June 2nd, 2010
Originally published in the June 2010 issue and reprinted here with the generous permission of WebMD the Magazine.
Actor Louis Gossett Jr.’s plan for battling discrimination
Louis Gossett, Jr.
Think of Lou Gossett Jr., and his menacing Marine Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman comes immediately to mind. But fearsome as that hit movie’s role was, Gossett in real life is anything but. Proof positive is in his new autobiography, An Actor and a Gentleman, out last month, where he describes spending some of his early years in Hollywood being fearful himself. His second trip to the city, back in the 1960s, was a nightmare. “I rented a [Ford] Fairlane Galaxie 500—white with a red interior,” he recalls. “I put the top down, turned the radio on, and started driving down Sunset Boulevard,” he says. Then reality hit. It took Gossett four hours and 55 minutes to go 10 miles because he was stopped so many times by police. Gossett, who grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., where friendships cut across ethnicities, says, “I got my first dose of racism.”
Racial equality in the United States has come a long way since then, but plenty more work remains. And Gossett, 75, is at the forefront with his new project, the Eracism Foundation, dedicated to abolishing racism, violence, and ignorance. The foundation will eventually be organized around “Shamba Centers” in the heart of inner cities, places where children can go after school to play sports, hang out, and learn about their history and culture. Keeping kids away from drugs will be an obvious goal for the centers, a battle with which Gossett is all too familiar. After winning the Best Supporting Oscar in 1983 for An Officer and a Gentleman, he expected acting offers to pour in. “When my contemporaries in New York got Oscars, they got to do what they wanted,” he says. But Gossett didn’t. “My heart began to break,” he says. “And I fell into self-abuse.” Drugs and alcohol dulled the pain until he was forced to face reality. “A doctor told me, ‘You’re not going to be around too long.’” And then he started on the road to recovery.
Helping him along that road were Satie, his biological son, and Sharron, who Gossett adopted after seeing him during a segment on the homeless on ABC’s Good Morning America in 1985. But try to compliment Gossett for literally changing the course of a boy’s life, and he replies simply, “We changed each other’s lives.” He has the same hopes for the Shamba Centers. “We need to be one country, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”—Leslie Pepper
May 26th, 2010
From the June, 2010 edition. Reprinted here with the generous permission of Ebony Magazine:
At 6 feet 4 inches, LOUIS GOSSEIT JR is a towering figure. His nearly 60-year career in stage, television and film looms even larger.
From His historic Broadway role in A Raisin in the Sun to his Emmy-winning television role as Fiddler in Roots to his Oscar-winning role in An Officer and a Gentleman, Gossett has been a solid actor since High School, when an injury sidelined the basketball star and an English teacher urged him to take the lead in a play. Sixteen credits shy of a Bachelor’s Degree from New York University (NYU) but in possession of seven honorary Doctorates, Gossett broke Hollywood typecasting by portraying Judges and Lawyers. This month, a new generation is getting to know him in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married, Too?
Thrice divorced, the 73-year-old father of two sons recently announced that he has prostate cancer. And, after what he considers a “Necessary Bath,” Gossett reflects on the highs and lows of his career and life in his new memoir, An Actor and a Gentleman
EBONY: Did you think you would be acting this long?
LG: No, I thought I [would] be a pharmacist or a doc¬tor. Too many in my family were sick. I figured I would take care of [hem SO everybody would be healthy.
EBONY: You endured many obstacles in the industry, but you made a choice to a better man and not a bitter man. How did you get to that place?
LG: Faith. In fact, if it wasn’t [for faith], I think I would be dead. Although I did drift away quite a bit, it must have been in my system so deeply that it saved my life.
EBONY: You started on Broadway at 16. Did you realize it was a big deal?
LG: No; I could not wait to get home and play some stoopbaJl or basketball.
EBONY: While attending NYU, were you drafted by the New York Knicks?
