THE MAIN EVENT. 50 Shades of Johnny and Going Underground With the WGN Cast!By Patrice Marjorie | June 13, 2016 | Dish!, Entertainment
L.A. contributor Patrice Marjorie goes from birthday party to the underground railroad . . . all in a few weekends!
New Edition vet Johnny Gill bedazzled guests at a private Bel-Air mansion for a “50 Shades Of Johnny” themed soiree as he celebrated his big 5-0 milestone. And of course, the DivaGals were there.
With champagne flowing, an open bar, hors d’oeuvres passing and buffet style dinner served, guests were in for an amazing and aesthetically gorgeous evening in Beverly Hills, Calif., while being serenaded by live performances from Eric Benet, Kenny Lattimore and Johnny Osbourne.
In true performers fashion, Johnny Gill also took the stage to belt his classic “My, My, My” shortly before many of his musical guests and close friends gathered on the stage and other guests joined in to sing “Happy Birthday,” Stevie Wonder version!
While Bobby Brown was noticeably missing, it was great to see Johnny’s other New Edition members, Ronnie DeVoe, Michael Bivins and Ricky Bell in attendance.
Many on the private guest list included – list names in the entertainment and music industry: Cedric The Entertainer, Smokey Robinson, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Debbie Allen, to name a few. Sheryl Lee recalled meeting Johnny years ago. She was introduced to New Edition through her then-program called “The LA City Toy Drive,” which she started with Denzel Washington and his wife Pauletta, in an effort to “annually discover young groups of artists to debut to the world.”
Currently filming in LA is the New Edition miniseries, and the kid actors who are playing young New Edition showed up in support for Johnny.
Some other familiar faces on the scene were Cynthia Bailey and NeNe Leakes from Atlanta Housewives, and Nicole Murphy, ex-wife of Johnny Gill’s bestie Eddie Murphy.
On the red carpet, Cedric The Entertainer told me, “Johnny is one of the most prolific singers of our time.” Indeed, a true statement and a testament to the sincere friendships Johnny has sustained over the years. Happy Birthday Johnny Gill! See more pics on our DivaGals FB page!
Just a couple of weeks later, I attended a screening for WGN America’s hit original series Underground, featured at website Deadline Awardsline Screening Series in Los Angeles.
At the exclusive screening, we watched the pilot episode of the series. Following the lives of a group of courageous and heroic slaves — men and women — they decide to navigate their way to and through the Underground Railroad to freedom.
After the screening, the stars of the show as well as the creators, Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, sat in on a panel discussion in front of the audience moderated by Deadline’s senior editor Dominic Patten.
Despite backlash from critics who feared Underground would be “just another Negro slave project” that does more harm to the progression of Black culture, Misha and Joe, who both spent time studying slave narratives at the Library of Congress, have succeeded in defying the odds. “I think television is finally catching up. This story should have been told 50 years ago,” says Joe.
What makes Underground different is that it bridges the gap between the history of slaves in America and American History, both of which go hand in hand but are often told as separate stories. “What we’ve been taught has been misappropriated in a very specific way,” said series star Aldis Hodge, who plays Noah, an enslaved man who leads the escape.
In the past, American heroes learned and read about were seldom the slaves who risked their lives to reach freedom in this country. Underground has now offered the world a different narrative, challenging everyone to include these fearless men and women for their heroic efforts despite the obvious risk, ridicule and danger in front of them.
Underground has been renewed for a second season to debut in 2017, and I can’t wait!