Harlem’s Son of Fun’s Rich Pageant
By Peter Landau
Some celebrities save lives—Nipsey Russell almost took mine. I was young, inexperienced in the ways of fame and easily star-struck, walking the streets on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, tethered to Grandma’s sturdy hand. I thought I was safe.
My worldview was narrowly illuminated by the nurturing glow of television. At the time, one of my favorite programs was Match Game, a game show of minor celebrities that routinely slid from good taste to rude innuendo. It featured unknown stars as J. P. Morgan, Charles Nelson Reilly and Julius “Nipsey” Russell, who parsed reality in rhyme, simple and funny, so that even a child like me could understand.
Poetry is one thing, poetic license another. That Nipsey Russell would shatter the Fourth Wall and step from the set onto my street was impossible.
Nobody noticed the commotion but me. I was drawn to the sight, women buzzing around a lone black man. The outside world ceased to have influence on me. I separated from my senses, just another satellite orbiting the magnetism of Nipsey Russell. Sucked into a black hole. I was lost.
My hand slipped from the anchor of Grandma’s grip. I was adrift and rudderless. The closer I got to Nipsey Russell, the more enchanted I became. I wasn’t alone. Circling him were some of the most gorgeous women I had seen in my short life. They hung on every lyrical word he spoke, their bodies arching towards Nipsey Russell—lips, breasts and hips thrusting into the man, ravishing him. Nipsey Russell, the powerful nucleus of their desires, was emboldened by it.
Time was meaningless. Nipsey Russell was all consuming. As we passed one another I was overwhelmed by envy. I could smell the perfume and hear the feminine sighs coming from the women’s overheated bodies, feel the race of my heartbeat and almost reach out and touch Nipsey Russell.
That’s when I heard the horn and the hoarse cry of my grandma like the shrill signal of the Emergency Broadcast System. In a flash the mundane world returned, and what was ecstasy sharply turned to a near-death experience. Bits and pieces of the environment came together like an explosion in reverse, and with a jolt I realized I was standing unattended in the middle of a busy intersection. Turning my head I saw the truck bearing down on me. I was frozen, a sacrifice to the intoxicating charms of entertainment.
Grandma’s arm cut through the chaos pulling me safely to the curb. I was alive. Nipsey Russell was down the street, disappearing into the pedestrian traffic. I took one last glance at the fantastic scene: the women, the man, the power of a good punch line. I wanted that. I wanted the gift of gab, to enthrall women until they erupted in a laugh riot. In my wake I’d leave a trail of impressionable young children, littering the streets with their awe-struck corpses. That is power. That was Nipsey Russell. Rest in peace, funnyman.