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June 19th, 2012

© 2012 Marvin Walters, all rights reserved.


by Marvin Walters

First of all I would like for all of you to realize I hold no grudges against anyone in the industry: However, if African American actors are to help other African American actors they need to know that the doors were not always open for them, and that someone paid a price for them to be here. Therefore I will give you a short history of the struggle which took place prior to most of you being involved in this industry: And I will name names.

This book is not about Marvin Walters. However, I understand the make-up of our society, and I realize that unless you have a Ph.D. or some other type of degree, people are not willing to listen to what you have to say. Well, I don't have a degree from a college or university: My degree comes from God, my life experiences and from interacting with deprived African American children in ghettoes all over the country.

It all began in 1965 when Eddie Smith would visit the sets of various motion picture studios where you seldom, if ever saw any African Americans anywhere. Eddie would than return to the office of the Beverly Hills Branch of the NAACP, call the studio and ask why there were no Black Extras on their production. The Studio's Extra Casting Office would then call one of the casting agencies and place an order for some African American extras.

At the writing of this book, I am a professional stuntman in the motion picture industry. Whenever and, wherever I go on location; I always visit the African American children in grade schools to instill in them hope that they too can make it out of the ghetto; but first they must get their minds out of the ghetto.

I work in an industry where I would have been a multi millionaire today if I had kept my mouth shut: But there are some things more important than money. There are quite a number of names mentioned in this part of my book; they are mentioned only for purpose of my credibility. Jesus said you must have two witnesses if your word is too be true.

Later in this section, I mention the fact that I worked for Universal Studios: I had a job where association bought about intimidation and assumption. I had a close association with Mr. Gary Hughes, Senior Vice President of Labor Relations and the right hand man to Mr. Lew Wasserman-Chairman of the Board of Universal Studios. By virtue of this association, Producers and Production Managers assumed I had more power than I did. Consequently they were intimidated by this: And yes, I did use this assumption and intimidation to my advantage to accomplish many changes in the hiring practices of stunt people and others involved in the actual production of movies, and television shows at all of the major motion picture studios.

In 1980 Eddie Smith, Chris Kaiser, Stanley Robinson, Cassisus Weathersby, and other members of the soon to be Black Producers Association, asked me to get them a meeting with an executive in a decision making position at Universal to voice their complaints. Stanley Robinson had been a producer at the studio once before, but for some reason he could not accomplish this fete. I convinced Gary Hughes to meet with them. The meeting was attended by Gary Hughes Phil Diezen-Vice President of Labor Relations, Reuben Estrada-Labor Relations Specialist, approximately 10 members of the soon to be Black Producers Association and me.

At the meeting, the African American producers asked Gary if he could get them a meeting with someone in a position to hire Black Producers: Gary told them that he could get them a meeting with anyone in the studio if he thought it would serve their purpose. What was their purpose? I had previously informed Gary that the Black Producers were interested in the Studio financing their low budget movies. After some discussion the meeting ended. Gary asked me what my thoughts were. Did I think the men could produce what they claimed? I told Gary, Blacks had been making low-budget movies in Hollywood for years, and I felt they should have a chance. Well they did get their chance, and I guess you will have to ask one of them the reason why they blew it, and they did blow it.

On another occasion in 1980, a white stunt coordinator, Bob Bralver had been preparing a television series, (The Gangster Chronicles) when the Actors went on strike: Bert Astor-newly In Charge of TV Production and not thoroughly familiar with the African American-white situation wanted me to take over the Gangster Chronicles, since my show Delta House had been canceled. I felt that would be counter-productive to what I was attempting to accomplish at the studio.

I took Bob Bralver to meet Gary Hughes, who was in contract negotiations at the time. During the break, I was able to get Gary alone, introduce him to Bob and explain the situation. Gary said to me in Bob's presence: "Gangsters was the only show available for me, and maybe I should reconsider my actions". I told Gary that I would take the next show available, whenever that might be. The show was given to Bob Bralver. After the strike I did not realize there was a conspiracy until Bert Astor wanted me to replace Richard Washington, an African American stunt coordinator on Buck Rogers, again I refused. Harker Wade was the Unit Manager on the show and congratulated me for my loylty. This is but a few of the incidents encountered by me while at Universal Studios. What most failed to realize is, Gary and I had a mutual respect for one and other, and he appreciated the job I was doing for the studio that was the extent of our relationship.

Steven Speilberg is a classic example of the problems we are having in this business. I remember Steven Speilberg when he was writing with James McEachin at Universal: from that experience I realized that he had no respect for African American people: I visited his company on one occasion and did not see an African American face anywhere.

Following is a copy of a letter which I sent to Gulf and Western, (Paramount Pictures) the Screen Actors Guild, and the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers on October 18, 1992.



OCTOBER 18, 1992


To Whom It May Concern;

© 2012 Marvin Walters, all rights reserved.

RE: Racial Injustice against Black Stunt-persons:

My name is Marvin Walters. I have been a stuntman in the motion picture and television industry since 1967 and have personally led a crusade against racial injustice since that time. While there have been some gains for a few select individuals, overall racial conditions still run rampant. As late as August 1992, a white male was used to double for an African American actor in the motion picture production of Joshua Tree. There simply is not enough work given to African American and other minorities to justify the continuation of these types of incidents.

I will never give up the crusade for minority participation in this or any industry that is suppose to portray the American scene realistically. In this instance I am concerned with African American stunt people. Those of you who were around in the 70's are familiar with The Coalition of Black Stuntmen and Women.

The Coalition was responsible for creating positions for all minorities in all areas of the motion picture industry, in front of, as well as behind the camera. The Coalition was also the reason the Producers Association of Motion Pictures and Television created the many different training programs for minorities.

This part of my book is to alert African Americans that are currently working in the industry. "If you don't know where you are going, any road you take is okay." Well it is very difficult to know where you are going if you don't know how you arrived at where you are. I have been accused of being anti-Semitic, anti-Asian, anti- Hispanic, anti-white and anti- Black. I assume that all of these anti's would add up to my being fair and neutral.

In 1967, while working on 'Cowboy in Africa' a television Series, Mickey Gilbert, the Stunt Coordinator mentioned the fact that; there is going to be a need for Black Stuntmen in the near future. I conceived the idea of a Black Stuntman's Association. I met Eddie Smith who was an Extra working down the road on Daktari and sometimes on Cowboy in Africa. He said he had discussed this idea with Cal Brown a year or two ago but nothing happened. Eddie said he had spoken to members of the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldier but they did not want to leave Vern King. I took Eddie to a 10th Cavalry meeting. Eddie jumped on top of a picnic table and told the guys how much money they could make and the rest is the history you are reading right now. Eddie Smith and I formed the Negro Stuntmens Association at my home on December 9, 1967 in Altadena, California: This group was formed because white stuntmen were being painted down black and used to stunt double for African American actors. I designed our first NSA Logos.

There were about 12 or 13 men at that meeting. Since I had been trained by Mickey Gilbert and Freddie Waugh, and was the only African American man with extensive training and stunt experience, I became the training instructor. Cal Brown was the only other black stuntman with more experience than me. However, at this time I did not know about Cal and he was not involved until I had left the BSA. I left the group in late 1968, and Ernie Robinson replaced me as the instructor and did a terrific job. Some of the top African American stuntmen working today received their initial training from me while in that group, i.e. Tony Brubaker, Henry Kingi, John Sherrod, Richard Washington and Doug Lawrence. Tony had been a star football player in high school and was a natural. Doug Lawrence had exceptional talent and athletic ability and I always enjoyed watching all of them perform, they were all exceptional.

Many of the Black Stuntmen were angry with me because I supported Tonys' involvement in the group. That anger was because he would not allow them to abuse their horses when they were learning to ride as members of the Tenth Cavalry. Tony was always honest and out spoken concerning the coalition: He was one of the few that was. These are but a few of the African American stuntmen that were trained in the BSA. Most of the others quit the business because of lack of work for African American stunt people.

In 1969, a white stuntman was used to double for Lou Gossett Jr. in Skin Game, a Warner Bros. Production, this was protested by the Black Stuntmen and Women. After several meetings, the United States Justice Department sent to California, a Mr. Lejune Clark, and an agreement was finally reached between Warner Bros. And the black stunt group, but was eventually broken. Mr. Clark remained in Los Angeles to monitor the motion picture industry until his death.

