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Paul Coates

January 29, 2008 |  8:44 pm

Jan. 29, 1958

Paul_coates The Kingfish and I got a pretty fair raking over the coals a few days ago.

And, somehow, I'm not quite sure that we deserved it.

The man who did the raking is a colleague of mine--a local newspaper columnist named Stanley Robertson. He writes for the Negro publication, the Los Angeles Sentinel.

It's his written opinion that Kingfish and I were responsible this month for what he calls "television's darkest hour."

And, apparently, that we--in two 15-minute KTTV telecasts--set the Negro race back at least a hundred years.

According to Robertson, the actions of Tim Moore, the 70-year-old actor who portrays Kingfish in the "Amos 'n' Andy" TV series, have been "disgraceful" since he became involved in the roast-beef episode with his in-laws three weeks ago.

And my television show, with Tim as my guest, was "the bitter end."

To quote part of Robertson's complaint:

"Egged on into carrying his buffoon role of Kingfish over into real life by the publicity he has received, especially (on) the Coates television show, Moore has given credence to the millions of people who believe that 'Amos 'n' Andy' is a true portrayal of the way Negro life exists in the U.S."

In the first place, I question whether Moore is trying to be an off-stage Kingfish. Or whether the fictitious Kingfish hasn't become a popular television personality because Tim Moore injected quite a bit of his real-life self into the character.

More is just that. He's a character.

1958_0107_kingfish_2   He's a comic, a polished showman and maybe--as Mr. Robertson contends--he's even a buffoon.

He's also a pretty wonderful, sincere man, and I very strongly resent Robertson's attack on him.

I do so, especially, when the attack is one which I consider nothing more than an outburst of some highly supersensitive emotion.

Mr. Robertson's column says, in gist, that the comical happy Negro who has become as much a part of American folklore as Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed should be buried and forgotten, so that today's Negro will not be discredited by the memory.

Let people look at the Marian Anderson,s the Ralph Bunches, the Jackie Robinsons, Walter Whites and Paul R. Williamses.

But at all costs get rid of the prototypes which inspired minstrel acts of men like Jolson and Cantor.

Somehow, this logic doesn't hold up.

If we follow it a little further, I'm afraid we'll have to outlaw jokes about Irish cops, mothers-in-law, thrifty Scotsmen, sleepy Mexicans, oil-soaked Texans, and, of course, the rich humor of the Jewish dialect story.

Every country, every race, every geographical section, even every profession has certain traits which--either justly or otherwise--are attributed to it.

It would be sad to contemplate that we should ever become a nation so hypersensitive we can't poke light fun at ourselves now and then.

Apparently, this is what Mr. Robertson wants. I gather from his column that he doesn't even like the "Amos 'n' Andy" show.

About it, he comments:

"I know many people who have always disliked 'Amos 'n' Andy,' but who watched it occasionally, who have sworn they'll never watch it again after the 'Affair Pot Roast.'

"And Mr. Coates must realize, too, that the interviews with the Kingfish have possibly done him more harm than good.

"An elderly Negro woman, obviously a domestic, riding on the Crenshaw-Hollywood bus the other day, summed up the Coates' programs:

"Who does Paul Coates think he's kidding?"

I'm not kidding anybody.

But may be if I were a little more hypersensitive, I could build up a fair-sized neurosis about prototypes like the stupid American tourist, the henpecked husband and the provincial transplanted New Yorker.

Not to forget the cliche newspaperman who always needs a drink.

And at this point, I'm ready.