In Black America; Marla Gibbs, Star of The NBC Television Series "227"
Thank you. This is In Black America, Reflections of the Black Experience in American Society. Lord knows what would happen if it were not for the maze, because I owe you a very, very special thanks.
Because when I went out to audition for the Jefferson's, it was a new show. And it was going to be the very first show of the season. They had a pickup for about 13, a season usually lasts between 22 and 24 shows. And they had a pickup for half a season, and this was going to be the first show. And of course, I had an offer, well, really I went out to audition for the part of a maid who was really only going to work that one week. I was the guest for the week, and I was doing a cameo, what they call a cameo part. And the part called for me to be Florence Johnston, a maid who was going to get the job, then of course, have to give it up because another lady who worked in the building, who happened to be the willessess maid, befriended Mrs. Jefferson in the basement and thought that she was a maid, because there weren't any blacks living in the building that she knew of. For 11 years, Molly Gibbs was Florence Johnson, the housekeeper on the Jefferson's television series.
Today, she has the star of her own television series entitled 227, Shown on NBC Television. 227 was one of the few new series, who survived the 1985-86 television season. Viewers watching the show found similarities between Florence and Mary, the role she plays on 227. Mary, too, has a quick and sometimes sharp tongue, but she also has a giving and lovable side that viewers rarely, if ever saw, in Florence. Recently, Molly Gibbs was the keynote speaker at the Central Texas Sickle Cell Anemia Association's first annual bandquet, Autumning Mades. I'm John A. L. Hanson, Jr. this week, Mrs. Molly Gibbs, star of the television series 227 in Black America. Of course, the saying, I don't do windows has been attributed to me, but that was really not the case.
She was trying to get me to say, no, I didn't want the job, so she says, do you do windows? So I said, how many do you have? And she told me, I said, oh, yes, I do all your windows. So I don't know how they got it backwards, but the saying has been that I said, I don't do windows. At any rate, I got the job, and thanks to the response from the audience, and I'm sure quite a few of you, I got called back. So along about the eighth show, they wrote something else for me, and the eleventh show, they wrote something else again, and then they offered me a contract. And when I went out to audition for this part, and I was reading, it reminded me of my grandmother, Hadi Sims, who was also a maid in Chicago. And I just kind of let her spirit come forth, and all the little remarks, you know, how you guys do. All the little things that you say in passing under your breath and to the side, and especially
to the kids, you only see it one time, and you don't even look at them, you know, but they know if they don't get the message, they're going to be in trouble. And my grandmother was that kind of woman. So I just kind of let her come through, and I got that part. And after that, I just kind of let her loose on the set, when I go out and George would say something to, I just let Hadi handle him, or Bell, and Bell, it was my aunt who also was a maid in Chicago. And they had a way of letting you know what was on their mind. They didn't have the formal education, but they had what we call mother wit, you know. And mother wit always knows the answer. It knows exactly what to say, when to say it, and how to do it, and how to give advice. Because I noticed quite a few of the maids on their resume of set and giving advice. And I'm sure they have a lot of advice to give.
