Black lawyer might appear in film about his experience at Conn. club

September 08, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

NEW YORK -- "Gone Hollywood" is not an image attorney Lawrence Otis Graham expects to cultivate, despite having just earned a cool $100,000 for optioning the film rights to his recent first-person article in New York magazine about going undercover as a busboy at a tony Connecticut country club.

But that doesn't mean he would turn down a cameo in the movie if asked by Warner Bros., the studio that paid top dollar for his story "Invisible Man," or actor Denzel Washington, who will play him in the screen version.

"It would have to be a non-speaking part and nothing that would make me look foolish in my real life as a corporate attorney," the Harvard-educated Graham said.

In the magazine's Aug. 17 issue, Mr. Graham details his day-by-day experiences serving the all-white, all-WASP membership of the exclusive Greenwich Country Club in suburban Connecticut, during which time he is referred to with racial slurs; is told the only black guest ever seen at the club was O. J. Simpson, who was invited to play a round of golf, and other incidents.

His stated purpose for doing the piece was to test his thesis that such privileged enclaves are the last bastions of protected racism in America, contending that because so much business is conducted at these clubs, minorities will never truly break into the country's power structure.

But what most surprised him after the article's publication were the dozens of unsolicited calls from film producers and studio executives.

Why was Hollywood so hot for "Invisible Man"? According to Mr. Graham's agent, Irene Webb: "Post L.A. riots, I think a lot of [producers] are trying to come up with a way to make a movie about racism in America that's hard-hitting but entertaining. . . . [T]hey don't want to tell a grim story because they're afraid people won't come see it.

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