Illicit Labor: MacArthur’s Mistress and Imperial Intimacies

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States on 2015-10-06 18:04Z by Steven

Illicit Labor: MacArthur’s Mistress and Imperial Intimacies

Radical History Review
Volume 2015, Number 123 (October 2015)
pages 87-114
DOI: 10.1215/01636545-3088168

Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez, Associate Professor of American Studies
University of Hawaii, Mānoa

This essay examines a brief affair between General Douglas MacArthur and a mixed-race Filipina vaudeville actress named Isabel Rosario Cooper. It focuses on Cooper’s little-documented and underexamined life as a way to understand how the intimate politics of the bedroom overlapped with the libidinal economies of the cosmopolitan Philippine entertainment industry, American military occupation, and broader geopolitical relations of imperial desire. Cooper and MacArthur’s liaison was constitutive of as well as constituted by the larger international “romance” between the United States and the Philippines that MacArthur himself oversaw in the early and middle part of the twentieth century. Going beyond the salacious details of an illicit love affair, this study seeks to illuminate how intimacy made up a type of imperial labor writ small, which served to underpin the project of US imperialism as crucially as colonial administration or military occupation.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Something Old, Something New

Posted in Arts, Audio, Autobiography, Biography, History, Media Archive, Religion, Slavery, United Kingdom, United States on 2015-10-06 15:20Z by Steven

Something Old, Something New

BBC Radio 4

Johny Pitts, Host

Peter Meanwell, Producer

Recorded & mixed! Finished @BBCRadio4 (Engineer Steve Hellier with Johny Pitts) Source: Peter Meanwell

From Sheffield to South Carolina, Johny Pitts explores alternative Black British identity.

What happens when your Dad’s an African-American soul star [Richie Pitts] and your Mum’s a music-loving girl from working class Sheffield? Are your roots on the terraces at a Sheffield United match, or in the stylings of a Spike Lee film? For writer and photographer Johny Pitts, whose parents met in the heyday of Northern Soul, on the dance floor of the legendary King Mojo club, how he navigates his black roots has always been an issue. Not being directly connected to the Caribbean or West African diaspora culture, all he was told at school was that his ancestors were slaves, so for BBC Radio 4, he heads off to the USA, to trace his father’s musical migration, and tell an alternative story of Black British identity.

From Pitsmore in Sheffield, to Bedford Stuyvesant in New York, and all the way down to South Carolina, where his grandmother picked cotton, Johny Pitts heads off on a journey of self-discovery. On the way he meets author Caryl Phillips, Kadija, a half sister he never knew, and historian Bernard Powers. He visits the Concorde Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York, and the Bush River Missionary Baptist Church, in Newberry, South Carolina. He tracks down a whole host of long-lost cousins, and talks to Pulitzer winning writer Isabel Wilkerson. On the way he shines a light on the shadows of his ancestry, and finds stories and culture that deliver him to a new understanding of his own mixed race identity and history.

Listen to the story here.

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The most famous ‘Indian’ on 1950s American TV

Posted in Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-10-06 01:45Z by Steven

The most famous ‘Indian’ on 1950s American TV

The Times of India

Malini Nair

Korla Pandit was the first African American to have a TV show to himself – by pretending to be an exotic Indian musician

The story is almost unbelievable. In the US of the 1940s, a light-skinned African American youth discovers his prodigious talent at playing the electric organ. The mystical Orient and all its clichés are in vogue at the time and radio shows like Chandu the Magician and films like Midnight Shadow are the rage, featuring fakirs and assorted Indian exotica. The ambitious African American, John Roland Redd, decides to reinvent himself for the TV music market – as Korla Pandit, the mysterious Indian musician.

Deeply kohled eyes fixed in a hypnotic gaze, a bejewelled turban on his head, Pandit would play the Hammond B2 organ and piano with both virtuosity and theatricality on TV shows. Around him, a stagey exotic east played out – smoky haze, play of light and shade, Oriental dancers undulating in shimmery lehengas and short dhotis.

“I was born in New Delhi, India,” he announced silkily in a TV interview with an anchor seeking the backstory to Pandit (pronounced ‘panned-it’). He was, he claimed, the son of a Brahmin priest and a French opera singer who was sent to the US to study. Pandit reached the peak of his popularity with the ’50s TV show ‘Adventures in Music with Korla Pandit’, where he appeared as some kind of Indian musician-maharajaswami. What he played on the organ and the piano was called exotica music – the closest it comes to contemporary music is trance or lounge. Before long, he came to be known as the Godfather of Exotica…

Read the entire article here.

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Ten black composers whose works deserve to be heard more often

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States on 2015-10-05 19:30Z by Steven

Ten black composers whose works deserve to be heard more often

The Guardian

John Lewis

English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912). Photograph: Unknown/Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

The newly formed Chineke orchestra aims to include a work by a composer of ethnicity in each of its concert programmes. John Lewis looks at some of the neglected writers whose music might finally get an airing

In the past 200 years, dozens of prominent black composers from America and other parts of the African diaspora have fought to be recognised by the western classical tradition. The earliest example is Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-99). Born in Guadeloupe, the son of a wealthy plantation owner and a female slave, Saint-George was brought to France at a young age. As well as being a champion fencer, a violin teacher to Marie Antoinette and a colonel in the republican army, his prodigious musical talents led to him being dubbed “le Mozart noir”. He was a prolific composer (with several operas, 15 violin concertos, symphonies and numerous chamber works to his name) and a rare French exponent of early classical violin composition. (Listen to Chi-chi Nwanoku’s radio documentary about him here.)…

Read the entire article here.

