I love autobiographies. Especially ones from the entertainment industry where the artists tell their own struggles. My favorites are: Grace Slick (“Somebody to Love”- freakin unbelievable), Quincy Jones (“Q”, the end isn’t good but the rest is brilliant and some of the best advice you’ll ever get), Jane Fonda (surprisingly, she’s a badass), Fred Wesley (“Hit Me Fred” — a story of life in the James Brown band). I feel so close to these entertainers, and the stories give you a real idea of how hard the business is, and how you can succeed.
One of my all-time favorite memoirs is by the comedian Bernie Mac, who passed away this Saturday from complications from pneumonia. He had a hard life, encountering poverty, racism and many people who thought trying to make a career out of comedy was nutso.
Bernie’s secret to success was his mom, Mary McCullough. She instilled in him a very strong work ethic and a belief that you should do what you love. She made no bones about the fact that ultimately it’s YOUR responsibility to get things done.
When Bernie told his mom that he wanted to be a comedian, she gave her full support and said “Maybe you never cry again”.
Here’s B telling the story to Tavis Smiley.
I loved seeing Bernie in movies, in The Bernie Mac Show and on Comedy Jams, but my favorite movie of his is “Ocean’s Eleven”. He does this whole skit where he freaks out a used car salesman by talking about hand lotion and then touching his hand. Brilliant. Also the movie is such a “movie movie”, it’s fun, moves quick and has a killer soundtrack.
Ocean’s Eleven is one of my favorite soundtracks of all time. The songs range from dreamy trip-hop laced with movie lines, to urban hip-hop from Handsome Boy Modeling School to a Perry Como mambo song that kinda freaks everyone out (but is supercool). And then this unbelievably funky Elvis remix!!
When I read “Maybe You Never Cry Again”, Bernie Mac’s autobiography, I was so impressed by things his mom would say that I kept some quotes. Mary McCullough (his mom) is funny and wise. Check it out.
“If you need a helping hand, look at the end of your arm.”
“Sometimes when you lose you win. Failure is life’s way of preparing you for success.”
– Mary McCullough
“If you mess something up, remember who got you there. Don’t be pointing fingers, even if finger-pointing is called for. Only one you got to blame is your own self.”
-The great philosopher Mary McCullough
We will miss Bernie Mac. Here is a last quote from him. The best part is he really means it… You rock Bernie.
“If you have a dream, well it’s your business. You don’t have to make other people understand it, and you probably shouldn’t even try. All you have to do is make it happen.”
Join Michele Myers for Nite Life every Friday Night at 9pm. This Friday at 12AM, she’ll do this Midnight Album Spotlight on the Ocean’s Eleven soundtrack and Bernie Mac. She also produces KEXP Documentaries — series of short radio features including Punk Evolution, Masters of Turntablism, The Heart of Soul, Music Revolutionaries and Death, Drugs and Rock n Roll.