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June Baldwin

Television executive June M. Baldwin graduated from Stanford University with her B.A. degree in psychology. She went on to receive her J.D. degree from Harvard Law School in 1975.

Following graduation, Baldwin served as clerk for the jurist Luther Swygert on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, Illinois. She then moved to Los Angeles and was hired as an executive for NBC, where she was responsible for, among other things, the day-to-day business transactions for The Tonight Show and Carson Productions, the television and motion picture production company founded by the late talk show host, Johnny Carson. At NBC, Baldwin became one of the first African Americans to enter the executive ranks of the entertainment industry. She then worked for Norman Lear, Quincy Jones and Aaron Spelling, where she held the position of head of business affairs at their independent production companies.

Baldwin went on to be hired as vice president of business affairs at United Paramount Network. She also worked in a similar capacity at Columbia TriStar Television from 2000 until 2001. In 2004, Baldwin was hired as director of business and legal affairs at KCET, the nation’s largest independent public television station. Then, in 2010, she was promoted to vice president and general counsel of KCET. Baldwin has negotiated a variety of production deals, and has worked on such critically acclaimed productions as Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State, A Place of Our Own, Los Ninos En Su Casa, Wired Science, and SoCal Connected.  In addition, for seven years she managed business and legal affairs for the PBS late-night talk show Tavis Smiley, and the primetime series Tavis Smiley Reports.

Baldwin has served on numerous boards, including the Hollywood Women's Political Committee, the Hollywood Policy Center, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the California Women's Law Center, Planned Parenthood, the Archer School for Girls, Women in Film, Women in Film Foundation, Artists For A New South Africa, The Coalition for At-Risk Youth, NBC Credit Union, the Minority Health Institute, and the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association.

June M. Baldwin was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 18, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.310

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/20/2013

Last Name

Baldwin

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

Michelle

Schools

St. Madeline Sophie

Ancilla Domini Academy

Shipley School For Girls

Stanford University

Harvard Law School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

June

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

BAL04

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere

Favorite Quote

Everything In Its Time

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

10/4/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Vegetables

Short Description

Television executive June Baldwin (1950 - ) became one of the first African Americans to enter the executive ranks of the entertainment industry when she worked for NBC.

Employment

KCET

Columbia Tri Star TV

United Paramount Network

Spelling Television

Quincy Jones/David Salzman Entertainment

NBC

Favorite Color

Blue, Greens

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of June Baldwin's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - June Baldwin lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - June Baldwin describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - June Baldwin talks about her mother's education and profession

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - June Baldwin describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - June Baldwin talks about her father's young adult years

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - June Baldwin describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - June Baldwin talks about her parents' civic activities

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - June Baldwin describes her early household

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - June Baldwin describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - June Baldwin describes the sights and sounds of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - June Baldwin remembers the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - June Baldwin talks about her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - June Baldwin recalls her decision to attend the Shipley School for Girls in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - June Baldwin describes her early interest in acting

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - June Baldwin remembers race relations at the Shipley School for Girls

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - June Baldwin describes her religious experiences at the Shipley School for Girls

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - June Baldwin talks about the prominent figures who inspired her

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - June Baldwin recalls developing her racial identity during the late 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - June Baldwin remembers her teachers and guidance counselor at the Shipley School for Girls

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - June Baldwin reflects upon her time at the Shipley School for Girls in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - June Baldwin talks about creating a scholarship at the Shipley School for Girls

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - June Baldwin recalls attending the March on Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - June Baldwin remembers studying psychology at Stanford University in Stanford, California

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - June Baldwin talks about Eldridge Cleaver and Timothy Leary

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - June Baldwin recalls visiting the Black Panther Party in Algeria

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - June Baldwin talks about the Black Power movement at Stanford University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - June Baldwin recalls her decision to attend Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - June Baldwin remembers her classmates and experiences at Harvard Law School

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - June Baldwin remembers her challenges at Harvard Law School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - June Baldwin recalls clerking for Judge Luther M. Swygert

