With Muhammad Ali looking over our shoulders Robert and me are seen hanging out at a local gym on one of his recent visits back home to DC.
The DC Black Repertory Company was to celebrate its 47th Anniversary the weekend of September 14th in Washington, DC. The founder actor, producer and director, Robert Hooks a native Washingtonian was to be front and center. The tribute was cancelled due to a state of emergency declared by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser pertaining to Hurricane Florence. The tribute was long overdue, but will be re-scheduled later in 2018.
Profile: Robert Hook’s career as a producer and political activist in Washington, DC is second to none. He is most recognized for his over 100 roles in films and television to include, Reeve Scott in Hurry Sundown (1967), Mr. T. in the blaxploitation film Trouble Man (1972 musical score by Marvin Gaye stole the show), grandpa Gene Donovan in the comedy Seventeen Again (2000), and Fleet Admiral Morrow in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984).
He also appeared on television in an episode of the NBC crime drama series The Eddie Capra Mysteries in 1978 and portrayed Doctor Walcott in the 1980s television series Dynasty. Robert has been regarded, as a gifted artist who broke the color barriers in stage, film and television before the term “colorblind casting” even existed, and he was a leading man when there were no African American matinee idols. He originated roles on the New York stage in such classics as Dutchman, A Taste of Honey and Where’s Daddy, for which he won the Theatre World Award. He was the first African American lead on a television drama, the original N.Y.P.D. with one of my favorite actors, Karl Malden. In 1968 he was the host of a new public affairs television program, titled “Like It Is.”
The golden nugget of his career was in 1967 when he and Douglas Turner Ward found The Negro Ensemble Company (NEC). The NEC is credited with the launch of the careers of many major black artists of all disciplines, while creating a body of performance literature over the last 40 years, providing the backbone of African-American theatrical classics. Additionally Robert is the sole founder of two significant black theatre companies: the DC Black Repertory Company, and New York’s Group Theatre Workshop, built to mentor the talents of New York’s disadvantaged youth.
He was nominated for a Tony for his lead role in the musical, Hallelujah, Baby!, Robert has received both the Pioneer Award and the NAACP Image Award for Lifetime Achievement, and has been inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. He also won an Emmy for his PBS special “Voices of Our People”.
Proving that an apple does not fall too far from the tree, it was 46 years ago that Robert’s son Kevin got his first taste of Hollywood starring along side of Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson in the critically acclaim movie “Sounder.” The movie was based on a novel of a young boy living with his sharecropper family when his father is imprisoned for stealing a ham. To make matters worse his dog runs away. The dog is later reunited with his master (Winfield). One night the two leave the house to go hunting. The dog returns home without his master. The son (Kevin) goes to look for his father and finds him dead. The dog later crawls up under the porch and dies.
Kevin now carries the titles of actor, writer, director and producer, but after the dog he gets mixed up with a sick cat. Here he stars as a 10 old year name JT in a television episode on the CBS Children’s Hour. The episode won a Peabody Award. Kevin graduated to television with a series titled, White Shadow, and Aaron Loves Angela. He is now producing and directing for NBC. His signature and credits can now be found on shows like, The Color of Friendship, Sarafinaskin, The Power of One, Cry Freedom, Roots, The Gift, Heat Wave and strictly business.
In a recent interview on Inside Sports, Robert reminded me that “Little Kevin” got his first taste of pro boxing when I organized a bus trip to the Baltimore Civic Center to see the pro boxing debut of Sugar Ray Leonard. Ray was facing the undefeated Luis ‘The Bull’ Vegas (no contest). Kevin was a 18 year old senior at Potomac High School in Prince Georges County. He was the youngest among the in-crowd of adults on the bus who were just excited as he was to witness the boxing debut of Sugar Ray Leonard–how time flys.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dya-RNZlflI / You Tube Legends of Inside Sports
Jimmy Hooks the brother of Robert is seen on the dance floor with me looking like we could dance at a charity basketball game at Howard University.
My celebrity fashion shows, tennis tournaments and annual Christmas Toy Drives for needy children, Robert was in the house.
In 1979 I suggested to Robert it was time to cut his losses and head back to Hollywood to start the second act of his career. I coordinated “The Going Away Party” at the Charpter II Club in SW DC and the in-crowd was in the house, Jim Vance, Carole Randolph, Roy Jeffeson, George Nock, Sonny Hill, Martin Wyatt, Judge Luke Moore and the Welterweight Champion of the World–Sugar Ray Leonard.
This weekend tribute will kick-off Friday at 1:00 p. m. at the Wilson Building with the DC Mayor and City Council proclaiming it “Robert Hooks Day” in Washington, DC. He will probably be given the key to the city which will probably have double locks on every door. The evening will conclude with a VIP Reception at Bus Boys & Poets located at 14th & V Street, NW. The celebration continues on Saturday evening at the Lincoln Theater with a Gala of Stars saluting Robert. He will share the spotlight and tribute with former repertory board members and COMMUNITY activist and two of his buddies, the late radio and television icon Petey Greene and businessman and entepreeur, the late Ed Murphy. Robert credits Ed with the survival and success of The DC Black Repertory Theater.
Murphy was known in the streets as “8 Ball” and he and Robert were joined at the hip. Ed Murphy’s Supper Club and the Harambee House Hotel located on Georgia Avenue, NW were the playgrounds for the DC in-crowd. This is where “The Power Lunch” was coined and established. Between the hours of 11 am and 3 pm you could find politicians, pro athletes, actors, entertainers and media personalities hanging out between the hotel and the supper club.
There were the likes of Ossie and Ruby Davis, Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Harry Belaforte, etc. When I say “Playground for the stars” that maybe an understatement. I remember when Robert torn ligaments in his knee and Petey Greene and I paid him a visit at the Washington Hospital Center late one evening. We walked into his room and there were ‘The Wilson Girls’, legendary vocalist Nancy Wilson and Mary Wilson of the Surpremes reading him a bedtime story. They were a tough act to follow. We immediately said, ‘Goodnight Robert!’ On the way down we met Ed Murphy on the way up.
There are hundreds of stories in the Nation’s Capitol as it relates to Robert Hooks and the DC Black Repertory Theater. This week’s tribute could never record all the sacrifices made by one of DC’s finest who has comeback home from Hollywood for this great weekend tribute—CONGRATULATIONS Robert Hooks.
P.S. see reviews for new book “Harold Bell’s Legends of Inside Sports: My Walk Through American Sports History With Champs & Chumps!” @https://blackmeninamerica.com
ALERT: TRIBUTE TO ROBERT HOOKS HAS BEEN CANCELLED UNTIL NOVEMBER. DC MAYOR DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY. HURRICANE FLORENCE AN UNINVITED GUEST IS EXPECTED TO PARTICIPATE!