Look out Big East, these Temple Owls are winners.
Matt Brown ran for 141 yards and a long score, Chris Coyer had a touchdown passing and rushing, and Temple beat Villanova 41-10 on Friday night in its first game since returning to a conference that kicked them out eight years ago.
"I wanted us to establish that toughness and see us play that smash-mouth football," coach Steve Addazio said, pumping his fist for emphasis. "And, we did."
The Owls won their third straight Mayor's Cup — presented to the winner of this city rivalry — in the finale of this series played before 32,709 fans at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles.
These clearly aren't the same Owls who used to be a pushover and were booted out of the Big East in 2004. Al Golden turned the program around before bolting for Miami, and Addazio kept it rolling last year in the MAC.
Addazio led Temple to a 9-4 record and the second bowl victory in school history, a 37-15 rout of Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl.
The Owls picked up where they left off last December, dominating inferior Villanova from start to finish as Bill Cosby, the most famous of Temple alums, looked on.
Coyer connected with Kenneth Harper on an 8-yard shovel pass for a score to put Temple up 7-0 on their first possession. Coyer threw just three passes during the 14-play drive, completing all of them for 30 yards.
"We executed very well the first drive made a lot of really good reads," Coyer said. "Then we had some hiccups."
The Wildcats answered on the ensuing possession, driving down to Temple's 3. But they couldn't push it in and settled for Mark Hamilton's 21-yard field goal.
Temple went up 14-3 when Vaughn Carraway intercepted Chris Polony's pass and returned it 58 yards for a TD.
"We're a young defense and we're gonna get better," Carraway said.
Another turnover two plays later set up Coyer's 19-yard TD run that made it 21-3, and the rout was on.
Just when it seemed Villanova had gained momentum going into the half on John Robertson's 5-yard TD run late in the second quarter, the Owls struck back 43 seconds later.
Brown burst through the line and sprinted 56 yards for a score to make it 28-10 with 21 seconds left in the half.
"I think they broke our back with that run," Villanova coach Andy Talley said.
Harper had a 38-yard TD run in the third quarter.
Temple's Spencer Reid, son of Eagles coach Andy Reid, entered late in the game and carried three times for 4 yards. Andy Reid and his wife Tammy were there to greet their son afterward.
An energized crowd — the third-largest for Temple at the Linc — showed up hours before kickoff to tailgate in the parking lots. Once they made it inside, the maroon-and-white portion of the fans had plenty to cheer about.
Temple had 10 seasons of one or two victories spanning their Big East years of 1991-2004. The Owls were forced out of the conference after 13 years for failing to meet minimum requirements for membership, most notably in attendance, facilities and fielding a competitive team.
Temple played as an independent and eventually landed in the Mid-American Conference in 2007. While there, it turned its program around and ran off winning seasons the past three years.
The Owls rejoined the Big East for football in March and all other sports in 2013. They'll host South Florida on Oct. 6 in their first conference game. -- (AP)
NEW YORK — As the crowd counted down, Magic Johnson pulled a large, silver lever jutting from a box labeled “ASPiRE.” With that, his new cable network went live.
Then stagehands whisked the contraption off the dais at Aspire’s gala premiere party Wednesday night. The switch was just a prop, of course, connected to nothing.
But Magic Johnson’s ties to the African-American community (not to mention sports history and contemporary culture) are direct and strong.
Now, the basketball great and business tycoon is leveraging his clout and good name to launch Aspire.
“We have a big platform for African-American work,” Johnson told the gathered. “Family driven content, positive images of African Americans — that’s what we want that platform for!”
Big aspirations, indeed, as Aspire makes its debut. Initially it’s available in about 7 million homes and in 16 of the top 25 African-American markets (including New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington). It can be seen by some customers served by Time Warner Cable Inc. and by Comcast Corp., the nation’s largest cable operator, which is introducing the minority-oriented Aspire as part of an agreement struck with the Federal Communications Commission when Comcast purchased NBC Universal.
