“A tree is best measured when it is down,” the poet Carl Sandburg once observed, “and so it is with people.” The recent death of Harry Belafonte at the age of 96 has prompted many assessments of what this pioneering singer-actor-activist accomplished in a long and fruitful life.
Belafonte’s career as a ground-breaking entertainer brought him substantial wealth and fame; according to Playbill magazine, “By 1959, he was the highest paid Black entertainer in the industry, appearing in raucously successful engagements in Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles.” He scored on Broadway, winning a 1954 Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical – John Murray Anderson's Almanac. Belafonte was the first Black person to win the prestigious award. A 1960 television special, “Tonight with Belafonte,” brought him an Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series, making him the first Black person to win that award. He found equal success in the recording studio, bringing Calypso music to the masses via such hits as “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.”
Harry Belafonte - Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) (Live)www.youtube.com
Belafonte’s blockbuster stardom is all the more remarkable for happening in a world plagued by virulent systemic racism. Though he never stopped performing, by the early 1960s he’d shifted his energies to the nascent Civil Right movement. He was a friend and adviser to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. and, as the New York Times stated, Belafonte “put up much of the seed money to help start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the principal fund-raisers for that organization and Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that “he helped launch one of Mississippi’s first voter registration drives and provided funding for the Freedom Riders. His activism extended beyond the U.S. as he fought against apartheid alongside Nelson Mandela and Miriam Makeba, campaigned for Mandela’s release from prison, and advocated for famine relief in Africa.” And in 1987, he received an appointment to UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador.
Over a career spanning more than seventy years, Belafonte brought joy to millions of people. He also did something that is, perhaps, even greater: he fostered the hope that a better world for all could be created. And, by his example, demonstrated how we might go about bringing that world into existence.
2021 has already brought good news: A Barbara Walters impression can still team up with tequila shots to turn Anderson Cooper into a beautiful, hysterical mess.
“Saturday Night Live” alum Cheri Oteri joins @AndersonCooper and @Andy Cohen for New Year’s Eve and revives her ico… https://t.co/TguEYQE8XO— CNN (@CNN) 1609466811.0
In honor of national treasure Anderson Cooper, we joyfully bring you this flashback from one year ago, when our collective attention was once again on his eye crinkles of hope. Remember our innocence then? Neither do we, but at least we still have Anderson Cooper's giggles.
Originally published on Jan 1, 2020
No doubt the coming year will offer plenty of apocalyptic weather events and political drama that will have us all pulling our hair out — election day here we come! But the good news is that the new year has already produced one of those rare, shining moments of pure joy that make it possible to crawl out of bed and face the ugliness of the world each morning.
'SNL' alum revives Barbara Walters character, Anderson Cooper loses itwww.youtube.com
It's all thanks to an unlikely petition on Change.org, recalling an iconic TV slogan from 15 years past. Barbara Walters, who hosted the ABC program 20/20 until 2004, would always open the show with the phrase, "I'm Barbara Walters, and this is 20/20."
The petition to have her host the annual ball drop and ring in the New Year with that phrase was started in January of 2019, and by the end of December it had only managed to collect around 7,000 signatures. It wasn't enough to make that vision a reality, but it was enough to get a shout out in CNN's New Year's Eve coverage. And with the help of a former SNL cast member and several scorching shots of tequila, that shout out turned into something truly spectacular.
This is 2020www.youtube.com
It's maybe not that surprising that CNN was unable to get the real, 90-year-old Barbara Walters to brave the crowds and the cold of Times Square for the midnight announcement.
Fortunately, Cheri Oteri was on hand to provide the next best thing. Reprising the impression of Walters that she perfected in her days on SNL, Oteri brushed off a suggestion that she could return to The View, and instead pitched a reality show following Walters' jet-setting lifestyle, populated by a cast of geriatric former celebrities and some imaginary senior-specific dating apps, such as "Loose Skin."
The material itself is worth a laugh, and if you're old enough to have a memory of Barbara Walters on 20/20, then you probably know how good Oteri's impression is, but what makes the moment truly special is Anderson Cooper's hysterical, buckled-over laughter.
As it turns out, the shots of tequila that co-host Andy Cohen kept giving to Cooper as the night wore on really did their job, leaving Cooper loose and goofy by the time Oteri started turning to the camera to deliver, "This is 2020." The pure joy he unleashes as a result is impossible to resist.
What makes it even better is going back to see footage of Cohen and Cooper throwing back those tequila shots and Cooper taking each one like a mouthful of pure fire. After each one goes down, Anderson Cooper's cool and collected demeanor devolves into paroxysms of shrieking, gasping disgust that finally prompt Cohen to ask, "Are you kidding?!" to which Cooper can only say, "I don't drink!"
