Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Black Like Me...dead author John Howard Griffin being impersonated by scam artist in Las Vegas!
My jaw just about dropped when I overheard a middle-aged man at the next table confide to an acquaintance that he was the writer who penned the best-selling book "Black Like Me".
For good reason.
Well, I know I shouldn't have been eavesdropping - but sometimes - the chatter just floats in your direction out-of-the blue within earshot.
What's a boy to do?
Actually, I vividly recall reading the book when I was a teenager attending high school in Toronto (Canada) and - if my memory serves me well - the author passed to spirit decades ago (1980).
He was felled from complications due to skin cancers.
"Black Like Me" was written by John Howard Griffin (a white native of Mansfield in the state of Texas) and was first published in 1961.
The controversial book started out in non-fiction journal form and chronicled the author's six-week experience travelling on Greyhound buses (and other modes of transportatiion) throughout the racially-segrated states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.
With a surprise hook to the story.
Mr. Griffin passed himself off as a Black man in a bold-faced effort to expose - and toss a searing spotlight on - troubling race relations in the south during that era.
With the medical assistance of a qualified doctor, Griffin darkened his skin, then headed out with arms wide-open and with a sense of adventure.
But, not before setting down a couple of golden rules to ensure that he did not stray from the path he had carefully charted ahead.
For example, he refused to change his name or conceal his identity.
In fact, if anyone quizzed him about his plans - or who he was - he vowed to utter up the truth.
To effect easy assimilation into the black community without raising suspicion or drawing attention to himself, Griffin opted from the get-go to communicate with folks around him as little as possible.
The ballsy author was not alone in his quest.
Sepia Magazine agreed to finance the project in exchange for the right to publish the journals first-hand in serial form.
When the story broke, Griffin became a national celebrity.
However, in spite of the acclaim, he was faced with a lot of hostility in his home town, which triggered a move to Mexico where he resided for a number of years thereafter in the aftermath.
"Black Like Me" - starring James Whitmore - was released in 1964.
Later - "The Man in the Mirror: John Howard Griffin & the Story of Black Like Me" - was published by Robert Bonazzi in book form.
And, what of the impersonator strolling the streets of Las Vegas, today?
He's pitching his new book, and boasting about investments he intends to make with the profits anticipated from sales of the upcoming publication (he expects the "novel" to be a best-seller in America).
Oh, and he's dating up a storm with pretty female escorts, to beat the band!
Is he a scam artist, a wacko, or just a plain wannabee?
You be the judge!
Real author John Howard Griffin