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Jesse Williams: ‘Celebrity culture? I am not going to participate in that’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2015-10-03 03:15Z by Steven

Jesse Williams: ‘Celebrity culture? I am not going to participate in that’

The Guardian

Jana Kasperkevic

The Grey’s Anatomy star is back on screen as TV pin-up Jackson Avery, but for the former teacher it’s his civil rights work he wants people to talk about

There is a heatwave making its way through Los Angeles. It’s the second week of September yet temperatures remain at 32C (89F). At 8am, most of the city is still asleep or just waking up, while surfers at Venice Beach have already spent hours searching for the perfect wave. About 5,000 of the city’s residents will wake up to no power as demand on the power grid has triggered blackouts.

On South La Brea Avenue, the street seems deserted except for Jesse Williams, who has seemingly appeared out of nowhere – with no car in sight or handlers in view as he casually strolls up the street. It’s a surprisingly low-key entrance into the world of a man millions of viewers watched when Grey’s Anatomy returned to ABC for its 12th season. On average, about 8.22 million viewers tuned in every Thursday night during its 11th season.

Williams plays Jackson Avery, a handsome doctor who unlike some of his other male colleagues – McSteamy and McDreamy – has been able to escape death thus far. Yet, even if he were killed off, Williams has a back-up plan: being a civil rights attorney. It was that or being a football player, says Williams, recalling his childhood aspirations.

“I didn’t quite fill out,” he quips before talking about his aspirations in law: “That was the plan. It still very well could be the plan. I could still get around to taking the bar. It’s what I love and what I care about. That’s why I wake up.”

Even now as he spends most of his time in Los Angeles filming Grey’s Anatomy, Williams remains involved with the social justice movement. When he is not playing a doctor at Seattle Grace hospital, Williams serves on the board of directors of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization, and he works as one of the executive producers of Question Bridge, a trans-media art project/exhibit that focused on the experience of black men in the US…

..Being biracial – his mom is white and his dad is black – Williams has been able to experience both sides of the spectrum. “I have access to rooms and information. I am white and I am also black. I am invisible man in a lot of these scenarios. I know how white people talk about black people. I know how black people talk about white folks. I know I am there and everyone speaks honestly around me,” he says.

“I remember a mom of a friend of mine in the suburbs made some comment about a black person and – I had to be 12, about 60 pounds – and I said something and she said: ‘Oh no, not you. You are not black. You are great.’ It was real. That fucking happened. And she meant it. And she meant it sincerely and sweetly. She was paying me a compliment.”

It’s hard to pay Williams a compliment. As we talk he actively avoids taking credit, instead bringing up everyone else who works on the projects he is involved in. He praises the Black Lives Matter organizers, “particularly the incredible women running the organization”; the Advancement Project employees; the new generation of social justice activists…

Read the entire article here.

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Jesse Williams Discusses Biracial Privileges and Social Justice: ‘Black Americans Are Not Angry. They Are Hurting’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2015-10-03 02:58Z by Steven

Jesse Williams Discusses Biracial Privileges and Social Justice: ‘Black Americans Are Not Angry. They Are Hurting’

The Root

Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

It has always been a pet peeve of mine when biracial people seem to ignore their white side and act as if the world perceives them as black through and through. I always felt that in their determination to identify solely and sternly as black, they were missing out on an opportunity to share some of the insight they may have about how white people feel and think about race relations. That they might be missing out on an opportunity to act as a conduit between both racial groups.

In an interview with The Guardian, Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams does a fantastic job of articulating the privileges and insights that being biracial affords him, and how he uses that knowledge to inform his work as an activist in working-class black communities. Williams’ mom is white, and his dad is black.

“I have access to rooms and information. I am white and I am also black. I am invisible man in a lot of these scenarios,” Williams said, referring to the Ralph Ellison classic. “I know how white people talk about black people. I know how black people talk about white folks. I know I am there and everyone speaks honestly around me.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The Fabulous World of Harumi Klossowska de Rola

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Europe, Media Archive on 2015-09-28 02:14Z by Steven

The Fabulous World of Harumi Klossowska de Rola

The New York Times Magazine

Hilary Moss

“Benoît, my partner, took this photo in 2013 in front of the Grand Chalet, which was a hotel until my father bought it. It is still loaded with thousands of books and even old skis from English clients. My mom has her studio there, Benoît has his studio, I have my own studio. It’s almost like apartments in a city — you can hear everyone’s muffled footsteps.” Credit: Benoît Peverelli

Balthus’s jewelry-designing daughter reflects on her ethereal life in a historic Swiss chalet — and on memories of a singular childhood.

