flipwilsonshow

Hi Readers,

While I consider myself an avid reader of the Black experience, I particularly love reading African American biographies.

I just finished reading a newly released autobiography about legendary comedian Flip Wilson.

In my tween years, I remember the comic legend for his outlandish Geraldine character.

Remember Geraldine?

“The Devil made me do it”.

Lol.

Compared to today’s Black comics-Black and White, Flip cut a wholesome figure.

He was safe…….

Especially Geraldine

A la Madea…..

A La Bill Cosby….

But oh readers, if only you knew.

Let’s rip the mask off of Geraldine and reveal the pain and flawed Mr. Wilson-first name Clerow!!!!!!

His seriously “humble” beginnings….

While we Americans love a good Horatio Alger rag to riches tale, Flip’s tale is more like “Hags to Bitches”!!!!!!!!!

Let’s ponder for a moment……

Think of some raw comics who use their life experiences as fodder for their acts.

According to Flip’s biography, his mother abandoned the family.

Flip’s father was left to care for over a dozen children of varying ages with Flip either being the youngest or one of the youngest.

Apparently, his father-chronically unemployed, left the children to fend for themselves.

As a result, young Flip was fanned out to abusive relatives and hellish foster homes.

From being forced to wait to have a meal to severe beatings which left lifelong scars, I am astounded that comedy and the desire for laughter could have manifested itself in little Flip.

Escape

In an attempt to escape the slums of his native Jersey City, Flip lied about his age and joined the United States Air Force as a way out.

The one poignant issue that stood out for me in this point in his life is that he was still faithful about sending money to his abusive family and the man he thought was his biological father!!!!!

Flip, who was apparently the darkest of all of his siblings was criticized constantly by his dad for his deep dark complexion.

His older sister revealed in an offhand manner that “pops” was not his father.

Thus explains the interest a family friend took in Flip-his real father!!!!

From a predictable tour of duty marked by the “required” racism he faced (this was in the 1950’s), Flip started to realize his gift and passion for comedy…..

Paying those dues

Bill Cosby…

When we think about the comic giants of the 1970’s Bill Cosby is right in the mix!!!

Cos, it seems was the prototype-the goal every comic worth his weight in ambition and talent tried to emulate.

And believe me, Flip had that ambition baby!!!!

For years, he traveled the chitlin circuit enduring hunger and homelessness.

Heck, he even gave himself a fifteen year plan.

Fifteen years?

I would have probably given up after fifteen months.

Readers, can you seriously see yourself in an unstable career trying to battle it out for fifteen years before deciding to walk away?

Still pressing on after much heartache, the Flipper finally got a chance.

Enter Redd Foxx…

Thanks to perhaps the greatest Black comedian of all times and beyond, Foxx on live television proclaimed Flip as the funniest comedian alive!!!!!!

Right on Time

After Foxx’s endorsement, Flip got his chance to be seen by a national crossover audience.

Thanks to a little luck, business savvy and perseverance, the Flip Wilson show was born.

The Flaws and the Demons

I was mildly surprised but not totally devastated to realize that Flip was human….

He was a mildly neglectful father who involved his young children in helping him to package his drugs.

His kids would all form an assembly line and help dad roll his marijuana!!!!

Quality Time…..

After seeing the writing on the wall due to the volatile nature of the early 1970’s, Flip decided to end the show to spend time with his children.

Daddy Dearest

It would seem that being the product of a broken family, broken community, and broken foster care system, father of the year would have been Flip’s blind ambition.

Maybe in his warped sense of reality he was…..

As his kids grew older, he had a schizophrenic relationship with them which continued towards the end of Flip’s life.

A Tragic Figure

While Flip is one of the few comic legends that I admire and respect, he will always appear as a tragic figure to me.

I am not judging.

I am not blaming Flip.

Imagine walking in Flip’s shoes and enduring the sick racism, and abuse from family and enemies.

It is good that he had the gift of laughter and the endurance and desire to bring it to the masses.

What if he didn’t have the gift or desire?

I hate to think of the alternative.

Bitter Black man?

Turning his rage in on himself, his family, and community?

With these odds, maybe Flip isn’t a tragic figure after all but a replica of endurance and the best of the Black experience.

Hats off to Geraldine.

Eat that Madea!!!!

Until next time…..