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Living Single aired from August 1993 until January 1998 on FOX.

Khadijah ( Queen Latifah ( nee Dana Owens)) was the editor of Flavor, a magazine for black women in this black clone of Designing Women. She lived in an apartment in a Brooklyn brownstone with her cousin Synclaire(Kim Coles), a perpetually perky but not to bright woman who was her secretary at Flavor, and gold-digging sexpot Regine ( Kim Fields-Freeman), a childhood friend who worked at a fancy women's clothing boutique. Max ( Erika Alexander), Khadijah's college roommate, a man-eating divorce attorney with an acid tongue, seemed to spend almost all her free time at their apartment. Living in the apartment upstairs were Synclaire's boyfriend , Overton ( John Henton), the building's dumb, happy handyman, and Kyle (T.C. Carson), a conceited financial planner who dished it out pretty well in his ongoing verbal exchange with Max.

Khadijah's old boyfriend Terrence ( Cress Williams) surfaced in the spring of 1994 and they started dating again. He got a job in the fall in public relations for a record company, and at Thanksgiving left to go on a six-month-long world tour managing a rock group. In the last original episode of the 1993-1994 season Max lost her job at the law firm, got drunk, and ended up spending the night in bed with Kyle. Despite their hostility they discovered they liked each other, which affected their relationship until they reverted to form. A month after the firing Max got her job back but, because her bosses effectively demoted her, she quit. After several months sponging off Khadijah and her roommates, she got a job with the Public Defender's office.

In the fall of 1995 Kyle and Max were secretely dating, but their mutual belittling of each other caused them to break up. Regine had a new job working behind the scenes on a soap opera, and Ivan ( Bumper Robinson), a sophomore at NYU, was working as a gofer at Flavor. Also on the Flavor staff was Russell(Shaun Baker), a Jamaican with the hots for a disinterested Regine. In 1996, a busy year, Maxine ran for alderman and, despite having her entire racy past exposed on local tv news, she won the election. She and Kyle resumed their clandestine affair. Overton and Synclaire got engaged. In November, Regine's soap opera, Palo Alto, was canceled, leaving her without a job, so she started organiizing parties. At the end of the 1996-1997 season Overton and Synclaire got married and Kyle's law firm offered him a chance to run it's London office. He and Max broke up-but at the wedding Max told Kyle she loved him.

In the fall of 1997 Tripp ( Mel Jackson), who wrote commercial jingles, moved into Synclaire's room. Max and Kyle fought over whether he was staying or she was moving to London with him ( he left at the end of the season's second episode), and Synclaire and Overton were stranded on a deserted island when they missed getting back on their honeymoon cruise ship after a luau. In December Regine found her millionaire, Dexter Knight ( Don Franklin)and Khadijah reunited with Scooter. Although Kim Fields-Freeman was still in the opening credits, she did not appear in any of the last episodes. When the series aired it's last 2 episodes on New Years night 1998, Max was artificially inseminated and became pregnant-with Kyle's sperm. She and Kyle got back together, and Synclaire, whose acting ambitions and work had landed her a role in a sitcom, moved to Hollywood with Overton.

Theme Song Lyrics

"Check, check, check it out
What you want?
No free position

Living Single
Yes, we're living the single life
Living Single
Ooo in a 90's kind of world
I'm glad I got my gurls

Keep ya head up (what?)
Keep ya head up (that's right!)
Wheneva this life get tough
You gotta fight
Wit' mah home gurl standin' to mah left and mah right
True blue, we tight like glue

We are Living Single
Ooo in a 90's kind of world
I'm glad I got mah gurls


A Review from variety

August 20, 1993 12:00AM PT
Living Single Judging by the Cover

By Tony Scott

With 13 episodes already ordered, Fox delivers a new series that may appeal to uncritical youthful audiences. The setup is formula stuff — four young professional women living under one roof — and there are a couple of laughs, but the material by Yvette Denise Lee needs Tony Singletary’s helpful direction.

Rap’s Queen Latifah plays Khadijah, who’s got three femme roommates and has started a magazine. Her secretary-housemate Synclaire (Kim Cole) has goofed up the job of finding a cover celeb for the new mag, so Khadijah’s getting nervous.