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - June Baldwin talks about her early legal career

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - June Baldwin describes her experiences at Morrison and Foerster LLP

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - June Baldwin recalls working for Silverberg, Rosen, Leon and Behr

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - June Baldwin talks about joining Women In Film

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - June Baldwin recalls her entry into the entertainment industry

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - June Baldwin describes her initial experiences at NBC

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - June Baldwin recalls working on 'The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson'

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - June Baldwin remembers the black television executives in the 1980s

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - June Baldwin talks about Michael Jackson's award at the NAACP Image Awards

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - June Baldwin recalls her proudest moments as a television business affairs executive

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - June Baldwin remembers working at Norman Lear's company, Act III Productions

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - June Baldwin talks about working for Quincy Jones Productions, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - June Baldwin recalls working with Aaron Spelling Productions

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - June Baldwin remembers her music publishing venture with George Butler

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - June Baldwin recalls working at United Paramount Network

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - June Baldwin describes her work at Columbia TriStar Television

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - June Baldwin describes her position at KCET in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - June Baldwin talks about the merger of KCET and Link TV

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - June Baldwin describes the growth and changes at KCETLink

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - June Baldwin talks about her board memberships, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - June Baldwin talks about her board memberships, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - June Baldwin shares her plans for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - June Baldwin reflects upon her career

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - June Baldwin reflects upon her legacy in the entertainment industry

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - June Baldwin talks about her dating life

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - June Baldwin describes her family

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - June Baldwin talks about her international travels

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - June Baldwin describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - June Baldwin narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

