Top 15 Black Folks
Ah, the 70's... when depictions of minorities on prime time television tended to range from the offensive to the nonexistent. Sure we had Good Times, The Jeffersons and Sanford and Son. Christie Love was a much-appreciated brief dark spot in the mostly white medium of prime-time private dicks and that Rerun from What’s Happening sure can dance, right?
Even though the 70's was the decade of "black is beautiful," characters of color tended to fall into only a small selection of categories: the street smart yet benevolent hustler; the sassy sista, comic relief (usually dancing or skating around), the wise old sage, or the henchman. With the announcement of the new Charlie's Angels show and the revelation that one of the Angels will be black (yeah!) I thought this might be a good time to look back at the black characters that appeared on the original show. So without further adieu I give you my Top 15 Black Folks from Charlie’s Angels:
BACKGROUND CHECKTownsend Agency original article by Greg February 28, 2011
#15 BLACKIEEpisode: Angels of the Deep Occupation: Drug thug Clichéd Minority Classification: Henchman Moment of Glory: Getting beat down by Kelly Friend or Foe: Foe Mortality: Alive but water damaged He's named Blackie and he works for a drug dealer. That's about all you need to know. This guy was sent out to nab Kelly in a parking garage and instead got his ass beat with a small, empty purse before running away in terror. Later he and his cohorts drive into the ocean when overcome with terror at the sight of Julie holding a gun. Can you exchange him down at the Henchman Agency for a better one?
#14 NIGEL BULLARDEpisodes: The Big Tap-Out, Counterfeit Angels, One Love...Two Angels Occupation: Computrex employee / TV station guy Clichéd Minority Classification: Sage Friend or Foe: Friend Mortality: Alive
With 3 episodes Nigel Bullard was the most recurring black actor on Charlie's Angels, although he was only called "Employee" for his first appearance so you tell me how important he was. He tended to appear in scenes just long enough to impart wisdom and then disappear just as fast, 2 times out of 3 serving as a factotum for Angels in search of information.
#13 DAVID PEARLEpisodes: Angels on the Run Occupation: Thug Clichéd Minority Classification: Henchman Friend or Foe: Foe Mortality: Alive This guy appeared pretty prominently throughout his episode but there's not much to say about him since he didn't have much to say either! He was apparently kept around just to do the heavy lifting that his Asian partner apparently could not handle. Then his career was ended rather embarrassingly when Bosley dressed as a hick farmer pulled a gun on him... bet that was not exactly the story he told his cellmates. But at least his character got a first and last name! That's something, right?
#12 ELENAEpisodes: Nips and Tucks Occupation: Nurse Clichéd Minority Classification: Wise old sage Moment of glory: Startling Tiffany, postmortem Friend or Foe: Friend Mortality: Dead Elena was a wise old sage... wise enough to figure out the bad guys' operation yet apparently not wise enough to know when to shut her mouth. She ended up getting hit over the head and stuffed in a closet until Tiffany was mildly surprised to find her corpse. Not so smart now, huh?
#11 KELLY'S DOCTOREpisode: To Kill an Angel Occupation: Doctor Clichéd Minority Classification: Wise old sage Friend or Foe: Friend Mortality: Alive He (apparently) saved Kelly's life the first time she got shot in the head, but does not appear in the credits! Actually we don't know for a fact that he saved her life, Jill and Sabrina just started talking to the first doctor they saw. Anyway, having her life saved early in her tenure by a black man apparently made Kelly the Angel most likely to interact with black characters for the rest of the series, even going as far as to learn to speak Jive just in case it would ever come in handy!
#10 SAUNDRA SHARPE (HILDA/MISS JAMES)Episodes: Angels in The Backfield, Angel's Child Occupation: Football player, Attorney Clichéd Minority Classification: Hilda is sorta Sassy Sista and Miss James is sorta wise old sage. Friend or Foe: Hilda is a foe. Miss James is a friend to Kelly but a foe to logic or common sense (handing an abused kid over to a person who routinely gets shot at and home-invaded suggests a lack of good judgment). Mortality: Both alive, but I bet Hilda is an ol drunk.
She’s the black Nancy Fox! Saundra Sharpe is the only female black actress to make 2 appearances on the show so she gets the number 10 spot even if her characters (Hilda, a football player for Miss Julia Smyth with a Y; and Miss James, some sort of social worker lawyer) were not that memorable or important to the plot. She also gets extra points for being a co-worker of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince over on CBS' Wonder Woman for half a season.
#9 BACKFIELD GOONEpisode: Er.. Angels in The Backfield Occupation: Thief Clichéd minority Classification: Henchman, silent cannon fodder Mortality: Alive, but shot in the arm. I guess it’s possible he could have bled out. Friend or Foe: Foe turned victim! Poor guy. He got no dialogue and ended up being shot by Sabrina while trying to rob a stadium of concert receipts - and wasn't even mentioned in the credits! I included him because he was the first (but not last) brother shot by Sabrina and I thought he kinda looked like Georg Stanford Brown, who, by the way, directed this episode.
#8 JAMMEREpisode: Taxi Angels Occupation: Street florist / aspiring roller derby star Clichéd Minority Classification: Jovial rolling/dancing negro Friend or Foe: Friend Mortality: Alive Ugg jovial black folks on roller skates. Reminds me of season one Tootie from The Facts Of Life. Wonder Woman did something similar with skateboards. Why the Bionic Woman didn’t put a brother on ice skates and name him Slicer or something, we may never know. Plus I love me some Kim Fields. Anyway, this dude's entire life seems to be a T-birds audition. He's rolling across the street almost getting hit by cars, rolling on the ground after an explosion, rolling all over the damn place. His name was Jammer - what was he gonna be, a nuclear physicist?