Roommate Regine (Kim Fields), as shallow and appealing as lipstick, pines over her romance with a wealthy, handsome dude who promises her the moon but has a secret.

Fourth roommate Maxine (Erika Alexander), attorney and fervent women’s libber , adds commentary and physical punctuation.

Series is in the frayed tradition of dozens of sitcoms, but the thesping may make some difference. Lee pushes things with standard sitcom characters — though John Kenton’s handyman Overton is a kick — and lightly amusing situations, but the one-liners and reactions are soon tiresome.

Latifah gives a confident, in-charge perf; Alexander plays flamboyant; Coles goes along with the action; and Fields shamelessly steals her scenes. “Living Single” could draw Fox watchers with its vitality alone.

Living Single Judging by the Cover

(Sun. (22), 8:30-9 p.m., FBC)

Production: Filmed by Warner Bros. TV Prods. and Fox Broadcasting Co. Exec producer, Tom Anderson; co-exec producer-writer-creator, Yvette Denise Lee; producer, Roxie Evans; director, Tony Singletary.

Crew: Camera, Bryan Hays; editor, Henry Chab; art director, Lynn Griffin; music, John Barnes; theme, Queen Latifah.

Cast: Cast: Queen Latifah, Kim Coles, Erika Alexander, T.C. Carson, John Kenton, Kim Fields, Cyle Cozart, Natalie Belcon.

A Review from USA TODAY



Meanwhile you can peg Fox's latest obnoxious sitcom from the first "royal heinie" joke. Living Single ( *1/2, Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET/PT) is a witless attempt to clone Designing Women into a pandering Martin companion.

Rapper Queen Latifah is surprisingly muted and ineffectual as the den mother to three pals: Kim Fields as a snooty, man-hungry cross of Delta Burke and Jasmine Guy; Kim Coles as the obligatory ditz; and Erika Alexander as a sharp-tongued lawyer. They bring unfortunate new meaning to the phrase " brutally played."

Man-bashing is the sport of choice, including a tired subplot of Fields dating a married hunk. And when they hang loose in the finale, they sing My Girl in what must be the largest bathroom in sitcom history. All the better to flush it.

Review from the LA Times

TV REVIEW : 'Living Single' on a Bumpy Road to Good Comedy
The New Season. One in a series
August 21, 1993|HOWARD ROSENBERG

Premiering at 8:30 p.m. Sunday on Channel 11, "Living Single" is caricature comedy, a classic sitcom that's predicated on gross exaggeration. That makes it compatible with "Martin," the incumbent comedy it follows in Fox's fall schedule.

In addition, both have energetic young African-American casts, both make more noise than sense, both yield pearls of clever wit. Unfortunately, you have to dive 10,000 fathoms to locate them.

In the premiere of "Living Single," a comedy about four young women occupying a swanky New York brownstone, the best moments come near the end of the half-hour when the broad comedy has narrowed perceptibly. The least cartoonish and most appealing of the women is Khadijah (rapper Queen Latifah), who operates a magazine aimed at upwardly mobile African-American women. The low burlesque is supplied by her loopy cousin, Synclaire (Kim Coles), her shallow cosmetologist childhood friend, Regine (Kim Fields), and her former college roommate, Maxine (Erica Alexander), a kick-ass super feminist who believes that "men are nothing but speed bumps on the road to happiness." The inevitable drop-by neighbors, both male, are the preening Kyle (T.C. Carson), and Kyle's slow-witted roommate, Overton the handyman (John Henton), who promises to be the show's funniest character.

In that it follows one of Fox's more successful series, "Living Single" may be on the road to longevity. So far in terms of comedy, though, it's the speed bump.

An Article from The New York Times

TELEVISION; The Ever-Expanding Realm of Queen Latifah

Published: January 9, 1994

Ask Queen Latifah, the rap singer, actress, and entrepreneur, about the notion that network sitcoms about blacks are demeaning to black viewers, and her eyes flash with annoyance.