In show business, nothing contributes to success like good word of mouth's advertisement. Few people know it better than Marley Gibbs. It was the rapid and positive word of mouth four years ago that motivated officials from a three major television networks to venture into Los Angeles black community to view misgibs in 227, an amazing play about a busy body housewife and her family and her neighbors. During the early episodes of 227, Marley was the straight woman who was always engaged in verbal rastling matches with Sandra, who ended up receiving most of the laughs. From 11 years, Marley Gibbs was Florence Johnson, the super sassy housekeeper on the Jefferson's television series, an extremely tough act to follow, according to misgibs. I see 12 years for 227. Recently, Marley Gibbs was the keynote speaker at the Central Texas Cycle Selenemia Association's first annual banquet honoring maids. The following is misgibs remarks. A lot of people didn't seem to know how, well, the Jefferson's didn't seem to know how
to handle their household, they didn't know how to open the door all of a sudden. They didn't know, you know, they were standing by the door and the doorbell would ring or someone would knock and then they'd say Florence, that's the door I said is sure is. It just seemed very odd to me that I don't know how these people got along before I got there. And so one day on the set, Mrs. Jefferson is about turning me. She said exactly what is it you do for me? What is it you do for us? What do we pay you for? I said apparently to show you how to run your house, oh honey, because apparently you don't know how. I said now see when I leave here, you're going to know how to open the door. You're going to know how to get your turkeys and cook them and take them out of the oven. I said honey, when I leave it, you're not going to be helpless. Trust me. So we had a kind of running joke on the set and it was 11 beautiful seasons and a lot of fun, especially with Sherman because he provided me with a joy of telling him where
to go and how to get there. And he seemed to be delighting and asking for it all the time to the point that sometimes he would go home and think of something to do so that I could get him. He would come and he said, you know, I was a man in the bed last night and I was thinking, you know how you always act? We were both running for the door. He had, usually he wants me to open the door, but when he has someone he wants to impress, he wants to get the door. And of course, I was so into my maiden thing that I wanted to get the door. So we had one show where he was heading from one side of the room and I was heading from the other side and he was saying, I'll get it and I was saying, I'll get it, I'll get it, I'll get it. And as I got to the door, we just opened the door. So he got home and he said, you know, I was laying in the bed last night and I was thinking, you know how you want to get to the door and I want to just turn around and choke you, you know.
So I said, well, go ahead, do it, do it. So we did it and it was so hysterical that the director said, well, we can't do it because the audience won't stop laughing. When we opened the door and we got to bring the next guest in, you know, he said and the look in your face is so funny, I said, well, throw me in the bathroom. So we did that and he threw me in the bathroom and closed the door and of course the audience is smart, right on cue. They stopped and waited for the next thing to happen. And so a lot of you have probably seen that in the montage. Well, I will that one to the shrimp, short ribs. So anyway, it's been 11 beautiful seasons, thanks to you and really in when the shows come up, I really thought of what was dignified for you, what I felt you would appreciate, how to really represent you in a manner of respect and appreciation for all that you do that people rarely think about.
It would be a terrible world if nobody did the cleaning. Most of us who go off to work, the only way we can do that is if our households can stay intact, if our children can be cared for and we owe a great deal of thanks when we can come home and know that that's taken care of, especially when you get into mental work, most of the executives that go off, they may not do physical work, but they do a great deal of mental work, which is why most of them end up with heart attacks early because there's a lot of pressure. If they don't have someone to take care of the home front when they come home where they can relax, they're not going to be here very long. So whether they know it or not, they owe you a vote of thanks. We also have to thank you for the sacrifices you've made because most of you have not had the luxury of having your home clean when you got there.
So you had to double do, you had double duty. Most of you have not had the privilege of having someone take care of your children. So when you got back home, you were faced with a lot of deliminous. And children who did not understand what it is that you had to do in order to make things better for them. Case in point, most of the children have not understood some of them have, I'm not speaking to all of them, but there's a great deal who haven't as is evidenced by this fact that this place is not packed. The moment somebody heard the word made, they should have been down here. Because it means so much, most of them have gone off and gotten a formal education, a college education, to be other things. And we educated them so that they could turn around and look down on us. And they didn't realize that we did not send them out there for that.
We sent them out there so that they could be all that they could be. Now submaids are not maids just because that isn't, that's all that they can be. Some maids are maids because that's what they want to be. Some people really enjoy cleaning. If you go to France, if you go to Italy, if you go to England, it's a profession. It's a renowned profession and a very respected profession. In this country, with us, because we came through slavery and came into domestic service, and because it was all that we could be, we tended to look at it in a different manner. But I'm here to tell you that it is a beautiful profession. The hotels look the way they look and we enjoy the luxuries because the places are clean and spotless because the silver and the brass has been taken care of because the mirrors are taken care of.
