Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Dellums Family Irony

One of my favorite TV shows was always Homicide: Life on the Street. It catalogued the experiences of a group of Baltimore homicide detectives. With great actors and intriguing stories, you really got a sense of what happens out there. Among my favorites were the episodes in which the squad dealt with a big-time heroin dealer named Luther Mahoney. He was one of the most fascinating and terrifying television villains I have ever seen. Mahoney was played by a young actor named Eric Todd, a strikingly handsome, light-skinned black man who stands 6’6” and carried himself with the air of a king cobra. The first time Mahoney shows up, the squad is certain they have him on a double homicide for having killed two rival drug dealers. Mahoney beat the rap. A few weeks later, Mahoney was back and under suspicion for having killed a couple of his confederates who he’d caught stealing from him. Once again, Mahoney beat the rap. When Mahoney showed up again the next season, the thought occurred to me that he was as crafty as J.R. Ewing, but a whole lot more dangerous. He kills in large numbers and with apparent complete impunity. In yet another episode, the Homicide detectives thought they had an airtight case against Mahoney, but Luther’s boys managed to get to a Mahoney defector and scare him into recanting his story. Mahoney was brazen enough to walk into the detectives’ favorite bar and taunt them for their incompetence and even offered to buy them a round of drinks, flaunting a thick wad of hundreds. Finally, Clark Johnson, who in real life played pro football in Canada, gets nose-to-nose with the drug dealer and said, “Mahoney, get outta my bar.”

Finally, they managed to get Mahoney on videotape, gunning down one of his underlings and an unlucky innocent bystander. Once again, the series’ writers caught me by surprise. When Detective Meldrick Lewis arrested Mahoney, he was so enraged that he began beating him bloody with his fists. Finally, Mahoney sees an opportunity to grab the man’s pistol. When the second detective arrives on the scene, Mahoney stops fighting and invites the man to read him his rights. Instead, the detective shot him through the heart and casually asked his colleagues, “Got a problem with that?”

Years later, I did some research on Eric Todd and found out his birth name was Eric Todd Dellums. His father is Ron Dellums, former California Congressman and current mayor of Oakland, California. I can imagine Mayor Dellums has mixed feelings about his son’s acting career. It’s just a job, but my, what an evil character. Just a few days ago, I learned a fact that made my jaw drop. Congressman Dellums has eight children, and another of his sons has spent the last thirty years in prison for murder. He shot a man to death over a twenty-dollar bag of marijuana.

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