"I don't buy into that," says Latifah, whose anti-violence, pro-woman (and occasionally expletive-studded) lyrics have made her a dominant figure in the rap world.

"It's just comedy -- entertainment," adds Latifah, who stars in the show "Living Single," seen Sunday nights at 8:30 on Fox. Growing up in East Orange, N.J., she says, she spent many pleasant half-hours watching programs like "The Jeffersons," "Sanford and Son" and "Good Times."

"I thought they were funny, that's all," Latifah recalls. "I felt sorry for J.J. and everyone for having to sleep in the same bed." She was not offended by any of them. Nor, she adds, was she put off by sitcoms about white people or the news programs she watched. "What I did realize, though," says Latifah, "was that I was watching everyone else's lives all my life. I'd never really seen myself on television."

That oversight has been remedied; Latifah plays a character not that different from herself on "Living Single." Among the shows Fox introduced in the fall, only hers is a genuine hit. It often achieves bigger ratings than competition like "SeaQuest" on NBC and "Lois and Clark" on ABC, and more people watch it than the Fox show that precedes it, "Martin."

While the 23-year-old Latifah has acted in movies and shows like "In Living Color," only this season has she become a television star -- and made the leap from the counterculture fringe into the mainstream.

"I'm not one to pass up on opportunities that are given to me," says the solidly built and nearly 6-foot-tall Latifah, sitting in her smallish trailer dressing room in a parking lot at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank.

Although many would consider a television series full-time work, she sees it instead as a temporary move to the West Coast while she oversees other projects by telephone. Her most recent recording for Motown, "Black Reign," is No. 23 on Billboard magazine's rhythm-and-blues chart, and she is chief executive officer of a mini-conglomerate involved in music management, recording, real estate, and film and video production. "It's not like the show's that big a drain," she says. "It's not like it kills you. Some days we're not here very long, some days we're here all day.

"It's kind of like a 9 to 5, which I haven't had since I worked at the Burger King, or the Wiz back in Newark. Yeah, Nobody Beats the Wiz. I had to stand up all day there. Here, I don't. So it's not as hard as being a cashier."

So far, Latifah and her show have occupied a safe pop-cultural harbor: as with her fellow rapper Will Smith, the star of NBC's "Fresh Prince of Bel Air," no mention of her other profession is made on the air. "That aspect rarely intrudes on our show," says Gary H. Miller, the executive producer of "Fresh Prince," "and from what I've seen, it isn't a problem for hers, either."

For their part, hardcore rap enthusiasts -- many of whom have mixed feelings about Latifah's lyrics and musical influences -- are quite content that she isn't held up as a prime example of their genre. Says James Bernard, executive editor of the rap magazine The Source: "Latifah's not a revolutionary. She's a pop artist. Which isn't bad, but it's not as if, say, Ice Cube did a sitcom. I never expected it to be the revolutionary hip-hop show that's going to change the way we look at TV."

Asked his opinion of "Living Single," Mr. Bernard says with little rancor, "It's almost like 'The Facts of Life' in blackface, isn't it?"

On the show, Latifah plays Khadijah James, the founder and editor of the Brooklyn-based Flavor magazine, "an urban everything-you-need-to-know guide." The sitcom revolves around the lives and loves of Khadijah and her friends: her ditzy cousin, assistant and housemate (played by Kim Coles); another housemate, a social-climbing clothes horse (Kim Fields), and a fire-breathing divorce lawyer (Erika Alexander).

Although it's clear that Khadijah is committed to making Flavor a success, the producers have set most of the action in the apartment building where the women hang out. And most plotlines concern the women's tortuous attempts to master their runaway libidos and emotions and hook up with a suitable mate.

The dialogue is filled with double entendres; when a guest star of male-model caliber crosses the screen, as happens frequently, it usually signals an intense encounter -- frankly sexual, in several cases -- between him and one of the women.

This is an aspect of "Living Single" that has drawn fire from critics, both black and white. In a Newsweek article exploring Fox's success with urban (translation: black) sitcoms, "Living Single" is cited as the most exploitative of the bunch. "Though all the roommates have college degrees and upscale jobs, they behave like man-crazy Fly Girls," wrote Harry F. Waters, a Newsweek senior writer.