If not, you'd have smudge land, wasteland, roach land, and all the other little lands that you know I'm talking about. So the country as a whole owes a great deal of thanks to the people who do the basic groundwork for us, whether that's the builders, or the farmers, or the maids. And one thing about it, you don't have to worry too much about unemployment because you don't mind getting out there doing little elbow grease. But some people have gotten to a level where they feel I can't do these things because if I do them, then people will look at me as though I'm not anybody. They think that the profession has something to do with being somebody. We were born someone. We were born, each of us were born a star because God is in every one of us. And the king cannot be in any place less than a palace.
So inside of you is the palace. But we have been seeking the palace, looking out across the street, across the land. As they did when Jesus really did walk the land, they never did understand that what he was trying to say is I am my father or one. And as I have done, you can do also even more. I did some made work in Chicago for a dentist, but I never stopped thinking about what else I wanted to do. And because I'm a gymman, I always do five or six things at one time. So that means I sell pictures from door to door, whatever there is, but where there's a will, there's a way. And I had the will. And I didn't start out to be on television, but we never know where God is going to end. Where we're going to end up with God. But if we allow ourselves to be guided and don't get confused about what we think we want, because so often when we finally arrive at our destination, it's so much better than where we thought we wanted to go.
This is so much better than where I thought I wanted to go. Pays better too. And also allows me to touch the hands of into looking the faces of so many people, so many beautiful people of all colors, of all creeds, who all say I love you. You know, there was a time years ago when nobody said the word love. They didn't want to expose their feelings. They said like, I like her, but I hear the word love often. And I hear it from all races of people because they identify with the spirit in me. It is because I, myself, am so beautiful. It isn't because I, myself, am so talented, but they feel my vibration, and I know that what they feel is really the spirit of God, and they identify with it. And they also know that I love them, each and every one of them.
Not just because they look at the show, because each and every one of them, I see God in their faces, no matter what color they are. And they open up and they smile. And I get a lot of smiles, so this is a very rewarding job. If I didn't get any money, it would be rewarding because of all the love I get and all the encouragement I get. And I want to share it with all of you because you're so beautiful, and because each one of you is distinct, each one of you is an individual expression of God, and you're so beautiful. And my message today is to tell you how beautiful you are, and that there is no one, just like there are no two fingerprints that are alike. There's no one quite like each and every one of you. And most of the people that you work for already know this when they look at you and what you bring to them, there's no one like you.
That's why it was hard for George to get rid of Florence because there was no one like her. And sometimes we have to have someone to prod us so that we can be better than we are. So I'd like to think that I made George a lot better. I did a lot of prodding to make him better than he was. And I'm sure when I left him, he missed me because I mean, there's nothing exciting about getting up and going through a day and knowing what your day is going to be. You've got to have a little chaos and a little excitement and a little antagonism in there, right? Something to deal with so that you can strive and climb over. And I gave him lots of things to climb over. And most of you would not have a job if that's what you did. So I know that I speak for you when you can't speak as you say, say it Florence, give it to him. So I'm giving it to him, reach, I have so many ladies come over to me and say, he's
just like my husband. And every time you give it to him, I'll give it to my husband. And I crack up because it is so funny. But come into Waco and what's perceived as smaller places because I've always lived in big cities, there is something about being able to just reach out and just get the hospitality from the people. And they try to put waiter on you, they offer you chicken and ribs and try to make me fat us so I can't get in my clothes and create dilemmas for me to climb over. And I rejoice in climbing over them because I eat everything they hand me except pork. I don't touch the pork, but everything else, don't go cook any chicken, okay? Because I can't resist it. But anyway, I'm always happy to come back for a worthy cause. Right now we know we have some diseases that have taken the forefront in this country and kind of put sickle cell on the back burner.
We can't let that happen. You've got to take care of all of them. We do have to do something about AIDS. We do have to do something about herpes. We do have to do something about the moral standard of the country because when we deal with the morality, we don't really have to worry too much about these diseases. Sickle cell is another thing altogether. It's something we can't do anything about. They're born with it. It takes money for research. We're making headway, but we can't give up because quite a few children are going to die if we don't take care of it. We get new challenges. I don't like to call them problems. I like to call them challenges because they are challenges for us. The Lord said, there is two or more gathered in my name. There I will be also, and there's more than two of you here gathered in his name, so I know we can do something about sickle cell. I know we can do something about AIDS. I know we can do something about the homeless.
