*TV One’s “Unsung” series will receive a bit of help from an acting veteran when it expands for the premiere of “Unsung Hollywood” on Wednesday, February 26 at 10pm Eastern.
Blaxploitation film queen Pam Grier will be the first entertainer profiled for the series, which profiles “black artists, entertainers and programming,” according to the network’s programming and production SVP, D’Angela Proctor.
*With prosecutors making a pretty strong case that it was the gross negligence of Michael Jackson’s personal doctor Conrad Murray that led to the singer’s death, it’s time to revisit some words of wisdom from a woman who knows a thing or two about the importance of choosing the right doctors.
In fact, taking medical care into your own hands and having the courage to get second opinions are the main lessons that “What’s Happening!” star Danielle Spencer-Fields wants folks to take away from her self-published autobiography, “Through the Fire: Journal of a Child Star.” Released in January 2011, the book details the horrors of her own experience with misguided doctors and physical therapists following a car crash that left her in a coma for three weeks, and with a broken pelvis, leg and arm.
“You have to be your own advocate when it comes to your health,” stresses Spencer-Fields, who would probably still be in a debilitated state had she not taken it upon herself to switch doctors.
The former child star, who continues to practice veterinary medicine, tells EURweb exclusively that patients need to be bold like her sass-filled character Dee when it comes to their own medical care.
*While Dee was causing all kinds of pain and heartache for her brother Raj on “What’s Happening!” during its three year run, the actress who played the iconic character spent part of the first season in real physical pain from a horrific car accident that killed her step-father, put her in a coma for three weeks and left her with a broken pelvis, leg and arm.
“I was gone from the show for about six months,” says Danielle Spencer, speaking to EURweb exclusively. “They stopped taping the show for about a month and I just healed pretty quickly. Basically I had the summer to heal and I came back for the second season.”
The Jersey-born actress said she continued filming “What’s Happening!” until the show was cancelled in 1979, then, went on to high school and finished college without any lingering ailments from the accident.
Then in 2003 – 26 years after the Sept. 7, 1977 car crash – she suddenly felt a tingling in her leg.
Spencer – who at this point has been married four years and a veterinarian for seven– initially wrote it off as a reaction to the cold weather in New York, where she was living at the time, and the stress of walking all over town while shopping for Christmas gifts. But in the next three months, the tingling turned to numbness up and down both legs, and eventually a stabbing pain in her back.
“That’s when I knew something was definitely wrong,” she says. “I went from walking, to [being] in a wheelchair by the end of the week.”
Turns out a disc in her back from the 1977 accident had calcified through the decades and was pressing against her nerve. She was informed by her doctor that she would never walk again unless she has an operation to remove the disc.
“Of course after the surgery, I was paralyzed for about eight months. I found that the physical therapy wasn’t helping me at all and I was just getting so frustrated – to the point that I had even thought about suicide,” says Danielle. “This was about six months after I was released from the hospital. I was just so depressed because I wasn’t getting better.”
Spencer’s mother decided to take her from Los Angeles to New Jersey and put her in the care of Christopher Reeve’s doctors at the famed Kessler Institute.
“About three weeks after I had been in New Jersey, they had me walking on a walker. This is [after] eight months in California with nothing.
“New Jersey just gave me hope and inspiration, and I was able to help others because I came through that really dark period in my life,” she says. “It kind of turned things all around. At the time, I said if that helped me, I know that if I write a book about this, it’s going to help other people.”
In January, Dr. Danielle Spencer-Fields and co-writer Cheryl Pelt self-published, “Through the Fire: Journal of a Child Star,” a collection of memories from her early years, including details of overcoming personal adversity.
Below, Danielle explains why any reader would be inspired by her story.
*TV One continues its Black History Month-themed “Way Black When” programming tonight with a celebration of classic black sitcoms as part of “Color TV Week.”
Instead of simply re-airing “The Jeffersons,” “Sanford & Son,” “Good Times,” “What’s Happening” and “A Different World,” the network has invited stars of the various shows to discuss their experiences preceding the 8:30 p.m. of their episodes. [Scroll down to view the full schedule.]
Walker & Ester Rolle in scene from 'Good Times'
Each night at 8, Darryl Bell (“A Different World”) hosts a 30-minute discussion with Marla Gibbs (“The Jeffersons”), Ernest Thomas and Haywood Nelson (“What’s Happening”) and Jimmie “JJ” Walker and BernNadette Stanis (“Good Times”).
In an interview with EUR’s Lee Bailey after the taping, Walker revealed the origin of his character’s signature line, “Dy-no-mite!”
“That came from John Rich, one of our lovely directors,” Walker revealed. “I did it one day in rehearsal just fooling around and John says, ‘Oh no, we got something here.’ John was the one who set it up, made it all a big thing, and the whole deal.”
The show’s executive producer, however, wasn’t as enthusiastic about the line.
“Norman Lear didn’t like it, but John Rich liked it. And then much to Norman’s chagrin, it became bigger than Norman Lear,” said Walker. “So they couldn’t get rid of it.”
TV One’s Color TV Week Schedule (Feb. 15-19)
Mon @ 8:30pm(ET) – What’s Happening: Rog, Duane and Re-Run are all back with featured episodes of this feel-good classic.
Tues @ 8:30pm (ET) – Good Times: Growing up in the Chicago projects was never easy, but the Evans family showed you could make it with love.
Wed @ 8:30pm (ET) – Sanford & Son: Red Foxx’s became an icon with his grouchy, garbage collecting Fred Sandford.
Thurs @ 8:30pm (ET) – The Jeffersons: Before Barack and Michelle, we had George and Weezy, two upwardly-mobile, successful Black folks showing how to get things done.
Fri @ 8:30pm (ET) – A Different World: Already part of the TV One network, we’re devoting a whole night to this hit Cosby Show spin-off.