Guys, Dolls and even Chuck D


Published: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 15, 2004 at 9:32 p.m.
Lovable dancing gangsters and an outspoken hip-hop pioneer top a diverse entertainment weekend in Gainesville.
That is to say, the classic musical "Guys and Dolls" opens at Gainesville Community Playhouse tonight, while legendary rapper Chuck D headlines a downtown Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on Sunday.
Let's rap about Chuck D first. He is the co-founder of Public Enemy, the ground-breaking rap group that made wall clocks an essential fashion accessory in the late 1980s.
There's much more to it than that, of course. Anchored by Chuck D and Flavor Flav, Public Enemy was as controversial as it was socially potent. Its "Fear of a Black Planet" disc, released in 1990, echoed with "911 Is a Joke" and the rap anthem "Fight the Power," which was later used in Spike Lee's powerful film "Do the Right Thing."
The music was raw in its call for revolution and activism. That call was heard, as Public Enemy became one of the most influential, successful and important rap groups ever.
These days, Flavor Flav adds his cultural commentary to VH1's "I Love the '80s," while Chuck D remains an outspoken activist. In 2003, he was honored with a Rock The Vote Patrick Lippert Award alongside Peter Gabriel and Alanis Morissette. He's active with the National Urban League and the National Alliance of African-American Athletes and has written the book "Fight the Power: Rap, Race and Reality."
He's a sought-after keynote speaker who champions activism over violence; he laments the gangsta-thug element proliferating throughout current rap music. He names names and contends violence supersedes talent in the industry these days.
Sponsored by the University of Florida's African American studies program, the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration starts at the Downtown Community Plaza at 5 p.m. on Sunday (a day before the observed holiday commemorating King's birthday). Chuck D will speak at the beginning of the program.
Check out Saturday's Daybreak section for an interview with Chuck D
In the meantime, there are gangsters in town that evade Chuck D's ire. "Guys and Dolls," the long-loved Broadway smash opens tonight at the Gainesville Community Playhouse. This is the story of Sky Masterson, a good-natured dice roller whose habits don't jibe with the target of his affection.
It opened on Broadway in 1950, winning a slew of Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It has enjoyed revivals (including 1992's return starring Nathan Lane) and has become a staple of musical theater worldwide. Those who have not seen it in one form or another (the movie came out in 1955) certainly know the music - or some versions thereof: "Luck Be a Lady," "If I Were a Bell" and "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat."
Look out, Chuck D These street-savvy smooth tawkers are music's original bad boys.
  • ANOTHER BEST BET: The Civic Media Center and the Hippodrome Cinema continue their series of alternative films on Monday with "Arsenal of Hypocrisy," a documentary by Gainesville filmmaker Randy Atkins. The short film warns about moving the arms race into space, and it's backed by some significant voices, including Noam Chomsky.
    This film, by the way, was recently accepted into this year's New York International Independent Film and Video Festival and will be screened in April, according to the film's Web site.
    "Arsenal of Hypocrisy" is slated for three shows Monday night at the Hippodrome Cinema.
    Dave Schlenker can be reached at 374-5045 or scene@gvillesun.com.
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