Reverberating much more loudly through the media, however, was an interview with Bill Cosby in the same article. In it, he complained that the "drive-by mentality" of white programmers has turned most black television characters into "living cartoons."

Said Mr. Cosby: "Suppose I did a sitcom about four African-American women like Fox's 'Living Single'? In my show, two of them might be sitting around discussing men all the time. But the other two women are going someplace; something else is happening in their lives. Is that too much to ask?"

In effect, yes, says Latifah -- who insists that between the laughs, her show has touched on such issues as urban violence (in one episode, the apartment was burglarized) and sexual harassment (a hunky but incompetent writer accuses Khadijah of firing him in retaliation for not responding to her advances). The dispute with Mr. Cosby, she says, was blown out of proportion and was cleared up when he made a conciliatory phone call to the show's producer.

But, she added: "We do talk about men, you're damn right. Men sit around all day and talk about women. O.K.? Now, when we want to talk about it, it's a problem? That's insane. This is real life! It's not like you don't!

"We're single women! We're single women! What do you want us to talk about? We all have good jobs, because we've earned them, O.K.? We're pretty much doing everything we've got to do, and a man will fall in there somewhere."

Apparently, Queen Latifah's attitude is widely shared. In contrast to many sitcoms, which have to troll Los Angeles tourist spots to recruit audience members, "Living Single" fans -- perhaps 95 percent of them black -- line up for tickets.

QUEEN LATIFAH WAS born Dana Owens; the nickname Latifah, which is Arabic for "delicate and sensitive," was bestowed on her by a cousin. She attended Manhattan Community College, but by 1987 was mainly devoted to writing songs and rapping with local groups.

Queen Latifah's 1989 debut album, "All Hail the Queen," sold well and attracted significant media attention. In the testosterone-drenched rap scene, songs like "Ladies First" and "The Evil That Men Do" stood out. In subsequent albums, an ambitious mix of hard rap, R&B and reggae envelops political and social themes; her current single is titled "U.N.I.T.Y (Who You Calling a Bitch?)"

She formed her management and production company, Flavor Unit, shortly after beginning her singing career; the New Jersey-based enterprise is run by her mother and has 10 full-time employees. Based on the strength of her personality (and roles in several high school plays) she got small movie and television parts.

But she had qualms about starring in the Fox program, and there were doubts on the other side as well. "The network people knew Latifah was a name, and they'd seen her on film," says Yvette Denise Lee, executive producer of "Living Single," who formerly wrote for "A Different World," a sitcom produced by Mr. Cosby. "But they were wondering whether she, or anyone else, could carry the show."

Despite all her success, Latifah is hardly sitting pat. For one thing, she growls, the trailer is too small. For another, she has been sounding out Ms. Lee and other well-to-do blacks about investing in low-cost housing. For yet another, Los Angeles -- with its spit-shined Dragnetesque police force and night-prowling police helicopters -- is far from her favorite place. Unmarried, she lives in a rented house not far from the studio; all she will say about her master plan is that it includes a vacation by summer and perhaps a husband and children by age 30.

See, it's just being stuck in L.A.," she says, restlessly. "A lot of what I do carries me everywhere. Across the country. And so it limits me in the sense that I have to be here."

So does that mean that her next album might contain a rap song about being a TV star?

"Oh, no," she says, smiling. "We're not going to go there."

An Article from Entertainment Weekly
Published on May 13, 1994

Television News
''Living Single'' is an unexpected hit -- The four ''Single'' women discuss rap music, men and their roles on the new hit show

By Alan Carter

In the battle for Sunday night, the conventional wisdom at the start of the TV season said audiences could live without Living Single. The big ratings contenders were deemed to be CBS' Murder, She Wrote, NBC's seaQuest DSV, and ABC's Lois & Clark; Fox's man-ribbing sitcom, dismissed by critics as a rip- off of earlier four-women shows, supposedly would have to scramble just to hang on to the viewers of its 8 p.m. lead-in, Martin. And what happened? Living Single bested Martin and ranked eighth among young adults, sinking seaQuest's sub, taking the wind out of Superman's cape, and murdering anything Jessica Fletcher wrote. Among black viewers, the series took the season's crown as the No. 1 show in any time slot.

