Podcast and Contest: A Conversation with Melvin Van Peebles

Christabel and Melvin
Christabel and Melvin

Well, hello there HfH'ers!

I'm still recovering from my "Big Fat African Wedding" - there are still some items available on registry; hint, hint - but with the change of season comes both new opportunity and a return to the proverbial grind. Personally, I'm still somewhat in party mode, so I thought I'd ease back in by profiling the "Godfather of Independent Cinema," Melvin Van Peebles on this week's show. He not only celebrated his 79th birthday last month (August 21, Virgo) but, moreover, anywhere Melvin goes the party follows.

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The director of the seminal 1971 indie Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song has never been one to be defined by what people think he should or shouldn't do. A director, visual artist, musician, playwright, novelist and translator, Van Peebles ALSO became the first African American trader on the American Stock Exchange in the 1980's.

His work continues to be a vital source of inspiration for artists worldwide. The films in the upcoming black independent series at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, L.A Rebellion, owe a clear debt to his trailblazing, while Greg Tate's Burnt Sugar Arkestra recently turned Sweetback into a jazz-rock opera. (Van Peebles recently started performing with Burnt Sugar as Melvin Van Peebles wid Laxative because, as he put it, his bandmates "make shit happen.")

When I visited this artist-entrepreneur at his home he showed me some of his art work and talked to me about how he started in the entertainment business, his love of travel and more.

Contest: One of the things that occurred to me while talking to Van Peebles is that he has pretty much always been a part of the creative firmament. Tell us in comments when you first saw or encountered Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and the best story will win a DVD of his film.


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