Aspire’s reach will grow to 12 million homes by year’s end, to 20 million to 30 million homes by the end of 2013, and to 40 million homes within two years, according to Johnson.
“Focus groups told us African Americans want more family content on TV,” he said a few hours before the party. “If they would have told me, ‘We don’t need another channel, there’s not an opportunity for you,’ we wouldn’t be sitting here.”
Seated in a raised director’s chair whose exaggerated height seems made-to-order for the towering former L.A. Lakers point guard, Johnson is speaking with a reporter in an NBC green room during a busy day of meetings and media appearances.
“I wouldn’t get into this if I didn’t feel there was an opportunity,” he goes on. “That’s what I do. I look for opportunities.”
Johnson doesn’t dismiss the growing roster of other networks targeting Black viewers.
“BET dominates the young people and does a great job,” he says. “TV One skews a little older. We’re gonna skew older than both of them. Blacks want options; they want variety, like everybody else. There’ll be enough viewers for all of us. So everybody wins.”
He says Aspire is aiming for Black families with a slate of enlightening and positive programming — the sort of fare that everyone can gather in the living room to watch, “the way I grew up,” Johnson fondly recalls.
Aspire will air movies, documentaries, music and comedy, as well as faith and inspirational programs.
Initially, the schedule consists of acquisitions, including long-ago series like “The Bill Cosby Show,” “I Spy,” “Julia” and “The Flip Wilson Show.” The network promises documentaries chronicling real-life events, people and places that shaped Black history. Movies include “Shaft,” “Bird,” “Sarafina!” and “Lilies of the Field.”
Eventually, Aspire plans to create its own programming. For that, Johnson hopes to tap Black artists ranging from young up-and-comers to the likes of Spike Lee and Tyler Perry.
But what about a certain world-class star already on the payroll? Will Earvin “Magic” Johnson step in front of the Aspire cameras?
“I may do a show interviewing celebrities,” he says. “Or a business show. We haven’t planned it yet, but African Americans want to know how to build wealth. They want to know how to start a business or grow one. Home ownership. Having good credit. I think I’m going to have to go on and teach them that sort of thing.”
The principal owner of Aspire is Magic Johnson Enterprises, with the 52-year-old Johnson as the network’s chairman and CEO.
But Aspire is teamed with Atlanta-based GMC (formerly the Gospel Music Network), which, available in about 50 million homes, focuses on uplifting music and family entertainment. GMC is providing operational infrastructure (what Johnson dubs “the back of the house”) for Aspire, also based in Atlanta.
Johnson declines to say exactly what he’s investing in Aspire as its principal owner, but acknowledges “it takes $100 (million) or $150 million just to turn the lights on and really get it going — and we’re gonna be in that neighborhood.”
Already, Johnson has landed five blue chip “charter brand partners”: Coca-Cola Co., Chrysler, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., L’Oreal and Nationwide Insurance. He says his network is on track to be “almost break-even in a year.”
Johnson sees Aspire as the logical next step in his burgeoning media empire, whose holdings include 20 radio stations, Vibe magazine and the “Soul Train” brand.
But an almost dizzying array of other investments includes real estate, restaurants, a prepaid debit card he soon will introduce and, of course, the Los Angeles Dodgers, purchased in May for $2 billion by a group he fronted.
“I am SO proud of the Dodgers,” he grins when that subject comes up. “I’m like a little kid! To know I own the Dodgers is even blowing ME away!”
In short, Johnson’s career as an NBA legend and Hall of Famer is rivaled by his entrepreneurial efforts, which, along with his philanthropic and motivational work, largely cater to the Black community.
“I’ve been doing business almost as long as I’ve been playing basketball,” he says. “I bought a radio station when I was 19 years old, when I first got drafted by the Lakers.”
For now, despite his many business interests, he’s giving Aspire top priority.
“When you’re starting a business, you have to be more involved day-to-day,” he says. “I’m a control freak. Even though I allow people to do their jobs, I want to know everything, and I HAVE to know everything: It’s my brand, my name; everything is out there on the line.”