1$6

DATitle
June Baldwin reflects upon her time at the Shipley School for Girls in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
June Baldwin recalls visiting the Black Panther Party in Algeria
Transcript
Well, tell us the Shipley [Shipley School for Girls; The Shipley School, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania] story.$$So obviously Shipley was a seminal event in my life. And for all of the, the challenges, I developed some wonderful friendships with a few girls there who are lifelong friends, like sisters. And they saw me; they--it didn't matter to them that I came from a different background or that I was black. And so they were my rocks, and we're still very, very close today. Also in 2003, Shipley gave me the distinguished alumna award, which was a huge shock to me because I had not had much contact at all with the school since I left. And I had an opportunity to tell my story, which I had never done. But I wanted them to know that I loved and appreciated the education that I got and that I saw it as a very positive thing. It was very difficult for my mother [Audrey McLaughlin Harris] to decide to send to me to Shipley. That was not something that we did in the black culture. You don't send your daughter off during her adolescent years to be part of a social experiment. And I'd never really realized how much that had weighed on my mother because, of course, that shaped the rest of my life. So they gave me the award, which was very lovely, and they honored and acknowledged my mother. And the school official said, "I don't think I would have had the courage to send my child away like that." And so I was very happy because although it's been my journey it was also my mother's. So fast forward, I ran into a Shipley classmate at Stanford [Stanford University, Stanford, California] whom I hadn't even been friends with at Stanford. Again, when I left Shipley I sort of didn't wanna have anything to do with Shipley. Fast forward, I run into this classmate, and she's a, a writer for The New York Times and she said, "I ha- it's great to see you. I have an idea and I'm wondering if you'd be interested." And the idea was to create a school sca- a class scholarship for an underprivileged girl of color. And she wondered if I thought that was a good idea, and if I would work with her on it. And I said oh, I think that's a great idea. So last May we went to our forty-fifth reunion, and we proposed this to the class, and that is what we're going to do. And sh- they have said that it was because of knowing me, and it was a time when their lives changed that that inspired her to want to do this scholarship. And so it just was so overwhelming for me to come out of the blue after all these years. Because I think when you make personal sacrifices--I mean I did it willingly and gratefully. I appreciated the opportunity. But at some point when you look at where race relations are today, and you say was it worth it--you know, was it worth it? And so this validates that. It was worth it. I mean, I decided it was worth it, but this is a, a, a really gratifying validation.$Now who was in the Panther [Black Panther Party] entourage, I guess, in Algeria besides Eldridge Cleaver?$$The names of the other people I don't know. I don't remember. What--I was very excited to be there. Eldridge Cleaver was extremely nice to me, very respectful. As I said he wanted to--me to stay on because I spoke French and be a translator. And I think as a result of my Shipley [Shipley School for Girls; The Shipley School, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania] experience and my own sense of identity, I had the big Afro, very much wanting to claim my identity, and wanting to have a quote, unquote revolutionary experience. I was a big supporter of the Panthers. You know, they were doing wonderful work; they were feeding children; they were educating children; they were providing healthcare services. I mean, they were being portrayed as terrorists, but they were doing many wonderful things. And they were just really seeking social justice for a lot of oppression that was going on. And so I wrote my mother [Audrey McLaughlin Harris]. I also was still interested in being the actor, so I had tried out for 'Hair' ['Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical']. There was a--in Marseille [France]. And I was finished with school [Stanford University, Stanford, California], and so I was a quarter ahead of myself because I had gone a year straight through. And I didn't wanna graduate early, so I wanted to stay in Europe for another three months. And I thought I'll try out for this play. Maybe I'll get this role. And then I went to Algeria and was asked to be the translator and it--and at first really wanted to do that. And so I said to him, "Well, you'll have to write my mother." And so he did, and my mother still has the letter in pale blue stationary with the Black Panther insignia that jumps out at you. And he wrote her a very nice letter asking permission for me to stay on for a couple of months and be a translator. And by day three, there used to be--everyone would be upstairs in a room and listening, talking, and the--there were concentric circles and I was in the second circle. And someone got up and went down to do kitchen duty, and I--who was in the first circle--and so I moved up to be in the first circle. And then the person came back, and I wasn't aware the person was going to come back, and so I said, "Oh, I'm sorry I took your seat." And he said, "Oh no, sister, you didn't take my seat; it's the people's seat." And in that moment I realized, hm, everything is communal here, and there weren't--there weren't any women. I wasn't seeing any women. And all of a sudden I realized, hm, I might become communal property (laughter) if I didn't affiliate or associate with someone. And of course that wasn't what I was wanting. You know, I was wanting to have this political experience. And so I decided that I didn't wanna stay, and so I did not. Meanwhile, I would have come--had I gone back--I would have still gone back to France and then come back. In the meantime, my mother got the letter, and she and my brother [William James] were quite horrified. And they admired the Panthers. It's not that they, they didn't, but they didn't want their daughter there in Algeria with--$$Now this is--$$--Eldridge Cleaver.$$I mean 'Soul on Ice' [Eldridge Cleaver] had been published in 1960 [1968]--well, I know I read it in '67 [1967], so it was already out. And he was--he made some remarks about women that weren't really very--$$Misogynistic.$$--encouraging.$$Yes, yes, but that's what I'm saying. That's what was so fascinating, because he was not like that at all with me. He was just this amazing gentleman and intelligent and just lovely, lovely. Now I was only there three days, but that was my experience. And when my mother decided--my brother was, "You tell her to get on a plane and come home." And my mother was like, "No, no, I'm just going to use the truth and, and add something." And so she told me she was going to have to have surgery, and she really would like me to be there for the surgery and so would I mind coming home. I still hadn't heard about the play. And she said, "And if you get in the play, then I'll send you back;" so I went home. And she was having surgery, but it wasn't, you know, as serious as I had thought (laughter), and they just wanted to get me home so. And then I did not get into the play so I did not go back.$$Now did you--did you happen to talk to Timothy Leary?$$No, I did not.$$Or see him even?$$I got a glimpse, but no.$$And was he (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) They, they had him in a room. You know, we were staying at a hotel, and we would come over and be there during the days and the evenings.

