The dapper crowd that gathered at Thursday night’s Uptown magazine pre-Oscars salute to Lee Daniels party could have posed for a who’s who in Black Hollywood collage. L.A.’s hottest talents, including the cast of “Empire” were mingling, toasting glasses of ginger cocktails and taking selfies. Directors, casting agents, managers and press enjoyed free drinks, networked, shared experiences and hobnobbed with the man of the hour.
The intimate dining room at Fig & Olive in West Hollywood was unmatched in terms of pre-Oscar dinners. Mike Epps was snapping pictures in the corner where the entrance of the bathroom started, Paula Patton and Salli Richardson are hugging it out blocking the cramped aisle between the tables. Leonard Burnett, publisher of Uptown magazine was playing the most gracious host to all of the night’s elite, including Chris Spencer, who acted of as the evening’s MC; the cast of Fox’s “Empire,” minus Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard; Darius McCray; Lynn Whitfield; Gladys Knight and her brother, Bubba; John Singleton; Debbie Allen; and the execs from Mercedes-Benz didn’t seem to mind that the room was at its limit with tables spilling out into an adjacent room.
The program was filled with tears, long-winded reminisces, and actors genuinely thanking a man who has written their checks for the past 10 years. Then Mike Epps and Kate Hudson took the podium to introduce the man of the hour, and all hell broke loose. “This n—a here…” was all we heard out of Epps’ mouth. Some in the crowd laughed while others cringed every time that word came out of his mouth to describe Lee Daniels. It seemed like a classic Richard Pryor shtick. Pryor was known to use the term copiously in his stand-up act. Daniels didn’t seem to mind that his next shining star called him the N-word 14 times before he stood up to receive his honor. Daniels even referred to himself by the term once or twice in his acceptance speech as he thanked all the people who allowed him to be himself while he worked to create artistic masterpieces. Was this bit of theatrics designed to stoke interest in Daniels’ Pryor biopic? If so, it certainly added a bit of drama to the proceedings.
So we drank, ate, but more importantly we communed with one another in an intimate setting hosted by Uptown, Lexus and the folks at Fox’s “Empire.” –darralynn hutson
(Photos courtesy: Earl E. Gibson III)