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A tribute to Chicago’s Eric Monte, a legend responsible for opening the doors for Black writers in Hollywood and creating the legacy of Black television shows that premiered in the 70s, will highlight the kick-off ceremonies of the Sixth Annual Blac

A tribute to Chicago’s Eric Monte, a legend responsible for opening the doors for Black writers in Hollywood and creating the legacy of Black television shows that premiered in the 70s, will highlight the kick-off ceremonies of the Sixth Annual Black Playwrights Festival produced by the Black Playwrights Initiative, Dec. 6-13, at Black Ensemble Theater, 4520 N. Beacon. Raised in the Cabrini-Green public housing complex, Monte, a high school dropout, hitchhiked to Hollywood. His first big break came five years later with a script written for and accepted by All in the Family. From there, he produced work responsible for two 70s sitcoms: Good Times, which he co-created with The Jeffersons’ star Mike Evans, and What’s Happening!, loosely based on his motion picture Cooley High.

The L.A. Times reported that in 1977 Monte filed a lawsuit accusing ABC, CBS, producers Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin and others of stealing his ideas for Good Times, The Jeffersons, an All in the Family spinoff, and What’s Happening! Eventually, he received a million dollar settlement and a small percentage of the residuals from Good Times, but the industry retaliated by denying him the opportunity to pitch new scripts. Since Good Times ended, the only scripts he’s written that have been produced by Hollywood are a single episode of The Wayans Bros. and one episode of Moesha, the latter of which he has called "the absolute worst script I’ve ever written."

Monte used the bulk of the settlement to finance the production of a play he’d written, If They Come Back, which proved to be a commercial failure, leading to his financial ruin. After falling on hard times, by 2003, he had developed an addiction to crack cocaine and declared bankruptcy. By 2006, he was living in a homeless shelter. He seemed to be maintaining sobriety there, as the shelter required regular drug tests, and he was actively pursuing further attempts to sell TV and film scripts as well as a self-published book, Blueprint for Peace. In 2006, Monte returned to Chicago.

Jackie Taylor, a playwright herself and BET’s founder and executive director, created BPI, she says, “to provide adequate exposure to its members, offer a professional platform to have their works produced and spotlight the high quality of work that Chicago African American playwrights have to offer.” The opening will also include a reception and excerpts from works of three award-winning playwrights – Rueben Echoles, Sounds So Sweet; Runako Jahi, More Than Words (A Tribute to Langston Hughes and Paul Lawrence Dunbar) and Wendell Etherly, The Rare Pearl (The Story of Pearl Bailey). Tickets are $15 a night; a Fest Pass for $40 can be used any night. Valet park for $8. For a complete schedule, call (773) 796-4451 or visit www.blackensemble.org.

Party People! – It’s time for the Chicago Carats’ celebration of Christmas Around the World (cocktails, buffet, dancing) Saturday at the Union League Club. Carol Sagers is prexey of the local group. Other members include: Sondra L. Few and Barbara E. Pinder, national president and secretary; Tracey Alston, Dorothy Avant, Hettie Collins, Carolyn Kidd Harper, Paula Jones, Antoinette McAllister, Carlotta McCoy, DeLois Mix, Norma Sanders, Rita Wilson, Jacqueline Triche Atkins, Stephanie Cole, Lauren Williams Gore, Beatrice Haynes, Willie Legardy, Charlotte McCaskill-Wright, Sherby McCowey, Deveeree Morgan and Gwendolyn West U.S. Cellular’s Greg Hinton, founding chair of Chicago Ass’n of Minority Recruiters, is expecting an overflow of CAMR friends at its annual holiday party, Dec. 9, 5:30 p.m.- 11:30 p.m. at Room 43. Entry: $20 or an unwrapped toy for Children of Hurricane Katrina. A buffet by “Tales of Two Cooks” (Greg and Reggie Carter) and valet parking are available.

Breakfast Bash – Southside Friends of Chicago Sinfonietta is gearing up for Magical Holiday Breakfast on Dec. 11, 8:30 a.m.-noon, in Navy Pier’s Crystal Garden. The theme, Searching for the Nutcracker, is tied to a special free raffle that will see the winner with a beautiful nutcracker. The annual event is hosted by Steve Baskerville, CBS-2 weatherman. The group supports children’s music programs sponsored by the Chicago Sinfonietta, says Joyce Grey, chair. Linda Tuggle is president of the Southside Friends, Sharon E. Scott is breakfast vice chair and Linda Boasmond and Baskerville are honorary chairs.