Looking to Aspire’s future, he points out how he always had two big dreams: to play in the NBA and be a businessman.
“I don’t know why God blessed me with this life, but I’m glad he did, and I love it,” Johnson sums up. “And I’m full steam ahead!” — (AP)
He made his mark writing for comics like Richard Pryor. He also wrote for “Good Times” and “Sanford and Son” in the ’70s. In the early 1980s, he developed signature characters for “In Living Color” including Homey the Clown.
His words are known by many. Still comedian, writer, social critic, television and film actor Paul Mooney has not become a household name himself.
But that makes no difference to Mooney, set to take the stage at the Helium Comedy Club on Sansom Street, May 2-5.
“I love what I do and I always knew I would end up doing it. And that’s all I really care about,” he said.
Born in Shreveport, La., and moving to Oakland, Calif., several years later, Mooney first became a ringmaster with the Gatti-Charles Circus. During his stint as ringmaster, he always found himself writing comedy and telling jokes, which later helped him land his first professional work as a writer for Pryor.
Mooney wrote some of Pryor’s routines for his appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” co-wrote his material for the “Live on the Sunset Strip, Bicentennial Nigger,” “Is It Something I Said” albums, as well as the film “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling.”
Mooney says writing for Pryor — as well as many other young comics including Robin Williams, Sandra Bernhard, Eddie Murphy, Marsha Warfield and others — was easy once he got to know them.
“Once I got to know them, really know them, once I could really get into their heart and soul, it was easy to write for them because at that point I knew the essence of the person. And once that happens, I can write for people. Otherwise, I can’t,” he explains.
Among his other writing accomplishments, Mooney wrote for Redd Foxx’s “Sanford and Son,” acted in several cult classics including Which Way Is Up?,” “Bustin’ Loose,” “Hollywood Shuffle” and more.
He has appeared in sketches including Negrodamus, an African-American version of Nostradamus. As Negrodamus, Mooney once ad-libbed the “answers to life’s most unsolvable mysteries such as ‘Why do white people love Wayne Brady?’ (Answer: ‘Because Wayne Brady makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X.’). Mooney had planned to reprise his role as Negrodamus in the third season of the “Chappelle’s Show” before it was cancelled.
Much of Mooney’s material is based on the subject of racism in the United States. which disturbs some audience members. But controversy has always accompanied Mooney and his comic material, and he doesn’t shy away from that fact.
“I do a lot of racial stuff because we live in America and my comedy is a reflection of my environment,” he said. “I think we’re blessed to live in a country with freedom of speech so I can speak my mind. We’re blessed to live in a place where I can make fun of things I see and not be taken out and shot.”
Long considered a living legend, Mooney explains that he can’t think of any of today’s young comics he would pay to see. He says, “I’ve worked with all the great minds from Richard Pryor to Flip Wilson to Redd Foxx to Moms Mabley. The only people left are Bill Cosby and Dick Gregory. After they go, it’s all over with. I’m truly the last of my kind.”
And his followers hope he’ll be around for a long, long time to come. As does the man of comedy himself. “I’ll never retire,” he said. “I’ll be performing as long as I can. I feel most alive when I’m on stage.”
For times and ticket information call (215) 496-9001.
Bill Cosby had to listen to the roar.
The actor and comedian tried to explain what the Penn Relays meant to him after decades of visits when his point was made by the sound of nearly 20,000 fans cheering on the runners at Franklin Field as another race came down to the wire.
“Listen. Listen to the crowd,” Cosby said on Friday. “What you heard are the voices. If you add another 50 years, those people will remember the time they were here.”
The four Princeton men who became the first Ivy League team to win a distance medley relay since 1961 will sure remember the 2012 Penn Relays. The Oregon women who won for the first time at the sport’s oldest relay event will have that experience forever etched in their memories.
In the women’s 400 relay, Texas A&M won in 43.87 seconds. Tennessee won the women’s sprint medley relay in 3 minutes, 43.79 seconds and Penn State took the men’s sprint medley relay title in 3:18.47.