Robert Guillaume

Actor Robert Guillaume was born Robert P. Williams on November 30, 1927, in St. Louis, Missouri. Raised by his grandmother, Jeanette Williams, Guillaume attended St. Nicholas School where, as a promising singer, he idolized Paul Robeson, Roland Hayes, and William Warfield. Expelled by St. Joseph’s High School, Guillaume joined the United States Army in 1945, where he served until 1947. Guillaume eventually returned to St. Joseph’s High School, from which he graduated; from there he went on to work as a postal clerk and a streetcar driver while attending St. Louis University and Washington University, where he majored in music. In 1957, Guillaume won a nine week classical music summer scholarship to Aspen, Colorado; there he met Russell and Rowena Jelliffe who invited him to join Karamu House Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio.

At Karamu Guillaume changed his name from Williams to Guillaume (French for Williams), received his first acting lessons, and befriended Ron O’Neal, who would later cast him in Superfly TNT in 1973. In 1959, Guillaume toured Europe with Quincy Jones, Clark Terry, and Harold Nicholas in the musical Free and Easy. Spending most of the 1960s and 1970s in musical theatre and drama, Guillaume appeared in Kwamina in 1961; Fly Blackbird in 1962; Tambourines to Glory in 1963; Golden Boy in 1965; Porgy and Bess from 1965 through 1972; Purlie in 1971; Othello in 1973; and Guys and Dolls in 1976. In 1968 Guillaume made his first television appearance on Diahann Carroll’s Julia; many programs followed, but Guillaume achieved stardom when he won an Emmy Award playing the acerbic butler, Benson, on ABC’s hit sitcom, Soap in 1979. Guillaume reprised the role of Benson DuBois in his own sitcom, Benson, which ran from 1979 through 1986. Nominated five times for best actor in a comedy series, Guillaume won another Emmy in 1985, and appeared in The Robert Guillaume Show, the first comedy about an interracial family, in 1989. In 1994, Guillaume became the voice of Rafiki, the mandrill sage in Walt Disney’s The Lion King, and its sequels. That same year, Guillaume played Gleason Golightly in Derrick Bell’s Space Traders.

Producer and director of John Grin’s Christmas in 1988, Guillaume also produced The Kid with the 2000 I.Q in 1983. After suffering a stroke in his dressing room while working on the sitcom Sports Night, Guillaume made history by returning to the show; he went on to appear in more films, including Big Fish in 2003, Tough Like Wearing Dreadlocks in 2005, and Jack Satin, also in 2005.

Guillaume passed away on October 24, 2017 at age 89.

Accession Number

A2005.114

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/29/2005

Last Name

Guillaume

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

St. Joseph’s Elementary

St. Nicholas Grade School

Saint Louis University

Washington University in St Louis

First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

St. Louis

HM ID

GUI03

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

11/30/1927

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chinese Food

Death Date

10/24/2017

Short Description

Actor Robert Guillaume (1927 - 2017 ) was a two time Emmy Award winner, and the star of the first television show to feature an interracial couple, entitled The Robert Guillaume Show.

