I decided to write a book about his great-grandfather, a rags-to-riches story about a Black man born in 1891 in America and who became successful and even famous despite the fact of the racial prejudice at the time. Proof that a person could achieve their goals, no matter what. I had no desire to make writing a career at the time, but because someone enjoyed the book I was asked to write another and another and today I am enjoying a career as a writer and published author.
As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Elva Green.
Elva Green is brilliant and vibrant, passionate about her research and her work and the people she writes about. Today she is working on her second book (about the history of the TV show The Jeffersons and of Maude)… but it is her close family connection to the truly iconic subject of her award winning first book — her father, EDDIE GREEN — a legendary American entertainer of stage, screen and song whose star rose more than a century ago in 1918 (he was the songwriter who wrote the still relevant A Good Man Is Hard To Find. His career continued to blossom through the 20s, 30s, 40s — Amos And Andy, he owned radio stations, was a peer of Lena Horne and Louis Armstrong. His work impacted the culture in ways we still feel in 2020. And though Elva was so young when the legend died that she can’t really remember him, her first book tells the intimate story of Green’s travels through the early entertainment landscape. Since writing that book, her journeys through the entertainment world have brought her to increasing prominence.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
When I was born my mom, Norma, was 25 and had been married to my father, Eddie, who was 55 at the time, for 2 years. Mom was an aspiring opera singer and Eddie had become famous as a radio star, filmmaker, and comedian and we were living in what was then called Sugar Hill in Los Angeles. Sugar Hill was known as the neighborhood a host of famous Black actor lived. While Eddie was alive He took me to screen tests and we travelled across country to his various appearances. I had tap dancing lessons, piano lessons and began learning violin. When I was 2 we moved to Puerto Rico for a year because Eddie’s radio program Duffy’s Tavern began taping the program from Puerto Rico. When I was 3 Eddie died. Life changed drastically. From the time I was born until I was about 4 I was a happy child. I loved dancing for Mom’s friends and singing. Mom got married again and we moved from our nice house to a rental in a cheaper neighborhood. I had been quite outgoing but I became very introverted. I began to read a lot. Mom had to sell the piano, tap lessons stopped. Our house became chaotic. Through grammar school I was a spelling champ and I joined the school glee club. When my mom began having my siblings I became the “big sister”. I had what I called a 2nd family-the Strongs whose father was a preacher so I went to church with them every Sunday. I attended Catholic School for about 2 years until the money ran out. I spent a lot of time in the local library. I dreamed of becoming a singer. When I was 10 my mother went into the hospital for six months and I took care of the house and the kids and my new born brother. At this point I was not a happy camper. In Middle School I excelled in singing. I was in the school choir until I graduated. I began going to outside auditions. I was an average student. Circumstances in our household had changed. Become more chaotic. So I spent a lot of time away from home. I discovered boys. At 15 I joined a singing group. I attended Manual Arts High School and dropped out at 16. I hung out with other dropouts until one day I realized I needed to get back into school if I was going to get anywhere in life so I went back to Adult Night School. I was 17.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I came to this specific career path because of a strong desire to help my grandson who seemed to have a learning disability due to a difficult birth. At birth Edward had to be put on an ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation/machine for severe heart and lung failure which removed the blood from his body, oxygenated it and returned the blood back to his body. This procedure had a 50–50 chance of causing brain damage. At about age six he was having trouble with his schoolwork and he kept on saying “I can’t.” I decided to write a book about his great-grandfather, a rags-to-riches story about a Black man born in 1891 in America and who became successful and even famous despite the fact of the racial prejudice at the time. Proof that a person could achieve their goals, no matter what. I had no desire to make writing a career at the time, but because someone enjoyed the book I was asked to write another and another and today I am enjoying a career as a writer and published author.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Yes, I had a book signing in 2017 in West Hollywood and because of advertisements that went out a gentleman who had seen my father on stage in 1939 came to my book signing. Mr. Kruger was 5 years old when he saw my father in Hot Mikado with Bill Robinson. He fell in love with my father’s performance and when he got older he acquired an original brochure of the event and he brought me a copy of the brochure. He even spoke at the book signing. We are still in touch.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well this was not exactly funny, at the time unless you are looking for slapstick. One day I totally lost my computerized version of my father’s biography. I panicked. After I calmed down I searched my brain for what I knew about computers and remembered that nothing is really ever totally gone. So I tried to recover the document. And I did! Only it was coded. It contained only zeros and ones. 01010101010101. I eventually figured out how to reclaim my document. I immediately went out and bought some ink, and some paper, printed the document (ran out of ink, so had to get more), and I bought a thumb drive. Now I have too many copies of everything but I definitely feel better.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Ben Ohmart. I had asked, through a newsletter (which no longer exists) for proofreaders. I received a reply from a book publisher asking if I wanted a publisher. I had been studying on line how to query publishers and how to write proposals and such and here was someone offering to publish me. Martin Grams, Jr., a writer I had met online had mentioned BearManor Media to me as a place to consider as a publisher. Well, Mr. Ohmart happens to own BearManor Media. Of course I said yes, and he is still the publisher of my books. I received a BearManor Media Manual which was of immense help. Mr. Ohmart submitted my name for an award and I won the 2016 Foreword INDIES 2016 Bronze Book Award. Mr. Ohmart has let me work with minimal instructions (and much praise from him and I know that is because he trusts my writing and this gives me confidence.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Anyone can write a book. If you go into a library you will see thousands of books written by someone. If you have something you want to say, write it down. Back up your writing with research. Be persistent. The one thing I learned is that the more I looked for information, the more I found. You will know when you have come to The End. Be prepared for setbacks and most of all be patient.
