September 14, 2007

Afraid to admit they're Native

The Secret NativeI’ve learned there is an inherent fear of letting the world know they are Natives. And not just this piano player but from other folks as well and they cover the gambit as far as the mainstream entertainment world is concerned. There are Rock and Roll groups, singers, dancers, gaffs, techs, camera people and other industry related grunts. All of these people I’ve spoken to were fearful of their careers and did not want to be typecast or relegated only to Native events or Native movies. In other words, they did not want to take a chance in loosing the momentum they have generated in their careers. In a few cases, these people were already big names but the fear of exposure was still overwhelming for them. I could feel the fear in their words as they made mention of this.

Graham Greene broke free from the bondage so many of our Native artists have been stymied with over the years. It’s as if there is a stigma for a Native artist to do ballet or classical music yet some do break out of this stereotypical mold we’ve been typecast in. I know a ballet dancer who performed with the Bolshoi Ballet and was a contender for the “River Dance” but this person’s true identity was never reveled to this day. Why? For fear of retribution from other “fellow” entertainers or producers who’ve gotten these preconceived notions about Native people. Since some people work in Europe there is yet more stereotypical nonsense about being Native. I’ve had people ask me, Mr. Armani, if I lived in a tipi and if I dressed Indian! Holay!!

1 comment:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
For once, there is some agreement with such a thesis. writerfella, when he was active in TV and films both as a writer and an actor, never once stinted about letting any and all know he was Kiowan Native American. In fact, he entered the film and TV industry as a minority trainee of the Writers Guild's 1969 inaugural Open Door program, and he was noted by the industry trades and the Los Angeles press as the ONLY Native American among the first 300 minority trainees. THEN he became the first out of all 300 to sell his writing to a major TV company and a major network TV series, THE NAME OF THE GAME. Thereafter, he went to work for the company as the producer's apprentice and then had to battle with the WGAw to keep the position because the Guild claimed there were no apprentice codicils in the Minimum Basic Agreement with the industry. The producer, Gene L. Coon, threatened to take such a perfidy to the industry press because the Guild was in the process of creating 300 such 'apprentices' and then was not going to allow one of them to work. Thereafter, though writerfella went on to work as a writer for a dozen other network TV series, he found himself "marginalized" and so he remained for the better part of 12 years, maybe working once or twice each year.
The benchmark indicator for being "marginalized?" An initial meeting with the Executive Director of the Writers Guild during the height of the controversy, where the man said quite plainly that the Open Door had been started with the prevailing wisdom that it would take many months, even years before the program yielded any positive results. writerfella had taken his training and run with it, selling to a major only after six weeks. First, writerfella had to aver that he was not a government 'mole,' that he was in their program completely for his own sake, and that he would abide by all Guild rules and regulations affecting full-fledged Guild members, though only an apprentice. The Guild's Board of Directors then met, passed emergency rules and regulations allowing apprentices to work, and the crisis was ended.
It long was felt by writerfella that the ensuing debacle never was forgotten by the Guild nor by the rest of the industry...
All Best
Russ Bates