Living Single, a playful take on the trials of bachelorette buddies coping with love and work in New York City, pulled off this upset by teaming four distinctive women, each a star in her own right. Instead of a clash of egos, Fox got a spunky, harmonious quartet. Even off screen they have formed a bond: Queen Latifah (the rap star who was born Dana Owens), 24; Kim Coles (In Living Color), 27; Kim Fields (The Facts of Life), 24; and Erika Alexander (The Cosby Show), 24, needle and joke endlessly with one another-and with their male costars, John Henton and T.C. Carson. Often they speak in their own code and use silly off-camera nicknames: Coles is dubbed ''Princess Kalooki,'' for ''being kooky,'' she says; Alexander, who says she has ''no butt,'' is ''Princess Dabooty.''

On a hot afternoon in L.A. recently, a few days before the show wrapped for the season, the Single women gathered during their lunch hour and worked the chemistry that caught so many TV pundits off guard.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The critics were clearly wrong about this show.
KIM FIELDS: Yes, they were. (They all laugh.)
KIM COLES: I don't know why anyone doubted us. Look at the players we've got. We each brought a different audience and we knew together we would be very strong.

EW: As strong black women, how do you feel about the way rap music and many black male comics depict black women?
QUEEN LATIFAH: Well, it's pretty detrimental to me. That's why I wrote (the song) ''U.N.I.T.Y.'' And it's (gone) gold, so I'm clearly not the only one tired of hearing black women being referred to as bitches and ho's. I mean, when I was coming up, being called a bitch was fighting words. And now it's so common. It bothers me. (They all nod.)
ERIKA ALEXANDER: This show's not about people putting each other down all the time, which you tend to find a bit more on the black shows. When Kyle (the neighbor played by Carson) and I put each other down here, it's more about wit. It's like Much Ado About Nothing.

EW: Did you catch Martin Lawrence on Saturday Night Live? He made comments that many women found offensive.
LATIFAH: I didn't see it, but I hear he was tripping (acting foolish).
COLES: I didn't see it. I think he's a very funny man, but I don't think he has to put anyone down that way to be funny.

EW: Before the series began, the title changed from My Girls to Living Single, which suggested a show in trouble.
LATIFAH: At first, none of us liked Living Single. We thought, ''My God, do we have to be single the rest of our lives on this show? What happens if one of us got pregnant?''
FIELDS: We'd be like Menudo, they kick you out for being pregnant. (They laugh.)

EW: It seems to me that Kim Fields is the least like her character, the man- hungry Regine. Would that be fair? (The other three laugh.)
FIELDS: Why are they laughing?
COLES: We all think we're like our characters (Coles plays Synclaire, an innocent office manager at Flavor, a women's magazine) except for maybe one of us.

EW: Who would that be? (Silence.)
COLES: Well, we can go around the table. Dana, do you think you're near Khadijah (Flavor's no-nonsense publisher)?
LATIFAH: Of course!
COLES: (To Alexander) Are you near to (ambitious divorce attorney) Max? (Alexander rolls her eyes.)
COLES: Okay. (To Fields) Do you admit to being near Regine?
FIELDS: Not exactly near, but there are flashes. I was told the part was written with me in mind. I'm never sure how to take that. (She laughs.) I'm not specifically shallow or man-hungry or materialistic.
LATIFAH: We all have similarities. I mean, I'm not playing Jimmy Hoffa here, either. (They laugh.)

EW: So Erika, I guess that means you're the least like your character.
ALEXANDER: I'm no lawyer-I just graduated from high school. We do share the same deadpan sense of humor. But you can see we don't dress the same (Max favors business suits; Erika is wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt).

