Thank you, Mr. Rogers!

By Nancy Black

Betty White, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Fred Rogers. They are a few of my heroes in life. Unfortunately, they are no longer with us. But their legacies live on. They were all kind, caring, talented trailblazers who made the world a better place.

Will Smith used to be one of my heroes. Not only because I love all his movies and philanthropic efforts, but because I actually knew him way back when.

During my Hollywood days as a struggling actress, I used to be a limousine driver to the stars. You name ’em, I drove them. Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Whoopi Goldberg. They were all my regular clients. I remember one day I drove Cindy Crawford to the airport, picked up the United States Surgeon General C. Everette Koop from his flight, dropped him off at his meeting, then went to get Elinor Donahue and take her to an interview. After that, I was off to drive The Edge and Bono to their concert that night, where I stood backstage to watch the show.

Ooo, I’m so cool. Nonsense. I was just trying to make a living in a very hard town, but it was a super fun job. On one trip, I picked up Will Smith from his Toluca Lake home. This was right when “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” first started airing on TV. He was super sweet when I arrived and refused to let me carry his bags. We started driving away and, suddenly, he realized he had forgotten something, so we turned around and he went back to the house. He opened his garage, ran quickly inside the house and then got back in the car. We were off to LAX. During the drive and while we were casually chatting, I suddenly had a thought.

“Did you close your garage when you came back out?” I asked him.

“I don’t’ remember,” Will answered with a panicked tone to his voice. 

This was back before cell phones were in everyone’s hands, but my town car did have a phone. Will called his buddy who lived down the street from him to go check on the garage. Sure enough, it was standing wide open. The friend was able to close the garage and secure the house.

“Oh, my God!” Will said to me. “You have no idea how much money you just saved me. I had all my music equipment in there. Thank you, thank you, thank you!” 

Needless to say, I got a very good tip after that ride and have enjoyed watching Will Smith’s rise to fame and fortune ever since. 

Until now. Shame on you, Will Smith, for making a very bad, violent choice when deciding how to react to a joke about your wife’s bald head. Yes, the joke was very offensive, as Chris Rock is known to be. But walking calmly up to a fellow performer and slapping them, in front of millions of viewers/witnesses, and them screaming expletives from your seat during the Academy Awards ceremony where you are nominated for Best Actor Oscar was despicable. And illegal!

I’m a big fan of Court TV, too, and I know, from my armchair, the legal description of battery. I just watched a trial where the defendant — a man, who thought he was protecting a woman in a bar — hit another man. That second man fell, hit his head and died. The first man was tried and convicted of reckless homicide.

A lot of people are divided over the “Slap Heard Around the World,” but not me. Violence is violence. And actions should be taken against Will Smith. Though Chris Rock has declined to press charges, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences has not. They are investigating what bylaws may have been broken and what actions can be taken. And, as a proud member of the Screen Actors Guild for more than 35 years, I’m sure our union is going to have something to say about his actions, too. A performer is absolutely not allowed to attack another performer for any reason whatsoever. Period.

It seems to be harder and harder to find a celebrity or political figure or even a children’s television host to truly trust these days. So, thank you, Betty, Ruth and Fred. I still have fond memories of you!