Employment

Witt/Thomas Productions

U.S. Army

U.S. Postal Service

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
0,0:464,2:9480,56:11648,74:24562,146:32790,177:37260,212:42775,255:43050,261:46431,283:46786,289:47212,297:47567,303:47851,308:49471,319:50605,338:62091,455:67030,465:67758,481:71084,514:71660,522:76867,581:77524,591:77816,596:81284,605:85082,646:90882,738:91258,743:97362,772:100940,787:101375,822:101810,828:119580,930:120340,940:121385,953:122335,964:126740,973:134615,1031:135017,1038:135352,1044:135955,1054:136223,1059:138836,1157:141784,1288:146480,1368:151180,1423:160947,1581:161739,1595:162927,1611:172854,1665:173866,1677:176020,1682:182220,1740:183078,1752:183390,1757:184092,1768:184638,1784:195659,1950:200015,2014:200862,2023:204440,2030:205004,2037:210450,2080:210920,2086:212440,2102$0,0:13464,192:16770,230:17170,236:24650,310:25000,317:28896,334:29340,342:33893,356:36430,367:36806,372:37370,380:38310,391:38968,400:39532,413:42930,429:45374,467:45938,474:48414,484:49618,501:50392,512:65196,623:65588,628:69018,675:70390,700:70782,705:77580,742:78045,749:78696,757:79347,765:84384,805:91798,848:92618,859:93438,874:94996,900:95488,907:99645,928:100060,934:101471,967:106933,979:108025,993:109026,1006:111310,1016:111690,1022:114125,1042:118096,1125:129412,1299:133490,1322:134342,1330:142582,1420:146845,1513:147193,1518:147976,1530:149542,1567:154990,1605:158366,1631:158796,1637:165180,1712:173789,1793:180364,1838:180882,1846:181252,1852:184750,1884:185140,1890:190800,1943:191600,1953:195252,1981:200716,2001:201373,2013:202249,2024:202614,2030:203125,2089:217780,2141
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert Guillaume's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert Guillaume lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert Guillaume describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert Guillaume relates how he was raised by his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert Guillaume talks about not knowing his father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert Guillaume describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert Guillaume describes his childhood neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert Guillaume describes the sights, sounds and smells of his neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert Guillaume recalls the streetcar system in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert Guillaume describes segregation in St. Louis during his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert Guillaume describes his childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert Guillaume describes attending St. Nicholas Grade School in St. Louis

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert Guillaume recalls his grandmother's work as a housekeeper

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert Guillaume recalls the Veiled Prophet Parade in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert Guillaume recalls racist incidents from his childhood in St. Louis

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert Guillaume recalls the nightlife of St. Louis and East St. Louis

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert Guillaume reflects upon the black community's reactions to racial injustice

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert Guillaume reflects upon his reactions to racial injustice

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert Guillaume recalls his childhood talent for singing

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert Guillaume describes prejudice based on skin color among African Americans

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert Guillaume recalls being expelled from two high schools in St. Louis

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert Guillaume describes his influences growing up

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert Guillaume describes his favorite high school teacher

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert Guillaume remembers applying to work for the Missouri Pacific Railroad

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert Guillaume describes traveling home after quitting the Missouri Pacific Railroad

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert Guillaume recalls joining the U.S. Army in 1945

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert Guillaume describes his duties in the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert Guillaume describes his battles with authority in the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert Guillaume describes his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert Guillaume recalls returning to St. Joseph's School in St. Louis

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert Guillaume recalls his 1947 graduation from St. Joseph's School

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert Guillaume describes his women's clothing shop in St. Louis

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert Guillaume describes his interest in singing

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert Guillaume describes his early jobs in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert Guillaume reflects upon the impact of his grandmother's death

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert Guillaume recalls his scheme for selling hair products

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Robert Guillaume describes his first marriage to Marlene Scott

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Robert Guillaume recalls attending St. Louis University

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Robert Guillaume describes majoring in music at Washington University in St. Louis

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Robert Guillaume recalls joining Karamu House in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Robert Guillaume describes the artists he worked with at Karamu House

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Robert Guillaume recalls moving to New York to perform in the musical 'Free and Easy'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Robert Guillaume remembers his early acting career in New York City

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Robert Guillaume describes why he changed his name

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Robert Guillaume describes how he developed his character in 'Benson'

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Robert Guillaume recalls how he ensured his character on 'Benson' was not derogatory

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Robert Guillaume recalls learning about comedic acting while auditioning for 'Benson'

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Robert Guillaume recalls how he got his start in television acting

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Robert Guillaume describes his passion for acting

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Robert Guillaume describes how the character Benson DuBois changed between 'Soap' and 'Benson'

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Robert Guillaume describes how 'Benson' resonated with viewers

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Robert Guillaume describes the origins of the character Benson DuBois

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Robert Guillaume describes the episode "Lifesaver" of 'Benson'

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Robert Guillaume describes a fan's reaction to the episode "No Sad Songs" on 'Benson'

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Robert Guillaume describes his creative input on the TV show 'Benson'

