|AN INTERVIEW WITH WRITER, ACTOR AND MARTIAL ARTIST EUGENE HOBGOOD
NOVEMBER 25, 2008
Special for THE NEW TIMES HOLLER!
© Amir Bey, 2007
The cover for Eugene Hobgood's The Legend of Moon Mountain, illustration by Steve Adams
Hobgood holding a flail on the Nile River, when he went traveled on one of Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannon's tours in 1979
THE NEW TIMES HOLLER!br>
The cover for Hobgood's SONGS OF THE ZODIAC, In Doo-Wop America
INTERVIEW WITH EUGENE HOBGOOD
Author, Actor, Martial Artist
Special for THE NEW TIMES HOLLER! by © Amir Bey, 2008
THE NEW TIMES HOLLER! has followed Eugene Hobgood’s activities over the years; he has been involved in many aspects of the arts, from Tai Kwon Do to acting, speaking, and in the past few years an author of children’s books, including The Legend of Moon Mountain and Songs of the Zodiac in Doo-Wap America. We recently talked with him about his latest work.
HOLLER!: What was your earliest calling: martial arts, theater, speaking?
HOBGOOD: Actually my first calling was writing. I caught the bug when my Sunday school teacher, Lucille, gave me a copy of MOBY DICK. Of course, most of the novel was beyond my grasp. Yet I was able to wrap my mind around enough of it to be hooked on the notion of writing.
HOLLER!: What would you consider to be an important turning point regarding those passions/disciplines for you?
HOBGOOD: This answer could have been an additional reply to your previous question. Here's why. When I was about to turn 13, a kid I knew and another boy knocked on my back door. They, Harold Cross and Eddie Thomas respectively, told me that they along with my long time friend Joe Scott were getting a quartet together. This was 1949. Singing groups were still called Quartets. Long story short they said, to my surprise, I had a bass voice and they needed me to round out the group. Just like that, I wound up singing Doo-Wop bass for the next nine years.
HOLLER!: What theater productions have you been a part of?
HOBGOOD: The most important, career advancing part, in the theater, was Sgt. Tower in the Off-Broadway hit, The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel. This was produced at Joe Papp's PUBLIC THEATER-then known as THE NEW YORK SHAKESPEAR FESTIVAL. My character, Sgt. Tower was the third lead. Later I guest starred in the same role at Perdue University. My most important singing gig was, doing blues and Spirituals with the original Alvin Ailey Dance Company. My most important movie role was 'Mel' in Elaine May's cult favorite, Mickey and Nicky. On television my best role was that of William Lee. William Lee was George Washington's factotum. The production was called Martha Washington's Diary.
HOLLER!: You have a certificate for public speaking, what’s that about?
HOBGOOD: That is just a certificate I received from the Dale Carnegie Institute. My job-I was working as a communications technician at AT&T-paid for the course; ergo...
HOLLER!: How far did you get in Tai Kwan Do; are you still practicing it?
HOBGOOD: I reached 2nd Dan (2nd Degree Black Belt). There are three promotional degrees in Tae Kwon Do, Karate etc. Therefore 2nd Degree Black Belt is the equivalent of the academic Masters Degree. I attended dojo for about sixteen years. Now I work out in East River park from time to time to avoid losing technique.
HOLLER!: You’re a published writer; what kinds of writings of yours are out there?
HOBGOOD: A novel, SONGS OF THE ZODIAC, In Doo-Wop America; An African fable, THE LEGEND OF MOON MOUNTAIN, Ruwenzori-A Fable for Every Age are my two published books. I published three essays-over several years-in an international Masonic magazine, Philalethes. Philalethes is an alchemical term meaning lover of truth.
HOLLER!: How did you get started on children’s literature?
HOBGOOD: In 1979, I went on a study tour to Egypt conducted by noted Egyptologist Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannon. During the tour, that included visits to thirty seven tombs and temples, I asked a lot of questions. One day, on a hill overlooking the Valley of the Kings, it occurred to me that of all the Neters (Deities) I had heard of, none preexisted Isis. There and then, I decided to create a fable which made the point that a female was the cause of the existence of Egypt. Eventually I wrote The Legend of Moon Mountain.
HOLLER!: Your book The Legend of Moon Mountain has many references to ancient Egypt and East African culture. Do you see a connection between those cultures?
HOBGOOD: During the study tour of Egypt and from reading Egypt, Light of the World by Gerald Massey and other volumes, I have gleaned that the ancient Egyptians believed their forebears to have come from Ruwenzori in East Africa..
HOLLER!: What would you like to give to children in your writings, and how would you define the purpose of your children’s books?
HOBGOOD: My reason for writing the fable I've mentioned is to apprise children of who founded Egypt or Ta Meri, as it was known in the mists of far antiquity.
HOLLER!: Your pen name is PapaGino; what’s the origin of that name?
HOBGOOD: I adopted the pseudonym PapaGino as sort of a joke. When my grandchildren were toddlers-they're now, nine and six respectively, they referred to their grandmother's boyfriend as grandfather. I decided to come up with a name that would distinguish me from him. Now understand I am aware that what I like to think of as an innocent whim might very well have been a cynical defense. Anyway, it has now served me well. By the way, from 1961 to 1964 I was in the army. Most of that time I was in Italy [and the] Italians knew me as Gino; hence, Papa-Gino.
HOLLER!: How do you view the current state of children’s education?
HOBGOOD: I know little about what goes on in the education system beyond what I read and hear. I can say this, I spent a few months participating in the P.E.N.C.I.L. "Principal For A day" program. I was assigned to a middle school in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The children seemed excited by my earnest effort to present a broad swath of knowledge to them. They were mostly Latino. So I offered them tidbits about Latino and African American men and women of historical and contemporary note.
I of course threw in African stuff as well.
Although the kids were quite taken with what I offered them, I got little enthusiasm from their Principal and the Assistant Principals of three academies there. I made several unsuccessful attempts to get feedback from them. Because I am a person who demands much from others, as well as myself, I accept no less. Long story short, I got in the wind.
HOLLER!: In a sense, as a writer of children’s literature, you are an educator; are you engaged in activities with the public school system, or are your endeavors independent?
HOBGOOD: I am primarily a writer of novels. I only write children's literature, poetry and essays on inspiration. My involvement in formal teaching is limited to the experience described in my answer to your previous question.
HOLLER!: With a background in theater, would you consider extending your children’s stories to theatrical productions?
HOBGOOD: Although my main purpose is to turn out novels-some of which are perfectly suited for children-I do not rule out any form of writing. Let me explain what I mean when I say some of my fiction is suited for children. I have written a novel about Benjamin Banneker which should be published next year. That is a novel I expect middle school children and young adults will find accessible and enjoyable although it is primarily intended for adults.