Anderson Cooper trying to drink tequila on televisionwww.youtube.com
Clearly his lack of tolerance is a testament to that. But why don't you drink, Anderson? You're so fun when you drink!
This is not intended as an endorsement of any unhealthy habits — the best medical advice dictates that drinking should be reserved for special occasions and restricted to moderate portions — but have you ever considered getting hammered during all of your broadcasts, Anderson? It might not align with professional journalistic standards, but I'm sure that a lot more people would tune into Anderson Cooper 360 if every episode involved you attacking your throat with liquor and collapsing in a fit of giggles.
Now, thankfully, in 2021 we have another one of these joyful little gems to help us survive a world that feels like it's burning.
Because the American people deserve to know
With less than a month left until the Iowa caucuses officially kick off primary season, it seems like we've spent the last decade slowly whittling away at an endless list of candidates.
Many voters have already seen their favorite contenders drop out of the race. Others have yet to figure out which person on a crowded debate stage best represents their interests. Obviously there are a number of axes on which you can compare the candidates, and countless articles that can help you navigate their differing economic policies, their stances on health care, or their various approaches to foreign policy. If those are the factors by which you judge a candidate, you should have no problem finding what you need to make up your mind. People like me are not so lucky.
I have always been a single issue voter—consistently casting my ballot for the best dancer. In 2008 and 2012, I had an easy time of it. Barack Obama's blend of smooth and corny dance moves struck a perfect balance for my sensibilities, easily winning out over Mitt Romney's "Gangnam Style" convulsions, or John McCain's high-intensity robot. 2016 presented a more difficult choice. I nearly didn't vote at all, but ultimately decided that Hillary Clinton's stiff Whip and Nae Nae represented the lesser of two evils when considered against Donald Trump's apocalyptic rendition of "Hotline Bling."
Sadly, some 60 million voters didn't see what I did, and made the wrong call. I won't let that happen again. The American people deserve to see every candidate dance before they go to the polls. Until the DNC finally listens to wisdom and converts one of their debates to a dance off, I've compiled this list so that you can make an informed decision.
Warren dancing at her rally tonight 💃🏼 https://t.co/c2QBzPGsH1— Behind 2020 (@Behind 2020) 1578458031.0
We'll get the top-tier candidates out of the way first. Senator Elizabeth Warren has nothing to hide. She has been the most upfront, transparent candidate when it comes to her big, structural dancing. And while it may not be everyone's first choice in style, you can not fault her fun-aunt-at-a-wedding energy. The latest example of her eclectic blend of fist pumping and hula dancing comes from last night's Brooklyn rally with—recent dropout and competent dancer in his own right—Julian Castro. She probably just needs a couple more glasses of zinfendel from the open bar before she really loosens up.
Bernie Sanders is surprisingly spry. You might not expect a man in his 70s with heart problems to cut a rug, but Bernie is not your average senior citizen. He has the energy of a man half his age, and the timeless consistency of his dancing allows him to keep up with his young supporters.
Former vice president Joe Biden dances exactly as you'd expect—slow, old fashioned, and "sweet" in a way that's uncomfortably intimate.
"Not left. Not right. Forward!" - @AndrewYang #YangGang #Yang2020 https://t.co/7UcY9OG9to— Will🔥🛍️YangGang Pink🧢🔥 (@Will🔥🛍️YangGang Pink🧢🔥) 1565920883.0
Silicon Valley entrepreneur Andrew Yang has more than enough spring in his step to keep up with any roomful of middle-aged women on the dance floor. His universal basic dance moves aim to remind us that we all share one dance floor.
Congressional representative for Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard doesn't exactly dance—she dance-fights. Just as with her approach to debates or to the war on terror, her Capoeira moves may be a bit more aggressive than some voters want.
#BREAKING: Amy Klobuchar performs ancient, centrist war-dance to stoke fear in the hearts of her more radical oppo… https://t.co/EFEoA3JXOE— MSDNC (@MSDNC) 1569102792.0
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is known for her no-nonsense pragmatism. She strives not to make any promises she can't keep, so she will appear to be the adult in the room...but her dancing tells a different story. Klobuchar dances with the energy of a happy toddler who could enter full-blown tantrum mode at any moment.
You may be surprised to find that spiritual guru Marianne Williamson is still in the race, but once you see her dance moves, you'll be surprised she isn't the front runner. She is as one with the music as she is with the vibrations of the universe.