Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Deanna Topics: Sparkle, the remake.

I am figuring out one of the hardest parts about no longer having Deanna just a phone call away. All of us are. And, of course, there's just her unmistakable presence and that dazzling smile of hers--but I'm talking about something altogether different. I call them the "Deanna topics."

See, there are things that happen or that you see and the natural order of things involves calling Deanna. Almost always these things are highly, highly unimportant. Nope. Nothing earth-shattering, although if you needed her ear on something earth-shattering she'd surely be there for you with excellent counsel and tender replies. The "Deanna topics" are more. . . .everyday craziness things. . . like. . .like what I wanted to call her about yesterday. 

Now. Let me tell you . . . . the tough thing about these moments when those Deanna topics come up is that it's still been so soon since all of this happened. It sucks because you forget for a split second or two and find yourself already chuckling at her potential response. Because her response was guaranteed to make you laugh.

Every. Single. Time.

So yesterday. Yeah, that. So, even though I'm not much of a television watcher at all, I decided to order the remake of the old school blaxploitation film, Sparkle. You know--the one that was Whitney Houston's last on screen performance. Yeah, that one. 

But I must admit that, to us, Sparkle isn't just "the movie that was Whitney's last movie." It was Sparkle. And see, for us, the original Sparkle from the seventies was the first "bad" movie we ever saw on our own. Back in the day, we had this movie theater in our neighborhood called "The Imperial." I am convinced that they only had three movies that ever showed there:

  1. Sparkle.
  2. Mahogany.
  3. Cleopatra Jones.

I think maybe they had Super Fly and Foxy Brown, too. But hey--you get the picture. The Imperial was all about blaxploitation cinema. And, like, nothing else. At. All.

So, yeah. The Imperial was just a ride on the handlebars of somebody's bike away. Two dollars got you some exposure to slick talk and maybe even a few really bad words. For some crazy reason, though, even though Tounces and Poopdeck didn't let us do too much--The Imperial somehow slipped under the radar and became a frequent thing back in the day.

So yeah. We were good for some blaxploitation on a summer afternoon. Yeah, we were.

Deanna and I were both pretty excited when we saw the trailer for a Sparkle remake. Wait--I take that back. We were intrigued by the possibility of what they could do with it. See, we were remembering the original through the lens of elementary school kids who'd just slipped into one of the only air-conditioned buildings in the 'hood. And also who watched Soul Train on Saturdays and had pop-locking contests under street lights. 

Any time we saw Sparkle, you could count on us having this exchange:

"I'm Sparkle this time! Tap-tap!"

"I'm Sister!"

"Nuh uh! I'M Sparkle! I said it before you!"

"No! You DID not! You said you was Sister!"

"Nuh UUUHHHH!!! Sister was on drugs! I ain't her! I said I was Sparkle!"

"Well. You got to be the other sister today. 'Cause you ain't Sparkle."

"The not cute sister? Nuh UHHH!"

"Uh huhhhh!"

"Hmmmph. Well, I'm just gon' be Cleopatra Jones then. Even though that ain't what we watching." 

And yes. We had no regard for subject-verb agreement when away from the ears of our parents back then. 

Mmmm hmmm. 

So this is why I wanted so badly to talk this over with Deanna once it went off. I needed the after game breakdown and to hear her remind me of some tiny piece of retro minutia that I'd totally forgotten. And I needed to get her take on the whole thing. 

For exactly two seconds, I forgot. Those credits started to roll and I forgot. Looked around for my phone and started wondering whether she'd caught this bootleg remake yet. Then I remembered.


Okay. So listen, y'all. I'm going to need a couple of things from you. I realize that you all represent a world of special and experienced souls -- with a little bit of crazy sprinkled on top. This is what I need when these Deanna topics come up. So please--will you be there for me to chime in with some nonsense when I need it? And some funny reminders and ridiculous tidbits? I know. Nothing will ever replace Deanna's take on Deanna topics. But I do think she'd approve of y'all helping me this way. 

I do. 

The other thing I need--that you're already doing--is that you allow me to keep sharing these funny aspects of life with Deanna. I hope it doesn't seem too morose that I keep talking about all of this so much. I actually don't mean for it to be because nothing about her was that way. She was always light and funny and airy. She loved living and talking and chiming in. Writing about her like this keeps that on the front burner for me--and lets all of you sample from the pot. 

JoLai was awesome last night. I called her up and said, "Dude. A Deanna topic just came up for me and I need you to weigh in." 

