*There are not enough words in anyone’s dictionary that could adequately describe my experience and thoughts about a man that help change the course of my life, and there’s probably not enough room in this post that I could use to tell the whole story of my relationship with this man named Lonnie Simmons.
It all began with me in March 1973 when I had just came home from an unwanted vacation from Club Fed. I was only 21 years old and fresh on the streets when we were introduced by a very close friend and fellow artist Marvin Elliston on the very first day I came home. The Total Experience night club was being built and they were trying to meet a deadline to get it ready to open up with the first act to perform there which was going to be Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes. I had with me several oil portraits that I did while I was away and they were impressed with this young and talented individual from Compton who had made some mistakes in his life that cost him his freedom.
Me being from Compton, I was used to seeing everyone drive new Cadillacs. So when I met Lonnie and his cousin Demitrius Johnson it was a new world for me to be around guys in Rolls Royces. The remarkable thing that happened was that they practically adopted me and they told me that they didn’t want to see me get into any more trouble with the law. So they gave me a space inside the club to set up my easels and allowed me to paint my portraits there while they finished building the club.
One of the art pieces that I brought with me was a portrait of Redd Foxx and one night shortly after the club had it’s grand opening I happened to see Redd at the bar talking to Lonnie. I was staying with a friend of mine around the corner in Leimert Park on Garthwaite and 11th Ave., so I ran quickly to the apartment a brought the painting back to show to him. A he really loved it and asked me how I wanted for it, I told him 300.00 (that was a lot of money for me in1973) So he tells me to go to his office in Burbank at NBC where his hit show Sanford And Son was being taped and pick up a check. And that folks, was the beginning of my total experience with Lonnie Simmons.
What I’ll never forget is how Lonnie, Demitrius, and Don Alexander all made sure that I got back to the halfway house in Long Beach every night on time by 11:00 either by them taking me downtown to the bus station or driving me personally themselves in the Rolls all the way out to Long Beach, something that they didn’t have to do but because they showed me so much love in their hearts they did so.
Cuba Gooding performing on stage at the Total Experience
Being there at the Total Experience Club almost day in and nightly I was blessed to be able to see every R & B act perform there beginning with Harold Melvin And the Blue Notes, to the Main Ingredient, Chaka Khan and Rufus, The Dells, The Dramatics, Blue Magic, Johnnie Taylor, B.B.King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, The Delfonics, The Manhattans, (I could go on and on folks) and The Spinners whom I believe put on one of the best shows there.
This one thing about Lonnie that will forever stand out to me is the fact he always showed love and loyalty to me that I didn’t always show to myself. After I first met Don King in January 1982 at Ceasar’s Palace I painted a portrait of Don that I wanted to take to him in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio and I didn’t have a way to go. Lonnie bought me a round trip plane ticket and put 600.00 in my pocket so that I could make the trip because he knew that I really wanted to go and I had no other way.
And when I had fallen on hard times in the late 80’s he was always there for me and never turned his back on me. I was also blessed to be able to design the logo for his record company which made me feel so honored to do.
It’s not been easy to share all of this with you because he was like a big brother to me and to say the least, I was devastated last night when I got the call from his cousin Demitrius that he had returned to God. He certainly left his mark and he accomplished a whole lot in his life. I will never forget him and may Allah (God) grant him peace in paradise, forgive him of his sins, and reward him for all the good he did on earth
Mohammed Mubarak can be reached at [email protected] for your comments. He’s an artist as well and you can go to mubarakart.com or qmubarak06 on instagram and view his works.