aaron Grady and Buddy Lewis. “Masterchef Junior” (FOX): Chefs Gordon Ramsay and Aarón Sánchez welcome nutrition expert, author and new judge Daphne Oz.
END QUOTE: “I wasn’t drunk, but here’s the thing: I’m grown! So, if I wanted to be drunk, I can be drunk. I do not do drugs. Proof of that is I’m too old for the sh*t. I’m in my 50’s! All you trolling, cornball motherf***ers who couldn’t wait to jump on this whole ‘it was so bad’ train – all I can say is go suck it. Suck a big fat one. You can lick my pinky toe.” – MACY GRAY defending her performance of the National Anthem at the NBA All-Star Game
As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment columns in the nation, serving nearly one million weekly readers. Bill Vaughan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, via Twitter @tastyclips, or Instagram @tasty_clips.