"I got you. What's up?"

"I just watched this Sparkle remake. And what the eff? What's up with Satin Struthers being a comedian? A comedian? Wasn't Satin a big time dope dealer, hustling, pimp dude? Maaaaan. And the woman who played Sister couldn't even sing, dude!"

the original "Satin"

I could see her smiling through the phone even though she was all the way in Los Angeles. Smiling because she knew that this was totally a Deanna topic. But we both know that we'll just have to step up on helping each other with the Deanna topics. That or just hold the phone and laugh about what Deanna would say in such a situation. JoLai took a deep breath and jumped right into it. Just as Deanna would do at midnight on a Tuesday.

Man, I was glad that she did.

"Since when does Sparkle'n'em's mama have money? Money? I thought she was a maid! They lived in the GHET-TO, right? What was up with that big azz house and those fly azz clothes? And didn't Stix get beat up at the end?"

Loved. It.

Sparkle (Irene Cara) and Stix (Phillip Michael Thomas) in the original

"I'm saying! And hey--tell me--who in the original said, 'Brotha, you dropped a dime on me!'" 

"Uuuuhh, what?" Now JoLai and I were both laughing. Because we knew that this ignorant retro minutia question on blaxploitation movie lines would only be answerable by Deanna.

Or maybe one of you. 

"Was that from Super Fly?" 

"I thought somebody said that to Stix in the original Sparkle movie. Didn't they?" I wanted to know. Why I did, I do not know. But I did. Then I kept repeating the line with my raspiest, throatiest, most blaxploitation-y voice. "Brothaaaaaa, you dropped a diiiiiime on me!

We exploded in more laughter. 

"Man, this new Sparkle broke all the rules of blaxploitation films," I told her. "Back then, no happy ending was necessary. The pimps were extra pimp-y, the drug addicts extra strung out, and the language . . . oh my gosh!" 

"Yeah, you JIVE TURKEY!"

"Brothaaaaaaa, you dropped a diiiiiiiiime on me, ya dig?" (I just added "ya dig" for good measure.)

And with that, we just laughed and laughed until our sides ached. 

See, this? This is what makes me both love and miss Deanna so much. Stuff like this. But can I just say this even though I have before? You all have been so good to me. You've been patient. You've listened. You've chimed in. You've laughed, too. I love that you held my hand through a rehash of nineteen seventies black cinema even if not one of these movies means a single thing to you. 

Which reminds me--my friend and fellow Grady doctor, Stacie S., told me that she'd never even heard of the movies Sparkle or Mahogany. Now she is significantly younger than me, but still. I put her African-American membership on probation the minute I heard that. I will be quizzing her on Cleopatra Jones, Which Way is Up, and Good Times quotes. If she doesn't score at least 75%, then this probation period could become something more serious. 


Yeah, so that's all I got. I miss my sister today. But in the very, very best kind of way. Does that make sense?

Happy Wednesday.

Now playing--from the original Sparkle--"Giving Him Something He Can Feel." Yes, mom, we were singing these horrible lyrics in the 1970's while in elementary school. Epic fail on your part. Ha ha ha.


  1. I don't know if you ever have the time to read fiction for fun but if you do, I think you might like Michael Chabon's newest book, Telegraph Avenue. There's an over-the-hill blaxplotaition star in it and there's oh, you know, life and death and birth.
    And people dropping dimes. Etc.
    Good morning, Sister Doctor. I love that you are keeping your love alive for your sister and in that way, keeping her alive too. Don't stop.

    1. Awww damn. You had me at "over-the-hill blaxploitation star". Ha. I am so going to get that book. It sounds all kinds of ridiculous. And awesome.

      xo, K.

  2. And guess what? All of you STILL turned out good (Yeah, I meant to say good)!

    1. Two words. Epic. Fail.

      Mom. Did you have any idea what we were up to? Lawd.

  3. I cannot help you here, but I love the term "blaxploitation". I learned something!

  4. Talk, write, cry, do what you need to do for as long as it takes to get through your grief. A few weeks is much to soon for anyone to expect you to have processed such a great loss. I can't help you with the movie trivia, but I can read about your love for your sister, and pray for your family and I am doing that.