LG: I wasn’t really drafted, but I was invited to tryout along with some of the other high school ball players. I probably would have made it, but it was rough. Those young men were desperate. There were fistfights. There were cuttings and all kinds of stuff. I was just deciding to do A Raisin in the Sun with Sidney Poitier. If you’re going to be a professional athlete of any kind, you [must] devote 24 hours to it. My attention was split.
EBONY: I heard you used to put a hurting on folks playing cards.
LG: Yeah, I’d play some poker with Paul Newman and Sidney [Poitier]. They would beat us [other actors] up because they had more money, so they would raise us out of the pot. One time I put in my life savings. There was a great big mountain of money. Then Paul said, “I have a flush.” Sidney said, “I got four nines.” And I said, “Wait a minute, fellas. I have four jacks!” They looked at me like they were ready to lynch me [laughs]. I had to go get a brown paper bag to put the money in.
EBONY: You once mentioned that you thought people would look at you like an Uncle Tom for playing Fiddler in Roots. But during that time, you decided to chage your name Why?
LG: My legal name was Louis Gossett Jr.; before that, it was Lou Gossett. And in doing the research about Roots, [I realized that] my father worked very hard to get me to where I was. He wasn’t around and I had to honor him, so 1 used my full name from then on.
EBONY: How did life change after winning an Oscar?
LG: In very strange ways. I never got the money. People thought I made millions, but I never made a million dollars for any movie and there are [more than] 75 of them. People think I wasted a lot of money. I never had it, but I was able to live very well. I got a boy [adopted son Sharron] off the streets in St. Louis to join my other son [Satie]. I’ve had a very nice life. So I’ve learned that happiness is not about money. It’s about doing things that you’re put on the planet to do. Not many people get the good fortune of making a living at what they love doing.
EBONY: Do you believe that people who win Oscars now have more opportunities avail¬able o them than you did?
LG: Yes, they have more opportunities and get more money, too. They get the money sooner because a buying audience has been identified. My audience was not identified. [Powers that be] were still worried about the South. It was definitely difficult, because it was just me. Sidney had his thing with [director] Stanley Kramer. And some of my other contemporaries were waiting to see me mess up so they could take over. [Powers that be] allowed one [African-American actor to be a star] at a time. When I stopped being perfect and started getting some muscles and saying, “You’re underpaying me,” the word was “Next!” My dream – and it still exists as Tyler Perry gets closer to it – is that [African-Americans] should do movies together. We have a lot of stories to tell.
EBONY: You described the difference between comet and a meteor in your book. Which would you use to describe your career?
LG: I’m a comet. A meteor is a Jimi Hendrix, who comes flashing across the sky and [then] it’s over. Janis Joplin. James Dean. Heath Ledger. All came flashing across the sky. You won’t see them anymore. Other comets are Barbra Streisand, Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones. We are the ones who have been around for a while.
EBONY: Is there anyone you want to work with or still long to do?
LG: If Denzel wants a father or any of those guys want an older brother or a mentor in a movie, I would be honored.
EBONY: What do you wish someone had told you before you entered the industry?
LG: [That] there was no such thing as impossible, but I learned it.
May 25th, 2010
Good Morning America caught up with Mr. Gossett to ask him about his new book, “An Actor and a Gentleman”, published by Wiley.
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An excerpt of the book can be read on ABC News. From the Article:
In “An Actor and A Gentleman” Louis Gossett Jr., known for his portrayal of Sergeant Emil Foley in the hit movie “An Officer and A Gentleman,” reflects on his journey in Hollywood and the life lessons and stories along the way.
May 7th, 2010
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December 17th, 2009
From the Malibu Times:
Oscar-winning Malibu resident Louis Gossett Jr. hosted a special screening for local Academy members of one of the leading contenders for the coming Academy Award balloting, “Precious.” He introduced the films’ lauded director Lee Daniels and Gabourney “Gabby” Sidibe and the Malibu Cinemas screening last Saturday morning. Both Daniels and Sidibe are early favorites in Director and Best Actress categories. The film is based on “Push: A Novel,” written by Sapphire.
