A Hollywood Life Unattained

Reflecting on the missed opportunities of my early career as a Hollywood actor.

Not many people know I was the original James Evans on the hit 70s TV show, Good Times. Due to failed contract negotiations as well as my lack of a strong, masculine chin, I was quickly replaced by John Amos. It has taken over 40 years for me to be able to talk about it publicly without bitterness but, as they say, “time heals all wounds.” I always believed that to be true, until recently seeing those Jimmie ‘JJ’ Walker social security supplement commercials.Trigger warning! Were you aware the fire department’s bill for removing a TV set from your roof is practically the same as purchasing a brand new television? Insane.

In the early 80s, I was asked to star in a revival of Chico and the Man with Norman Fell, but unfortunately I was deep into drugs and alcohol and my mom wouldn’t let me. Hard to see it at the time, but that grounding saved my life. Wish now I hadn’t said such horrible things to my mom or sent those racy photos to Norman Fell, but we all learn and move on.

WOW! Just found this photo! Talk about a blast from the past! During the later years of M*A*S*H, the ratings were sagging lower than Harry Morgan’s décolletage, so the network started toying around with adding a second head to Hawkeye. They did a few test episodes and who do you think they contracted to play the additional head? Me of course! The idea was that the second head, which they considered naming, “Headeye,” would serve as a kind of straight man for Hawkeye’s jokes. The head would occasionally talk him into terrible surgical decisions, resulting in the maiming and occasional loss of a patient. We all hated the idea and, as it turned out, so did test audiences. I was released after two unaired episodes and ignored after proposing a concept where I would play Hot Lips’ third boob. Nonetheless, it was my most treasured Hollywood moment and provided the first role of my long career as cranial talent. You might imagine, the cast was a dream to work with. Well, with one exception. It’s common knowledge now but Jamie Farr forced all guest actors to shave their lines into his back and quote them while tracing each one with their fingertips. Sure, it sounds bad today but it was the 70s and everyone did it, so who was I to question? SAG has since added several actor protections because of that situation but you can Google it all for yourself.

You learn to grow thick skin in Hollywood but I’d be lying if I said this one didn’t hurt. Mindy Cohn was holding out for more money and threatening to quit Facts of Life so I was brought in as replacement. “Natalie” was the first role I ever felt “click” on a deep, Stanislavsky level. To my shock, I was promptly dismissed before shooting even a single episode and was instructed to never return to the studio. I didn’t get the warning then but I certainly know it now. One did not tell Charlotte Rae “no.”

Last one from the “Hollywood Vault.” On an episode of Seinfeld titled, “There’s An App For That” I played Kramer’s cousin, Shlomo Simon. In this particular episode, I invent an iPad® app that forces everyone I point the device toward to see me nude. None of the cast could keep a straight face during shooting and, eventually, they had to bring in a body double. The episode never aired due to a lawsuit by Apple® (It would be another 15 years before the actual iPad® was invented), although the episode was accidentally released in the Icelandic Box Set, so good luck on getting a copy. Fortunately, an assistant director took the only surviving photo and gave it to me earlier this year after, apparently, carrying it around with her for several years. Also, Michael Richards, you owe me a chili dog! (Private joke. Ha ha!)


[This article first appeared in Okrabiscuit Humor Magazine April 1, 2016.]

New Cable Exploitive Southern Reality Show Lineup

Tick Jokes
Friday 2:00 AM on COMEDY 1 hr TV-14
Wannabe stand-up comics from West Virginia check each other for ticks after working an open mic night in a corn field.

Mug Wars
Wednesday 9:00 PM on SPIKE 1 hr TV-14
Eight unemployed college students from Mississippi State University move into a gorgeous house they can’t afford and immediately discover it contains only a six pack of Coors Light and a bag of Funions. (Language, Violence)

Flea Market Dating
Daily 10:00 PM on TLC 30 min TV-PG
Two brothers, Larry and Toad, search the magnificent flea markets of the south in search of love and long-term pokey-pokey. Complications arise when Larry admits he only dates little people and Toad reveals he has secret feelings for Larry’s Dodge Dakota.

Tuesday 11:47 PM on HIST 1 hr TV-PG
An intense drama focusing on the residents of a Confederate cemetery and their reactions when a group of northern, white, thirty-somethings show up, remove the Confederate flag, exhume and dress them as Trader Joe’s produce attendants. Pilot episode features the emotional soundtrack performed live by Kanye West, Bret Michaels and a lifelike hologram of Abraham Lincoln.

Catfish Wet Nurse
Sunday 4:00 PM on DISC 30 min TV-MA
From the town of Red Bank, Tennessee comes a family of fourth generation catfish fishermen who use only their man-boobs as bait.

Uncle Mom
Monday 8:30 PM on LIFE 30 min TV-G
Country superstar Kenny Chesney visits remote trailer parks in Kentucky dressed as everyone’s uncle, only to try to convince them he is also their mother. Special guest appearances by Tim McGraw, Dr. Phil McGraw, Quick Draw McGraw, Johnny Knoxville and Kid Rock’s dick.

Lard Queens
Thursday 12:01 AM on FOOD 30 min TV-G
Appalachian grandmothers compete for prizes and hair products by cooking traditional southern breakfast for a panel of celebrity judges. The winner is crowned “Lard Queen” after successfully triggering heart disease in show spokesman Mike Huckabee.

Hail to the Hick
Monday 9:30 PM CSPAN 3 hrs TV-MIA
A gang of octogenarians who congregate in a North Carolina barber shop and complain loudly about the policies of the President, get the opportunity to be the actual President of the United States of America for 24 hours. Laws are changed, immigrants are forced to leave and Gomer Pyle USMC is revived on Netflix. (May be offensive to Asian and Latino viewers.)

Ain’t Worth Shit
August 10:15 AM MTV 1 hr TV-14
A single, Florida dad’s parenting skills come into question while raising his half trans teen-aged son.

Friday 8:00 PM ION 1 hr TV-PG
A rural, Virginia preacher dies and goes to hell and is torn between trying to pray his way to heaven or having sex with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.


[This article first appeared in Okrabiscuit Humor Magazine July 9, 2015.]


Gray bones,
having defied weather
of an uncertain century,
prop the structure
with proud erectness.

Dusty tobacco,
its earthy cologne,
in prominent notes
of manure, sweat,
sod and corn,
the blood of every
board and plank.

Rodent, fowl,
serpent and spider,
those familiar church
trample the cattle’s
communion, both
holy ritual and
hidden shelter
of tiny players and
secret lovers.

—  © Rick Baldwin

The Nail

The nail
resists being struck
folding at the impact
is straightened and hit
again buckling
and bending
into its own shape
eventually pounded
and pummeled
deep into the
wood coffin.

— © Rick Baldwin

Forever Burning Fire

Life is a forever
burning fire
from which the
flame of you
flickers; before,
in a flash,
separating and
spiraling into
its own

     — © Rick Baldwin


a wooden line of lovers
like rotting fence posts
each stake more weathered
and hollow than
the previous
until the last
completely broken and
serving no purpose

     — © Rick Baldwin