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A&E Round-Up: Beckham an Honorary Black Man?

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

I'm Farai Chideya and this is NEWS & NOTES.

From Beckham to BET, we've got Newsweek entertainment writer Allison Samuels to decode what's in pop culture.

Hey, Allison.

Ms. ALLISON SAMUELS (Entertainment Writer, Newsweek): Hi. How are you doing?

CHIDEYA: I'm doing great. So - oh Lord, oh Lord, oh Lordy(ph), these reality shows. How many more will we have? Well, Snoop Dogg and Kimora Lee Simmons have gotten on the bandwagon. Snoop's going to have a show on the E! Entertainment channel, expected to premiere later this year. Kimora Lee Simmons is still the wife of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. They're going to have that big bash out in the Hamptons, although she and Russell are very separated.

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: Now, she is going to star in a show on the Style Network, so are they ready for primetime?

Ms. SAMUELS: That is the question. I think Snoop is always entertaining, so I think his show will be just that, entertaining. Snoop can sometimes be a little - he loves his kids. He has a great relationship with his kids. He has a great relationship with his wife sometimes. So I think that's good…

CHIDEYA: He coaches little league, right?

Ms. SAMUELS: Right. He coaches his son's little league's team, and he's just so into that. I mean, you know, he's like this father, you know, from the 'hood, basically. So I'm sure he's going to bring that to television. I'm concerned about how it's going to play out 24/7, like, you know, I mean, because Snoop's is an interesting man, and it just depends on which day you catch him, but I guess that's what reality TV is about. This sort of, you know, this sort of off-beat characters that make up, you know, a day in - how their lives go and…

CHIDEYA: One moment he's coaching PeeWee Football, and next he got his marijuana leaf…

Ms. SAMUELS: There you go.

CHIDEYA: …slippers on at an international airport.

Ms. SAMUELS: Right. He's passing around the blunt to all his friends and everything, and getting arrested - don't forget that - for, you know, the guns that he takes to the airport that you don't understand just yet, that you can't do. It is funny. And then in London, he got kicked out of London. So I can just see cameras following him, you know what I mean, to all these different events and catching that. But with his kids, I think he tries to be a little more, sort of sane and levelheaded. So either way I think that's going to be a show that, you know, it's going to be fun to watch every week.

CHIDEYA: What about Kimora?

Ms. SAMUELS: Kimora is the one I'm more concerned about, because I saw her on MTV as she did this whole thing about her house. And it was probably the most vain, self-absorbed TV show I ever show episode I've ever seen.

CHIDEYA: Am I remembering right that there was a solid gold toilet somewhere in there?

Ms. SAMUELS: Solid gold toilet. She had - they bought Versace's bed and Versace's - all of his furniture that was in the house, which is morbid in its own way. But there was just this - such a sense of vanity materialism, and I'm like, do we really want to see that every week? I'm not really sure. And then she has the little girls, which are adorable, but she sort of passing on those same values to them.

And so I don't know, that one concerns me. And it's scary to say, but that one concerns me more than Snoop. I actually think I can handle Snoop better than I can handle Kimora because I've not really seen another side of her that's not sort of vain and self-absorbed and I think that's not what we necessarily need to see.

CHIDEYA: Well, you know, there is a show. Those are both reality shows…

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: …but there's another show that you like - I have not seen it yet - BET's new drama, "Baldwin Hills."

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: It's been getting some mixed reviews but it's like a black "O.C." It's the lives of wealthy teens living in the upper-crust L.A. neighborhood. So what do you think about it?

Ms. SAMUELS: I like it and I say that it's not great. I won't even say that it's great. I think that it will get better though. I think we have to give it time - it just started. But what I love about it is, it is a look into a part of African-American life that you just never see. There are children who are, you know, the products of very well-to-do parents. And you see the Paris Hiltons, you see all these people all the time, and I always wonder like, what do Denzel's children do? What do, you know, Debbie Allen's children do? How do they live?

They live really under the radar, which is good in some ways, because you don't want them to get that kind of attention where people are following you all the time. But I'm fascinated about what opportunities they get and how black parents raise their children when they have a lot of money. Now, how do you sort of, you know, how do raise them? How do you make sure that they're not overly materialistic or concerned with their fellowmen?

