I knew absolutely nothing about Petey Greene before this movie came out last year. How could I not have? He was a fascinating character.
He was an ex-con turned political activist with a Richard Pryor flair for words. He got a radio gig in Washington in the late 60's before segueing into a career on TV and doing stand-up. But he never really felt comfortable moving out of the radio booth and sabotaged his chances at a big career by refusing to tell "nigger jokes" on The Tonight Show.
Don Cheadle was great (other than his really fake, distracting mutton chops) and there were a lot of interesting moments in the film. Overall though by the end, I wanted a little bit more as the movie devolved into standard biopic mode at it hurriedly rushed over many years of his life to get to the end.
Still, I'm glad that I saw this. It was entertaining throughout and I learned a bit about a Washington D.C. icon who I had never even heard of. He died in 1984 of cancer and 10,000 people attended his funeral - the highest attended funeral in D.C. history for a non-elected official. I want to find out more about Greene to see how close to the facts this movie was. This website is pretty illuminating. Check out some of the videos.
Both of these nuggets are also from the site:
On March 8,1978 he was invited as a guest to the White House by President Jimmy Carter to honor visiting Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito. He famously quipped to the Washington Post that he “stole a spoon” during the evening gala.
Among the thousands of devout listeners that Petey impacted daily, he also made an impression on future radio and television personality, Howard Stern. During an appearance on “Petey Green’s Washington,” Howard stated, “ I have learned more from your show….I listen to your show and (when) I go on I use your material.” Petey quipped, “ They might not like us but they don’t change the dial.”
There wasn't any mention of The Tonight Show thing but I'm assuming that it really happened since it was such a key moment in the film. I'd be very disappointed it it had been completely made up.
A new documentary Adjust Your Color: The Truth of Petey Greene is making the rounds of the film festival circuit this year. I look forward to seeing it.
Directed by Kasi Lemmons
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