  5. Which way is up Sucka!! You done forgot where you came from Leroy!! Which way is Up.

    You gunna give all this up, eight track stereo, color TV in every room. Thats the American Dream! Well aint it.. Superfly

    1. Rolling on the ground at this!!! You are so going to be part of my "Deanna topics" round table, man. For real!

  6. Love you Blog Kim.. Keep it up and sing out loud if you want to! Hee hee!!

  7. I'm feeling this post.

    It took almost two years for me to stop instinctively thinking to call Dad and talk to him about a show or movie we loved. My earliest memories are of us curled on the couch marveling at the Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom nature shows. That phone. I live far away, so we talked and talked on the phone, about anything, but a lot about tv shows and movies. He loved his movies. We are/were the chatty ones in the family, the ones that made everyone else except ourselves wish we would stop talking so much. We found each other's take on life fascinating and hilarious. So, that phone, sometimes I still wish I could talk to him, but I know I can't. It gets easier, but it never goes away, and that's how it should be I guess.

    The funny thing is, I've had two, or is it three dreams of my Dad, and he never speaks in them, he just talks with his eyes. I wake up so confused, happy and sad, and they're not strange dreams, but real ones where he's trying to tell me something more important than words.

    Now I've seen some of your movies about half of them, but clearly I have more to watch.

    You are blessed to have so many others to help keep your sister's voice alive. And you don't have to thank anyone for being patient with you. Anyone who has walked this path knows you go at your own pace, never quite sure what the destination might be.


    1. Ain't that the truth. Thank you for telling me about you dad. He sounds like an amazing soul.

  8. You know, even though I barely know you and didn't know your sister at all, this post speaks to me so loudly. It's just resonant of what sisterhood is -- the particular way we relate to those who grew up with us, the shared humor and all the minutia. I loved this post, and my heart aches for your loss.

    1. It made me so happy to write this down. This was one of my favorite things about her -- these Deanna topics will live forever! I think I have a new blog post recurring theme! :)

  9. Your posts re Deanna are totally NOT morose. In fact they are all tributes to a wonderful diverse woman who was simply a joy to be around. So in honor of Deanna here's one of my favorite lines from Sparkle:

    From Sparkle to Stix: "one brain in this room thinking for two people!" lol. Loved that!!

    1. Yes! You're speaking Sparkle-ese! Yeah, my brothaaaaa! You dropped a dime on me!

  10. I have never seen any of the movies you listed. Go 'head - pull my card!

    I think it's absolutely awesome that you continue to talk about your sister and in no way morose. She was spectacular as was the relationship you all had - that doesn't just go away.

    1. Your card is so on probation. But then, you are a bit younger than me. Please tell me that you have seen Mahogany? Please, Nerd Girl. . . tell me. How can LG grow up to know a jive turkey when she sees one if her mama hasn't seen the classics?

  11. I love when my honey speaks in Jive.

    Do whatever it is that you need to heal, mourn, remember and honor. That sisterly bond can never be broken, not even by death. These posts, the memories, the dang I need to call Deanna moments keep her alive.

    1. You better believe it, sister. What kind of jive does your honey speak? Do tell. . . suckaaaaa.

  12. My membership might need to be placed on probation, too. Of the ones you listed, Good Times is the only one I'm familiar with. Oh wait! What about Christy Love? I remember that.

    Does Deanna have any nicknames? Deanna banana?

    Signed: fancy nancy, AKA nancy drew

    1. Dad used to call her Dinky then that later became Plinko. Why I do not know. I called her Sissy and she called everybody Pookie. It was her universal term of endearment. Ha ha ha.

      Now. Your membership: Probation status, for real. You don't have the age excuse like Nerd Girl. I am concerned, Nance. I am very concerned. . . .ha ha ha.

    2. I like how you eased out of the Deanna part all happy and came in hard and heavy on the membership part. mmm-hmm.

      I was telling one of my girlfriends that my African-American membership has been placed on probation, and she said, "You ain't entitled to full membership no damn way... half membership maybe."

      To that I say: It's okay; y'all go 'head and misn'use me. You gon miss me when I'm gone. #guilt_trip

  13. Keep doing what you're doing. I am enjoying your stories! Do whatever it takes to help you heal!

    The Deanna topics are hilarious! It's amazing how some people can catch all the details of a movie and analyze them in such a real way. I know a few people with that gift and they love sharing their insight (in a funny way) just to make you laugh!

  14. Hi Dr. Manning.....your a trooper and I'm thankful to have come across your blog. You continue writing and I promise, I'll continue reading (smile).Talk about your sissy all you want,I'm glad your willing to share apart of her life with your readers. Also, give me a chance to watch these movies before you pull my card. Be Blessed!


