I met Lori Petty yesterday at A Pizza Mart on Stewart. She was, it seems, taking a break from her duties at Emerald City Comic Con, which is taking place at the brand-spanking new Seattle Center. She is here until Sunday.
I did not recognize her at first, but when a Comic Con fan revealed, very loudly, who she was (wearing sunglasses, wool hat, not looking like a film star whose last big role was on HBO's critically acclaimed Station Eleven), I recognized her instantly in front of me. The reason why I could not resist introducing myself as also one of her many fans was not because of the role which immortalized her in comic conventions around the country, Tank Girl, but a little-known film by the greatest Black American director, Charles Burnett.
The film, which also stars Ice Cube, is called The Glass Shield. It's about a police station in a Southern California suburb that's packed with the most racist cops imaginable. It was way ahead of its times, the mid-90s. Jas and I featured the film in our underappreciated (in my opinion) The Stranger's Film Club. Tank Girl rose from her chair and gave me a hug.
from $0,5 - Oop * Burnett's The Glass Shield - Ice Cube - Lori Petty - #Rare #special Edition https://t.co/BHoIU2mUlC #gift pic.twitter.com/TGcQ9Tp41I— The Perfect Gift (@_Cool_Gifts) April 30, 2017
Glass Shield, which is one of Burnett's three masterpieces, meant more to Lori Petty than I had imagined. She told me about the shoot, about preparing for the role, about how the white cops at the station the movie fictionalizes are really that racist. From our conversation:
Petty: "I was doing the ride-along with a white cop who could not stop using the N-word. I asked him to stop, but he said, 'They like it when we call them that.' And this was supposed to be one of the better cops. The station picked him to show me one of the good ones... Well, he sees a Black kid on the street and asks me if he wants him to give the guy a shakedown. But he has done nothing but walk down the street. Later, he stops the car and walks up to a car stopped by other cops. It has five or so suspicious people in it. They look Black. But when they step out of the car, they turn out to be Japanese tourists dressing like Black people and listening to rap music. They are fans of Black culture. I'm not fucking you."
Me: "Well, at least the Japanese tourists had a real Black experience." Petty laughs and gives me another and final hug. What a wonderful person.
This seems like a good time to catch up with Charles Burnett's The Glass Shield starring Ice Cube, Michael Boatman, and Tank Girl-era Lori Petty. One of the few times Burnett "went Hollywood." But in a good way. It's streaming on all the usual platforms. https://t.co/OXHLhIWBZM— 🎥 Kathy 📼 Fennessy 📽️ (@kcfennessy) June 3, 2020