28 September 2018

Published September 26, 2018 by rochellewisoff

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As always, please be considerate of your fellow Fictioneers and keep your stories to 100 words. (Title is not included in the word count.)  Many thanks. 

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PHOTO PROMPT © Yvette Prior

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Word Count: 100

THE BUTLER DID IT

Six-year-old Billy earned a bit here and there on the Post-Civil War streets of Richmond dancing for anyone who’d watch.  

            A passerby tossed a penny at the boy’s feet. “Cute little darky.”

            Determined to be more than a ‘pickaninny,’ Billy tapped his way from Vaudeville to the Harlem, and, ultimately, to Broadway. Top hat and tails became his trademarks.

            Hollywood relegated him to servant roles.

            “Everything’s copacetic.” He said as he instructed his diminutive partner. “Take small steps or you know what happens.”

            Slipping her lily-white hand in Bill “Bojangles” Robinson’s, Shirley Temple giggled. “Yeah, I fall on my keester.”

   ****

Here’s a taste of what I’m talking about:

118 comments on “28 September 2018

    • Dear Björn,

      No, talent knows no color, as evidenced by many gifted people from every tribe and nation. To be fair, Shirley and Bill, from all accounts I’ve read, truly adored each other. Hollywood was definitely racist in the day, forcing talented black actors to play shuffling servants. 😦 Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Like

  • He was a massive talent who faced astonishing adversity and still brought intergity and joy to his profession. I recently came across an article about one of the guys who came after him, Frankie Manning. These guys were pioneers. Well done as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Josh,

      These guys were the trailblazers. It amazed me that Bill Robinson never did learn to read. What a dear man he was. I watched a long documentary about him before writing my 100 words. I learn so much that way. I also watched a few about little Shirley. She was quite a woman. It warms me to know that those two adored each other. Thank you re my story. 😀

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

      • I recall reading that Robinson said Shirley Temple was the quickest study he’d ever met, able to instantly grasp complicated dance steps. I imagine that it was part of the same massive intellect that allowed her to memorize scripts at one hearing, correcting the other actors when they went astray. Buddy Rich was like that, too. He couldn’t read music, but he only had to hear an arrangement once to have it down cold. I think people who have these abilities can’t fathom NOT having them, and therefore seem arrogant and obnoxious to everyone around them. “I don’t get why you’re having a problem with this,” they say. “It’s child’s play.”
        For them, maybe!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Sandra,

      I found it interesting that so many were unfamiliar with the word. However it really was a phrase that Mr. Robinson used to deal with the pain of his lot. Bless little Shirley who saw him only as a teacher and a friend. Thank you.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Like

  • Thanks for bringing back warm memories!! I love watching tap! I can’t imagine getting MY feet to move that quickly. Thank you for using your words to transport me to an earlier time.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Ah, copacetic. I’ve used that term for many years. I didn’t realize many people were not familiar with it. A great story, and I love the dance. It was a shame that he was relegated to small roles , but then again, every movement has to have a beginning. Also, the talent Shirley Temple had at such a young age was simply amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Dear Rochelle,

    I love how you bring such a story to life. The sweetness of the relationship between Shirly and Bill to soften the reality of the day. And let’s face it, Shirley didn’t see colour… she saw a teacher, a friend, a co-star…

    Lotsa love,

    Dale

    Liked by 1 person

  • Great story. It’s great that some people who were the targets of such racism were able to keep their dignity. I just wish we had come farther since those days than we have. In fact, it seems as if we are sliding back to that type of open racism again…

    Liked by 1 person

  • And the song, ‘Mr. Bojangles Danced’ plays through my mind along with the cheerful laugh of Shirley Temple as she sings the lollipop song (can’t remember title). I used to have both on 45 vinyl and wore them out. I love this story… going to be hard to top. Then again, the tale spinning into words in my head is a totally different realm.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Dear Rochelle,

    What a lovely sunny and talented person Billy looks. I just adore that sketch and have always greatly admired tap-dancing. For someone with two left feet like me, the skill of tap-dancing comes over as pure genius! Discrimination will always sicken me.

    I’ve just been liaising with Dale. Are you free tomorrow at about 0800 hours your time for a Skype chat? I can only manage about an hour, as I have an early evening activity on Thursdays, meaning preparing an early meal. I was going to suggest Friday, but am visiting a friend in hospital and don’t know how long I’ll be there.