All the winners came away with a moment to savor on the second day of the 118th running of the famed track and field meet.
“I was at every one,” the 74-year-old Cosby quipped.
He saw a bit of history on his latest visit.
Oregon won the 6,000-meter relay in 17:29 for its first Penn Relays women’s championship. Lanie Thompson, Alex Kosinski, Anne Kesselring and Rebecca Friday dominated early and easily held off runner-up Georgetown.
Oregon held about an 80-meter and 15-second lead by the time Friday took the handoff for the anchor leg.
“I saw that we had a pretty big lead, but I didn’t want to take any chances,” Friday said. “I started off strong, and the goal for me today was to finish the last 200 (meters) strong. I still did that, even though we had a pretty good setup from the girls.”
Ducks coach Vin Lananna called the victory a worthy reward for the long trip east.
Kosinski was so excited she asked if she could take the press conference placard with her name on it.
Just another keepsake to go with the watch awarded to every winner.
Even Cosby owns a pair of Penn Relays watches — accessories treated like gold medals by any competitor who’s stepped foot on Franklin Field.
Cosby was on hand to fire the starter’s gun for the elementary school shuttle relay events. Bundled up in a grey Penn sweatshirt and sweatpants on a chilly, windy day, Cosby smiled and warmly shook hands with every small child — even as they were likely unaware the man wishing them luck was one of the all-time great comedians.
“I ran here in the middle of this field and I remember how excited I was and how important I felt,” Cosby said. “I still remember it and I’m 75 years old. I identify with these kids. It is an honor and a privilege to me.”
Cosby, followed around by a documentary film crew, was set to return Saturday to start the high school relay races.
Known for his stand-up act, social activism and the hit TV series “The Cosby Show,” Cosby is a Philadelphia native who played football at Temple.
His deep city roots are one reason why he returns almost every year.
“It’s clean. There’s no violence,” he said. “Well, there is violence, the starter’s gun. And the boys and girls elbow each other and knock each other off. I’ve seen some pretty rough moments. But there’s no violence.”
Always stressing education, Cosby would have been pleased to see Princeton win the men’s DMR in 9:42.5. Indiana was second and Binghamton third.
“This is truly one for the history books,” Princeton coach Steve Dolan said.
Joe Stilin, Tom Hopkins, Michael Williams and anchor Donn Cabral led the Tigers to their second Penn Relays championship in two years after taking the mile relay last year. No Ivy League school had won the DMR since Yale in 1961.
“I figured if I could stay comfortable and keep a last gear or two for the last 200 meters, then I’d have as good a chance as anyone,” Cabral said. “This is awesome. I didn’t get to do it in high school, so I’m getting my money’s worth in college. “
While the high school and college events are the heart of what the Penn Relays are all about, Saturday’s “USA vs. the World” relays gets the event on NBC and should fill Franklin Field.
Some of the biggest names in U.S. sprinting, including Justin Gatlin, Walter Dix, LaShawn Merritt, Angelo Taylor, Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix, will compete in the six-race showcase, the biggest one before the London Games.
Gatlin compared the relays to the NBA’s All-Star weekend.
The stars can’t wait to stretch their legs in front of an appreciative crowd.
“It gives the fans what they want to see and gives them a taste of the Olympic games,” Dix said. — (AP)
The book “Chaney: Playing for a Legend” (Triumph Books) written by Philadelphia Tribune sportswriter Donald Hunt with former Temple stars Aaron McKie and Eddie Jones, is now available as an ebook. The book is an inside look at the Owls basketball program and playing for Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame coach John Chaney. Sports fans can order the book for $9.99 on Amazon.com.
McKie and Jones share their reflections from playing for Chaney at Temple and how those experiences helped shape their lives. Both players came from tough backgrounds and could have given up on life, but they learned some valuable life lessons from Chaney along with great discipline and a strong work ethic. After leaving Temple, McKie and Jones had successful playing careers in the NBA.
