February 27, 2008 by Thomas Pluck
Let’s face it, there’s just something about big bald black actors. There are roles only they can play, shoes only they can fit. Can you imagine Marsellus Wallace being played by a big bald white guy, like Stone Cold Steve Austin, or Jason Statham, or even Vin Diesel? (Though apparently Vin is biracial, there’s some oil in the diesel). It would not work. Pulp Fiction would be doomed to failure. Forrest Gump would somehow be worthy of beating it for Best Picture, which is crazy talk.
So in honor of Black History Month, which ends in a few days- we gave them the shortest day of the year, that was mighty white of us- in no particular order, here is my completely opinionated list of My Favorite Big Black Bald Guys and how they have influenced my life, and yours.
Keith David is one of the most underutilized actors working today. You probably know him best as the Dad from There’s Something About Mary, with the immortal lines, “How’d you get the beans above the frank!?” But he wasn’t bald in that! For me, he will always be Childs from John Carpenter’s The Thing, with his cleanly shaven skull and ferocious smile. When he hacks down the steel door with a fireman’s axe, he looks like he could kick the Thing’s ass all by himself. And eat it.
If you forgot The Thing, here’s the whole movie in 6 minutes.
On the internet, he’s probably more well-loved for his role in another Carpenter film, They Live. You know, the one with the sunglasses, and the aliens, and Rowdy Roddy Piper… and one of the longest fight scenes in film. Probably to appease the wrestling fans who can to see their hero sans kilt, Mr. David and Roddy ad-libbed their fight scene for several hours, all of which are in the rare director’s cut of the film, which I sold on ebay to make my enormous fortune. Let’s view it here, in the shorter theatrical cut, which only lasts 36 minutes.
Just wear the damn glasses, Keith.
The other thing Keith David has going for him is a great voice. He narrates documentaries and commercials, and may be fondly remembered by people nerdier than I as a voice from the cartoon “Gargoyles.” He narrated Ken Burns’ documentary on Jazz, but wasn’t in the IMDb for it, so I just submitted it. You’re welcome, Mr. David! I’d be floored if you sent me an email or a signed photo.
To end his entry on a disturbing note, if you saw the soul-crushing Requiem for a Dream, he plays Big Tim, the pimp who tells Jennifer Connelly, “I know it’s pretty baby, but I didn’t take it out for air.” Chilling words you never want to hear his basso voice whisper from across a dark prison cell. On the other hand, how’d he let this photo be taken?
Irving Rhames. It takes a real bad-ass to be called “Ving” and not have anyone ask “what the hell is a Ving?” for 13 years until I finally saw it was short for Irving. Names definitely factor into the person we become, and I’m sure Mr. Rhames’ badassery is due in part to growing up in Harlem with the name Irving. I was even more shocked when his IMDb bio said that SUNY roommate Stanley Tucci gave him the nickname. Well, that sort of makes sense, since we Italian-Americans like to shorten nicknames down to one syllable, if not one letter. Thus the progression of being called, Anthony! Tony! Tone! T! Ving’s lucky he’s not Irv or V.
Everyone remembers his performance in Pulp Fiction, which is iconic and unforgettable, and endlessly over-quotable. I’m not going to make you relive his rape scene set to “Yakety Sax,” though that would be extremely funny. That song makes anything funny. Someone has set it to “My Sharona,” however.
I liked him a lot in Bringing Out the Dead, the Scorsese movie so few people seem to love. I think it’s a fantastic dark comedy, and has some of the best performances its leads have given in years. Nicholas Cage, for example, actually acts. John Goodman and Ving are both great in it, and Aida Turturro is incredible as the cold nurse. Go rent it now.
He was also the best part of the Dawn of the Dead remake, so here he is in all his bad-assery.
There are three videos on youtube of Scatman Crothers singing, but they cannot be embedded, so click if you want to hear: Mean Dog Blues, Ain’t She Sweet, or End of the Road. Here he is in Black Belt Jones- The Prequel! kicking some ass in 70’s blaxploitation style.
Bet you’ve never seen him with hair.
Now, in The Shining he played a psychic, a character created by Stephen King. Our next Big Bald Black Dude also had supernatural powers in a Stephen King movie, The Green Mile. We’ll get to Stephen King and black people later, because he likes to write about magical negroes. Now before you get all up in my ass, Spike Lee created that term and I am quoting the diminutive director, whose movies I love and admire. Especially Bamboozled.
Mr. Duncan, whom I’ve accidentally called Michael Darke Cluncan, is one of my favorite tough guy actors. Who else could play a hulking behemoth with a gold ball for an eye, or make America smile by beating the crap out of Ben Affleck? No one, that’s who. I’m glad he’s popular enough now that people don’t mistake him for Ving Rhames, because Google Image Search sure is racist.
Back to Stephen King. As much as I enjoy his books, have you noticed that he’s not all that great at writing black characters? If you slogged through the Dark Tower series and met Detta Walker, it’s about as comfortable as sitting through those clips from Bamboozled I posted a few lines up. I have a theory, and let me put it forth to you.
Stephen King has never met a black person. In Maine, they are considered mythical creatures, like unicorns. He’s only seen them in books and perhaps on “What’s Happening?” and thought Rerun was leprechaun. That’s the only explanation for why they always have the “shining,” or the “whatever the things flying out his mouth in The Green Mile were.” Now you may say bring up the excellent movie The Shawshank Redemption, but I credit Morgan Freeman for reading the script (he was Easy Reader on Electric Company after all) and saying “What’s this shit about me having a unicorn’s horn?” Trust me, it’s on IMDb in the trivia section. Or will be soon.
Here’s Michael Clarke Duncan with my cousin, Lou Taylor Pucci. They met at the premiere of Lou’s first film. Thankfully now Lou has developed secondary sexual characteristics, and doesn’t look like a blonde Javier Badem from No Country for Old Men. If you follow the link to his website, you’ll see proof that he can grow a beard. I bet some of The Dunc’s manliness rubbed off on him.
Another one of the better actors of our time who doesn’t get enough work. Get Shorty, The Cider House Rules, Clockers, Domino. These are just a few. He can play the heavy or go subtle. He was also in one of my favorite trashy 80’s movies, The Blood of Heroes. I’ll review that for one of my 80’s Trash of the Week posts, just you wait. Mr. Lindo was in one of Congo’s funnier scenes, he’s the Captain who won’t let Tim Curry eat the sesame cake. Because there are no good scenes of him in Get Shorty up on the ‘tube, I’ll let you laugh at how bad Congo is. This is the Michael Crichton movie about ancient killer gorillas. The book was hilariously dated the day it came out, about blue diamonds used to make 128k microchips with humongous storage. The movie is not much better.
One more Honorable Mention: