“The Adventures Of Little Diego - Former Child Star” Chapter 6 - Part 2 of 3, ‘Growing Up.’
I can only recall being called Nigger on a handful of occasions. I think most Black men of my generation have been called the 'N' word at some point in their lives. The first time for me came after the show had ended. It’s interesting when I think back on it that I don’t recall ever being called a nigger before the Julia show ended. At least to my face.
Excerpt From Interview on ABC's "AM Los Angeles"
It was my first year of attending public school on a full time bases. I’ve only been called the ‘N’ word on a handful of occasions. I’ve had few fights in my life, but when someone calls you the ‘N’ word you really had no other choice but to fight them. At least back then.
MC - In Our Living Room With Some Of The Many Awards I Received As A Child Star In The Background
There was no, "my nigga' this, and my nigga' that." It was not a word that was used to show affection. So me and this kid, who shall remain nameless, as he is one of my Facebook friends and I don’t mean to embarrass him, so we get into it over something or other and he ends up calling me the ‘N’ word. It seemed to be a last resort for my peers growing up. If they got so frustrated over a situation and couldn’t think of anything else to do or say, then the “N” word would come out. Consequently, you would have to fight that person. I guess kinda like if somebody started talkin’ about your mama or something. You'd have no alternative but to fight them.
Marc Copage - In The Back Alley Behind Our House Gettin' Ready To Stomp On Somebody
I remember when I played in Little League baseball, there were some games when I would hear the opposing team chant to me from the bench, I was playing first base at the time, “Pitcher stinks, catchers worse, look at the fudge-sickle playing first!” They thought they were coming up with something quite clever. I'm not really clear why this kind of jaunting bothered me at the time but it did. I'm sure there are far worse things you can call someone than a Fudgsicle. After all fudgsicle's are creamy and delicious. And only a hundred calories!
What was even more interesting was that the parents of these children playing who were in the stands and the coaches all allowed this to happen. My father was nowhere around as he rarely supported my athletic endeavors. I was the only Black person on the field and one out of less than a handful of Black players in the whole league. In all fairness this only happened on a few occasions that I can remember. But an occasion too many in my opinion. My guess is that somebody eventually said something to these kids because this kind of taunting did eventually stop.
Taunting Little Leaguer's
Of course there were the instances of getting pulled over for a ‘DWB’. (Driving While Black) I'd be driving to a friend's house, who also lived in Beverly Hills, and get pulled over by the police. Or an “RWB'. (Running While Black) I'd get stopped by the police jogging around my neighborhood. I can see how I might have looked a bit suspicious jogging around my neighborhood in the late afternoon wearing my school gym shorts and a tank top. Uhm, I wasn't wearing a hoody.
One day my bicycle got stolen. Taken right in front of me in the middle of the day in plain sight at La Cienega park by a much older and bigger black kid. While describing what the kid looked like the white officer that took the report began mocking me saying, “Did he have some curlers in his head or one of those cool jheri curls and did he talk ‘jive’ like this? ‘Hey ma brutha! What it be like? Slap me some skin, baby!’ Did he say something like that before he took your bike kid?”
In The Heat Of The Night
Sure, there were instances of racism, but I would say they were few and far between. All and all I would have to say I had a wonderful time growing up and made some great friends! Many that I am still friends with to this day thanks to the invention of Facebook. Well, one of these childhood friends de-friended me, but oh well.
Me With Some Of My Childhood Peeps!
My Childhood Friend Ricky And I At Age 6 Or So Out In Front Of His Duplex
I was primarily involved in sports throughout elementary and high school.
Driveway of the house I grew up in since about age six. The Bonofiglios house is across the street behind me to the left. We had a hoop on top of our garage.
I’d still begrudgingly go out on acting auditions. I got indoctrinated into ‘The System’ at an early age. When the show ended every other week my father would pick me up after school to go down to the unemployment office. We'd stand in the unemployment line and wait to get paid. They gave out cash at the time. Whenever I qualified I was generally awarded the maximum amount of benefits as the money from acting was good. That is when I could get the work. I’m sure it helped out with expenses. As I mentioned in a previous chapter, though my father was an extremely talented man, I never knew exactly what he did to keep a roof over our heads and food in our mouths on a regular bases so I imagine whatever I was able to bring in helped.
Employment Development Department
My father would also have me attend voice, acting, and dance training and workshops as well when we could afford it. I'm not sure how the money I earned as I child star factored in to all of this. My finances were something that was never discussed. It was always a complete mystery to me.
Pilot Still From "Julia"
Singing, dancing, acting, and music lessons were all things that were necessary if you wanted to be a well rounded entertainer. At this point, I wasn’t necessarily interested in being any kind of entertainer and didn’t want to be going to any of these classes as they were not things I was particularly interested in at the time.
But in the long run it was probably very good that I was at least exposed to these things. Though the lessons were sporadic, and not for any continued length of time where I could feel that I was actually getting good at them, but I did, however, develop an interest in these things later as an adult. If I hadn’t been at least exposed to those things at an early age I’m sure it would have been much more difficult for me to try and learn them later in life.
My father was somewhat overprotective. It was a challenge to get him to let me do some of the things that I really enjoyed.
Little League Days - In The Front Yard Of Where We Lived
I had to plead with him to let me play Little League baseball, beg to play Pop Warner Football, High School football was completely out of the question. Though it had been years since the Julia show ended, there were still people who wanted to do stories on me. This continued well into adulthood.
Excerpt From Interview On Entertainment Tonight
From 'Right On' Magazine - My Pop Warner Football Photo
From People Magazine
Although I was allowed to join the Cub Scouts, the Boy Scouts and overnight school excursions, like Idyllwild, were also out of the question. I was one out of a handful of children in my grade that wasn’t able to go on that trip. I’m not sure if these things were denied due to my fathers over protectiveness or a lack of finances as those things did all cost money. However, I was successful in my pleads with him to let me go on a week long trip to Yosemite my last year of elementary school in which case he eventually gave in.
Friends From Elementary School At Yosemite
I had a great time with my friends at Yosemite! Definitely one of the memorable moments in my life.
Yosemite National Park
I remember riding on the bus up there and this girl, Kelly was her name, sitting next to me on the bus all the way up. We got quite cozy on that bus ride. Nothing scandalous, but a lot of cuddling. It felt quite nice having this pretty girl in my arms.
However, once we got up there, that first night, one of my bunk mates, Danny, started talking about it and giving me a bit of grief over it. For what ever reasons, I started playing the whole thing off to him and the other guys in the cabin like I wasn’t interested. Kelly had the nick name ‘Rockets’ because she would sometimes wear these wife beater style type T-shirts where her nipples would poke out and they looked like little rockets. We were about 12 or 13 at the time. Anyway, I think she or one of her friends must have been outside our cabin listening because from that moment on for the rest of the trip she wouldn’t talk to me. Would not give me the time of day. For her to go from hot to cold that quickly I’m sure she or one of her friends must have been outside our cabin listening in on our conversation. If I had just kept my mouth closed there’s a good chance I could have experienced my first deep kiss on that trip. Maybe even have gotten to second base! As it turned out, It would be years later, when I reached the age of 17, my senior year in high school, that I had my first deep soul, french kiss. I still hadn't gotten to second base. Perhaps more on that later.