McKie, former Simon Gratz star, is now an assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers. Jones is retired from the NBA and resides in Weston, Fla., on the outskirts of Miami with his wife and family and has his own foundation. McKie and Jones have proven themselves to be more than just great basketball players, but also respectable men who try to teach others what they learned from Chaney.
Chaney began coaching at Temple in 1982 following a brilliant 10-year coaching stint at Cheyney State where he won a NCAA Division II championship in 1978. He brought the Owls back to national prominence. In his 24 seasons at Temple, he compiled 23 postseason appearances including 17 NCAA tournament bids and five Elite Eight appearances. He had a 516-253 record in his coaching career at Temple. He has an overall 741-312 career record. In 2001, Chaney was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
“Chaney: Playing for a Legend” shows that Chaney taught more than just basketball. He helped pave the way for everyone he came into contact with to have a bright future beyond the game. His life lessons have touched so many and continue to live on at Temple and beyond. John Chaney and Bill Cosby provided forewords for the book.
Comedian Bill Cosby performed recently to benefit the Expansion Fund for 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel University (11th Street), a health center located in the heart of the Richard Allen Homes in North Philadelphia. Cosby spent several years during his youth living in that area, then known as the Richard Allen Housing Project.
Cosby visited 11th Street in April 2012 to tour the facility and talk with patients and staff. He learned first-hand why 11th Street, which is entirely nurse-managed, has been nationally recognized as an innovative university-community partnership model of care.
“I met people at 11th Street learning to cook healthy food that also tastes great, exercising in the gym and going to the dentist, right in the same building where they get their healthcare,” he said. “This isn’t just some doctor’s office where they hand out medicine when you’re sick and send you on your way. It’s about helping people help themselves to live their whole lives healthier.”
The center offers primary care by nurse practitioners and comprehensive services by health professionals in dental, behavioral health, social work, creative arts and physical therapies, complementary and integrative health, fitness, health and nutrition education and more — in a single location within the community.
If the center had additional space, it could offer more education and outreach programs and respond to the health needs of more people including more programming for wellness and education for younger community members.
The 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel University was established in 1996 and opened its present facility at 850 North 11th St. in 2002. Since then, the number of patient visits to the center has increased significantly.
“We thought this was going to be everything we’d ever need and never anticipated the success and the growth that was going to take place. Now, ten years later, we are caring for over 7,000 people,” said Dr. Patricia Gerrity, the center’s director and a professor and Associate Dean for Community Programs at Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions. “We want to continue to meet the needs the community but are out of space.”
Drexel recently purchased land adjacent to the center’s current building and is working with the Philadelphia Housing Authority and other local agencies to expand the facility.
Bill Cosby played football at Temple, ran track for the Owls and still attends their basketball games.
But baseball? Not so much while growing up at the Richard Allen projects in Philadelphia.
"No, no, no. I wasn't any good," the comedian said recently. "But I was fast. I think I held the record for the highest batting average — maybe .300 or something — for someone who never hit the ball out of the infield."
There was the time he stole, too. A high school classmate's glove, that is.
"I got caught," he said. "I learned I wasn't a very good lookout for myself and better find something else to do."
Those stories aren't in his book that came out last month, "I Didn't Ask to Be Born (But I'm Glad I Was)." There is a delightful tale, though, of the day his pal Peanut Armhouse got called home by his mom while playing softball and dared to ignore her. While the other boys stood petrified by her shouts, ol' Peanut picked up the ball, hit a weak grounder and did his own play-by-play while rounding the bases.
Just the way By Saam would've called it, Cosby wrote, referencing the famed Phillies announcer for four decades.
Back in the 1940s, schoolyards and sandlots in his neighborhood were full of kids playing baseball and softball. Or step-ball, with players tossing a bouncy ball off the angled steps of Philly's row houses. Or even hose-ball, a game he recalled that used a cutup, four-inch piece of garden hose as the ball.
At 74, Cosby doesn't see crowded inner-city fields anymore.