In 1973, because of friction among some of the African American stuntmen, namely Tony Brubaker and Alan Oliney; Eddie Smith and Ernie Robinson, I formed the Coalition of Black Stuntmen and Women. The purpose was to stop the friction between ourselves. We were able to call a person into the office for a meeting and put them on the "Hot Seat" in front of the whole group for any infractions that embarrassed the group. At the first meeting I volunteered to sit in the "Hot Seat" because of rumors concerning my behavior: Not one person had anything negative to say about me.

Even though we were only 33 members strong, The Coalition for Black Stuntmen and Women became the most powerful group in Hollywood for minorities, in fact for all races, until some of the white stuntmen began telling black stunt-people, "If you are associated with Marvin Walters and Eddie Smith, you're not going to work". This seemed to be supported by some of the studios. Alan Oliney, Jophrey Brown and Bennie Moore disassociated themselves from the Coalition because they were also members of Stunts Unlimited, a white group, and were told they could not belong to the Coalition and Stunts Unlimited. Shortly after that, Henry Kingi and John Sherrod followed suit. However, Sherrod did continue to support the Coalition.

In August, 1975 while the group was still together, John Sherrod came to me and told me that Victor Paul, a member of my association; the Stuntmens Association had hired a white guy to double for Ron Glass a black actor working on "When Things Were Rotten" a television series. I called the guys together along with Collett Wood, president of the NAACP and went to Paramount Studios. While in the meeting with Paramount Studios Executives, which we received no consideration from them: Their attitude was: Do what you have to do: We did, and they were sorry.

We were preparing to leave the meeting with the Paramount Executives, when Eddie Smith received a telephone call from someone informing him that MGM had just placed an order for 250 extras for work on "Logans Run", a movie depicting the year 2025, and they had specified "No Blacks." Our group departed Paramount Studios and went directly over to MGM Studios. We met with many executives. Alex Brown told them that they would rather give us the MGM Lion off of their building before they give us one penny.

The result after several meetings was a position for an Affirmative Action Consultant who would read the scripts that the studio heads had decided to make into motion pictures, before they were given to the Production Managers. The job was to pay $1,000.00 per month. I was the only one in the group willing to give up stunts and take the position because the others felt they would be taken out of the job market for the occasional stunts they might receive. It turned out that MGM only required my services for four hours per week Jade David volunteered to be my assistant. Thank God because I had never gathered statistics and had no clue how to.

Jade was working more than most of the black stuntmen, but was willing to give it all up for Justice For All. When we started at MGM, there were 15 Black Janitors, 4 Black Secretaries and Alex Carter the Black Director of Personnel. If there were any other minorities, I never saw them. We ended up working 60 to 80 hours a week on our own time. Some of our accomplishments were, minorities reading for all roles in all scripts at all of studios. Eric Estrada was cast for Chips which was originally written for a White Polish Male. I must commend Ric Rosner, the producer, who was very receptive to my suggestions. I set up meetings for Jeannie Epper, President of the white stuntwomen's association to meet and discuss their plight with MGM, Warner Bros., Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and Universal Studios. The results were positive. I was also instrumental in getting the studio heads to meet with the African American writers who the doors had always been closed. When I left MGM a year later there were 151 African Americans and other minorities working at MGM, most of them in key positions. The African American janitors had been reduced to 5, and the other 10 were promoted to other more positive positions at the studio.

Through my position at MGM, I was able to effect changes at all of the major motion picture studios. I had to eventually file 32 EEOC Charges against the motion picture industry, of which I obtained five Settlement Agreements against, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney, Paramount Pictures and Quinn Martin Productions. The charges were filed on behalf of Marvin Walters and all persons similarly situated and The Coalition of Black Stuntmen and Women.

In 1977, an executive with Warner Bros. Mr. Jay Balance invited me to a meeting in his office to discuss charges filed against Warner Bros. and Wolper Productions. I was told by Mr. Balance that the people upstairs instructed him to offer me "a blank check," if I would drop the charges against their studios. I told Mr. Balance that it was not about money, but equal employment opportunities for African Americans and other minorities. I told him to keep the blank check, but in order to show my good faith, I would drop the charges against Wolper Productions, which I did.

Warner Bros. went on to violate their Settlement Agreement and had to pay monetary damages to all of the African American stuntmen and women, including the ones who had dropped out of the Coalition. Quinn Martin Productions also violated their Settlement Agreement and had to pay as well.

I had resigned from the famous Stuntman's Association in 1975, because it was one of their members that had used a white stuntman to double for Ron Glass in the Paramount situation, and I did not feel it appropriate to file charges against a fellow member. Gulf and Western, (parent company of Paramount Pictures) sent Mr. Robert Proctor to California from New York as a result of our charges against that studio. Due to his presence, things began to change for the positive at Paramount Pictures. That is the reasons Eddie Murphy was considered and selected for his role in 48 Hours.

In 1976 I organized a letter writing strategy, which sent letters to the President of the United States, Members of Congress, the Senate, requesting their assistance. I also requested assistance from a well known Black Leader who came to Los Angeles, met with Columbia Studios, collected $50,000.00 and left. As a result of our letter writing, the GSA and other government organizations begin investigating the major motion picture studios: The US Commission on Civil Rights was sent to Los Angeles, California where they conducted hearings into racial injustice in the motion picture industry on October 21. 1976.

On the evening of October 20, 1976, my car was fire bombed in my driveway. Fortunately for my family one of my neighbors saw the fire before the car exploded and called the fire department. I had received letters threatening me if I showed up to testify at the hearings, but I did show up, and I did testify.

In 1979, aided by my attorneys, Bernard and Gregory Fischback I was hired by Universal Studios as a stunt coordinator on The Hardy Boys, a television series. The position at Universal enabled me to persuade the studio to hire two Black Production Mangers, five Black First Assistant Directors, Two Black Directors of Photography, numerous Black 2nd Assistant Directors, six Black Stunt Coordinators, and five Female Stunt Coordinators. Sandy Gimpel received her 2nd Unit Directors card as a result of this action. All of these people were working at the studio at the same time. In addition, I was able to talk with African American and white employees in different departments, and was able to obtain promotions for many of them, because they had been passed over due to nepotism.

Now that you know how you got to where you are, you can now choose the correct road to your destination realizing that someone paid a price for your presence in the industry. You must never forget Bill Cosby, who negotiated a deal with Columbia Studios to pay a white crew, which remained idle so that he could have an African American crew on the Bill Cosby Show in the early 1970's, this, because there were no African Americans in the unions. This was suppose to be a secret, but as we all know there is no secrets in Hollywood. Since I have mentioned Columbia Studios, I don't want to leave out Mr. Harvey Leighman, one of their Vice Presidents. I am sure none of the Black Stuntmen and Women will ever forget him, inasmuch as we did not file a charge against Columbia Studios because of his false promises and friendship with Mr. Alex Carter, (former Director of Personnel at MGM Studios) whom the coalition highly respected. However, Mr. Leighman, set up meetings with the Coalition on Saturday mornings in Columbia's commissary. He fed us breakfast, took our resumes with the promise of creating a book for our group to be submitted to the people responsible for hiring stunt people at the studio. We fed him confidential information while he fed us a bunch of crap. In my opinion, he is a classic example of a House N!!!!.

When Bob Minor, first came to audition at Universal Studios in 1968 or 69 to for a position on the stunt show, I had been rehearsing with that group of stuntmen for about six months. Lance Remer told me that I had a lock on the job. I passed this information to Bob and told him all I had to do was compete against him doing a high fall. I refused to be used in this manner, and told him if he would do the high fall, he would get the job. Again in 1981 or 82 when Bob on break from Magnum P.I.: He told me that they would not allow him to direct second unit. Again I went to Gary Hughes and Reuben Estrada, Bob went back to Hawaii and bingo, he was directing second unit.

Greg Elam, and Melvin Jones came to me in 1979 because George Sawaya, a white stuntman wanted to use my two stunt doubles from the Hardy Boys, Vince Dedrick Jr. and Bill Couch Jr. on Airport 79. I talked with both of them, and asked them: If I could persuade my Production Manager, Les Berke to put them on a weekly stunt contract, would they pass on going on Airport 79 so George could take Melvin and Greg, if George would agree, which he did. Les Berke said he would be $500.00 short in the budget and could only afford to keep one of them on a weekly salary. I told Les to reduce my salary by $500.00 a week so we could keep them both. He agreed. Vince and Bill stayed on the Hardy Boys, while George Sawaya kept his word and used Greg and Melvin on Airport 79.

In 1968 I babysat Alan Olney for a year when he started in the business. I took him to buy his first stunt pads; when he was being paid $289.00 per week, and should have been receiving $425.00 per week, I aided him in obtaining all of the back money that was due to him, his salary was increased to $518.00 a week.

When he was having problems with Ted Duncan on Greased Lightening in 1976, I set up two meetings for him with Jay Balance. Jay flew Ted Duncan in from South Carolina on both occasions and Alan never showed up to either meeting. Again, it was Marvin Walters and Eddie Smith who came to Alan's' aid and got him a co-stunt coordinating position on Beverly Hills Cop 2 after they refused to give him the position as stunt coordinator.

This information is only to inform all you that someone did pay a price for African Americans being in this business today: However, it saddens me to see the kinds of roles that African Americans are prostituting themselves to portray. Have we no pride, is money all that we are concerned with? Remember that you can't take it with you when you die. I have never heard of a U-Haul Truck following a hearse.

I wish we had more Bill Cosbys', Danny Glovers', Sinbads', Spike Lees', Bill Dukes', Hudlin Brothers, Lou Gossetts' Samuel Jacksons', and Mario Van Peebles, they at least attempt to get as many African Americans on their productions as possible.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, through the efforts of The Coalition of Black Stuntmen and Women, African Americans were working at all of the studios in all areas of production.

It is now 1996 and we have less African Americans working in the industry than we did during that period. I blame this on the African American producers, actors and directors who seem to think that African Americans are not qualified, and if you have read to this point and still don't know the reason why they feel this way, I'll give it to you. It is because they have been indoctrinated to believe that other African Americans are inferior to them and not qualified to work on their shows. They and other African Americans will feel this way until they become conscious of who they are.

I have been a stunt coordinator since 1968, and when Michael Shultz was directing Cooley High, I alerted him to the fact that the powers to be were going to pull the plug on him in two days. Michael was led to believe that he had two more weeks to film a car chase. If you saw Cooley High, that car chase was filmed in two days subsequent to Michael following my suggestions to use "Voice Over". Michael, like a lot of other African Americans was insecure with my presence and never returned the favor. In fact Michael went and told the producers that I alerted him concerning this situation. Needless to say I lost that connection.

There are many African American producers, directors and actors allowing white stuntmen to coordinate their action shows. They allow this because they have seen the work of some of these white stunt coordinators on film. Well if you gave most African American stunt coordinators half of the money in their stunt budgets that white stunt coordinators receive for their budgets, you will get stunts just as exciting and in less time. At this time, 1986: I address this issue to the Wayans brothers, George Jackson, Doug Mc Henry, Whoopy Goldberg, Eddie Murphy, Forest Whitaker and Jackee, to name a few. These people also utilize white production managers and white assistant directors. It is time for African Americans to quit supporting Black Film Makers who do not utilize Black Talent. I compliment the Black Producers and Directors who put their stuff on the line to have as many African Americans on their shows as possible. Those people are Spike Lee, Bill Duke, John Singleton, The Hudlin brothers, Bill Cosby, Robert Townsend, Danny Glover and Mario Van Peebles. I am sure there are others out there, but since I have been sidelined for a while I don't know who they are...

I realize there are circumstances, which sometimes prevent African Americans from hiring other African Americans due to the politics and other concessions in this business. However, when some African Americans constantly neglect to use other African Americans on their projects, it is only because of their lack of knowledge about who they themselves are. There are numerous white actors that have their stunt coordinators and stunt doubles in their contracts, why can't African American actors do the same.

I worked on "BELOVED," starring and produced by Oprah Winfrey. I was elated to see the utilization of African Americans on her crew.

I once worked for Ronald Cohen: A Jewish Producer whom I have a great deal of respect. Ronald told me; the way you accomplish anything in this business and not make enemies, is to have your agents to put it in your contract-That way the agent becomes the bad person when negotiating for you.

I only mention the names of certain people, so they will be reminded that someone helped them become successful in this business, and that it might help them with God if they would return the favor to other young African Americans attempting to get a start in this business. If I had it to do all over again I would. Simply because I truly understand what has happened to the African Race for the past 400+ years in the United States; because of this understanding I cannot be angry with other African American people for not doing what I think is right in the eyes of God.

© 2012 Marvin Walters, all rights reserved.

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