Hip-hop comedian Katt Williams, known for his trademark perm and pimped out wardrobe and demeanor, is in a bizarre legal triangle – again. Last week, a 17-year-old boy called 911 and told the operator that Williams refused to let him leave an Atlanta-area home where he is temporary residing while filming.
Charges in that incident are now dropped, but days later Williams was accused of burglary, allegedly stealing $3,500 worth of jewelry and collectible coins. Oddly, the comedian, who is out on $41,150 bond, is accused of burglarizing a home that temporarily resided in and is owned by music manager and budding film producer Barry Hankerson, ex-husband of Gladys Knight and uncle of late singer Aaliyah. Chalking the incident up to a misunderstanding, Alan Clarke, the Georgia attorney who represented Williams in court, is confident that these charges will be dismissed.
While it certainly appears that this charge won’t stick, something is definitely amiss in Williams’ world. He’s been arrested on gun violations twice in the last three years, with the latest charge being dismissed. Last year, he was set to host the BET Hip-Hop Awards in Atlanta a second time but reportedly pulled out the night before the show after losing a break-dancing challenge to hip-hop singer T-Pain to host the show. Other sources claim that Williams and a BET staffer got into a heated exchange, prompting the Ohio native to walk out. Weeks after that incident, Williams, with a publicist citing fatigue, was hospitalized in South Carolina.
All of these bizarre incidents come as Williams is poised for megastardom. His highly-rated 2006 HBO special, Katt Williams: Pimp Chronicles Pt.1, took him to new heights and his latest DVD, Katt Williams: Pimpadelic, is now available on Amazon. But Williams, who cares for eight children, one biological, has fallen into the rhythm of other black comedians before him.
In 1996, Martin Lawrence literally lost it on Ventura Boulevard, reportedly yelling at random people and brandishing a pistol. A year later, Tisha Campbell-Martin, his co-star from his highly rated series, Martin, accused him of sexual harassment and refused to appear in scenes with him, rather difficult considering the two played a loving couple.
On the heels of a contract reportedly worth up to $50 million, Dave Chappelle most famously disappeared to South Africa in 2005, while the third season of his highly rated Chappelle Show was in production for Comedy Central. Citing stress as a major factor behind his erratic behavior, Chappelle alluded to the pressures of fame and Hollywood in a 2006 appearance on inside the Actors Studio. Chappelle, referencing Lawrence’s incident, asked, “what is happening in Hollywood that a guy that tough will be on the street, waving a gun, screaming ‘they’re tryin to kill me’?” Chappelle also noted, “once you get famous, you can’t get unfamous. You can get infamous, but you can’t get unfamous.”
Is fame that much of a pressure cooker? Recent reports about comedian Mo’Nique, who currently helms a struggling late night show on BET, may back that up. Poised for mainstream stardom, Mo’Nique, who gives a riveting, Oscar-worthy performance in Precious, the latest from Lee Daniels, has been accused of refusing to make appearances to promote the small budget film unless paid a hefty sum.
The fact that she’s entered one of the hardest genres in television is ignored. Imagine the pressure that must accompany a decision to enter an arena where failure is the norm. Yet the media has given little credence to those pressures, writing Mo’Nique off as a temperamental diva. Apparently, rapper Notorious B.I.G.. hit it on the head when he rhymed, “mo’ money, mo’ problems.”
Perhaps a fame management class should be instituted. But how does anyone get ready to live in a bubble, especially when they’ve gone unnoticed for years? The glare of the spotlight is relentless. Toss in walking the tightrope between success and urban realities and it gets even harder.
A few years back during an interview in Atlanta, I asked Williams why so many black comedians lose their edge in Hollywood. He freely discussed the pressures of maintaining his brand of humor. Noting that, once fame set in, it was difficult to frequent the environments that once nurtured his humor and that of other like comedians, Williams shared examples of visiting the types of nightclubs he might have once visited following his performances and having to stay alert to avoid robbery attempts. He understood the attraction of hanging in new environments, where those particular pressures didn’t exist, but also found them an unrealistic choice for his circumstances.
Are Katt Williams, Martin Lawrence, Dave Chappelle and others crazy or is this the price that black people, in particular, must pay for success? It may not manifest itself on the scale of those better known, but does this reality explain the distance so many successful African-Americans have between where they are and where they come from?