At long last it seems Pam Grier is getting her due. The star of such 1970s “blaxploitation” flicks as “Foxy Brown,” “Black Mama White Mama” and “Coffy” will be honored Friday at a District event at the Marriott Marquis in Northwest as part of the annual “Salute Her: Beauty of Diversity Awards Luncheon.”
This is the seventh year the nationally syndicated radio show Cafe Mocha will host the event, whose aim is to honor outstanding women for their endeavors and accomplishments.
“I am totally excited, humbled, surprised and honored to be receiving the Trailblazer Award from Cafe Mocha’s ‘Salute Her,’” said Miss Grier, who is being recognized along with Grammy-winner Stephanie Mills, CNN White House Correspondent April D. Ryan, Pickard Group President and CEO Vivian Pickard, GBL Sales President Germaine Leftridge and Joi-Marie McKenzie of ABC News.
“Just to salute me? It’s wonderful,” Miss Grier told The Washington Times. “I love Washington, D.C.”
Miss Grier has spent time in the nation’s capital before, notably to sign copies of her autobiography “Foxy: My Life in Three Acts,” in which she details her struggles with cancer, discrimination because of her skin color as well as high-profile romances with the likes of Richard Pryor, Freddie Prinze Sr. and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
She also discusses how Mr. Abdul-Jabbar wanted her to marry him, convert to Islam and give up her career.
“I could have married all of them, [but] my mom and my grandfather said a woman needs to get an education and a man will respect you,” Miss Grier said. “My grandfather [wanted] all the girls to hunt, fish, shoot, change spark plugs — everything a boy does. And that is what I brought to film.”
“Foxy” has been optioned to become a film, and Miss Grier hopes to see it come out sometime in the next two to three years.
In the meantime Miss Grier is also promoting the website BrownSugar.com, a film streaming service she describes as “like Netflix but blacker.” BrownSugar.com boasts a database of over 250 titles, not only from Miss Grier’s catalog but other blaxploitation flicks like “Superfly” and “Shaft.” Films from Eartha Kitt, Sidney Poitier, Yaphet Kotto and even a war film with Richard Pryor are among its cache.
Miss Grier said she decided to get involved in BrownSugar.com partly as a way to catch her mother up on decades’ worth of popular culture she missed the first time around.
“Any [money] that she had went to us, all the kids, so she missed out on a lot of the movies,” Miss Grier said, adding there are “so many films that we’re catching up on that I think will inspire future filmmakers.”
Miss Grier divides her time between her home state of Colorado and a property in Wyoming. An avid animal rights activist, she raises horses at her Colorado ranch and travels as needed for her film career, which, thanks to directors like John Carpenter and Quentin Tarantino, gained her a whole new fan base thanks to 1990s films like “Jackie Brown,” “Escape from L.A.” and “Ghosts of Mars.”
“Quentin demands that if you don’t rehearse, you don’t get to work with him,” Miss Grier said of working with Mr. Tarantino on 1997’s “Jackie Brown,” for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe.
Her “Escape From L.A.” character, Miss Grier believes, was a bit ahead of its time. In that 1996 sequel to 1981’s “Escape From New York,” Miss Grier portrayed Hershe Las Palmas, an old colleague of Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell).
“He had me playing a man who turned into a woman,” Miss Grier recalls of Mr. Carpenter’s flick, adding that, once she was in costume, “crew members said, ‘that guy really looks like Pam Grier.’”
Miss Grier said she is honored to come to the District Friday “to share my narrative and my work with communities that are still figuring out where women want to go and what we can do.”
“Washington has always been a place of discovery and energy and intelligence,” she said, adding that she will be on the lookout for a dining spot recommended by one of her favorite chefs.
“I follow Guy Fieri to find out where he goes to eat.”
Tickets to “Salute Her: Beauty of Diversity Awards Luncheon,” Friday at 11 at the Marriott Marquis, are available at EventBrite.com. She will also be appearing at a meet-and-greet at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center Friday at 1:30.