Whether it’s a class photo from grade 7, or a high school yearbook, I’ve often studied the photos, paused and thought, “She’s pretty. Why didn’t I notice her back then?”
We’re talking mid to late ’70s and the answer is, her family was from Guyana or China.
Flash forwarded to the ’80s when I developed a crush on Terrilyn Joe, then the news anchor on Canada AM and later a local TV star in San Francisco .
I guess that as a child my views were influenced by friends and family. I grew up in Toronto (Scarborough, then a suburb and now part of the GTA) and even 40 years ago it was a multicultural city. My neighbourhood was mostly Caucasian though we did have a lovely neighbour from Guyana, who had married an Italian-Canadian carpenter.
At the time, interracial relationships were not accepted and who knows, that pretty girl from Grade 7 might have been told by her family that she could not date someone outside her race. Go back 2o years and I vividly recall attending church with my parents, on one of my holiday visits, and chatting in the parking lot with an old Irish fellow and his wife. Suddenly, his eyes were drawn to the arrival of a car and out stepped a young Caucasian woman…and a young black man.
“Would you look at that,” the old boy said. “A black man and a white woman…(directing his outrage towards the young man) bastard!”
As the host of a show devoted mostly to the early days of rock and roll I’m often reminded of how much the African American rhythm and blues of the ’40s and early ’50s shaped the music of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley and eventually, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
Mick Jagger wrote “Brown Sugar” about this model/actress, Marsha Hunt. She is the Mother of Jagger’s first child, Karis.
In researching the Rock and Roll Riot, I read biographies of the genre’s pioneers, from Ruth Brown, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (not a nun but a gospel star and a superb guitarist) and Big Mama Thornton…and when we’re taking good lookin’ ladies, how about Lavern Baker, who sang the original Jim Dandy in 1956?
She was smokin’ hot!
The great thing about maturity is that you eventually make up your own mind. Some never do, but I was able to shed the “what would my friends think” idea and discover (better late than never) that hey, beautiful is beautiful no matter the skin colour.
A few months ago, the credit card tap gizmo at a local gas gar didn’t work so I had to go inside to pay. Standing at the register was a gorgeous East Indian teen. Perfect features, stunning eyes. Peer pressure would have prevented the 18-year-old me from regarding a dark-skinned female with such awe and wonder. I was supposed to desire the blonde, blue-eyed cheerleaders and I certainly did.
I don’t feel any pride in coming to this realization. More a sense of sadness that I had been colour blind in reverse.
Anyone know if Terrilyn Joe is available?