Backstage with Steel Panther

Note: This story originally published on on Oct. 13, 2014.

Stix Zadinia, Michael Starr, Lexxi Foxx and Satchel of Steel Panther at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. (Photo by Tom Roarty)

Stix Zadinia, Michael Starr, Lexxi Foxx and Satchel of Steel Panther at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. (Photo by Tom Roarty)

A conversation with Michael Starr and Satchel, the lead singer and guitarist of glam-metal parody act Steel Panther, includes a lot of talk about genitalia and/or STDs. Like, a lot.

It might sound like an off-putting situation for anyone, let alone the person doing the interviewing — that is, if the two weren’t so damn funny and charming.

Those traits come across in the band’s music and videos, like the newly released video “Pussywhipped” from the group’s latest album, “All You Can Eat.” Released in April, the album hit No. 24 on the Billboard Top 200 and gave the band its third straight No. 1 on the Top Current Comedy chart.

Steel Panther — which also features bassist Lexxi Foxx and drummer Stix Zadinia — is currently supporting Judas Priest on the heavy-metal legends’ “Redeemer of Souls Tour,” and the group will embark on a headlining tour of its own come December.

TheBlot Magazine met with Starr and Satchel in the annals of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center last Thursday before Steel Panther’s set, and our conversation went a little something like this:

TheBlot: How has the tour with Judas Priest been so far?

Michael Starr: Not good, the first day, I caught a herpes on my lip …

Satchel: But you already had that.

MS: I know, but it went away, and then I got one on my balls … so the tour started out a little shaky for me, but then I got some Valtrex …

S: It’s been great for me; I haven’t had any herpes or wart outbreaks, and the guys in Judas Priest are awesome, they’re all really fucking cool to me.

People often make fun of the ’80s, particularly the type of music you guys play, but it’s obvious it’s also a decade and genre people truly love …

S: There’s people that make fun of everything, especially in the Internet age. There’s Internet trolls who like to be haters, but you have to fucking own what you do, and heavy metal is the greatest fucking music ever made by people.

MS: You know The Beatles, right? They were pretty good, but then you have Motley Crue with the distortion and the guitars and cool singing — that’s bitchin’.

Do you approach a headlining show differently than you do a supporting show?

S: We have to do these extra shows because we need the gas money, but when you’re doing a headlining show, you’re playing to your crowd, you know? But here, there’s going to be a lot of people who don’t know who the fuck we are, and we have to rock extra hard to really win them over. Sometimes people are flipping you off, yelling, “Fuck you, I wanna fucking kill you, Satchel,” but I’m used to that because when you’re as good-looking as I am, you get a lot of hate in your life.

MS: They’re jealous of him, man, and I don’t blame them.

S: He gets jealous of me a lot, really.

Well, that singer-guitarist relationship is often a volatile one that drives a band …

S: It’s the kind of push and pull that we need.

MS: I know it sounds funny, but it really does drive the band. I drive the band, he books the flights, so we’re driving the band together.

There’s been a lot of notable guest musicians like Vivian Campbell and Scott Ian on your albums. Who else would you like to work with?

MS: Axl Rose would be cool to have sing on a song. He’d probably be late, but I’d like to have him on.

S: Fucking Rob Halford would be awesome if he could do a vocal solo on a record. That would be rad!

MS: I … I could do a vocal solo …

S: Not like Halford, though, man.

MS: Have you heard my vocal solo solo record? I’m working on it right now.

S: What are some songs on it?

MS: “So Low I Can’t Hear You.” It’s a great song.

S: How’s it go?

MS: [looks down at this writer’s recorder] I don’t want to give it away. It’ll end up on the Internet.

I’d leak it tonight for sure.

5 Questions with Steel Panther

What ’80s musician would you like to punch?

Michael Starr: The lead singer of A Flock of Seagulls, right in the fucking head. I’d hit him so hard his hair would fall.

Satchel: I guess I’ll punch the guitar player from Flock of Seagulls.

What ’80s musician would you like to get drunk with?

S: We’re ’80s musicians, so I’d like to get drunk with Michael again tonight.

MS: I’d like to get drunk with you, too, but to add spice to the question, I’d like to get drunk with Steven Tyler, because he’s sober, so he hasn’t drank in a while, so to party with him, he’ll go all out.

S: I’d like to change my choice to the girls from the Go-Go’s, because you know they’re pretty old now and probably pretty loose and ready to fuck.

MS: They’re ready to go-go. Get it?

What was your first concert?

MS: The Rolling Stones with Prince opening up, Chicago, 1977.
Editor’s note: It was 1981.

S: Mine was The Four Tops in 1966. I’d just broken up with my first wife. She was a whore.
Editor’s note: Clearly a lie, well, the year part, at least. The ex-wife part could be true. Who’s to know for sure?

What was the last song you listened to on your iPod — or Walkman?

S: We’re too poor to have an iPod!

MS: UFO, “Only You Can Rock Me”
Editor’s note: Both then burst into a brief but delightful rendition of this song.

And finally, what’s one band you’d never cover?

MS: One Direction.

S: One Direction? They do songs? I thought they were just models.

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A Real-Life Madam Takes Us Inside Her Brothel (NSFW)

Note: This story originally published on on Nov. 12, 2014. 

Did your last hotel offer blow jobs, threesomes bondage or roleplaying? Welcome to Sheri's Ranch, a brothel that doubles as a full-service sex resort. (photo courtesy Sheri's Ranch)

Did your last hotel offer blow jobs, threesomes bondage or roleplaying? Welcome to Sheri’s Ranch, a brothel that doubles as a full-service sex resort. (photo courtesy Sheri’s Ranch)

Sheri’s Ranch looks like any other resort sitting on the edge of the beautiful Nevada desert. The lush hotel grounds boast a pool, Jacuzzi, sports bar and tennis and volleyball courts, plus there’s a spa for the utmost pampering. It’s pretty much everything you’d want in a restful spot — especially considering the ranch offers a pretty unusual room service menu.

Blow jobs, threesomes, erotic massages, shower and fetish parties, sex-ed classes, bondage, roleplaying, toys … what, the last hotel you stayed at didn’t offer such amenities? Well, that’s because Sheri’s Ranch, located 60 miles outside of Las Vegas in Pahrump, is Nevada’s only full-service sex resort. Sure, the state has a number of brothels since prostitution was legalized in 1971, but Nevada is not the sexual free-for-all you might think it is what with Sin City’s popular “What happens in Vegas …” slogan. It’s quite the opposite, actually.

Prostitution is legal, but only in certain counties, and not in highly populated ones such as Clark County, where Las Vegas is. Vegas’ nearest brothel is Sheri’s Ranch, which since 2001 has been owned by Chuck Lee, a retired Chicago homicide detective and former local business/car dealership owner. Unlike its fellow brothels, though, Sheri’s is the only one that offers a hotel, restaurant and bar. While the hotel is not part of the brothel’s services, meaning the courtesans — as Sheri’s calls its prostitutes — do not work their magic in that area, the five luxurious themed VIP bungalows most certainly are.

“I would say the biggest misconception people have when they come out and take the tour, they walk away and go, ‘Wow, it’s nothing what I expected’ because it’s run as a business,” Dena, the affable madam of Sheri’s Ranch, told TheBlot Magazine last month. “There’s not women running around naked — well, there’s topless by the pool, but they’re not naked … it is an adult sex resort, so you’ve got to expect a little bit of that,” she added with a hearty laugh. “Most people probably, in their minds, think it’s dark and seedy, and it’s nothing like that.”

Of course, the courtesans are usually found in various stages of undress in sexy lingerie, “but it’s not run like an out-of-control frat house or something,” Dena said.

Again, it’s quite the opposite. In addition to the normal up-to-code requirements any hotel and restaurant facility are governed by, there’s a spate of regulations regarding prostitution. To work at the brothel, women must be 21 or over and have both a Nevada State Business License and a work card issued by the local county Sheriff’s Department. “If a girl has a felony or something like that, they can’t work here or in a brothel, period,” Dena explained. “You just have to be an upstanding citizen, you can’t have any arrests or felonies on your record — that probably helps to keep a lot of elements out of the brothel business that we don’t want.”


Destini and Riley, two of the many courtesans at Sheri's Ranch. (Photo courtesy Sheri's Ranch)

Destini and Riley, two of the many courtesans at Sheri’s Ranch. (Photo courtesy Sheri’s Ranch)

The lineup of ladies at Sheri’s Ranch changes weekly and is a veritable smorgasbord sure to meet any customer’s needs or expectations. Her courtesans range from age 21 to 35, and while several are, as the old stripper joke goes, “putting themselves through college,” there are also plenty of mothers supporting their families on staff. “I’ve got some women, like a biologist who just really likes sex and wants to enjoy it — and be paid for it,” Dena said. “They do this on the side.”

There’s potential for a lucrative income for sure. When women come to the ranch, they are required to work — and live there — for a minimum of one week and a maximum of three weeks. They pay $46 a day to rent the room they stay and work in, and while the brothel takes 50 percent of what its courtesans make, its business involvement ends there. Each woman sets her own price for what she offers during “parties,” what Sheri’s calls its customer appointments.

“They’re independent contractors, they’re working a business within our business,” she explained. “Every girl’s going to have a different comfort zone, and all that we’re doing is providing them a safe place they can operate their business. So they’re going to set their own parameters and comfort zones, how many clients they’re going to see, how they’re going to market themselves, the type of parties they choose to do or give — it’s all up to them what they want to do.”

The women work 12-hour shifts, but their only obligation is to make the lineup when a customer comes in and wants to meet the available women. “When they’re waiting, they’re watching TV, hanging out by the pool, in the salon, the gym … they have a lot of things available to them because they can’t leave the property,” Dena said. “Once they’ve seen the doctor and cleared the doctor, they can’t leave, they’re here. We provide a lot of amenities to them so they don’t feel like they’re stuck, to give them everything they might need.”

The courtesans are tested for STDs and HIV on a weekly basis at the ranch’s dedicated medical facility, and “absolutely everything” is done with a condom. “There is no transfer of bodily fluids,” Dena emphasized. “Let’s say a guy wants to have oral. Most people don’t even know that there’s a condom for that.” Additionally, when women are first hired, they’re taught to do what Dena calls a “Dick Check,” during which males are screened for any visual signs of an STD before a party begins.


The 'Sexy Secretary Scenario' is one of many roleplaying fantasies available to clientele. (Photo courtesy Sheri's Ranch)

The ‘Sexy Secretary Scenario’ is one of several roleplaying fantasies available to clientele. (Photo courtesy Sheri’s Ranch)

The extensive sex menu at Sheri’s Ranch is merely a starting point for what its courtesans offer. According to the menu on the website, “The only sex limits you have at Sheri’s Ranch are the boundaries of your own imagination and creativity. Here, there are no borders to your erotic fantasies.” If there’s something specific a customer is looking for, he or she can reach out to one of the ladies on a particular week’s lineup and get their fantasy started.

The most popular menu items are the Girlfriend Experience (GFE) and BDSM sessions, Dena said. The GFE is just what it sounds like: Customers can have a romantic dinner date in a private dining suite, cuddle in front of the TV, play naked Wii, have a popcorn fight … all the things one might like to do with a significant other — but with no chance of hearing, “Sorry, honey, not tonight, I have a headache.”

On the other end of the spectrum is a BDSM party where a dominatrix may use restraints, gags, floggers, feathers and much more for her pleasure-and-pain party. Dena partly cited E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy for the popularity of the BDSM parties. “[They] just piqued a lot of curiosity and raised questions like, ‘Would I like flogging? I mean, what is flogging?’ When the books were accepted, it made it OK to say, ‘Hey, I want to try that,'” she said. “If you’re looking to experiment and try different things, you want somebody who knows what they’re doing.”


Dena is the first to admit that being the madam of a brothel is not something she was introduced to at Career Day. “I started out as a hostess, and owner Chuck Lee saw something special in me,” she said. “He put me on this journey in 2007, and we’ve been on the ride ever since. You have to learn as you go, it’s not something you walk into going, ‘I got this,'” she added with a laugh.

She works with about 150 courtesans total, though there’s usually 25 on property at a time. During a typical day, she’s answering phone calls and e-mails, walking the property, interacting with customers and doing exit interviews with them after a party as well as the normal admin duties one might expect from a hotel-like job. “I’m very interactive with all the girls, whether it’s scheduling or they just need to vent about something going on in their personal life,” she said, and it’s easy to believe because she was so bubbly, maternal and easy to talk to for this story.

Using her mix of maternal and business instinct, Dena also mentors courtesans who work, or are interested in working, at Sheri’s Ranch. “I just spoke with a gal last night I’m having come in,” she began. “She’s never done anything in the adult entertainment industry before. I like getting those type of gals in, seeing what I can make of them, what they have going on that I can give them that star factor. It’s a bit of a challenge for me, and I like it.”

When it comes to training, Dena looks beyond just a willingness to fuck. “It’s evaluating their need, and can I supply that and teach them what they need to know? Do they know how to talk to people? Do they know how to dress? Do they know how to do their hair? Do they have any type of business skill? How are they emotionally?” she shared. “All of that, and I know that’s not the answer you were expecting, but all of that plays into whether or not I can do something with a girl.”

Outside the resort, Dena is a self-described homebody and soccer mom who likes to knit, garden and spend time with her family.

“I don’t talk about work when I’m home. It’s pretty separated. I have young children, so it’s never really been a question,” she said. “It’s kinda boring, but I like it that way because it’s a lot of excitement here, a lot of people, a lot of interactions, and you never know what it’s going to be like from day to day.

“Last week, there was a guy going down the hall, and we were like, ‘No, your party is happening in this room — and please put clothes on,” she recalled with a laugh. “The excitement that you get here and the high energy and all that, by the time I get home, I just want quiet, enjoy-my-family type moments.”

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The 10 Greatest Things To Ever Come Out of Lauren Bacall’s Mouth

Note: This story originally published on on Aug. 15, 2014

Screen goddess Lauren Bacall may be gone, but her immortal words live on to inspire us all. Here are the 10 greatest things the actress ever said.

Screen goddess Lauren Bacall may be gone, but her immortal words live on to inspire us all. Here are the 10 greatest things the actress ever said.

The husky voice has gone silent, and her sultry look has never — and will never — be duplicated by any other actress.

The world lost one of its few remaining goddesses from the golden age of the silver screen Tuesday when Lauren Bacall died of a stroke, just a month shy of her 90th birthday. The Bronx-born former model made her screen debut in 1944’s “To Have and Have Not.” She not only invented her quintessential “Look” on the set to help calm her nerves, it was also the first of four movies she’d star in with the man who would eventually become her husband, Humphrey Bogart.

After “To Have and Have Not,” Bacall boldly chose only the parts that interested her, which landed her a reputation for being difficult. But she seemed to pick well, highlights of her long movie career included 1948’s “Key Largo,” 1953’s “How To Marry A Millionaire” with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, 1956’s “Written on the Wind,” 1964’s “Sex and the Single Girl,” 1974’s “Murder on the Orient Express” and 1996’s “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” for which she won a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar in the same category.

Following Bogie’s death in 1957, she dated Frank Sinatra and married, and later divorced, actor Jason Robards. Throughout her life, Bacall was a staunch liberal Democrat, saying, in a 2005 interview with Larry King, that “being a liberal is the best thing on earth you can be. You are welcoming to everyone when you’re a liberal. You do not have a small mind.”

But that quote doesn’t even come close to the great things this feisty and fiercely independent grande dame of the silver screen said during her lifetime. Without further ado, here are our 10 favorite Lauren Bacall quotes:

10.”I figure if I have my health, can pay the rent and I have my friends, I call it ‘content.'”

9. “A woman isn’t complete without a man. But where do you find a man — a real man — these days?”

8. “I am not a has-been. I am a will be.”

7. “Find me a man who’s interesting enough to have dinner with and I’ll be happy.”

6. “When everything happens to you when you’re so young, you’re very lucky, but by the same token, you’re never going to have that same feeling again. The first time anything happens to you — your first love, your first success — the second one is never the same.”

5. “Patience was not my strong point.”

4. “You can’t always be a leading lady.”

3. “It’s inappropriate and vulgar and absolutely unacceptable to use your private life to sell anything commercially.”

2. “I put my career in second place throughout both my marriages and it suffered. I don’t regret it. You make choices. If you want a good marriage, you must pay attention to that. If you want to be independent, go ahead. You can’t have it all.”

1. “You can’t start worrying about what’s going to happen. You get spastic enough worrying about what’s happening now.”

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Writers’ Wisdom

( photo)

( photo)

On Tuesday, the writing world lost one of its greatest mentors when William Zinsser passed away at the age of 92. Now, I say mentor not because I knew Zinsser, but because he was such an inspiration to many, many writers.

After toiling away in the bowels of a customer service call center, I went back to school to be a journalist at age 26. Zinsser’s seminal book “On Writing Well” was one of the first books I purchased to inspire me in this brave, new writing world.

This 1976 bible, which I’ve long since dogeared, has served as inspiration to writers both professional and amateur, showing them how to be more concise in expressing themselves through the written word. I credit Zinsser with laying the groundwork that was later reiterated by my professors and editors about “trimming the fat” in my writing, a practice I’ve since carried on with the writers I work with.

So to this man, who was also a journalist, teacher, critic and editor, I dedicate this week’s Writers’ Wisdom. Thank you for the tutelage, Mr. Zinsser, you’ve impacted more lives than you probably even know — and played an integral role in helping to shape this writer into someone who can now, proudly, call herself a true journalist and editor.

Without further ado, my favorite lesson from “On Writing Well:”

“Clutter is the disease of American writing.
We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.” 

William Zinsser


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‘Showrunners’ Puts Spotlight on TV Writers, Creators

Note: This story originally appeared on on Oct. 31, 2014

'Showrunners' director Des Doyle, left, and producer Ryan Patrick McGuffey at NYCC. (Left photo by Nikki M. Mascali)

‘Showrunners’ director Des Doyle, left, and producer Ryan Patrick McGuffey at NYCC. (Left photo by Nikki M. Mascali/movie poster at right)

When you sit down to watch your favorite TV show, do you ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes? No, not what Charlie Hunnam eats in between takes on “Sons of Anarchy” or what Kaley Cuoco looks like before getting in “The Big Bang Theory” makeup chair — we’re talking so far behind the scenes that the scene hasn’t even been written yet.

Welcome to the writers room, where the magic that you see each week on your show truly begins thanks to the often faceless writers, producers and creators — aka the showrunners. These people — such as J.J. Abrams, Joss Whedon, Kurt Sutter, Damon Lindelof and more — are front and center in the aptly named “Showrunners,” a documentary by first-time filmmaker Des Doyle.

TheBlot Magazine sat down with Doyle and producer Ryan Patrick McGuffey earlier this month at New York Comic Con to find out what made them want to make “Showrunners.”

Nikki M. Mascali: How important was it to tell the story of the people behind some of the most beloved shows on TV?

Des Doyle: I’m always fascinated by the creative process, I always wanted to read whatever I could about writers; I’m one of those people who buys a DVD and listens to the commentary because those are the people who created that world, created those characters. A lot of people in this day and age, especially in how television is consumed now, are interested specifically in what goes into the process of making those things. That was one of the big things of me doing this movie. You kind of don’t have a show without the writers.

What was the most surprising thing you found out about a showrunner’s process? 

Ryan Patrick McGuffey: What a shit show it could be, how far down to the wire it gets before something actually gets done. You’ve got so many voices, so many chefs, like the network, in the kitchen weighing in on every decision you make, actors oftentimes give notes on writing …

What we did discover was that no two [writers] rooms were the same. No two writers have the same kind of methodology. There’s really no one set direct line to get from writers’ room assistant to showrunner. People have come to the job from so many different angles and places in and around the industry. Janet Tamaro was a reporter for years, so her process is very different, which then informs her writing. There’s so many different approaches.

Was it hard to get writers to open up, or were they happy that someone was finally talking to them?

DD: It depends. There is a certain expectation for them where they are contractually obligated to do a certain amount of PR for the show, but we were talking about them in a very different way. We weren’t asking them about what’s happening this season, what’s it like working with David Boreanaz — we were asking them about them, their process, their journey … One of the key selling points of the film is how candid people have been with us.

RPM: And writers, that’s their voice onscreen, but they’re behind the camera, so yeah, they were shocked that people wanted to know the things we were asking about the stories they had behind the lines.

How many people did you approach vs. how many actually participated?

RPM: Des had a wish list of about eight to 10 showrunners. When we got to a few key ones along the way — we got to Damon Lindelof — once we secured him, the problem went from, “How the hell are we going to get these guys?” to “How are we going to get them all in because now they’re all coming to us?”

They all talk to each other. Walking out of the “Fringe” offices with Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman, we literally walked into Joss Whedon, who was doing post [production] on “The Avengers.” We had been talking about him for ages, and he’s like, ‘Yeah, I have a few things I’d like to say about showrunning; you should contact my assistant.” A couple months later, we were interviewing him at his house the day after “Avengers” premiered talking about “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

DD: It took us about four months to get the first person on camera. But that was, like, a year of trying to get to Joss before we comically bumped into him. It was 18 months to get to J.J. Abrams, but toward the end of the process, we had people calling us asking to comment.

There are some people we would’ve loved to get in, I would’ve loved to have Shonda Rhimes (“Scandal,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Grey’s Anatomy), but unfortunately, she’s a busy lady.

RPM: I would’ve loved Vince Gilligan (“Breaking Bad”).

DD: Maybe we’ll have “Showrunners 2” … 

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Writers’ Wisdom

( photo)

( photo)

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
Richard Bach


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‘Selma’ Movie Reminds Us That Violence Isn’t the Answer

Note: This story originally appeared on on Dec. 23, 2014

Omar Dorsey tells us about his role as non-violent civil rights activist James Orange in "Selma," Ava DuVernay's film about the Selma to Montgomery marches. (Entertainment Weekly photo)

Omar Dorsey, second from left, tells us about his role as non-violent civil rights activist James Orange in “Selma,” Ava DuVernay’s film about the Selma to Montgomery marches. (Entertainment Weekly photo)

Perhaps “Selma,” Ava DuVernay’s behind-the-scenes look at the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches most commonly associated with Martin Luther King Jr., couldn’t come at a better time.

It’s almost eerie, really, how similar the current racial climate is to the time depicted in DuVernay’s historical drama as our country continues to reel from the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and the chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., both at the hands of white law enforcement officers who later went uncharged by grand juries for the deaths of these two unarmed black men.

Our current strife isn’t just relegated to violence by the police unto civilians, though. Civilians have started to fight back, some peacefully with hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter, protests and marches across the nation but, sadly, the violent deaths of Brown and Garner have begat even more violence and un-peaceful retaliation. On Saturday, NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were ambushed by gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsley and shot execution-style as they sat in their police cruiser in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

According to The Washington Post, Brinsley posted a picture of a semiautomatic pistol and blood-stained pants on his Instagram account earlier in the day Saturday with the text “I’m putting Wings on Pigs Today. They TAKE 1 Of Ours . . . Lets Take 2 of Theirs” and hashtags mentioning Brown and Garner.

Yes, maybe “Selma” is exactly what our country needs right now, to serve as a reminder that one of our most important game-changers preached nonviolent civil disobedience. But what many may not realize is that King did not act alone, in fact, far from it.

His likeminded — and much less-talked-about — brethren like James Bevel, Hosea Williams, James Orange, Ralph David Abernathy, Andrew Young and countless others were just as important to the civil rights movement as King himself, and that’s what was the most surprising takeaway from “Selma” for actor Omar Dorsey. Dorsey plays pastor James Orange, the project coordinator for civil rights organization Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) from 1965-1970.

“The strategic way that Martin Luther King and his whole SCLC group and the SNCC kids, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the way they strategized on every single detail about how they go about doing the work was surprising,” Dorsey told TheBlot Magazine during a phone interview in October. “They strategized like they were going to war, and they were going to war against Jim Crow and segregation.

“It wasn’t just a one-man thing, it wasn’t just King saying, ‘I’m going to do it my way’ — it was a very democratic process the way that inner circle worked,” he continued. “That’s what really surprised me because you don’t really hear a lot about them. One thing people tend to do when you have a movement like that is you tend to have that leader, you put that leader at the forefront, but in this film, you’ll see the work that someone like James Bevel or all these different people did what they did to push this movement forward.”

James Orange was born in 1942 in Birmingham, Ala., and moved to Atlanta in the early 1960s. Fellow activist and pastor Andrew Young once said Orange was one of the “real soldiers” of the civil rights movement and “a gentle giant,” and it was true. Orange was more than 6-feet-3-inches tall and more than 300 pounds, an impressive stature to be sure, but one he never used in force. In fact, his deep commitment to nonviolence once had him suffering through nine beatings when he tried to convert gang members to a non-violent lifestyle. He was arrested at least 104 times for picketing and civil disobedience and was jailed in Alabama in 1965 for enlisting minors to work voter registration drive.

There were fears that Orange would be lynched during his incarceration, so supporters organized a protest march in February 1965. During the march, an unarmed Jimmie Lee Jackson was fatally shot by an Alabama state trooper identified only as “Fowler,” who seven months later, in a turn seemingly ripped from today’s headlines, would not be charged by a grand jury for Jackson’s death. In 2007, 42 years after he shot Jackson, James Bonard Fowler was charged with first and second degree murder for the shooting. He was sentenced to six months in jail but served five due to health problems that required surgery.

But back in 1965, Jackson’s death became the impetus for the Selma to Montgomery marches that eventually led to the landmark passing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

While many Americans may not be all that familiar with Orange’s name, Dorsey not only knew the name — he also met Orange before he died in 2008, which made preparing for the role easier.

“I had the chance to be in the man’s presence before, and he was a mountain of a man, physically and spiritually, I knew that much,” Dorsey shared. “And, of course, I did my own research, talking to people who worked with him. I did a lot of reading as much as I could on Rev. Orange, and I’m from Atlanta, and Rev. Orange is part of the fabric of that city. It’s a blessing to play somebody who means so much to A. your people and B. to your city.”

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