    Throughout October, I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and focusing totally upon editing, as my focus has been sadly lacking for a long time. Although I’m feeling quite a bit better, my need to make up for lost time can’t involve me suddenly cramming too much into that time, or I’ll be back to square one — devoid of energy and a murky dismal once more! I’m sure you understand.

    All best wishes
    Sarah

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Sarah,

      Tomorrow at 0800 works perfectly. I understand about commitment and exhaustion. I’m finally feeling some energy returning today after the weekend art fair.

      I’m glad you enjoyed my story as well. Looking forward to seeing you face to face tomorrow.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Like

  • Rochelle, you brought back so many wonderful memories of being to watch the old Shirley Temple movies when I was growing up. I remember Shirley and Bill Robinson dancing up and down those stairs as if it were yesterday.

    I didn’t know the word “copacetic” existed until I met Terry, who was in the Army National Guard at the time. He said he learned the word there, so maybe it has a military background.

    I feel a google coming on. I love to know where words come from 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Linda,

      I’m a bit of a word nerd myself. I love to know the origins of them. That desire comes in handy when writing historical fiction. I don’t want to use a word that wasn’t in existence in the time frame. 😉
      As for copacetic, I first learned it from a boy I dated in high school. He wasn’t all that brilliant or even nice, but thought he was cool using the word. 😉
      I’m glad my story brought back good memories for you. Thank you. 😀

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

  • While Hollywood’s racism was horrid, your story is ultimately joyful. Despite prejudice, Bill Robinson mastered his art, achieved wide acclaim and was a delightful and charming person. You gave us all that very clearly, and the clip you provided was a joy to watch!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Penny,

      Wouldn’t it be nice if we could say that those days are completely behind us? At least Hollywood has changed. Can you imagine Denzel Washington playing the butler? Thank you for your kind words re my story. I’ve enjoyed watching and rewatching the clip myself. 😉

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Like

  • Nice story, nice clip, hard time. There is something very pure about the Shirley Temple movies, even though they portray a very imbalanced and cruel state of affairs among the races. I especially like “The Little Princess”. My daughters and I were always called Shirley Temple as children because we had that hair, so it was hard for me to miss her contribution, and the contributions of fine actors and musicians like this who performed alongside her. She also did a lot of work for children in her later years I think. Dancing is definitely undervalued in the movies these days. I imagine we’ll have another golden age of musicals soon. Hamilton is a good start!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Andrea,

      I loved watching Shirley Temple movies as a child…actually, I still do. I remember her television show back in the late 50’s, early 60’s as well. She was an amazing talent who grew up well and helped others. Quite a legacy for the Little Princess (loved that one). From all accounts, she and Bill Robinson adored each other. I think it shows in the scenes they did together. 😀 Thank you for your affirming comments.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Like

  • Dear Barnella Fife W(T)F,

    I may not be all thumbs, but I definitely have two left feet. They’re good for staggering but are coordinated enough for the dance floor. Shirley Temple proved that short people can succeed in the arts. I’ll drink to that.

    Wake me when it’s over,
    Otis

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Otis,

      I fantasize about you tearing up the dance floor in tap shoes. But then I start laughing so loud that everyone in Mayberry stares at me. I think you should wear a purple tutu. I stand on my step stool and give a hearty HUZZAH! for short folk.

      Shalom,

      Barnella Fife W(T)F

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Ali,

      I fear that as long as there are humans there will be bigotry. It’s like playing Whack-A-Mole. Squelch it in one place and it rears its ugly head in another. At any rate, I’m pleased you liked my story. Thank you.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Kelvin,

      That is one way to look at it. And truly, Bill Robinson was a philanthropist and did have a servant’s heart. However I’m not so sure that’s what he had in mind for his Hollywood roles. On the same note, Hattie McDaniel who won an Oscar for her role of Mammy in Gone with the Wind, when criticized by other blacks for playing servants, her reply was, “I earn a whole lot more money playing one than by being one.” Thank you.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

  • Rochelle, there’s so much to think about in the contribution this week. I found out that my Great Grandmother and her family performed in minstrel shows in Australia and possibly also New Zealand. I wasn’t sure quite how to feel about that. From what I’ve found out so far, I don’t think their acts crossed over into white face etc but I couldn’t be sure. However, I was excited to find that the musical talent we’ve had in our family didn’t fall out of a box of Cornflakes. Another well -written and thoughtful piece.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

