Reco's CHRIS ROCK page


Rock Steady Mother
By Tim Bullard

Puffs of white stack smoke from mills, cloud the azure sky at First Steps Day Care Center near South Island Road in Maryville, S.C. This is where children usually play, read and learn. Chris Rock's mother, Rose, has closed the center for the day because it is Martin Luther King's birthday. 
     Staff members have stuck through thick and thin, but now good days are on the horizon for Rose and her son, America's hottest comedian.
     She's just recently finished an interview with Ed Bradley.
     "Officially, we opened a year ago. We are just open for business now because last January when we acquired the building, there were so many things going on. My mother was sick with cancer. That kind of put a lull on everything. My mom died about two months ago. So now we're in and getting it together. She lived in Andrews until she was really ill, and then I moved her in Belle Isle with me."
     Rose now lives in a home that Chris purchased for her.
     "I was living in Belle Isle. When he came down to visit me, he said to me, 'Why did you buy this house? It's not big enough.' They stayed at a hotel when they came. He didn't even tell me. He went back, and then I got a call one day. I think I was here. I got a call from Realty World. Debra O'Neil says to me, 'Well, we can go and look for a house.' And I said, 'Listen, I'm really busy, and I don't have time for foolishness'; and I hung up. And then she called back, and said, 'I would not kid you about something like this.'"
     The real estate agent explained that she had been on the telephone with Rock's manager and named his attorney.
     "She said 'they said you can go and look for a house.' And then she gave me the price range, and we started house-hunting. That was a great feeling, and the fact that I could have lived wherever I wanted. I could have moved to Debordieu or any place I wanted to go. That was a really a good feeling. I liked Belle Isle. I'm not a Debordieu person. I'll say it like that. It's really nice. It's a fabulous place. If you came now, you would have to go through the gatekeeper and all that kind of stuff to get to me. I'm not here to impress anybody or anything. I'm just me. So I moved two blocks away, right around the corner, just a little bit of extra space, no big deal."
     "I had been working with Rose for several months," said O'Neil at work." The phone rang one day. I had a message. He said, 'This is Chris Rock.' I said, 'Oh, you decided to buy your mom a house.' And he said, 'Yeah'. And he said, 'I want you to go out, and I want her to have a nice home. You know what she's looking for. I just want to make sure that she finds a nice home in a nice area.' As soon as I saw the house, I knew it was for Rose. I was shocked. I really was. You know about people, but you don't know them. After the sale, Chris came by with his mother and his wife. He is a terrific, terrific young man. I told him, 'You don't know how happy you have made your mother.' He's very humble about it. He's just a really neat guy."


     "From Andrews, to Brooklyn and Georgetown, Rose Rock has watched as her son has rocketed into America's mainstream and will soon be inducted as the youngest member of the S.C. Music and Entertainment Office Hall of Fame.
     "The ceremony will be held in Charleston with actress Andie MacDowell and country music singer-songwriter Rob Crosby", according to office spokesman David Godbold.
     "Oh my goodness," Rose said. "I think that's great. I think that's absolutely fantastic. I tell you, this year, going to the Emmys, going in expecting nothing and to see him win two Emmys with the type of people he was up against, I don't think I have ever experienced anything like that. The day we flew up, they were saying, 'Oh, he's good and a newcomer, but he couldn't possibly win.' When they called the nominees, and the girl said, 'And the winner is,' and they said Chris Rock, we all cried. So everyone who saw me, they said, 'Well, Rose, you cried the whole show.' I really did. I didn't expect him to win for comedy, but I did expect somewhere along the line an Oscar, and I know that's imminent because if you saw him a year ago, he did a little walk-in in 'I'm Gonna Get You Sucka,' that is the only thing people remember about that movie. He was on screen maybe 10 minutes. In 'New Jack City' he was really great. That I expect."People still sometimes confuse Rock with newcomer Chris Tucker ("The 5th Element" "Even when Chris Farleydied, someone thought that they said Chris Rock had died," she said. Her son attended the funeral. "He called me right away because I've known Chris and his mom since 90-what? When Chris went on 'Saturday Night Live,' he and Chris Farley shared a dressing room at first. They did several skits together that they wrote. We did the Mother's Day Special. I met Chris' mom. We have this 'Saturday Night Live' mom thing, so we stay in touch pretty much.When Ed Bradley of CBS's "60 Minutes" interviewed Rock's mother recently, her daughter-in-law had a decorator arrange their household to warm it up for the taping, but when Bradley talked with his mother, the entire session took place in the kitchen.
