Melvin Van Peebles Is Still a Baadasssss

The recent New York Times profile of Melvin Van Peebles finds the 81-year-old filmmaker tired, probably from exuberant sex the night before. The Times is too demure to tell you that, but you can read it between the lines:

Three-quarters of an hour before sunrise, Melvin Van Peebles glided up the sleeping West Side, a slender man in an orange hoodie, leading a reporter on his five-times-a-week morning run. His legs were toned and without blemish, his hair and beard a gentle white. He had a story about why he was tired on this September morning, but it is not suitable for publication, and might not be true, anyway.

That's the lede of John Leland's piece, which is pegged to a new visual art exhibition ("eMerge 2.0: Melvin Van Peebles & Artists on the Cusp" at the Strivers Gardens Gallery) from the groundbreaking director (and star) of the 1971 blaxploitation landmark Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. Virtually every following paragraph contains some nugget of gold. Here are all of the ways, in which Van Peebles is terrific:

  • He has a "Tuesday girlfriend," who's married. He's cool with her husband.

“My Tuesday girlfriend’s husband wanted to take me out on Wednesday,” he began one story. (The rest is best left to your imagination.)

  • He runs the George Washington bridge.

...He gestured toward the George Washington Bridge in the distance. “Sometimes I run across and then back,” he said. “That’s about 20 miles.”

(The actual length of the George Washington bridge is 4,760 ft.)

  • He makes a mean file cabinet (with relish).

On this day in early September, the work hung in the living room of his Hell’s Kitchen co-op, surrounded by a decade’s worth of his puckish installations: a giant hot dog and bun that double as a file cabinet for his assistant; the back end of a Volkswagen bus, mounted on the wall; a plaster wood stove called “Ancient Tenement Entertainment Center (Minus the Door)”; a rooftop skylight in the middle of the floor, complete with fake bird droppings.

  • He believes in breakfast rum.

Mr. Van Peebles offered a tour, brandishing an unlit cigar stub and changing from coffee to a little rum at about 8 a.m.

  • With the help of filmmaker Lee Walker, he is launching a line of sportswear that reflects his lifestyle.

“We’re looking at some offers now,” Mr. Walker said of the sportswear manufacturers. “He’s 81 years old with abs.”

  • He has a great attitude about getting hit.

“I’ve had very narrow escapes, let’s say,” he said. “For example, if somebody hits me, or this or that, my first thought is, wow, I’m still around here to get hit. Wow, ain’t that great?”

  • He's a baadasssss for life.

"Right now I’m a little too dangerous. I intend to stay dangerous."

[Image via Getty]