We have to stop, you know, for a while they got to be doing my thing and we got on an individual kick of what I want to do, what I think. Whenever we do that, we have a problem. We have children who, and older people, who play what they're interested in hearing so loud that they don't recognize they and friends or other people. They're doing their thing. This is what I like. That's all well and good, but when you want to hear something on your radio, if I can't hear my TV at the same time, you're infringing on me. So you've got to put it where you can do it, you can do your thing and allow me to do my thing at the same time. That is what we need to teach the young people. We need to teach them to care and to always be aware that there are other people around. If they're not aware that there are other people around, you have a problem because it becomes their thing at all costs. When you have gang warfare, you have crime, it's only an ignoring of someone else's rights.
When I decide I can come into your house and take what you've worked so hard for, then I don't care about you. And basically, that's what is happening to the country. We're not caring. We're not caring about the soldiers who went to Vietnam and came back and are having a problem. We say it's their problem, so they're on the street. When I caring about the homeless at one time, I knew when I was a kid, we thought the people who were homeless were bombs. We said they could get a job if they wanted to. But now we see children and women on the street. And we see people who went and fought for the country on the street. And still, we buy bigger and better cars, more homes, do what we want to do. And we never think of giving a portion. And we never think of saying, there, but for the grace of God, go why. In Waco, when I drive down the streets, it's beautiful. And I hope that you don't have, and I don't know whether you do or not.
I know you have your share of problems, but I hope you don't have as many problems as we are suffering from in the larger cities, the apathy that goes on. You know, as neighbors, we can all look out for each other. We can look out for each other's children. We can look out for each other's property. We can even create jobs. I dare say how many plumbers or electricians I was speaking to Reverend Carter about that, how many plumbers or electricians, and I like to pass this message wherever I go. Or carpenters, small businessmen that there are, that are not able to function anywhere, because we're losing the small business man, just like we're losing the farmer. I dare say how many there are, they don't have enough work. And how many are right in the same neighborhood with them who need the work, and don't know how to hook up, but we have the churches for that. And if you can prevail upon your churches and support them in that, we can then have a hotline in the church where you can call when you have carpentry work, and you can
call if you have electric work or plumbing, or whatever your needs are, you can call and say, I need this. And they can get a roster of the businessmen just in your community who do that work. And those men can then train some of the older and younger people who are out of work to apprentice, because they'll have more work than they can handle. That's something to think about. And mowing lawns. We can also take care of the lawns of the senior citizens who don't have someone to do it, all through the church, all in the name of God. Wouldn't that be beautiful? So I'm hoping I can leave that message to alleviate, I don't know. I can't be here to do it, but I'm sure if one person gets the thought, if I pass it along and one person gets the thought and moves on it, then we can pretty soon eliminate a lot of unemployment and a lot of gangs, because then we'll have places to take the children
in. Those who don't want to be in the gangs or just left out there on the street, and they joined because they don't have anything else to do, and they were afraid not to. But if they were not on the street, if we were taking them in, is when I grew up in Chicago, there was a place called Olive It Baptist Church, and although I was going to a Catholic school, when I got home, I hung out at Olive It Baptist Church because there were two people there. And I don't know who paid those two people, and I thought about that quite a bit since I've been grown. But there was a Mr. Jim Brown, and there was a Miss Gates. And just the two of them in this big church upstairs, they had acting and all and reading and tutoring, and because I was a tomboy, I was downstairs with the boys learning basketball and ping pong and cleaning off the vacant lots and playing baseball. But it was just there for us. And we didn't have a great deal of money, and I thought that people who had more money had a lot more than this.