#7 JIP (SCATMAN CROTHERS)Episode: Angels In Vegas Occupation: Dean Martin's sidekick Clichéd Minority Classification: Wise old sage Friend or Foe: Friend Mortality: Dead!
Poor Scatman Crothers character Jip got…gyped! First off he gets stuck playing the role Morgan Freeman usually plays to the leading man nowadays and to make matters worse he gets run over by a car AND later killed in the hospital by freakin Darren from Bewitched. And not even the original Darren Dick York, but smarmy replacement Darren, Dick Freakin Sargent! Right after this he played the same role in The Shining and got axed to death by Jack Nickolson so there is no justice for Jip.
#6 COUNTERFEIT GOONEpisode: Counterfeit Angels Occupation: Security guard/goon/cannon fodder Clichéd Minority Classification: Henchman, silent cannon fodder Friend or Foe: Foe Mortality: Probably dead He didn’t have a name, he didn’t even get a credit on IMDB but the fake security guard/goon who shows up in the last 5 minutes of the show only to be blown away by Kelly will be honored here! And, of course, they don't even tell us if he died. Either way we know he is not the only black guy to get shot by an Angel (see # 9). The fact that 2 of the episodes directed by Georg Stanford Brown (the black guy from The Rookies) feature Angels shooting black bad guys might not mean anything, but I like to think it does.
#5 CANDYEpisode: Night Of The Strangler Occupation: Model, snitch Clichéd Minority Classification: Sassy Sista Moment of Glory: Surviving ragdoll strangulation after giving Kelly the brushoff Friend or Foe: Friend Mortality: Injured, but living
She is the first Sassy sista to appear on Charlie's Angels and honey she’s fittin to tell Kelly everyone's business. Surprisingly she's not a prostitute but a fashion model, though in the grand scheme of this show, really what's the difference? Candy takes a while to warm to Kelly but once she does girlfriend can’t stop runnin her mouth. Too bad this makes her the target of the ragdoll strangler. Lucky Kelly came along or Candy might not have made it out alive. She wasn’t lookin so sassy after her attack.
Age: 21 Episode: Angels on the Run Occupation: Mechanic / clever banterer Clichéd Minority Classification: Slick yet benevolent hustler Friend or Foe: Friend to Kris, ambivalent toward Bri. Moment of Glory: Bantering with Kris and giving her info about a suspect. Mortality: Alive but covered with motor oil.
What can you say about Black Jack that the show didn’t cover in the dialogue? He’s a card!.. and he’s 21! He also was sorta a gossip telling all of Larry Cantrelle's sexual exploits to Kris and Bri upon meeting them! What about the code, man, the code! He was kinda cute even though he hadn’t seen the age 21 since Woodstock, big ol liar. I mean what a stupid nickname. They call you that for a year? Then what?
Episode: Little Angels of the Night Occupation: The Oldest (of course) Clichéd Minority Classification: Sassy Sista Moment of Glory: Cussing out Freddie and coining the phrase Pizza Creep Mortality: Alive but pissed off Friend or foe: Friend, although she was starting to get on Sabrina’s nerves
Melanie supports all the 70’s and Angels cliché’s depiction of black women by being both sassy and an ol hooker. Although to be fair she was a high priced hooker and her boss did seem to indicate that the job was glamorous. Melanie had beef with Freddie the Pizza delivery guy / red herring serial killer. She was convinced he was the killer and told the angels as much while calling him a Pizza Creep. She ended up being wrong about the former but kinda had a point with the latter. She bucks the trend of black characters dying or being injured although she does have her pizza rudely thrown on the floor by Freddie.
#2 HERBERT BRUBAKER III
Episode: Sammy Davis, Jr. Kidnap Caper Occupation: Liquor store owner / Sammy Davis, Jr. Clichéd Minority Depiction: 2! The dancing comic relief AND the gimmick big name guest star! Friend or Foe: Sammy's a friend. Herb's a pain in the ass. Moment of Glory: Thinking Kelly was “some Irish person” because her name was…Kelly! Mortality: Alive... but not anymore! (sorry)
Of course Sammy Davis, Jr. would be on this list and was almost number one except no one here at the TA expected Jo Jo (from the downtown side) to win our hearts like he has over the years. Still Sammy Davis playing dual roles was nothing to sneeze at, even if it was a gimmick episode that has been done to death. The problem with having Sammy Davis Jr. play 2 main guest stars is it takes all the screen time away from the Angels, but at least he got his wife involved in one of the chase scenes so there is that.
#1 JOJO - FROM THE DOWNTOWN SIDE
Episode: Angels On Ice Occupation: Apparently unemployed but probably some sort of pimp Clichéd Minority Classification: The slick hustler, but more benevolent than most. Moment of Glory: Tailing Arabs in the big black limo with Kelly riding on back of his motorcycle. Deputized?: I consider JoJo an honorary black male Angel because on instructions from an Angel he performed a standard Angel duty (tailing a limo) and was paid to do so. Mortality: Alive, happy and on his way to the weed man to get a 20 sack.
Even though I have never heard of “the downtown side” (ya know brothas are usually from the Eastside or Westside but I guess “down” can be a side) JoJo was the best black guy ever on the show. Not only did he pause his game of riding in circles on his motorcycle in the parking lot to help an Angel in need, he left his boi sitting there on the other bike with only a black power sign and he was out. Hey JoJo I guess Bros Before Hos doesn’t apply to an Angel. And it never should. If you add to that the fact that he actually aided an Angel tailing a bad guy in an action scene and got paid 20 bucks from a Jive-talking Kelly for his trouble I would say JoJo comes off a not only a playa playa but sorta sweet at the same time. He also gets extra credit for giving Kelly an opportunity to break out her street credentials.
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