    1. Thanks,Cassandra! Your quiz will be coming soon. Remember it is pass/fail and the minimum pass is 75%. :)

  15. Please tell me that you are a fan of Hollywood Shuffle, it wouldn't have been elementary days, but high school, now that was some funny Sh*t. I agree epic fail on your mom not screening them lyrics.

    1. Hollywood Shuffle was one of Deanna's most favorite films ever. Yes, it was HILARIOUS.

  16. Maaaaan-I just KNEW that " Sparkle " remake would be bogus, ya ' dig ?

    Maria, fellow Meharrian

  17. I can so relate to this topic on many levels. It is amazing how parallel the human experience can be. You and I are so close in age & I too have a sister that I share so much with, so many memories and nuances that only she can understand. You keep telling your stories and and healing your heart the best way you can & I will continue to read. I love to watch Blaxpoitation films with my "mature eyes", LOL it's even funnier now with perspective. Don't forget "Carwash", "Cooley High" and "Which way is Up" ! I can still remember watching all of these with my sister.

    1. Awww man! I forgot Car Wash and Cooley High! Now you saw that Which Way is Up was a part of my African American membership examination.(For those over the age of 35 only.)

  18. Hey Soror Kim, I was just checking in with you... Reading your daily topic for today and realized I need to rent some movies, like ASAP, because 1. I'm tap dancing all ova 30 and will be expected to at least know a lil sum sum about these movies & 2. I'm just learning that, all credit score aside ... I have a black card... Yay! I don't wanna give it up just yet! Lol Now if we move trivia to the Color Purple, Purple Rain, Coming to America, or The Last Dragon I'd reclaim my rightful place in Black Society! I'm still praying for you and your family!
    Jasmine 35GTspr05

  19. Kimberly, I went to Skegee and had the pleasure of having a engineering class or two with your big sis. She would keep us laughing,. She had such a great smile and sense of humor!! I stumbled across your blog when I heard the news and I love it!! Please don't stop writing about Deanna, I can imagine her reactions, and I know that will definitely put a smile on your face. I will definitely be here to help support you, I lost my best friend and mom almost 7 years ago and went through the exact actions and feelings that you are having. It will get better in time, just remember her smile will keep you going!!

  20. Sorry I'm a little late to this wonderful party here. Yes, I think of your posts as little virtual parties celebrating Deanna. And no, they are not morose, not even one little bit... they are full of love and happy memories and longing... and all of that is so good for the soul of every attendant at this party! :)

    OK, my hubby pulls funny quotes from these movies sometimes and we all burst into laughter, but that's not what's making me giggle right now. I don't know why, but I just pictured you not speaking... but SINGING... at the top of your lungs... making funny singing faces... to JoLai... holding the phone as a microphone:

    "Brothaaaaaaa, you dropped a diiiiiiiiime on me, ya dig?" (with the added "ya dig" for good measure)

    ... aaaaand your BHE walks in on you! :D

  21. My sweet Mom died 32 years ago today (less than a week after I gave birth to her first Grand Daughter.) It took me two years to reach the point of grieving at which you are. Our grieving was not healthy...yet, your posts give me a sense that our family is finally on the right track. Thank You for sharing.

  22. Sparkle was one of my favorite movies.I knew the remake was going to be a mess. Thanks for the review. I miss Deanna too! And I was a virtual FB friend. She totally befriended me after Jolai's party last year simply because I was Skegee Alumni. I posted a picture of my son's homework on Facebook and she sent me a personal message that read: "Homegirl! I teach middle school math - feel free to call or pm me if you have any math questions. I'm on Atlanta time, but usually stay up late. Girl - I tutor Kimberly's sons after school 4 days a week, LOL.
    It takes a village!
    She also left her personal number. I didn't use it, but it was awesome to know that someone so far cared simply because I went to TU and was also from Inglewood.

  23. Patricia Brown JohnsonDecember 8, 2012 at 8:05 AM

    "Brothaaaaaa, you dropped a diiiiiime on me!" lol That was Satin to Styx right before they had the BIG FIGHT. Styx told Satin he was weak from fighting women and began to kick his behind. Love, love your blog. Deanna told us about it when you started this blog. You are an awesome blogger...and an awesome writer.

  24. I need you to go ahead and take some cards b/c I have seen Sparkle and Mahogany and I am an 80s born baby. Love the Deanna topics and how you deal with your grief.


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