EW: It's been called a man's world. Have you ever given any thought to what life would be like as a man, or as a white person? Would you switch for an hour to see how the other half lives?
LATIFAH: To be white? No thanks.
FIELDS: No desire. Never had it.
COLES : It's so much fun to be black. Are you kidding me? Think about it.
FIELDS: Nothing against white people, but no way.
LATIFAH: Could I be one of those soulful-assed country people? Just don't make me no straight-up-and-down white girl like Tonya Harding! Oh, my God. Can you imagine?
FIELDS: Dana, you could be like Reba McEntire. (Everyone laughs.)
LATIFAH: Nah. If I was white, I think I would have to be Italian. But then again, that would make me part black, wouldn't it? I'm just kidding. Don't nobody reading this get mad.
COLES: I would like to be a man for an hour
COLES: so I could treat women nicely.
LATIFAH: I'd make a bunch of babies and I wouldn't have to gain the weight! The good thing about being a man is I would have less
body fat, which I would really appreciate.
FIELDS: I love sports and I love being a tomboy, but I also love being very feminine and I love being a woman.
LATIFAH: We couldn't get French manicures if we were men.
ALEXANDER: I will tell you that I had to grow into thinking that being black is very cool. I'm black in the '90s, but I'm not sure I would have liked it so much 50 years ago. Their burden seems more immense. We sometimes don't see the immense burdens on us right now.

LATIFAH: It's a big country. And not everyone is as progressive as everyone else. I was in Montgomery (Ala.), and I couldn't believe the mentality of some people. They might as well have been living in the '60s.

EW: Eddie Murphy talks about how he resents being treated better than the average black person because he's a celebrity. Does that happen to you?
LATIFAH: I go through this with my friends. We'll go someplace where people treat me one way and treat them like s---, until they find out they're with me. I have to say to myself, "I don't want the special treatment." (Laughs.) But you know, I spent enough time on lines, and waiting for stuff, and hey, if I can get into this place for free So I'm not going to act like I don't appreciate it.
COLES: I'm sure we've all been in places where the clerk in a department store didn't even look up, because I'm, to her, just some black woman, but then they finally look up, it's Kim Fields or Kim Coles, and it's oohhhohhhh. It's sad to me. I went to New Orleans this past weekend and people stared at me like I wasn't even human. I don't walk around like I think I'm hot stuff. We're regular people. ALEXANDER: Please, you walk around with a chip on your shoulder.
COLES: (Screaming) I do NOT!
ALEXANDER: I'm just kidding.

EW: How do you keep from having swelled heads?
FIELDS: Because, baby, we've all been unemployed, and we know this can all go away. In a heartbeat. We understand that there are a lot of people in this | business who aren't in these positions. Even if we were the No. 1 show, we ain't all that. I think we understand this is temporary.

EW: What do you talk about when men aren't around?
LATIFAH: Kim Coles and I share a quick-change booth off stage-and let me tell you, this woman is the most sexual person you can ever meet! You wouldn't believe it!
COLES: That's a lie! (Everyone laughs.) That's not true at all.
LATIFAH: I can't even get as graphic as she does.
COLES: Just because I once brought this orange vibrator to work one day.
LATIFAH: She did! Serious. This fluorescent orange vibrator! Bright orange!
COLES: Oh, for heaven's sake, I brought it in as a joke. I mean if you're going to buy a dildo, you buy a real big one as a joke. Oh, my God, he's writing this down.
FIELDS: We talk about everything. We talk about race, political debates. It's not just sex.
ALEXANDER: We talk about where we're going (in our careers).
COLES: The other day Dana and I were talking about the Holocaust, and Schindler's List. And we said it's pretty clear to us that we as black people have also gone through our own holocaust and we're still feeling the effects of it, and in many ways it's still going on. So, it's not just sex.

EW: Could you recast your roles with other actresses?
FIELDS: Sure. We get a Halle Berry type, Angela Bassett, Naomi Campbell, and an Oprah Winfrey type. I know they will say Janet Jackson for me. I get that all the time.
LATIFAH: Hey, excuse me, but am I the Oprah Winfrey type? I think a young Pam Grier (she grabs her breasts) could play me.
ALEXANDER: A young Cicely Tyson could hook me up.
COLES: I'm a lot like Karyn Parsons (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) but she is a lot skinnier than me, so no way!
LATIFAH: Right. I don't want no skinny-ass girl playing me. Get Pam Grier or Yo Yo, someone with some thickness. They're always after us to lose weight, but I'm not doing that anorexic thing. Maybe 15 pounds. And, hey, what would you think if I wore a cute little Afro next season?
COLES: I mean, look, we are four black women. And black women typically have stuff up here, and we have something down there. All of us have booty except maybe one of us. We all look like real women.

