I want to have a frank conversation about an inner sickness that I see few, if any, addressing: how and why Hollywood creates a f***ed-up mirror for you to look in. How you are seeing yourself through your own eyes, but perhaps not your own mind. Hollywood affects your life in ways you may not even be aware of.
In my past of being sold as a product, I have been a part of massaging your brain. I wiggled into your mind professionally. I was the cigarette the advertisers told you you needed. I’ve also been on the other side of the looking glass. Watching you. Studying you. Impersonating you. All of us in Hollywood, media, and advertising do. And you know what? We are really good at it. We have had it drilled into us how best to be marketed to you. How best to be sold to you. How to implant what “we” want into your brain, into your thoughts, into your wallet. And it works. You’re sold a fake reality all for the rock-bottom price of $14.
The men who thought they owned me think that they own you. They are the latest in a long line of myth peddlers, from the men behind the Bible to these modern-day ‘content-creators.’ They’re mostly self-aggrandizing, egomaniacal abusers of power. And they’ve never been more dangerous. Few in Hollywood, and no actress that I can recall, has gone rogue. Hollywood operates like the Mafia when it comes to protecting its own. Especially if your ‘own’ is a rich white male. Yes, I said it. But here’s the thing, it’s true. I didn’t make it so, it just is. In other news, the sky is blue.
By telling some of my story, I aim to shine a light. For those who think Hollywood is a silly joke…it’s not. It’s a deadly serious business and one that keep its winnings. You may think it’s as simple as forking over hard-earned cash for a night out at the movies or paying a cable bill to be entertained. I’m here to tell you the price you are paying is much higher than you know. You are paying with your mind, your behavior, and your patterns. Things that should have no price tag. In our as-seen-on-TV society, the simple fact is that what you have watched and consumed, from birth, has formed you and continues to form you. Even those who’ve opted out of its false reality have to stay vigilant to remain free from the lies and from the messages that do far more harm than they should. Because they are insidious, and they are everywhere.” -Rose McGowan
“See, I didn’t want to be a movie star. I wanted to be an actor. There’s a big difference. Most movie stars aren’t very good. They’re usually not talented. They’re people who have a look the public likes, or they’re clever enough businesswise to manipulate the system, or they’re all drive and ambition. But they’re not real actors.” -John Leguizamo
Street Songs came out 1981. After winning the American Music Award for Best Album, I took some pictures backstage with Grace Jones. Grace and I were clowning with the photographers. A newsman asked Grace why she wasn’t on MTV. She replied, “Cuz MTV has no taste.” She said that’s why she and I weren’t on it. I said something similar, but using slightly stronger language…
The MTV thing started to catch fire. It seems whatever the [expletive] I said that day with Grace moved a lot of people. Everyone wanted to talk to me about MTV, the racist TV station. At the time I came out and called MTV racist, there were one hundred and fifty videos on it. Out of those openly three were Black Musical Youth, Eddie Grant and someone else I can’t recall- that was it. Two out of three were Jamaican groups. MTV was supposed to play Top Forty groups. That means anybody in the Billboard Top Forty should be on MTV. Their policy was to play Urban Contemporary, Top Forty stuff. This being true, where was Teddy Pendergrass, Rick James, Diana Ross, Donna Summer and a few other Blacks that were crossing over big time? They were not being played.
In the Fifties that was called “Jim Crow programming.” Radio DJ’s at White stations were not allowed to play Blacks. It was considered “Devil Music.” That’s why Elvis, Buddy Holly, Pat Boone and other White singers became so successful covering Black tunes- and getting hit records out of them. Imagine Pat Boone getting a hit off Little Richard’s “Lucille.” It was [expletive] up. Then Alan Freed, a White DJ, opened the doors for Black artists. MTV was the same [expletive] 50 years later.
I had spent thousands of dollars making some great videos only to have MTV say “No way.” MTV even refused to play the classic video “Standing on the Top,” which featured me with all the Temptations- the only videos they are all in. Linda Ronstadt could sing “Ooh Baby Baby” but when it came to Smokey Robinson, MTV said “No Go.” I had had enough and was going to bring MTV into the light, no matter what the cost- and believe me, it cost me plenty.
Bob Pittman, the Program Director for MTV, was a well-known racist in telecommunications. He was brought into jobs to higher and fire Blacks. He programmed MTV, which was owned by Gulf and American Express, big [expletive] companies. They started MTV as a big [expletive] s tax write-off, a tax shelter with just one law: KEEP BLACKS OFF. I did an informal survey to find out what was going on. I even talked to Jay Johnson, one of the DJs on MTV, a British Black…
Bob Pittman came out in Rolling Stone magazine and said certain Blacks did not make the kind of music he thought appropriate for his station. If that wasn’t a racist remark nothing was. Sammy Davis Jr. And Hall & Oates even appeared on TV and said I was right. I was told that when Bob Pittman was told about my feud with Prince he immediately put Prince into rotation with this record called “Little Red Corvette.” The record had died on the charts- I mean died. As soon as MTV started playing the video, the record was re-released and became a smash. That’s the power of MTV. I could have sold thirty or forty million more albums had MTV played my videos.
My efforts did not go in vein. Little by little MTV added more blacks to their play list. Now they even have an alternative MTV, VH-1, just for Blacks. The first video of mine they ever played was a record that wasn’t even mine. It was a tune I composed for Eddie Murphy called “Party All the Time.” Eddie and I did a video together for it. It was a number one record and the first time MTV even put Rick James on screen.” From, “The Memoirs of Rick James” By: Rick James
“All token Blacks have the same experience. I have been pointed at as a solution to things that have not begun to be solved, because pointing at us token Blacks eases the conscience of millions, and I think this is dreadfully wrong.” -Leontyne Price