In 1989 a group of partners and I opened Roxbury, a nightclub, restaurant and blues lounge on Sunset in West Hollywood. It was the days of red velvet ropes and selective doorman, a trend made famous by Studio 54 in New York City. As Roxbury’s popularity grew, so did the crowds. It would not be an overstatement to say there was hysteria at the front door most nights. Women in tiny skirts, guys in leather motorcycle jackets over wife beater tees hoping to be selected for entry by the discerning eye of the one chosen to pick from the masses. Often during the course of the night in these early days, I stood just behind our doorman to scan the crowd for anyone I recognized so that they would not be left out of the fun inside.
One particular night, a young man (I guess we all were) in the crowd caught my eye. He was standing back and unsure what to do to navigate our door policy. I told the door man to drop the rope, motioned to the young man who without hesitation stepped forward. The two us ducked inside. He thanked me, introduced himself as John and told me he was in film school at USC.
From that point forward this young man, who became the icon we will now all be without, was kind, humble, funny, somewhat awkward, undeniably immensely talented, unforgettable and someone who remained true to his roots. We opened Post & Beam in South Los Angeles in 2012. I don’t know if anyone was more pleased to discover the restaurant in “his neighborhood” than John Singleton. His was a familiar face to our staff, as he often dined with family, especially for brunch. He loved the pancakes.
A couple of months ago on one of these Sundays, John approached me in the restaurant, “Man, I want to do a documentary about Roxbury. But I want it to be your story. I want to go back to NY, to your Dad’s place and tell it from there. The music from the 70’s -90’s, all that culture, everything”. For those of us who have been in this town for a while, or came with starry dreams, you learn to manage expectations. Often, especially in my business, these conversations are spur of the moment and usually end there. That was not John Singleton, he intended to do exactly what he said.
A few weeks ago after several sit downs with John and many enthusiastic “fist bumps” between us mid- conversation, we met with the team in the documentary department at Netflix. That’s who John was. He was as I heard him say in that meeting a “student of culture, in particular, Black culture” and to him this story was a worthy documentary. It was important to him that Black culture was catalogued, even someone’s story like mine. He was just that guy.
Walking out of that meeting, on the steps of Netflix, as we paused while a young brother passing had to stop to tell John how much he loved Snowfall, I told John how much I appreciated him, regardless of the outcome at Netflix. We both recognized how our 30 year relationship landed us at that meeting so many years later.
That, was a good day.
John Singleton January 6, 1968 – April 29, 2019