Festivities include a buffet and silent auction. More than 400 guests will be treated to performances by a Chicago Sinfonietta Ensemble, pianist George Cooper and renowned drummer Charles Heath who has toured with The Color Purple; also guitarist Peter Lerner and holiday voices of the Whitney Young High School Chamber Choir. Silent auction items include a Tiffany lamp, Nutcracker Basket and tickets to major sporting events. Call (312) 236-3681.

Newsy Names ¡ Happy b’day to Dionne Williams, Tracey Alston, Effie Rolfe, Rev. John E. Jackson, Rev. Willie Taplin Barrow, Ira Harris, Pamela Love, Angela Pough, Dr. Angela Wheeler, Lionel Nixon, Carolyn Tucker, Judy Barnes, Doris Oliver, Francine Smith, Barbara Anderson, Ollie Morrissette, Tammie Poole, Donna Malone-Gibson, Renee Lockett and Sandra Childress Smith Sorry to report the death of Booker T. Davis, owner of Imperial Carpet Sales; funeral, Saturday, 11 a.m., at Sheldon Heights Church, 11325 S. Halsted; burial, Oak Woods Cemetery; repast, 2 p.m.-4 p.m., eta Creative Arts Foundation. Send condolences to his wife, Mary Ann Davis, at 6751 S. Constance, or mdavis206@sbcglobal.net … state Sen. Mattie Hunter, 3rd Dist., and Institute for Positive Living host a pre-holiday party for senior citizens on Dec. 8, 11 a.m., at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Cost of the non-fundraiser is $35 and checks should be payable to IPL and sent to 435 E. 35th St., Chicago 60616. Entertainment by Generations Big Band, Mr. Taps and a Tribute to Motown Greats Martha & The Vandellas. The day’s theme: Chasing Away the Blue in Red. Guests are asked to wear red (red ties for the gents). Call MeBain Media Group, (708) 533-6558.

Holiday Glitz ¡– Continuing their ultimate goal to raise one million dollars for a story bus and to fund the Children’s Gallery of the new DuSable Museum Round House Expansion, members of its Women’s Board are in countdown mode for the 17th Annual Holiday Glitz Benefit Gala on Dec. 12, beginning with a 4 p.m. cocktail reception at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Hotel, 23rd and King Drive. Then dinner, raffle, auction, dancing and entertainment by Ivory Dreams. Tickets are $95.

Co-chairing the “black-tie optional” event: Bonita O’Banion and Carolyn Petway; Martha P. Kennard-Johnson is board president. Other offiers: Ora Strickland Howard, vice president; Johnetta Miller, Carolyn Towner, Dr. Beverly Bennett and Maggie P. Crenshaw, secretaries; Deborah A. Jones-Buggs, treasurer; Dr. Alma C. Jones, parliamentarian; and Sirretta Brown Vincent, past president.

Whazup! Whazup! ¡– The Leadership Advisory Committee of the Art Institute of Chicago hosts Carrie Mae Weems in a free lecture on her photo exhibit, The Kitchen Table Series, on Thursday, 6 p.m.-7 p.m. then a one-hour gallery viewing. The series explores the experiences of daily life from a perspective that is uniquely female and African American … Corpus Christi Church hosts Winter: Bronzeville, a holiday bazaar, Saturday, 4910 S. King Drive, with specialty vendors, photos with Santa, food and fun! Raffle prizes include a 42” HD-TV. Call (773) 285-7720.

Proud Pop Alpha Phi Alpha Frat brother, Paul King, flew to Atlanta to initiate and pin his youngest son, Tim, founder and president of Urban Prep Academies, a network of all-male charter public high schools here in Chicago. The proud moment came when Paul was the first to give Tim the Alpha grip and to pin the Alpha emblem on him. "It doesn’t get any better than this!," Paul said. In 2006, Tim was named One of Forty under Forty by Crain’s Chicago Business, and in 2009 was named One of the Top 100 African American History Makers in the Making by The Grio.com, an African American video news site that focuses on underrepresented stories in existing national news that are important to the Black community. Tim is former president of Hales Franciscan High School.

Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender

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