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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Seminara

Roscoe Lee Brown May 2, 1922 – April 11, 2007

Roscoe Lee Brown May 2, 1922 – April 11, 2007

Dignity, always dignity. Roscoe Lee Browne. Actor, Director, and 2-time Emmy Winner. Shakespearean exemplar.

I first met this gentleman when I was a teenager. I used to mop and clean Phoebe's Restaurant in the early morning before High School. Under a table, I found his wallet. It was 5:30am, I thought, he's an actor, of course, he was awake! (In my experience, actors only sleep when they cannot get into any more mischief) I called his number and received his full voice on the line as if the call were a cue and said, "good morning." I told him what I found. He instructed me to come straight over. I couldn't go because of school, but I would be home after 4:00. He told me the curtain was at 7:00pm. I was to meet him at his table no later than 6:15. Thus commanded, so I hung up the receiver.

I arrived at 6:10. Strangely, he was alone at his table. I had seen him surrounded by friends the few times I had seen him at Phoebe's. Nervously, I approached, placed the wallet on the table, and started to leave. "Wait!" I did. Frozen by his command. He examined the wallet. One side and then the other. Slowly he opened it and checked each section. He took out his Amex turned it over suspiciously and put it back. Then came the cash. $50.00 in mixed bills. He counted them, not once but twice. He put them back in the wallet.

"How was school?" "Um, um, good." "Um isn't a word." He appraised me. "Good is a rather ineffectual answer." His eyes narrowed, "How was school?" In response, I took a deep breath, "I had my favorite art class and history and English, which is boring." "Boring?"

"I've read most of the books before, but we start Macbeth next week." "Shhh, we say the Scottish play. No actor calls it by its name."

I didn't know.

"Do you like Shakespeare?" I told him I did, and that Henry V was my favorite. (The Scottish play holds that title now) I felt honored like I was kind of part of a club. There was a little more chat about Shakespeare, the theater, and my future schooling. Mr. Browne took a $10.00 bill and handed it to me. "One good turn deserves another. But please, in the future, wait until the afternoon to call me." I saw him several times over the years. I took this photo one of those times.

In 2005 my old grammar school pal, Laurence Fishburne, and I had dinner in Los Angeles, and then drinks, and then drinks somewhere else, and at least two more places. Eventually, we ended up at a spot where Roscoe was holding court. He sent them all away. The three of us talked theater. We talked about children, and then we were joined by Anthony Chisholm, a fine actor, and another old friend from New York, and then even more theater was discussed. I was dropped off at my hotel at 4:00 am. Unfortunately, I was scheduled to be on set at 6:30am! (If you need to know, what set, where? Maybe one day... do you feel lucky? Well, do you?)

A note: Since writing this piece, the outstanding Actor, Veteran, Marlboro Man, and former movie theater assistant manager passed away due to the ill effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. He will be missed. When Tom Selleck was the Marlboro Man, Tony Chisolm was the "Black" Marlboro man. It seems ridiculous to have such an obvious modifier on an advertising character. Let's end with his words, "I wasn't just the "Black" Marlboro man, I was the first, Black, Marlboro man!"

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