And in "Baldwin Hills," they make a big point of the classicism that can occur in the black community. There are kids from lower income areas that are around Baldwin Hills. And so they do episodes where they deal with that. And I think that's something that's really fresh for TV, and I think that America needs to see that. I think they have one vision or one idea of what black is about. And I think these kids just give you a whole different idea of, you know, how some African-Americans are living.

CHIDEYA: All right. I have to check it out. Now, moving from TV to movie, Don Cheadle has a new movie out. He stars in "Talk To Me," a film about Ralph Waldo "Petey" Greene, an ex-con who becomes a fast talking DJ in the 1960s in Washington, D.C.

The movie has been seeing - getting some great reviews. I, myself, have seen it, and I really enjoyed it. And it's got Chiwetel Ejiofor, who we've had on the show, who I also think is fabulous. So, you think this might get Chiwetel an Oscar nod?

Ms. SAMUELS: I think he'll get another Oscar nod because I think a - Hollywood likes him a lot. You know, he's in sort of that impact with the Brad Pitts and the George Clooneys. He's in that sort of clique. And he's a professional, you know? And he brings it every performance. The last movie he did with Adam Sandler, we don't count that one because that was unfortunate.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SAMUELS: Everything else he's done has been really good. And I think with "Hotel Rwanda," people really began to really take him seriously as a leading man. And what I love about his roles is that he's not the traditional leading man in the sense of - he doesn't have Denzel's looks. But he has this sort of appeal and this sort of charm that comes through any way. And I think about -when I first saw him in - with Denzel in the first movie he did, where he was spy, when Denzel was a spy. You remember that?

CHIDEYA: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Ms. SAMUELS: That movie - you saw, even though he was in it just like 10 minutes, you saw the charm and the sort of, you know, sort of flavor he had on screen. And I think with this movie, it comes through even more. You know, you really - and I love the fact that Kasi Lemmons, who's an African-American woman, directed it. And I think this will get her attention because she really hadn't had a lot of luck since "Eve's Bayou."

CHIDEYA: Right.

Ms. SAMUELS: You have not really seen her get a big hit. So I think for both of them, this is sort of a, you know, a really breakout role, particularly for him because I think people really do want to see him win.

CHIDEYA: Right. And what I found interesting about the movie was that you do have a tale of male friendship, which is - it's not he is, you know, someone who, you know, his character is also linked to another character…

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: …another man and how they fight and they're like brothers and they're fighting, you know. It's interesting. It's nice to have that edge, too.

Ms. SAMUELS: It's nice to have that and I love the historical perspective that it gives, you know.

CHIDEYA: Yes.

Ms. SAMUELS: It's a lot of sort of moving images of that period of time and I think that's really good for some of the young kids to see and to understand, you know, just sort of who was doing what and, you know, how all of that, how history sort of unfolded. But for Don, I just, you know, I'm just glad to see him get these roles, because I think 10 years ago, you wouldn't get these type of roles for African-American actors, you know. And even with Taraji, who I love in the movie as well, you know, who's African-American actor. I mean, that's a really plum role for her as well.

CHIDEYA: Yeah, she was known as one of the people who was on the bandwagon.

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: You help me out. It's hard out here for a pimp.

Ms. SAMUELS: It's all right. In "Hustle & Flow." Yes.

CHIDEYA: "Hustle & Flow."

Ms. SAMUELS: "Hustle & Flow."

CHIDEYA: Thank you. Sorry. I'm having a news-zheimer's(ph) moment.

Ms. SAMUELS: We understand. But she, you know, she was great in "Hustle & Flow." And I think she's like the it-actress right now. So that's why I love the movie. I think there are so many opportunities for actors to breakout, African-American actors to breakout. And I think - I hope people will support it. I mean, that's the sort of next thing. It opens wide this weekend.

CHIDEYA: Yes.

Ms. SAMUELS: So I'm hoping African-Americans will go out and see it.