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July 1st, 2009
On August 20th, Mr. Gossett will be receiving the Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership Award at the 4th Annual Hope Gala in Century City, from the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. This award highlights his accomplishments and his work establishing the Eracism Foundation.
About the HDSA:
The Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA) is a national non-profit voluntary health agency dedicated to finding a cure for Huntington’s Disease. They provide vital support, information and educational services to improve the lives of those affected by HD, offer resources and guidance for HD families through a national network of volunteer-based chapters and affiliates as well as through HDSA Centers of Excellence for Family Services and also promote and support research to find a cure for HD. For more information, visit their website.
May 29th, 2009
From the Herald:
Lou Gossett Jr. is a lucky man. The veteran actor got to spend his 73rd birthday Tuesday with his family in L.A., then fly to Miami and do it all over again with Santana Moss.
The former Miami Hurricane and current wide receiver for the Washington Redskins is turning 30 in grand style Friday night at the Eden Roc (his actual birthday is Monday). Hosted by Wild on E! host Cindy Taylor, Moss’ party will feature a Frederick’s of Hollywood fashion show and guest appearances by former baseball star Sammy Sosa, comedian Angel Salazar, former Miss Universe Barbara Palacios, salsa great Willy Chirino and Steven Bauer, with whom Gossett is starring in a new Fox cop show, Miracle Mile.
Gossett plays a ready-to-retire police chief in this upcoming gritty drama set in 1975 Los Angeles.
”This is about as deep and rough as cops get in real life,” says Gossett, on the way to LAX. “My character is going through some personal challenges; it’s not your standard blah blah blah. You really appreciate police work. ”
Read more at the Herald Website.
May 21st, 2009
The U.S. Dream Academy tonight held its 8th annual Power of a Dream Gala, which raised over $600,000 for its nationally-recognized nonprofit afterschool and mentoring program.
Gala co-chairs U.S. Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and Mark L. Pryor (D-AR), along with Congresswomen Maxine Waters (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Diane Watson (D-CA), and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen and his wife Janet Langhart Cohen were among the 500 attendees who joined U.S. Dream Academy CEO Wintley Phipps to honor three individuals who have shown by example the positive results of following your dreams and serving as role models for at-risk youth.
Mr. Gossett received the prestigious 2009 Legacy Award for his work with the Eracism Foundation. Previous honorees had included former Pres. Bill Clinton, Cicely Tyson and Neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson.
DC native Taraji P. Henson was presented with the 2009 President’s Award, and LDS Business College dean of academic outreach Keith Poelman was honored as 2009 Mentor of the Year for his volunteer service at the Dream Academy Learning Center in Salt Lake City, UT.
Read more about this inspirational evening here.
May 15th, 2009
From the Wheelock Website:
Mr. Gossett has been an enduring public presence for more than five decades and ranks as one of the most respected actors of stage, screen, and television. He has appeared in almost 160 television and film productions since his career began in 1958.
In 1983, he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the film, An Officer and a Gentleman. Mr. Gossett also performed in the renowned television miniseries Roots and was a member of the original Broadway cast of A Raisin in the Sun. In 1961, he starred alongside Sidney Poitier in the film adaptation of the play. During his career, Mr. Gossett has won several Emmy, Golden Globe, and NAACP Image awards.
In 2006, Gossett launched The Eracism Foundation with the aim of eradicating the systematic impacts of all forms of racism by providing programs that foster cultural diversity, historical enrichment, education, and antiviolence initiatives. By addressing these issues, connecting individuals to their history and culture, The Eracism Foundation empowers the recipients of these services to improve the quality of life in their respective communities.
Mr. Gossett will deliver the commencement address.
April 6th, 2009
First cousins - Lou and Robert Gossett
PARADE Magazine featured a quick blurb covering a reader question regarding both Lou and Robert Gossett.
PARADE is the most widely read magazine in America, being carried by more than 470 of the nation’s finest Sunday newspapers and reaches 72.775 million Americans every week.