Books by Gregory Alan-Williams

Released: Feb. 10, 1997

Grating ``inspiration'' alleviated by patches of genuinely moving memoir. Baywatch star Alan-Williams (A Gathering of Heroes, 1994) found the road from boyhood to manhood fraught with obstacles. He has overcome alcohol and drugs, as well as a sexist attitude toward women. He used to be a deadbeat father: Like many men, he was ashamed that he couldn't make enough money to support his son as generously as he wanted to, so he sent nothing. Having grown up without a father himself, he eventually realized that his journey would have been much easier if he'd had someone to show him the way, someone who could have lent him a ``map'' of his own experience. So he decided to become a father to his own son. This book is a further gesture toward Alan-Williams's commitment to showing boys the way. In a feminist era, some of his rhetoric seems dated; in many passages (those about self-respect, for instance, or facing fears of failure) the word ``person'' could easily be substituted for ``man.'' However, there are others whose gender specificity is valuable; in one chapter he asks why war and violence are always viewed as the ultimate passages to manhood. Alan-Williams writes well about his own complicated experiences. He describes ``Mr. Blue,'' his mother's boyfriend, who left a mixed legacy about being a man, taking an active and caring interest in the boy, yet abusive to his mother, in the end nearly killing her. However, the inspirational mission of this book is too self- conscious. Alan-Williams constantly repeats peppy mantras like ``Suit up and show up for life.'' And sometimes he talks down to his readers: ``There's this guy I like to listen to, his name is Deepak Chopra.'' Alan-Williams's road is paved with good intentions, but we can't help feeling we've been down this path before. (Author tour) Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1994

The media called them Good Samaritans, those brave souls who rescued drivers trapped at the Florence and Normandie intersection- -ground zero of the '92 L.A. riots. Alan-Williams, an African- American actor, was one of them. Here, his short but impassioned report dovetails his role at the intersection with reflections on black rage, mob violence, individual responsibility, and the dangers of stereotyping. Alan-Williams hears the Rodney King beating verdict on his car radio. After his aerobics class, he drives purposefully to the already notorious intersection, his large hope being to save the victims from their aggressors and the aggressors from themselves. The actor was no saint. He had been badly bruised by racism during his Iowa childhood and understood the self-destructive rage that ensues, but he had also—as an aspiring Marine eager to show he was ``one of the fellas''—participated in a despicable group attack on a fellow-recruit. At the intersection, he plunges into the mob to rescue an Asian truck-driver, beaten to a pulp. He drags him away, drawing for support on the ``gathering of heroes'' inside his head, those who had taught him compassion (like the Mayan woman in Mexico caring for her disfigured child) and those who had taught him steadfastness (his Marine drill instructors). Perception is everything. Where Alan-Williams sees in the driver his battered childhood self, a furious teenager sees a justly punished ``Korean motherfucker.'' (The victim is, in fact, Japanese-American.) Minutes later, an LAPD squad car approaches the blood-soaked Samaritan and his charge, sees human refuse, and speeds away. But there is a happy ending. Overcoming his prejudice, Alan-Williams entrusts Takao Hirata to a ``brother'' wearing a shoulder-length ``doo'' rag, who delivers him safely to the hospital. A moving illumination of the meaning of brotherhood. It deserves to sell and sell and sell. (Eleven photographs—not seen) Read full book review >