CHIDEYA: Well, moving on to from the black to the black? Question mark. Soccer superstar David Beckham…

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: …and his wife, Victoria, they're settling into Lala-land(ph). He's going to bring his skills to the L.A. Galaxy. Now, he was a hit on the team Manchester United, and even had a movie named after him, "Bend It Like Beckham." But you might not know that black Britons are all about the Beckham. And about four years ago, a British documentary claimed, quote, "Beckham is Britain's most famous black man." So, what do you think of that, Allison? And do you think that it might translate a little bit here in the U.S. or not so much?

Ms. SAMUELS: I don't know. You know, soccer isn't big here. So that's why I sort of wonder if it will sort of translate as big as, you know, as it could and as it has overseas. But I do think that there's a charm and interesting sort of thing he has going on, particularly the, you know, his looks. He's very cute. He's very stylish. He has sort of a lot of things that I think African-Americans sort of relate to in terms of he knows how to put himself together. You know what I mean? And he's not shy about it. I mean, he's very clear that he likes to look good. And he and his wife both like to look good.

But what I love about him, I remember seeing(ph) an interview with him a couple of years ago, when I asked him who he admired most in America and who were his idols. And everyone was African-American. And it was just - he was like Shaq, Michael Jordan. I mean, he just went down the list of every person he admired.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SAMUELS: And so I think he has sort of a hipness to him. And I know he's like friends with Snoop, you know, Shaq had said that they've had conversations. He's called him out of the blue just to talk. So I think, you know, I can see America because we need somebody new. We need fresh tabloid material because I think we're perished out.

So I think with them and they're sort of graceful and they're older, so they have more interesting lives in my book. And they have a purpose. He plays a game. So at least I understand why people are paying him some attention. You know what I mean? He has a job that, you know, that people sort of like. But soccer is the main thing. It's like, if America can really get into soccer. I'm not sure if African-Americans are quite big fans of soccer just yet here.

CHIDEYA: Well, this whole situation reminds me of this - that Chapelle's skit about the racial draft. It's like…

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: We'll trade you one Colin Powell for a David Beckham.

Ms. SAMUELS: Right, right. No, that's true. But he's so cute, though. That's my main thing. I'm just sort of like, well, in particular in the W magazine layout, have you - I don't know if you've seen it…

CHIDEYA: I haven't seen it.

Ms. SAMUELS: Oh, yes. He looks great. He has on bikinis and it's just really wonderful. I mean, he has no shame. That's what I love about him.

CHIDEYA: Yeah.

Ms. SAMUELS: He shows everything. And it is a beautiful thing.

CHIDEYA: You think that we're going to get him to rock those cornrows again?

Ms. SAMUELS: Now, that's what I'm hoping - don't happen again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SAMUELS: I really don't (unintelligible) - I don't actually want to see that again. I understood that he was trying to be hip but that's a little much for. I'm hoping Snoop will most probably suggest to him that that's probably not a good idea. Maybe he'll bill Shoop's(ph) snow(ph) - I mean, Shoop's(ph) -Snoop's show.

CHIDEYA: Now you're having news-zheimers.

Ms. SAMUELS: Yes, I am.

(Soundbite of laughter)(ph)

CHIDEYA: Well, finally to wrap up, are there any things that celebrities risk when they tread on this whole territory of the white guy in the hip black post?

Ms. SAMUELS: I think - yeah. I mean, I think if you look at Eminem and I think you also - that it worked for a while for him, you know. But I do think there was some sort of backlash after a while because I think you can only sort of keep that going for so long. And people get tired of it. And there are a lot of sort of white rappers that have tried to come out that it hasn't work with. Eminem was really the only one you can say it actually sort of work for a short period time.

So I think it's hard to keep it up (unintelligible) African-Americans' sense if you're really, really good. And Eminem had like Dr. Dre behind him. So he had sort of this platform of, you know, people who are sort of solid. But I think the average rapper - and there are a lot of white rappers out there that have tried. I just think America isn't ready yet. African-Americans aren't ready yet.

CHIDEYA: All right. Well, on that note, Allison, thank you.

Ms. SAMUELS: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Allison Samuels is entertainment writer for Newsweek. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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