*I recently had the honor and pleasure of meeting accomplished actor/producer/director and writer Bill Duke at one of his book signings. I purchased a copy of his book – “Bill Duke: My 40-Year Career On Screen And Behind The Camera“ (Rowman & Littlefield) – to send as a gift to my niece Elveria (Buford) Wilson – a Cal State Dominguez alum who is also an actor and stage director. The author autographed it for her.
As I flipped through the pages, I was surprised to find some commonalities with my own thoughts and writings shaped by my childhood experiences, and needless to say, I held onto the book until I had completely read it!
Born in Poughkeepsie, New York; Duke and his sister were raised by two loving, hard-working parents whose relationship at times, was abusive physically and verbally. Although the family struggled financially, they were always taking in other family members who had fallen on hard times – and who usually ended up sharing “Dukie Duke’s” room. Duke does a good job of describing the different characters and personalities of his roommates, including one of his favorite cousins whom they never saw again after he caught his wife making out with their pastor.
Duke writes about the molestation of he and his sister at the hands of their babysitter. Because he was taller than most, and darker than most, Duke writes how he never thought he fit in. It had a profound affect on him, especially after he was coldly and embarrassingly jilted by a college “girlfriend” who led him on dishonestly. It’s tough to read about the anguish he described; I could relate.
Recently, I was asked by a news editor to write an article about how the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King still affected us today. Duke had written about his feelings during that era in almost the same way – the sense of hopelessness and despair beginning with President Kennedy, Malcolm X, MLK, and Robert Kennedy. He even mentions singer Sam Cooke as I also did, and asked the same question: Why even try to make a positive difference? Read about his resolve in the chapter titled “Death of Courage.”
Duke’s first big break came with the movie Car Wash. His acting and directing credits include stints on such groundbreaking TV series as Dallas, Hill Street Blues, Falcon Crest, Knots Landing, Fame, and New York Undercover. His feature film credits include Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, Menace II Society, Get Rich or Die Trying, Deep Cover, and Predator where he describes the grueling challenges of working in the mountain jungles of South America.
Read about the plane crash he survived in Hawaii!
But most of all, read about all the many famous actors, writers, directors and other industry people (too many to mention!) this poor black boy from Poughkeepsie – who overcame challenges of drug addiction and what came with that – had the privilege of working with.
Over thirty years ago, Duke founded and has been running Duke Media which has successfully produced critically acclaimed film and TV content all over the globe. I highly recommend Bill Duke: My 40-Year Career On Screen And Behind The Camera, published by Rowman & Littlefield; distributed by National Book Network. Available on Amazon and other major outlets.
Here’s a Bill Duke interview we highly recommend you watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odpGdFLT8dQ
Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand,” and “Book To The Future” (Amazon). E-mail: [email protected]