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Robert Guillaume describes the end of the TV show 'Benson'

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Robert Guillaume reflects upon his favorite roles

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Robert Guillaume describes his role in the TV episode 'Space Traders'

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Robert Guillaume describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Robert Guillaume reflects upon his life

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Robert Guillaume reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Robert Guillaume describes performing in 'The Phantom of the Opera'

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Robert Guillaume describes how he would like to be remembered, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Robert Guillaume describes how he would like to be remembered, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Robert Guillaume reflects upon his family life

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$7

DAStory

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DATitle
Robert Guillaume reflects upon his reactions to racial injustice
Robert Guillaume describes how he developed his character in 'Benson'
Transcript
I wasn't by any means a person who would overtly create problems, and yet there was a part of me that was stubborn and very pugnacious. I saw no reason why I should in any way back down, and I'm glad in a sense that I was not born in the South because I don't think I would have--I don't think I would have lasted. I think I would have been roused out of bed at four o'clock in the morning one morning and strung up on a tree simply because of an inner something that I couldn't control. If you suggested to me that in some way I was inferior, I would fight you to the death on something like that. I wasn't going to go marching anywhere but neither was I--after having grown up in St. Louis [Missouri]. Now if I had grown up in the Deep South, I'm not sure--I'm not really certain that I would have been--I probably would have been as compliant and able to figure out, what the hell can I do here and how should I do it? I might not have had any notions of personal integrity. I might not have had any--I'm trying to be as honest about something like that as I can (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) But then again when you look at some of the things that you've actually did, well in the book ['Guillaume: A Life,' Robert Guillaume and David Ritz] there's a scene where you get in trouble for defending your brother [James Edwards]. Your brother is accused of talking and you defend him, and you get suspended from school, but you still did it anyway. I'm sure you knew there must have been some kind of consequences for that.$$Well I'm saying--I guess what I'm saying is that if I had grown up in the South, I either would have been--I'm allowing for the possibility that what I consider to be my inner core, I'm allowing for the possibility that perhaps it would have been different.$$I hear that, but we don't know. Yeah, we don't know.$$Yeah we don't know.$$But what you did do as a youth, you did stand up when you could and seemed to speak up (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well I was what other kids and people called someone who had a chip on their shoulder. Later called arrogant.$We were talking about acting, yeah, and you were talking about your technique and how you finally relaxed (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yeah well I finally decided--well one thing I decided specifically was I don't have to be a great actor, I don't have to be a great singer, I don't have to be anything but what I want to be. Now what is that? Once I decided on that kind of approach I began to relax, and I began to accept whatever it was I was presenting. It wasn't always as spectacular as I thought it could have been or needed to be in order to be discovered, but I was willing, for the sake of the long run, to wait until I had the strength and the courage to do what I wanted to do, and that time did not arrive until 'Benson.' When I finally decided that I was strong enough, I had courage enough to be funny on my own terms. I was determined that I was not going to do anything that wasn't funny to me. So the whole character of Benson [DuBois] was built on my recreation of people I had known who could make you laugh, and they wouldn't crack a smile, and they didn't mean it necessarily funny, but it was funny coming from them. My brother [James Edwards] was one of those people. My brother used to tease me and my two sisters [Dolores Edwards Maclin and Cleo Edwards Ruffin] unmercifully, and when told to stop by my [maternal] grandmother [Jeannette Williams], he would feign total ignorance of everything, "What, I didn't do nothing?" And he never cracked a smile (laughter). But as I talk about him I smile because I can't say it like he said it. "What, I didn't do nothing, what?" "James, you leave those kids alone in there." "But I ain't doing nothing, what did I do?" And as soon as she was off his case he'd start right back, "Mommy you better make James stop." "I ain't doing nothing to them," and several other people that I knew at the time, older people whom I knew were funny as hell but they never cracked a smile. Their humor was not based on buffoonery what it was based on I don't know but there was a kind of deadpan approach to the humor that worked, and that's what I employed in 'Benson.'