Harlem’s Son of Fun’s Rich Pageant

They hung on every lyrical word he spoke, their bodies arching toward him — lips, breasts, and hips thrusting into the man, ravishing him. Nipsey Russell, the powerful nucleus of their desires, was emboldened by it.

Some celebrities save lives. Nipsey Russell almost took mine.

I was young, inexperienced in the ways of fame, and easily starstruck, 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 such guests as Gary Burghoff, Eva Gabor, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Julius “Nipsey” Russell, who parsed reality in rhyme, simple and funny, so that even a child like me could understand.

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 any influence on me. I separated from my senses, just another satellite orbiting the magnetism of Nipsey Russell. I was lost.

My hand slipped from the anchor of Grandma’s grip. I was adrift and rudderless. The closer I got to 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 toward him — lips, breasts, and hips thrusting into the man, ravishing him. Nipsey Russell, the powerful nucleus of their desires, was emboldened by it.

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 had been ecstasy turned sharply into 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 and pulled 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. That was power. That was Nipsey Russell. Rest in peace, funnyman.

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