Alexander: And that's one reason the brothers tune in.

EW: Did those constant early comparisons to shows like Designing Women upset you?
LATIFAH: Yes. It was a good show, but it had nothing to do with us.
FIELDS: It's the implication that we watched shows like that to take ideas (on how to play our characters). I watch other comedic actresses I like, like Julia Louis-Dreyfus or Kirstie Alley, just to watch them.
ALEXANDER: Like I try as much as I can to have my acting be as close to Shelley Long as possible.
FIELDS: Are you lying?
LATIFAH: (In disbelief) Really?
ALEXANDER: It's a lie! Psych!

An Article from The New York Times

SHOPPING WITH: Kim Coles; Your Sitcom's Canceled? Cheer Up at Bendel's

Published: December 21, 1997

CONSIDERING the hectic week she had just been through, Kim Coles looked surprisingly serene as she negotiated the morning crowd on Fifth Avenue and made her way through the doors of Henri Bendel on a recent Friday.

Ms. Coles, co-star of the Fox sitcom ''Living Single,'' was clearly pleased with herself. Despite having arrived from Los Angeles late the night before, by 8:30 A.M. she had made it downtown to Century 21, where she found, in the men's department, her heart's desire: a full-length leather coat that fit perfectly.

Ms. Coles was also happy to be back at Bendel's, one of her favorite stores, which she says she found the courage to explore only after Hollywood came calling as the 1990's dawned. Coincidentally, that was about the same time the store went a little Hollywood itself by moving into the lavishly restored Beaux Arts building near East 56th Street.

''Isn't it good when you shop at some place long enough for someone to say, 'Where have you been?' '' Ms. Coles asked, standing in the warmly lighted atrium. The piped-in Christmas carols soon had her singing a few bars of Eartha Kitt's ''Santa Baby.''

This was comfort and joy.

This was shopping as therapy, a break from the crazy crush of real life on the other coast.

In the last week, Ms. Coles had gone through the emotional trauma of taping the last episode of ''Living Single,'' an ensemble show about four black friends living in New York, which Fox is canceling midseason after five years. Almost immediately after the taping, she appeared in four back-to-back performances of ''Homework,'' a semi-autobiographical play she wrote with Charles Randolph-Wright, in which she plays all the female characters.

The day of her flight to New York she signed a film deal for ''Homework,'' but there was also disappointing news: the meeting here to pitch a cartoon -- ''Kimmy's World'' -- based on the play's main character had been postponed. No matter. She would go East anyway, to visit family, en route to Washington.

She has also been winding up a national tour to promote her first book, ''I'm Free but It'll Cost You'' (Hyperion), a humorous take on being a single (divorced actually) black woman dating in the 90's.

''I'm reeling from all that,'' she said.

So it felt good to be back in New York. Ms. Coles -- who is in her 30's but prefers not to be more specific -- grew up in Brooklyn, the daughter of a schoolteacher, now retired, and a school administrator who became an Episcopal priest at 62. New York is also where Ms. Coles had her first successes as a stand-up comedian, at local clubs and on the television program ''Showtime at the Apollo,'' before moving to Los Angeles for an unhappy season on ''In Living Color.''

When Ms. Coles is in New York, she tends to shop ''like I'm never going to shop here again,'' she said.

A former plus-size model who has lost and gained weight throughout her career, she is sensitive to the problem of finding clothes she likes -- stylish yet comfortable, simply cut, preferably black -- in her size (14 to 16). She reserves the trendy for accessories, she said.

Ms. Coles, on this day wearing a long black turtleneck sweater paired with knit pants and Nike Air sneakers, understands the hesitation that some large -- and, yes, minority -- women might have exploring stores like Bendel's.

