Quincy Jones Is One Bad Mammajamma
I love characters. Having come in contact with so many different personalities over the course of my years in education, I have a distinct predilection for people who are truly unique, the type of people that wear their personas right on their coat sleeves and don’t give a rat’s backside about what anyone else thinks about it. The type of folks that openly embrace what makes them different from everybody else and celebrate and sing themselves as only Walt Whitman could have taught them how. Unfettered by social constraint, they add color to an otherwise often muted world.
So when a friend of mine from my hockey team told me that I needed to read the recent interviews Quincy Jones did with Vulture and GQ magazines, I was all in. Don’t get me wrong- I’m anything but an entertainment world gossip hound. I could care less which celebrity is dating whom and so forth, but what I do appreciate seeing on full vivid display are characters, and oh you better bet that Quincy Jones is a character alright.
Yes, he certainly dishes out some unbelievable tidbits, like claiming that the Beatles were largely talentless hacks, that Michael Jackson was a miserly thief of other people’s material and that Marlon Brando would basically have sex with anyone or even anything (including a not so subtle reference to a mailbox). What stands out for me, however, is not so much what he has to say as how he goes about saying it. And by that I mean, Quincy Jones is gonna tell it like it is because now at the ripe, old age of eighty-five, Quincy Jones just don’t give a damn.
Some of the claims he makes are so outrageous you have to question if they are the delusions of an eight-five year old mind, humorous hyperbole, or simple untruth (he does, after all, claim to have dated Ivanka Trump who is 50 years younger than him), but what has to be vividly clear is Quincy Jones is not hiding anything due to potential repercussions. He’s not afraid Ray Charles is going to do him wrong for saying that he saw Charles shooting up heroin through his testicles after his other arteries had all dried up. He’s not ducking a lawsuit from Prince after telling how the pop superstar once waited in a car to actually run over Michael Jackson after the latter had shown him up at a James Brown show at the Beverly Theater in 1983. He’s not worried about libel claims from Richard Pryor’s family after suggesting that he had slept with Marlon Brando. Quincy Jones, for better or for worse, is going to tell it exactly how he sees it, and maybe, just maybe, that should be a refreshing change of pace in a world more often filled with bs and pretension.
We often say we respect when people are forthright and honest and want them to be so, but the reality is that when we actually encounter someone who is straightforward, balls-to-the-wall honest, we recoil a bit and don’t know what to do with it. After the interviews were published, Jones’s daughters cajoled him into offering up a public apology on Twitter to those he had offended. But why? For speaking his mind? We say we want our public figures to be candid, but do we really? The minute someone like Jones comes along, eighty-five and nothing to lose, willing to share his actual unfiltered perspective, we cut him down for doing so. We expect the false filter produced by self-awareness, and we don’t know what to with someone who refuses to engage in the ruse.
Back when I was in high school, we were reading Homer’s The Odyssey as part of Freshman Honors English. I had a good friend in that class- let’s call him Andrew because, well, his name is Andrew. In any case, we were a studious bunch. I had been taking classes with these same kids since 5th grade, and let me tell you, they took their grades seriously. But we had been overtaxed and overwhelmed in our reading of the epic poem, and even the most earnest and diligent amongst us had fallen significantly behind Book 17, which was where we were assigned to be. During one of our class discussions on the book, this unfortunately became readily apparent to our teacher, Mrs. Coffin, who proceeded to cut off discussion and instead go around the room demanding that everyone tell her just where they really were in their reading. “And please be honest with me,” she said.
As we went around the room, each and every student there lied their asses off to her as they told her they were close to but not quite to Book 17. “Book 15”, “Book 16”, “Book 14”….. One after another we told her what she wanted to hear- that we were only a book or two behind- but knew darn well that we were much further behind than that. Until she got to Andrew…
“Andrew, what Book are you on?”
“I’m on page 15,” he replied in a complete deadpan.
The room broke into uproarious laughter. We couldn’t believe he had had the balls to say that. Mrs. Coffin told him to get out of the room and followed him out to the hallway from which you could still hear her berate him about disrespecting her in front of the class. I couldn’t hear what Andrew said to her, but suddenly she stopped yelling and ushered him back into the room, still notably irritated with him. When I asked Andrew later how he had replied to her, he simply said, “I told her that she asked us to tell her the truth and every single kid in that room had just lied to her except me, but I’m the one getting yelled at out in the hall?”
If you ask people to be honest and straightforward with you, don’t get pissy when they give you what you ask for. If you want to be lied to and placated with someone’s benign generalities, then be real with yourself and acknowledge it. For me, I’ll take characters like Andrew and Quincy Jones any day and ride with the consequences of potentially being offended. Or having Prince run me over with a car.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: in 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com