Back in 1988, my sister Leslie (who was visiting from California) and I (visiting from New York State) were in the car with my parents and my sister Marcia, traveling from Charlotte, NC to Raleigh, NC for some event when the issue of the NAACP Image Awards came up. I hadn’t watched them, and I don’t think Leslie had either. But my father had done so, on television, and he was VERY upset with actor Gregory Hines (pictured). His failing? He was wearing an earring to the event, showing an intentional lack of respect for the NAACP and for the proceedings. Leslie and I spent about an hour unsuccessfully trying to convince my father that this was not a slight, that Gregory Hines often wore an earring, that actors are just different, and that we seriously doubted that the NAACP was upset about this (for the aforementioned reasons).
I think I remember this, and that we argued about it for so long at the time, because it seemed so…parochial, narrow-minded, and that wasn’t how we viewed our father AT ALL.
It only recently occurred to me to wonder WHY Gregory Hines was getting that Image Award in the first place. Actually, Hines had been nominated a total of four times, and won twice, the latter in 2002 for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special for Bojangles (2001), but my father had passed away by then, and Hines would, too, the following year.
The award in question was for Running Scared (1986), for which Hines was Outstanding Lead Actor in a Motion Picture. “Danny [Billy Crystal] and Ray [Hines] are two street wise cops in Chicago. When they are almost killed on a case, they are forced to take a vacation by their captain. Key West offers a substantial change over frozen Chicago. They decide to quit and open a bar in Key West. Upon returning, they find that Julio [Jimmy Smits], the drug dealer who nearly killed them has made bail and is trying to complete a giant drug deal.”
Of particular interest to me: Darlanne Fluegel played the Crystal character’s wife, Anna. From this 1986 story about her appearance on the TV show Crime Story: Actually Fluegel never intended to be a model. Raised in Binghamton, N.Y., she was a tomboy who felt more kinship with her three younger brothers than her two older sisters. When she was 16, her father, a chiropractor, died suddenly of a brain tumor. Darlanne turned to modeling “not to be a burden” on her mother, who worked with the Department of Social Security, and “as a quick way out of Binghamton.” Darlanne attended Binghamton Central High School for a time, and I knew her vaguely; I knew her sister Donna better.
In any case, the common theme: both Darlanne Fluegal and my father really needed to get out of Binghamton.
My father would have been 86 tomorrow.