     There was a phone interview first for two hours, and the next day Bradley called and said he wanted to meet her, so she flew in on a Wednesday.
     "It was great. He asked me some things. I'm going to say, now when I was in school, what happened was that in a lot of black communities, you got teachers who grew up in the community. Yet when they came back, they treated the kids that grew up in the same circumstances that they grew up in, they treated them really badly. I always said, and I don't know why, and I never planned to teach - it never was a concrete thing - but I used to say, when I'm a teacher, I'm going to like all the kids, whether they dress nice, whether their hair is done or they have money, I'm going to like all the kids.
     "I didn't see that when I was going to school. We had very few teachers who cared for all of the children. They always picked the kids with the long hair, the brown skin, the nice starched clothes - those were the kids that got the attention. I always felt like the little dirty kids in the corner were the ones who really needed the attention. That was the one thing I always said. I never said 'if.' I always said that when I become a teacher, that's who I was there for."
     "I've always made that my thing. I always went to school with the underwear in a bag and the washcloth and the soap and whatever, for the little dirty ones who I knew were going to get teased, I'd pull aside when they'd come in and [say] 'Come over here, and we'll wash you off, and come back in.' Because I've never met a child who asked for their circumstance. I just believe that as adults, that God put us here to look out for those who can't look out for themselves."
     Just before Christmas you saw Rock and her son on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
     "That was great. Oprah was just like the girl next door," she said. "Then when my mom died, she actually wrote me a handwritten letter, and I was really shocked. Some of the people who wrote me, I couldn't believe it."
     At Caroline's Comedy Club in New York City, she worked on "Comic Relief," and she has a menu item at the club.
     "If you want smothered chicken and gravy, go to Caroline's. She had a group of moms come in, myself, Conan O'Brien's mom, David Schwimmer's mother, Phil Hartman's mother...we go back because Phil Hartman and Chris were on 'Saturday Night Live' together, so we did some specials for NBC. We all did a dish. This year we did 'Ricki Lake,' so they added L.L. Cool J's mom. She did banana pudding." Rock's recipe is her son's favorite: "With biscuits. I just brown the chicken with scallions, onions and celery. Then I put the chicken back and let it simmer. You thicken it up and make a gravy. I make hot biscuits, and you can serve it with potatoes, like they do in New York, but Chris liked the gravy over the biscuits."
     Ms. Rock chose teaching as a profession, coming from a large family.
     "I have always loved children," she said. "We fostered about 17 children through the years."
     She loves to read.
     "Right now I guess this day care is my hobby. I read a lot. I am a voracious reader. And I write. Eventually, I probably will be published. I'm working on it. I already have the title to the book, but I don't have the words yet. It's 'From There To Here,' and it's really about my life. I read everybody, but I've always liked James Baldwin. I like Maya Angelou. I even like Dean Koontz, but it's just that he's so intense that it scares me. You read it, and you're too scared to go to sleep. I read 'Intensity,' and then they did a movie. I don't know how they could do that movie because I was so scared reading that book."
     Martin Luther King's birthday is Edgar A. Poe's birthday too. "I used to love Poe," said Rock. Andrews, S.C. is 15 miles from Georgetown.
     "I was born in Andrews. I left when I was 17. I moved to New York, Brooklyn. I met my husband and never came back. My husband died four or five years ago. That's why I came back," she said. Her father passed away the same year her husband succumbed. Rock is a member of Mount Lebanon Church in Andrews, and she also attends services at different churches.
     "You have to know that the South when I grew up is much different from now. I don't even want to get into what Andrews was like during that time. It was not a nice place. I mean, it was a nice place, the community. I had nice friends. It just wasn't a nice place to live."
     "Chris was born in Andrews, believe it or not. We were here visiting my mother. The first baby, they say is always early or late. He was supposed to be born the first of March. That was my due date. And he was born Feb. 7 in Georgetown. It was a Sunday night."
