HAIRCUT 100: Day 64, No. 64. Big Tommy Ford (1962-2016), actor, producer, writer, director and social activist. Today we remember with love and respect Thomas Mikal Ford, whose untimely death was announced this morning. Tommy was a versatile and jobbing actor, who described himself quite rightly on his website as a ‘Hollywood veteran.’ He began his career in the mid-80s, landing a part in Eddie Murphy’s Harlem Nights in 1989, and achieving stardom for his role as the urbane Tommy Strawn in the Fox sitcom Martin, starring Martin Lawrence, which ran for five seasons between 1992 and 1997. Tommy Strawn was the smart character in the show, mediating between the fiery title character, played by Lawrence, and his other best male friend, the lovable dimwit, Cole Brown (Carl Anthony Payne II). ‘Cole… you stupid’ was a Tommy Strawn catchphrase, and the character frequently employed what he called ‘bald-headed logic’ to reign in the protagonist. Strawn’s ambiguous employment status was a running gag in the show, and one Tommy kept going in real life, recently marketing a collection of Verse 9 ‘Tommy Ties’ as ‘For real men with real jobs.’ Tommy went on to memorably play Lt. Malcolm Barker, the uncompromising commander of the Special Investigations Division, in New York Undercover, and Mel Parker in the sitcom The Parkers starring Mo’Nique and Countess Vaughn. His TV profile was raised again by his regular slot as ‘The Pope of Comedy’ in Bill Bellamy’s Who’s Got Jokes? a stand-up comedy competition.
More recently, Tommy fulfilled a long-time ambition by beginning a series of inspirational children’s books under the collective title I Am Beautiful, intended to ‘offer children simple, tangible, and positive solutions to resolve conflict as it guides them towards living drug-free and violence-free lifestyles.’ At the time of his passing, he was working on a documentary entitled Reverse the Lynch Curse, the title of which refers to the ‘Lynch Letter,’ an eighteenth century speech attributed to the plantation owner Willie Lynch, providing instruction on how to perpetuate slave oppression. This is considered by many activists to be the foundation of past and ongoing struggles for social and civil liberty within the African-American community. Martin Lawrence wrote this morning: ‘Tommy was not only a great co-star but he was a great man and friend. He always brought with him his spirituality a positive attitude and so much joy. I am sad the world lost a great talent and that I lost a wonderful friend. God bless him and his family.’ So here’s to a good man, taken far too soon. May he rest in peace. ‘You are beautiful regardless of your shape, size, abilities, disabilities, strengths or weakness!’