HARUMI KLOSSOWSKA DE ROLA’S first home was the massive Renaissance Villa Medici at the edge of the Borghese gardens, residence of the French Academy in Rome, which was run throughout the 1960s and much of the 1970s by her father, the painter Balthazar Klossowski de Rola, known as Balthus. Klossowska, now in her 40s, scoured the grounds for treasures such as pale pink stones and bits of blue-green glass from mosaics to show him. Later, she found that he had kept them all, close, in his bedside top drawer.

Such moments shaped the playful, Zen, otherworldly aesthetic of the designer, who conceives high jewelry pieces for Chopard and Boucheron and for her own line. After Balthus’s stint at the Academy ended when she was 5, the family home became the Grand Chalet in Rossinière, Switzerland, built in the mid-1700s, one of the largest wooden residential structures in Europe. She lives and works there still, with her partner, the photographer Benoît Peverelli, and their two children, as well as her mother, the Japanese-born painter Setsuko Klossowska de Rola, who was 34 years Balthus’s junior. They spend time as well at Castello de Montecalvello, a medieval Italian castle that her father bought in 1967, where a half-brother, Stanislas, lives…

Read the entire article here.

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New Documentary Reveals the Strange Life of Korla Pandit

Posted in Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos on 2015-09-27 15:37Z by Steven

New Documentary Reveals the Strange Life of Korla Pandit

NBC Bay Area (KNTV)
San Jose, California

In the category of unusual entertainers, there are few who could hold a candle to Korla Pandit. And now a new documentary will feature his life. Joe Rosato Jr. reports.

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Posted in Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos on 2015-09-23 19:02Z by Steven


Appleberry Pictures
San Rafael, California
April 2005

A Film by John Turner & Eric Christensen

Korla Pandit was a spiritual seeker, a television pioneer and the godfather of exotica music. Known for his hypnotic gaze, Korla captured the hearts of countless Los Angeles housewives in the 50s with his live television program that featured a blend of popular tunes and East Indian compositions, theatrically performed on a Hammond B3 organ. In the 90s he resurfaced as a cult figure with the tiki/lounge music aficionados, filling clubs, skating rinks and bars with retro hipsters. Often pegged as a “man of mystery,” Korla lived up to that billing when he took an amazing secret with him to his grave in 1998 – one that is revealed in Korla.

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The Many Faces of Korla Pandit

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-09-22 19:58Z by Steven

The Many Faces of Korla Pandit

Los Angeles Magazine
June 2001
pages 73-77, 146-151

RJ Smith, Senior Editor

He was a handsome holy man, an organ virtuoso, a star from the East. Korla Pandit mesmerized generations–while keeping a secret until his dying day

Korla Pandit wandered the West, from big cities to hamlets, throughout his life. Wherever he went, he made the ground beneath his feet seem like the center of a vast turning wheel. However much he was on the move, he let those surrounding him feel they were the ones in motion. People—intersting, glamorous, bizarre people—came to him hoping he’d show them how to get to where he so blissfully stood. They wanted to feel his peace.

He was in his mid seventies when I met him seven years ago. We talked at a coffee shop that no longer exists, in what was the first of many conversations. I was interviewing him about the lounge music revival, which had led to a modest boost in the old man’s career. Soon I became one more neophyte snared by his beatific smile, his mysterious eyes, his strange stories of séances with Marilyn Monroe and how Liberace had stolen his very soul. When you got near Korla Pandit, he took you to some synthetic place.

He came, he explained, from halfway around the world. He had a privileged childhood in New Delhi, where his father, a Brahman, was a government bureaucrat and friend of Gandhi’s. His mother mas a French opera singer. Korla was playing the piano at the age of two; by five he was a prodigy. able to perform complicated pieces after hearing them only once. He studied in Europe, then came to the United States when he was 12. and later attended the University of Chicago.

As Korla prepared to leave his family behind and begin the life of a professional musician on the stages of the West, his father gave him a warning: “Son. get your education first. Show business is a dangerous world. You’re a hero today and a bum tomorrow.” In recounting the story Korla would pause and then add, “Well, he sure knew what he was talking about.” Korla came anyway, and he conquered the West, or at least the West Coast, and especially Los Angeles. His TV show, Adventures in Music with Korla Pandit, was the first all-music show on television, and Korla was one of the first stars of the medium.

As it happened, I attended the last performance Korla ever gave. It was in 1998 in San Francisco, at a lounge renovated to 1950s vintage called Bimbo’s. There were paintings of clowns, and the carpet, banquettes. and walls were as red as tenderloin. A mermaid swam in a large aquarium over the bar. Bimbo’s was a lot like Korla himself. an exemplar of a distant time that once embodied suave sexuality but now registered as camp…

…There was a joke made often in the vicinity of Korla, passed along by any who spent time with him. Everybody who told it seemed to think they were the first to make the crack. The thing about Korla, we’d say, was that while he never spoke on his television show, in person he was hard put to stay quiet. Korla loved to talk, about India and his past and the meaning of life. But for all the talking he did, he kept a secret, one that he protected all his life. Korla Pandit wasn’t his real name, and he wasn’t Indian at all. He was African American…

Read the entire article here.

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