     Rock's "Ease The Pain" HBO special was dedicated to his father, Julius.
     "He dedicates everything to his daddy, even his wedding. On his wedding invitations, the ceremony was in memory of his daddy."
     Her son is much different than his stage persona, according to his mother.
     "People see Chris on TV, and they think he is like that. Chris is very quiet. He does not talk at all. As a kid, he was a thoughtful person. He's always been fun-loving and that kind of thing, but he was a really good child. He went to school in Brooklyn. He went first to the Garrison Beach school. That was elementary. He went to James Madison High School in Brooklyn."
     "In Brooklyn, Rock taught special education classes in the public schools. "I did 17 years in Brooklyn," she said. "I moved back here in March of '93."


     The last movie she saw was "Soul Food," and she can't wait to see her son's new movie.
     "Right now, as we speak he is in L.A. filming 'Lethal Weapon IV' with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. You remember Danny Glover's daughter in the movie? I don't know if he's going to marry her, but I know he gets her pregnant. He is the love interest. I never read the script. It will be finished by the summer. They are filming from the first week of January to the end of May. Then June 1 he goes back on tour, touring all over the U.S. until the end of August. 'The Chris Rock Show' will be back on the first week of September, and hopefully this year it will be longer. Each year it gets a little longer. This is his third season. All the networks want him for a nightly show, but he hasn't considered it yet."
     Rock was home for Thanksgiving, staying for four days, and he usually calls her about once a week. Martin Luther King's birthday is a special day for Ms. Rock.
     "I think it was a really significant thing that they finally recognized him and gave us this day," she said.
     On Jan. 15 S.C. Gov. David Beasley's press secretary was with his boss at the Myrtle Beach Hilton for a S.C. Department of Natural Resources conference. When he was told of the interview with Rock's mother, he suggested a question about her feelings about Rock's language in his act.
     "I don't like it." said Ms. Rock. "To me, you know who I think is the funniest comedian to me? Sinbad. Because he is so funny, and he never says a bad word. Now with Chris, I could do without the language. And he knows that. But at first, I didn't really listen to what he was saying because I got turned off with the language. And just in the past two years, I have really gotten the message. I see the message now. I'm really proud of what he is doing in those terms. I'm really proud of that. He would have never won an Emmy if it had not been for the message, and there is a great message there.
     "When I go to his shows, and I see the people there, and they are like, you know...when he was in Columbia (S.C.), last year he did a show, and I went, and I mean, he had sold out, and they had to bring another show. It was 85 percent white upper-middle class. I sat there, and I couldn't believe it, you know, because I'm thinking this is South Carolina. I always do that. Success is one thing. I never measured success in money and that type of stuff because that's just superstition, and it can be gone like that. The one thing that's always gratified me with Chris, when he does a show, and people come up to me later, and they say, 'He is so polite,' or 'He is the nicest guy I have ever met.'"
     Atlanta, Georgia: an HBO special - "They had a problem with the lighting. He had bought this shirt. He paid a lot of money for it. He bought a blue shirt, Versace. He said, 'I'm wearing this shirt.' He said, 'I may never ever get to buy another shirt for $2,000. I'm wearing this shirt.' The guy would try and get the light, and the light would keep glaring on this shirt. So finally, I think we went out, and we bought a vest, and he wore the shirt. But we were in the limos leaving, and he said (snapping her fingers), 'I've got to do something.' He ran back in there, and he thanked every one of those guys for working on the lights."
     "And the man said, 'People generally treat us like we're just a part of the fixtures,' and he was naming different stars who came in and really cursed at them and what not because they didn't do something."
     (Jerry Lewis proved he could use the Lord's name in vain in Myrtle Beach last year during a "Damn Yankees" press conference at Fantasy Harbour, showing his boorish, profane side while answering questions from the press.)
     "That's the one thing about Chris too, is he does not use profanity - at all. That's a stage thing. When he walks off-stage, it's a different thing."
     She said that after a taping of "The Chris Rock Show" for HBO, his mother said someone used profanity, and Chris said, "Hey, my mom's in the audience!"
     "I would prefer him not to use the language. I have said to him that I think you're at a point now where you don't really need to. You've got everybody listening now, so you don't really need to. And he has started to drift away from it."