"Look at how desperate we were to play. We'd be out there trying to catch a rock, in the dark," he said. "But schools cut out gym classes. Schools cut off recess. We've got a lot of chubby kids now."
Some of those kids, he observed, prefer to play baseball on a computer screen rather than with real bats and balls.
"What they're building are remedial gyms," Cosby said.
Cosby is concerned many would-be ballplayers are being priced out.
"Those gloves don't cost 12 cents," he said. "What do they cost now, $400? And it costs $600 or something to join some of these leagues."
"And remember, there are places now where you can't just go running around, the bullets are flying," he said.
Quite a difference from when he'd show up to play in the Police Athletic League. There, at the 69th PAL, bats and gloves and uniforms were provided. Everything except the shoes.
"Mine were cardboard and leather," Cosby said.
No matter, he was a pretty slick-fielding second baseman in those days. That's his story, anyway.
"I could turn the double play. I'd come across, put my foot against the back left corner of the bag and sidearm that throw," Cosby said. "That I could do."
Cosby neatly ticked off the names of the Phillies from his youth — Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Granny Hamner and Puddin' Head Jones, stars on the 1950 Whiz Kids.
They also were the favorites of his grandfather, a devout Phillies fan who kept two radios cranked up at home so he could listen to games from every room. When Cosby began to succeed in show business, he bought him a special present: season tickets on the third base side at Connie Mack Stadium.
Sometime that season, Cosby called from the road and asked an uncle how the seats were working out.
"He told me granddad went to one game, didn't like how people were yelling at the players and said in the fourth inning that he wanted to go home," Cosby said. "And that was the end of the season tickets for the Phillies."
It was only a few decades ago that Black entertainers faced virtually total segregation of performance venues. Yet, they still performed. The “chitlin’ circuit” offered a number venues (many white-owned) where African Americans were permitted to entertain. In Philadelphia, Bushfire Theatre stands as one of the superb artistic outlets that offer training and a performance opportunity. This month, the 35th anniversary fundraiser for Bushfire Theatre of Performing Arts will feature the comedic performance of Bill Cosby.
Founded in 1977 by Al Simpkins, Bushfire Theatre of Performing Arts bought the old Locust Street Theater that dates back to 1909. The theater, purchased in 1980, is at 52nd and Locust streets in West Philadelphia. The historically designed building was once a vaudeville house turned movie house that was abandoned and in disrepair. It is now a 428-seat performing arts space.
Bushfire’s mission, as posted on its website, reads, “Our objective to provide African-American artists with professional theatre opportunities has been ongoing since 1985 and we have satisfied a major goal of providing the West Philadelphia community with a professional theatre. Bushfire is now considered amongst the oldest inner-city professional theatre companies. In 1983, the 52nd Street Writer’s Workshop was established with assistance from writers such as Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Fuller, Rufus Caleb and the late Billy Graham. The 52nd Street Writer’s Workshop continued to grow and developed a close relationship with the late director Lloyd Richards, playwrights Jeff Stetson, P. J. Gibson, Judi Ann Mason, Richard Wesley and the late Matt Robinson. In 1994, Bushfire, with the help of P. J. Gibson, Kathleen McGhee Anderson, Pearl Cleage, and Clyde Santana, developed the Playwrights Think Tank Symposium. Annually, African-American playwrights come to Bushfire to discuss issues important to their craft. From the Playwrights Think Tank Symposium began the Langston Hughes Playwrights Workshop. In August 2008, we continued our annual Langston Hughes Playwrights Workshop.”
Over the years, Bushfire has renovated all of its facilities through internal resources and the support of the immediate community. The venue became a professional theater in 1983 when it became a member of Actors Equity Association. Cosby is by any standard one of the most influential stars in America today. His humor often centers on the basic cornerstones of human existence, seeking to provide insight into people’s roles as parents, children, family members and men and women. Cosby, 76, broke television’s racial barrier with “I Spy,” becoming the first African American to costar on a television series while winning three consecutive Emmys. He created and produced the Emmy-winning cartoon “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” which began airing in the 1970s and was made into a film in 2004. The show, based on Cosby’s childhood in Philadelphia, was designed to educate and entertain. The 1984-1992 run of “The Cosby Show” featured many actors from community-based theaters, including actress Erika Alexander, who trained at North Philly’s Freedom Theater. In preparing for his upcoming hometown benefit performance, Cosby was passionate in explaining why it is paramount for African Americans to support and uplift their creative community.