''If I had never come to this store, I wouldn't have known that I would feel comfortable in here,'' she said. ''Bergdorf Goodman used to scare me to death. Oh God, I thought, 'I'm not white enough, I'm not skinny enough, I'm not whatever.' But you know what? If your money is green enough, you can shop anywhere you want.''

It should be pointed out, however, that Hollywood or no Hollywood, Ms. Coles has not lost her healthy skepticism for large price tags -- even in a ritzy emporium like Bendel's, which helped make a name for designers like Jean Muir, Bruce Oldfield and Stephen Burrows. She might be saying, ''This is so fly,'' but there is little hesitation about walking away if the price isn't.

On the second floor, she stopped to admire a black-and-white ostrich-feather boa for $268, but stage whispered that she had bought a similar one in Los Angeles for $35.

She wandered over to a cozy niche overflowing with hats. ''I don't know what it is, but I'm going to buy it,'' she said as she modeled an English coachman's-style concoction made of material that looked like soft needles. ''I love it. And I love purple.''

Then, displaying a rare moment of shopper's doubt (it was a bold hat), she asked, ''Is it too much?''

Across the room, Ms. Coles caught the eye of her assistant, James C. Mathis 3d, an unassuming young man with shoulder-length dreadlocks and an air of infinite patience. He cocked an approving eyebrow. Sold.

While salespeople greeted their old customer, there was little star treatment here. Ms. Coles waited her turn at the crowded accessories counter, or quickly changed course to find a free mirror when she realized she had stepped in front of another woman.

At Macy's, where she once sold pots and fancy knives in the Cellar, she is more likely to ''cause a stir,'' she said, because she encounters more fans of Synclaire, her warm and bubbly ''Living Single'' character. Some have even tried to follow her into dressing rooms. Or to hug her.

Face it, she said, she loves meeting her fans, but there are times when she just wants to shop. ''I feel comfortable here,'' she said of Bendel's. ''They're like, 'Oh, well, hi!' But they let you do your own thing.''

Ms. Coles, friendly and warm herself, is often confused with the effusive Synclaire, and over a small salad at the store cafe, she talked about putting the character behind her and the pain of seeing ''Living Single'' end.

''I'm sad and melancholy because I'm going to miss working with these people,'' Ms. Coles said, adding that she would particularly miss clowning at tapings with her co-stars Queen Latifah and Erika Alexander. Ms. Coles had been excited about how the show might develop her character now that Synclaire had married Overton, the upstairs neighbor and friend played by John Henton.

''I don't get canceling the show,'' she said. The sitcom, one of the first to explore the lives of black professional women, had long been the top-rated show among Fox's black viewers. But in a statement, Fox cited ''declining audience performance'' for ending production. ''We believe the show has run its course.''

Ms. Coles considers it an added insult that the show's final two episodes will be broadcast on New Year's Day, when she fears most fans are apt to miss it.

But now, Ms. Coles is focused on moving on, like being the host of a fund-raising concert for breast cancer the next night in Washington and returning to the stage in ''Homework'' in January at the Coronet Theater in Los Angeles .

Gathering up the purchases of her therapeutic spree -- a lavender mock turtleneck, some brightly colored rhinestone barrettes, two scrunchees and one hat -- she made her way to the door.

''I think the fun part about shopping,'' she said, ''is I manage, the minute I walk out of the store, to forget what I've purchased. And I can go home and open it all up again, like it's a present.''

To read an article about Living Single go to

To watch some clips from Living Single go to

For more on Living Single go to

For The Living Single Page go to

To read about a crossover between The Crew and Living Single go to

For a Website dedicated to Queen Latifah go to

For a Webpage dedicated to Kim Fields go to

For an article on Living Single go to

Living Single Cast and Creator Reflect on Legacy 20 Years After Series Finale here...

To watch the opening credits go to
Date: Mon April 18, 2016 � Filesize: 53.3kb, 118.4kbDimensions: 850 x 566 �
Keywords: The Cast of Living Single (Links Updated 7/30/18)


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