     Filthy monologues by legends like Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy eventually were phased out by the comedians after a national dialogue began over the use of "the "n" word."
     Should the Confederate flag come down from the Statehouse?
     "You know, I don't have a problem with the flag because that's the history of the South," said Ms. Rock. "I don't know, maybe I shouldn't say, oh gosh, I'll get in trouble, but I don't think the flag is our biggest issue. I don't think the flag is the issue. Because I know where I live, some guys were driving with the Confederate flag on their license plates, and someone said, 'You're going to live out there? Those guys are the Klan.' You know, blah-blah-blah.' That's the Klan.' My thing is, people in the Klan, you will never know who is really 'The Klan.' We have this issue now, and if they air this, a lot of people are going to be mad with me about the 'the "n" word' word. He asked me about Chris using the word 'the "n" word.'
     "See, I don't think of 'the "n" word' as a color. People with this black thing, 'I can't do this because I am black' - black is a color not a condition. 'the "n" word' is an action. He (Bradley) was saying, 'How can Chris say the word?' I said, 'Well, he can say it. You can't say it because white people made it a dirty thing and a bad thing and a hurtful thing. My thing is ... how can I say this? Chris said something - well, it was the theme of his show. He said, 'I love black people, but I hate 'the "n" word.' They said, 'How do you separate it?' He said, 'Welfare reform is not worrying black women. Black women are the ones that tie their babies to their backs and work two or three jobs to support a family.' That's a black woman. He said, 'But the (n-word) are shaking in their boots 'cause they don't want to work. They want to wait till you work and collect on your taxes.' My thing is that when I see a girl, 16 or 17, I don't care what color, a baby on the hip, a baby in the belly, and they're talking about 'what kind of sneakers I'm going to buy when I get my check,' that's a nigger. It doesn't have anything to do with what color you are."
     Rock is the voice of "Little Penny" on the shoe commercials on television, and recently Spike Lee bashed Quentin Tarantino for the bountiful use of the word in "Jackie Brown," Pam Grier's comeback motion picture. Samuel L. Jackson spouted the word so many times in the opening 30 minutes that it seemed like he owned the copyright, so Lee thrashed Tarantino, saying that he was trying to become an honorary black man. "Spike is against everything," said Rose.
     She read newspaper accounts of the baby in South Carolina who had died in a hot car while the mother played video poker.
     "It's the person. The poker machine didn't kill the baby. A stupid mother left a baby in a car to go play poker. I don't gamble, so it doesn't bother me, and if bringing it in is going to bring revenue and is going to fix these potholes and get rid of this water, then bring the poker on - if it's going to do something. But if it's just going to be there as entertainment, then you don't need it. They brought Lotto to New York, and it was supposed to help education. We have given millions of dollars away, and you go, and the schools are still falling down. If you're not going to do anything with it, you don't need it. I would love to know where all that Lotto money is going. So if they're going to bring poker to South Carolina, and we're going to be able to drive down the street without your car flooding out, and they're going to put some recreation for the kids who are hanging out in the streets, then sure."
     How would you feel if O.J. Simpson left a message on your answering machine like he did to his son? It didn't bother Rock's mom.
     "O.J. did call. Chris was dogging him out so bad. I think O.J. just wants...he's so afraid of getting out of the limelight, and even if it's a negative thing, he wants to be in the mix, you know?" she said. "It was a joke. It was funny to me that he would call."
     "Rock's new book is funny," his mom said, adding, "He dogs me out, but it's funny."
     On the stoop in Brooklyn, she said, "He would do raps, like, 'Your momma's butt is so big you can show movies on it. Your momma's got so much hair under her arm, it looks like she has Buckwheat in a headlock.' He could make them up so people would come to listen. He had a normal childhood.
     "The only thing I always tell people is Chris is so caring. He's always had a job since he was 12 years old doing something. My husband worked two jobs, and he got his work ethic from his father and his grandfather too. When he would work, $2 a week, he would come home and put a dollar in his pocket, and he would give his two brothers, there were only three of them at that time, each of them fifty cents." Now she has six boys and one girl in the family. Chris cleaned yards, swept, shoveled snow in the winter and delivered papers in Sundays as a child. She characterized her childhood as normal in Andrews. "I was into a lot of activities in school," she said.