“You know, I can’t tell you how important this theater is to the community, to people who, right there in Philadelphia, can take the family to see something that has the intelligence and the education, the integrity — there is no foolishness in [Bushfire Theatre] plays — the examination of humanitarianism and, of course, there are people that may not be of the African Diaspora who may feel it is not for them, but my answer to them is: Why don’t you understand that we have been watching the mass output of your movies — all white, except if the Negro shows up in it, then something negative is going to happen solely because this person showed up — and the message that you get from these old movies of the ’40s and the ’50s is that we (Blacks) happen to be the problem, so if we don’t show up there won’t be no problem, is what they were saying. It wasn’t given a thoughtful, truthful answer with integrity that racism from any color is a mental illness.”
Cosby has received the Kennedy Center Honors, the Presidential Medal of Freedom (America’s highest civilian honor), the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and the Marian Anderson Award. In his current best-seller “I Didn’t Ask to Be Born, But I’m Glad I Was,” he talks about the Bible, being a grandfather and his first love in his humorous and insightful manner.
While Cosby can boast an illustrious list of accomplishments, he still challenges the residents of his hometown to commit their time and money to maintaining community art endeavors, such as Bushfire Theatre.
“People…feel that they don’t have the money, but that is an excuse for the reason that they don’t think it’s going to be entertaining. You’ve got to give [Bushfire] and the other theaters a chance to show you — you’ve got to go. You’ve got to take your little brother or sister or somebody, because these experiences happen to be coming from the writer that may be speaking to you from the same kind of area that you were brought up in. It doesn’t have to be Loraine Hansberry AGAIN. It doesn’t have to be August Wilson AGAIN. Or maybe a repeat of James Baldwin’s ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain.’ It’s something new, and here are the people you are supporting when you go to the theater: You’re supporting gifted, thinking writers who have something from in their minds and deep in the spirit. I mean, if you think about what theater could show you — this is not an exam, so you don’t sit there and then afterwards people ask you hard questions — you watch human beings act out parts of life.
“And let me go back to the other thing, because it keeps lingering: When I was a child, they had a thing out at Camp Green Lane. We were living in Richard Allen Projects, and I was about eight or nine. Through the center at the projects, my mother paid $9.50 and the bus picked us up and we spent 10 days at Camp Green Lane. I had never been in the forest before. But this was a camp that took boys from the housing projects and lower economic level. My mother had no money, so my point is if there is something, somehow that the people can put that $10 up in order to get to the theater to see a play, to see real actors, to hear the real music, to see how the sets change, it can become a part of a learning and growing experience.”
“An Evening with Bill Cosby” takes place in Lew Klein Hall in the Temple Performing Arts Center, 1837 N. Broad St., on Thursday, Oct 17 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the 35th-anniversary fundraiser for Bushfire Theatre of Performing Arts. Tickets can be purchased at the Liacouras Center box office. A limited number of discounted tickets is available for students with valid I.D. The Temple Performing Arts Center is located 1837 N. Broad St. For information, call (215) 204-9068 or visit http://templeperformingartscenter.org/events/2013/evening-bill-cosby.
On Oct. 17 at the Temple Performing Arts Center, 1837 N. Broad St., Bushfire Theatre of Performing Arts will celebrate its 35th anniversary with “An Evening with Bill Cosby.” The event starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 ($30 for students), and proceeds from the performance benefit the Bushfire Theatre’s ongoing programs.
Al Simpkins, Bushfire’s founder and artistic director, recently explained how Cosby, a five-time Emmy Award winner and one of Philadelphia’s favorite sons, became involved in the company’s ongoing fundraising effort.