What drives you to get up everyday and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?
In the beginning I was driven by my desire to motivate my grandson. As time went by I began to realize that Eddie’s story could be inspirational to many people who double their abilities to succeed. So I was motivated by wanting to help others achieve their goals. I try to stay positive. I like to advise people on ways to be positive in their lives. I am a reader and I love research. I am driven by my interest in my fellows, especially those who have been lost in the shadows over time. I want to get up and put this information out there. This career path provides me with a feeling of accomplishment and it has allowed me to meet many fascinating and friendly people. There are some really nice people in this world. I like interacting with my fellows. I know in that way I am like my father. He was a licensed shortwave radio person and he loved to talk with people all over the world. He even had a shortwave radio in his Buick. Regardless of the misfortune that can be found in this world, having people respond to my writing by sending good vibes my way keeps a smile on my face and makes me happy to get up and share positivity.
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
Right now I am finishing up my second book on the TV sitcom “The Jeffersons”. I’ve been able to speak with not only the principle cast members who are still with us, but I have also spoken with Mr. Norman Lear, the creator and producer of “The Jeffersons”. I was nervous going into this project, but each person I have talked with has been willing to help make the book a success. I chose to interview members of the crew also, as those cameramen, and cable pullers and costume designers are often overlooked.I am heading into a third book about the TV Sitcom “Maude” which will take me into 2021. I have been able to communicate with writers from both of these programs and they have been most educational. I am making a list of people I want to write about, people who contributed their talents to society but are rarely spoken of. So, I imagine I will continue writing as long as I am able.
We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?
Real life is Diversity. No matter how people think things should be it cannot be denied that we each interact with one another in some way. When we ignore the fact that others exist and contribute we are trying to make our own private world. We are living in a fantasy. that we see as reality. If when I watch TV or see a movie and then go outside I am not unaware that there are major differences in what is on the screen and what is real life. Are we saying that what is depicted on the screen is better than real life? It seems that way. If we can bring diversity into TV and films it can help our culture by fostering a sense of togetherness which can allow our youth to develop a sense of tolerance and eventual acceptance of their differences.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I wish someone had told me about marketing. In order to help my book sell, I had to get over my fear of speaking. I spent some time with a local Speakers Meeting;
I wish someone had told me there is not much information on Old Time Black entertainers on the internet. I had to join a newspaper site (not free) to see older Black newspapers;
I wish someone had told me I would need a “Platform” where people could begin to know me. I bought my first laptop and learned word processing;
I wish someone had told me to be careful about what I shared on social media. I shared an opinion about something that had nothing to do with my book. I received a lot of mean replies and one death threat;
I wish someone had told me that Life would get in the way of my book writing venture and put the writing on hold from time to time.
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
I make sure I get 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night. I am addicted to Mysteries and detective shows so I watch one or two, then I watch something like Dr. Who to calm down.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My father said it: “If you’ve got the talent, you can’t miss in the long run, even if it’s mighty long.” I became a published writer at 70 years of age. A new career path. My fans have acknowledged their appreciation of this fact.
You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
In the world? Betty White. She always has a sweet smile. She loves hot dogs. She has longevity. She is still working.
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!