     Did she ever run into overt racism in Andrews? It wasn't until a few years ago that "the "n" word" was erased from a lake's title on maps in nearby Marion County.
     "Oh yeah. I always tell my kids, and I think black people have gotten away from it, I let my children know that 30 years ago, not 50 years ago, not 100 years ago, you could not try on clothes in a department store in South Carolina. You could not go to a soda shop and sit down on a hot day and have a soda. I remember so vividly going into Reynolds Drug Store, and the white kids would be sitting at the counter, and you would have to go in the corner. They had a corner where you'd go and order your soda, and you had to walk out."
     "But the thing I remember most, and I often say it, and I'm not bitter about it because it made me what I am now, I used to clean this lady's house, and I won't say her name. I had to clean their house for $6.25 an evening to go over and straighten up and what not. I'll always remember, she had a dining room, and she had a kitchen with a table set, and most times, maybe she would be there, me and her daughter , and if she fed me in the afternoon, I had to go outside and sit on her back steps, and that I've always remembered. When I came back to Andrews, I bought a house in that same neighborhood right around the corner, and I was telling my kids, I said, when I lived here, you couldn't walk on that side of town at night. You couldn't walk over there."
     "Back then there were separate public bathrooms," she said.
     "Now she is 53, and Chris is 32. When she was young, she couldn't go to the picture show.
     "We didn't even go to the movies at all because, you know, you had to go around the back and stand up and wait until they felt like opening the door for you, so my mom never allowed us to go."
     Is it a different day in the 1990s? That morning a Conway minister talked on WRNN-FM about how racism and job discrimination still exists in Horry County.
     "Of course there is," said Ms. Rock. "I'm going to tell you this, and I hope you print this too. I went to T.G.I.F's (in Myrtle Beach) the second Saturday in December, my son and I, my baby. We sat there one hour and five minutes, and we were never served, and I got up and left. Now what I should have done is made a big stink or what-not, and I chose not to. But when I got back, I did call Chris's attorney, and I asked him, and he said to me I should have at least called the manager and said something and told them who I was. I said it wasn't important who I was. I want to be served.
     "What made me angry was that we sat there. It was not crowded. After I sat down, three first, second and third tables, people came in and had their appetizers and drinks, and we were still holding our menu. I got nothing. So we left. I pulled into the parking lot. It was 4:31, and I left at 5:30, and I was never served. I could have made a big stink about it, but you know, I was more hurt than angry, and I would not have been hurt, but my baby said, 'Mommy, those people have their food, and I'm hungry. When are we going to get our food?' And I got up, and I just walked out. He's six."
     One black guy, I guess he saw what was happening, and he came by once and said to me, somebody will be over here in a minute, you know, but no one ever came."
     Chris is the oldest child. Chris told Oprah about a limo driver he intentionally overtipped with the biggest tip he had ever given a driver - even though he recognized the man as a guy who spit on him as a kid. His mother doesn't remember that incident. "There were so many incidents like that," she said. Rock would tell her about such incidents.
     Is there still racism in South Carolina? The Palmetto Project is fighting to eliminate such discrepancies in color and culture across the state, but sometimes one can't escape bias.
     Rock has used the same limousine service, but on one return, her regular driver was out of town and someone else picked her up.
     "I think he was looking for a white person because when I came off the plane, he was holding a sign that said, 'Rose Rock.' But then when he saw me, his expression changed. We drove all the way from Myrtle Beach, and this man never opened his mouth. I said, oh my gosh, you know, he really is mad that he has to drive me."
     "With the annual Atlantic Beach black biker festival weekend coming up, Grand Strand business owners and residents await to see if law enforcement drops the ball like it admits it did last year when tens of thousands of black motorcycle enthusiasts flooded the small town.
     Rock was in the area once during the Memorial Day festivities.
     "The women were riding around with nothing on with these little things, and I had my 18-year-old son in the car, and I didn't appreciate it at all," she said. "My dad was a cement finisher. He built up the beach, but we weren't allowed to stay at the places he built."
     Maybe one day, things will change.



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