(Originally published as City section cover story, New York Times, 7/1/01.)
CB seems like a relic from another time, another place. Perhaps that’s why it is alive and well on New York’s highways.
CHICKENBOY: Hey, who’s that out there? You got the Chickenboy over here.
193: (laughs) Chickenboy? Yeah, come on.
CHICKENBOY: I’m in Williamsburg. Metro and Graham. Where are you?
193: Yeah, roger. You got 193 on the Lower East. Roger?
(loud static interference)
CHICKENBOY: 193, come back with that. What’s your 20?
193: Yeah, man. Come on.
L-TRAIN: Yeah, talk to me, man. I’m right here. I’m L-Train, man. I’m L-Train.
The voices on the CB radio waves in New York are not those of lost truckers from Montana on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. They are the multicultural shouts of a thriving subculture: two men threatening to kill each other on Channel 6; angry complaints about livery drivers on 22; a heated debate on 27 about the shooting of Amadou Diallo, months after the event has disappeared from the front pages; an endless cackle of off-color remarks on 12; and on every channel, lots of ephemera, like that involving Chickenboy, 193 and L-Train.
Now that the Cold War is over, maybe Paul Robeson can finally get a little respect
(Originally published in Time Out New York, 1/15/98.)
Jeffrey Stanley is the author of Joe Glory, a script about the Peekskill riots, written for director Barbara Kopple. “Paul Robeson, A Centennial Retrospective” runs January 16-27 at Film Forum.
If Bugs Bunny can have a stamp, why not Paul Robeson? One of the greatest entertainers of the century, Robeson was a Broadway legend (one of the first black Othellos), an opera singer, a movie star and an outspoken political gadfly at a time when so-called Sambo roles were the norm for mainstream black performers.
Blackballed for his politics, Robeson is only now–on the centennial anniversary of his birth–receiving a measure of the respect that was denied him during his lifetime. In addition to receiving a posthumous Grammy, he’ll be honored with special events in LA and Chicago, and beginning January 16, Film Forum will screen a retrospective of his films. But the stamp is just too much to ask: last month, the idea was rejected despite nearly 90,000 signatures on his behalf.
As Eugene O’Neill’s Emperor Jones–a role for which the Columbia law-school graduate was handpicked by the playwright–Robeson became the first black actor on the white stage to portray a character who was not a stereotype. Possessed of a mesmerizing baritone purr, he sang in some 20 languages. And his commitment social justice would shame today’s most committed Hollywood celebs: in 1933, he gave all his earnings from the film All God’s Chillun Got Wings to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany.
[caption id="attachment_2211" align="aligncenter" width="422" caption="Joe Vinciguerra and Jeffrey Stanley; NYU Tisch School of the Arts undergrad film students in a New Jersey cornfield, 1988, working on Joe's short "Reflections of a Sensitive Man" for Carol Dysinger's class. Photo by Helen Crowther."][/caption]