“I’ve been knowing him for some time, and we had a conversation about a new paradigm of giving,” Simpkins said. “There’s obviously, a lot of funding that has been going down across the board with all arts organizations, but principally, African-American organizations have really been hit hard across the country, and we surely see it here. Right now, you have Philadanco and you have Bushfire in terms of professional groups. We’ve been professional since ‘83, and Joan (Myers Brown) surely much longer. We’re the only producing professional groups currently in the city, and we’ve been affected by funding. That’s tragic, because you have a number of arts groups in the city — even visual arts groups, that have surely been affected.
“So the thought was possibly to create some idea of giving — that it’s important for not only the general community, but particularly the African-American community, because these arts organizations will not survive if a source of funding is not developed and maintained, and let’s hope that this event will at least bring this out. Cosby bought into it. He thought it was a good idea, and he recognized that a funding decrease has occurred in the African-American community. If this can in any way project the idea that giving is very important … and it’s just not a donation. It’s just the general support in terms of the arts.”
In the 2013-14 season, Bushfire Theatre will present “Broke-ology” by Nathan Louis Jackson (Sept.19-29, 2013); “Blues for an Alabama Sky” by Pearl Cleage (Oct. 13 - Nov. 3, 2013); “Phantom of the 87th Street Playground” (A musical with performances by Bushfire’s Adult and Children’s Ensemble) (March 18-30, 2014) and “A Shift in Gravity” by Kathleen McGhee Anderson (May 13-25, 2014). Simpkins is hopeful that Cosby’s participation will generate the interest and funding that is needed to mount this ambitious and imaginative season.
“It’s a wonderful thing that he’s doing for the theater, and we hope that it becomes a statement of support,” Simpkins said.
Tickets are on sale now at templeperformingartscenter.org and by phone at 1 (800) 298-4200.
Once again, a satisfying summer season will conclude with the Tony Williams Scholarship Jazz Festival, taking place Aug. 30-Sept. 2 at Embassy Suites-Airport, 9000 Bartram Ave. Honorees at the 2013 festival include Craig McIver for drums/vibes and Dave Postmonter for piano.
“They both have their own accomplishments and contributions in the music, but the criteria for the award is they have to be musicians from Philadelphia, number one,” said Greg Williams, who is in his second year as director of the festival. “And they had to have made contributions not only in Philadelphia, but nationally. They also have to be someone who is not only a great musician, but supports the music in other ways outside of being a musician.”
The 2013 edition of the Tony Williams Scholarship Jazz Festival will feature performances by Raye Jones, Wayne Morgan Organ Trio featuring Kenny Gates and Tony Smith, Raq Bey Haq, Farid Barron Trio, Glenn Williams, Barbara Walker Story, Frank Bey, Jimi Odell, Kenny Gates and Tommy Grice.
Philadelphia’s favorite son, Bill Cosby, who is becoming a delightful fixture at Williams’ yearly jazzfest, returns with his “Reunion Band,” while popular electric bassist Gerald Veasley makes his first appearance at the festival. “This is the first time that he is performing for the festival, and he and his management were very excited about the offer,” said Williams.
The “family-oriented” festival will feature “The Ingredients of Jazz Workshop,” conducted by Phil Wright and Mike Boone, “Jazzerobics” with T-DUB, youth jazz performances, a vendor’s mall, jam sessions and a Sunday worship service featuring the Tony Williams Quartet and griot Gregory Williams — this is where scholarships will be presented — in addition to a full roster of marquee performances by local and international jazz artists. A key mission of the festival is to provide an opportunity for talented young musicians to meet, mingle with and be mentored by the legendary jazz giants who are in attendance.
For information on the Annual Tony Williams Scholarship Jazz Festival, call (215) 248-4415, (302) 562-3706 or (215) 753-0232, or visit www.tonywilliamsjazzfestival.org or www.maccjazz.org. For hotel reservations call Embassy Suites at (215) 365-4500.