    Liked by 2 people

  • Great story. Love Shirley Temple. My daughter looked exactly like her when she was little. In fact, I bought black and white stills of her and had them framed. People would ask me how I got such cool photos of our daughter. Sirley was so talented.
    There is an incredible compilation of dancing from old movies put to song by Bruno Mars you have to see! It’s awesome.. includes a couple of scenes from the same video you provided.
    Uptown Funk! Enjoy! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Jilly,

      I didn’t know Harry Nilsson sang the song. I believe Nitty Gritty Dirt Band did it first. Just listening to the Nilsson version…really nice. At any rate, I’m glad you enjoyed my story and the clip I’ve watched over and over again. Thank you.

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

  • Fascinating story and as usual I had to google for more. A bit sad to read that the artist who earned millions and was generous in helping others died penniless in the end. But then – what a life – and a wonderful tribute from you.

    Like

  • You wove a beautiful story, Rochelle, as always! What a talented man and he achieved so much. Think what he could have accomplished in a world without prejudice. In spite of it all, his phrase “Everything’s copacetic” shows what an amazing person he was. I loved the video, also a Shirley Temple fan. =)

    Like

  • Another interesting tale and a great clip – the story adding a different slant to the clip. Love the word ‘copacetic’, ‘keester’ is new to me though. On the subject of new words, I stumbled across ‘corybantic’ today. Isn’t language fabulous 🙂

    Like

  • Querida Rochelle,
    Hace poco escribo un commento y no lo veo. Grrrrr … !!!
    If this is a repeat comment pick one and thank you for understanding.
    I’m away for a bit and my computer takes over. Gosh … it’s like a widower – the lines out the door. ~~~ : – )
    Love your story. Shirley Temple was a sweet little cherub I could relate to when I was younger. Curly hair like me, short and a dancer. Oh, how I begged for dance lessons. I couldn’t see enough of her movies. Sweet little gal …
    I had a heated discussion with a friend once. A civil heated discussion where we could both voice our opinions. She was rasied in the south. She used to use the word darkies. She said it was what blacks were called. She didn’t think a thing about it. Well … not around me you’re not. Anywho, she was 70 at the time. You can’t change ignorance. She died at 85. It’s unfortunate what’s done to humanity.
    I was inspired by the photo. I’m a bit late but wasn’t sure if I was up to getting back on the writing horse. But, life is for the living. One foot in front of the other seems to work. AND … a nap to escape too. Gracias por sus palabras, mi amiga …
    Abrazos y Carino,
    Isadora 😎
    ps: I’m having a problem with the ‘Like’ button too. Grrr – x2

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mi querida amiga,

      You’ve been in my prayers. I can’t imagine the grief.
      At any rate, I see you tried twice before to comment. Those comments, for whatever reason, went to my spam folder. Extraño, I will read them, too. 😉
      When we bought our first house, our neighbor across the street, an older lady, told me she was so glad to see us move in. She was afraid the house would sell to “coloreds.” I wondered what went thought her mind after my son was born and my friend from Lamaze class came for a visit. Sharon and I took a walk together and as we walked by my neighbor’s we turned and waved. You see Sharon was black.
      At any rate, I’ve had a couple of black friends tell me they don’t consider me to be white which I take as a high compliment. To quote Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Indeed…I believe when we focus on our similarities and appreciate each other’s differences the world is a better place. We’ve so much to learn from one another, don’t we?
      Mejor tarde que nunca. 😉 Estoy muy contento verla. ❤
      Muchas gracias por sus palabras amables.

      Cariño y shalom,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

  • As a child I loved watching the reruns of Shirley Temple movies. I’ve always been fascinated by this period in history and actually feel Miss Temple and her movies did a lot to teach children like me that people were people no matter their color.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Dawn,

      I, too, enjoyed those Shirley Temple movies as a kid. Still do. I didn’t understand at the time she was grown up. I’ve watched a few interviews with her on YouTube. She really didn’t see color and adored Mr. Robinson. In his she saw a teacher and friend. 😀

      Shalom,

      Rochelle

      Liked by 1 person

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