HELLO AMERICA!—Having spent most of life and career in Hollywood, I have been fortunate enough to meet and experience tons of young people who started out with very little and suddenly the golden door of opportunity opens and life changes with a big bang! This is what happened to my dear friend, Philip Michael Thomas.
When I first met the actor, he was living in Hollywood in a small house near my office on Melrose Avenue, downtown Hollywood. That, in itself, was a tremendous quickly without difficulty. So, it worked beautifully for everybody. There were PR people at our door at every turn, trying to convince me to highlight one of their clients from Broadway, nightclubs, film or TV as very special in one of our publications i.e., PLAYERS, NOW and MICHAEL ST.JOHN’S FOXXY PEOPLE magazine which my name was used as part of the logo, in the same fashion as RONA BARRETT. I, of course, was quite elated to be the first Black Hollywood columnist to be given such a marketing responsibility.
This is when Philip Michael Thomas entered my office. I had seen him as the star of a TV film, “The Whack Attack.” His performance was quite exciting, believable, so much so, it was no surprise that he was receiving other roles on TV and later in other popular films such as “Sparkle.”
Many times during the week, Philip appeared at our door bringing with him some food goodie, to share with me and my assistant, Monica Fisher. We had wonderful discussions about the industry, how he wanted to build on what was happening in his career. He studied ‘religion’ during the few years he was in college, and had grand plans of one day founding a church to preach the gospel. He wouldn’t separate himself from the people like so many people who suddenly made a name for themselves. When he articulated these, extremely impressive things to me, I noticed how his eyes lit up; it was easy to see him in front of the masses, guiding them into another world of love and hope.
Suddenly, he informed us that he had auditioned and asked to co-star with Don Johnson in a new series, “Miami Vice.” Philip was absolutely sitting on top of the world, this was his chance to show Hollywood what he was an actor. We were all very proud of him and when the series was premiered, the nation fell in love with the two characters and that’s when all the hoopla, applause and screaming whenever they appeared together slowly changed Philip into someone who was quite foreign to many of us who genuine loved and believed in him.
When Philip guessed on the Johnny Carson Show, without a bit of jest, he predicted that he was going to get a Golden Globe, Oscar, or Grammy because other actors, even though they might have sheltered the same ambition would never have voiced this ambition so openly. Unfortunately, this type of self-adornment and talent continued at every public turn. As a result, when he did release his first recording which I believed quite good, it didn’t sell.
It was downhill from that point on, it seemed. I knew his pain, frustration because knowing him as I did, I experienced it with him. After all, Philip was a friend. Even though he attempted several new projects and business ideas, nothing ever manifested into something which might satisfy his desire, proclaiming him as a winner. Many people ask me about him, what and why did he screw up such a great opportunity when he was being applauded by the nation?
I simply answer, “Philip is the kind of guy who reaches for the stars, and even though he reaches the rim of it all, he has that urge to reach for more, hoping the applause might get even louder.”
It’s the kind of thing which makes it worthwhile for him to wake up in the morning, put on the gloves and begin punching his way to conquer a new challenge. Possibly, this is why I still love my old friend, he’s a fighter and every punch he throws, it’s aimed to hit hard.