And I find out that isn't the case. The more money we have, the less we've seen to be providing for the community. But you know, Mr. Brown would take us to his house once a month. He'd take the girls over and give us some Coca-Cola and play records for us and tell us about our history and tell us about the history of the music, and listen to anything we want to know about boys, and then he'd take the boys another week and talk with them. So we had counseling, and we didn't know what, we didn't call it that then, but we had it so you see, just these two people were able to reach so many children, kids were just come because it was open. And I'd like to see that start happening again, because we've got to do something. I don't know what you thought I was going to talk about today, but I can't think about anything more important than the preservation of the seniors and the preservation of the children who are going to be the seniors. And if we don't bridge the generation gap so that the young people can start appreciating the seniors again, and the seniors cannot be afraid of the young people, then we're going
to be lost. So whatever else we're talking about, I can talk about TV, but you see that. And TV right now is not important, it's very land. Right now we have to deal with spiritual land and reality, and the reality is always steeped in the spirit. So I'd like to say that I think you ladies have the capability, and you gentlemen have the capability of continuing the struggle and of solving the problems, because as Waco goes, so goes the nation. It has to happen smaller places first, and then it was spread out, because everybody who came north came from the south. And those values that you brought, we have to hold on to them. And you have to keep bringing them out and not allowing them to come here. You know I'm going in certain places in Europe, they don't allow, and I'm in a business,
but I'll say this, I'm in this business, they don't allow certain television programs and they don't allow certain movies. Because we know that when we're looking at those movies, I've sat there and watched them teach a person how to strip a car in so many seconds, how to get a gun, how to put it together, and how to kill, and how to say that most of the problems are solved through violence. The good guy is the one who shoots the fastest and the most bullets and kills the most people, and he's on top, and that's the message that we're sending out. And these children can get guns everywhere, they can get all kinds, it's frightening, they can get all kinds of guns, machine guns, they have everything the police have and more, the police can't keep up, their equipment is nowhere near, but the equipment is for the gangsters. And we cannot sit back and apathy any longer and say, Lord have mercy, my, my, my, oh Lord, we cannot do that any longer.
We have to take an active step in protecting our community. Miss Molly Gibbs, starring on the NBC television series 227, I'd like to thank Art Price for his assistance in the production of this program. If you have a comment or suggestions asked your future in Black America programs, write us the address is in Black America, Longhorn Radio Network, UT Austin, Austin, Texas 78712. Until we meet again for in Black America's technical producer Cliff Hargrove, I'm John Elle Hanson Jr., please join us again next week. You've been listening to In Black America, Reflections of the Black Experience in American Society. In Black America is produced and distributed by the Center for Telecommunication Services at UT Austin, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Texas at Austin or this station. This is The Longhorn Radio Network.
For 11 years, Molly Gibbs played Florence Johnson on the television series The Jefferson's. I'm John Elle Hanson Jr., join me this week on in Black America. Because when I went out to audition for The Jefferson's, it was a new show. And it was going to be the very first show of the season. They had a pickup for about 13. A season usually lasts between 22 and 24 shows. Molly Gibbs this week on in Black America.
- In Black America
- Producing Organization
- KUT Radio
- Contributing Organization
- KUT Radio (Austin, Texas)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- John Hanson presents a speech given by Marla Gibbs at the Central Texas Sickle Cell Anemia Association's First Banquet Honoring Maids (Domestic Workers).
- Episode Description
- This record is part of the Film and Television section of the Soul of Black Identity special collection.
- Created Date
- Asset type
- University of Texas at Austin
- Media type
Copyright Holder: KUT
Host: John L. Hanson
Producing Organization: KUT Radio
Writer: Marla Gibbs
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: IBA41-88 (KUT Radio)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “In Black America; Marla Gibbs, Star of The NBC Television Series "227",” 1989-08-01, KUT Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 1, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-529-7h1dj59m8f.
- MLA: “In Black America; Marla Gibbs, Star of The NBC Television Series "227".” 1989-08-01. KUT Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 1, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-529-7h1dj59m8f>.
- APA: In Black America; Marla Gibbs, Star of The NBC Television Series "227". Boston, MA: KUT Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-529-7h1dj59m8f