About Me

Twenty years ago I asked a Tarot card reader what would I be doing when I was 50. She replied, “I see you doing something so wildly creative, it defies a job title.” Only recently did I realize that was a slick way of saying, “I have no idea of what you’ll be doing.” But that prediction kept me charging ahead to the fifties with zeal and anticipation. Now that the future is today, I’m ready for anything!

J.T.: a long-lost Christmas classic, found again

I gave up looking for J.T., starring a twelve-year-old Kevin Hooks, two years ago. I didn't believe it would ever resurface again. But in this world of newly discovered releases and remasters, I googled J.T. again, just for the heck of it. Hallelujah, there it was on YouTube, thanks to a soul named JTClarion.

J.T. first appeared in 1969 on the CBS Children's Hour. The story is about a boy growing up in Harlem, lonely and teetering on the verge of hoodlumhood. A glimmer of joy and a sense of purpose enters his life when he finds a mangy cat that has taken refuge in an abandoned stove left behind in a condemned building. 

J.T. shows a level of poverty is rarely, if ever, seen today–for example, one bathroom shared by several families in a tenement. J.T. also presents something else you don't see today: stark, spare, unvarnished emotion, wrenching grief as well as long-dormant hope.

The first time I watched J.T., in the middle of the program my dad insisted that I go shopping with him at Neisner's. I had just watched a heartbreaking scene. (If you've seen J.T. you know which scene I'm talking about.) I was too broken up to object so I reluctantly trudged along with Dad.  In 1969 there were no VCRs, no DVRs. If you missed a program, you were out of luck until next year. Amazingly, though, J.T. was reprised the following Monday evening, so large was its Saturday audience.

Besides its storyline, J.T. is noteworthy for its performers and the range of characters they went on to play in the 1970s and 1980s.

• Kevin Hooks became an acclaimed film producer, stopping along the way to play sly high-school student Morris Thorpe in The White Shadow.

Jeannette Dubois, who played J.T.'s somber mother, changed her name to Ja'net and played gadfly Willona Woods in Good Times.

• J.T.'s earnest schoolteacheris played by Olga Fabian, who today plays the archetypical dysfunctional mother, Evelyn Harper,  on Two and a Half Men.  

The wonderful Helen Martin (from the broadway musical Purlie and the 1980s sitcom 227) plays a neighbor lady and Theresa Merritt, who plays J.T.'s grandmother,went on to star in That's My Mama. 

To JTClarion, a huge hat tip. A black leather hat with furry black earflaps and a transistor radio tucked underneath.

J.T., Part One

J.T., Part Two

J.T., Part Three

J.T., Part Four

J.T,, Part Five





1 comment:

  1. Just for fun, I went on Twitter to see if I could find out why J.T. hasn't been on TV and if it would ever be available. I struck gold with Brian Pinette (@damienrecords) who is selling J.T. on DVD for $5.69!

    J.T. (1969) Kevin Hooks, Ja'net DuBois & Theresa Merritt CHRISTMAS! DVD $5.69 tinyurl.com/7ecoj7d at Bonanza.

    Brian's blog is Rare Film Classics on DVD. Link here: http://www.rarefilmclassics.blogspot.com/


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