Pam Grier is a Golden Globe nominated actress that began her movie career in 1970s with blaxploitation projects like Coffy and Foxy Brown. Quentin Tarantino brought her back in the spotlight with his film Jackie Brown.
The L Word had her supporting our community for six seasons as Kit Porter then she garnered an Emmy nomination for the cartoon Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child.
We called her up to discuss her latest endeavor as the face for Dining Out For Life, an organization that takes proceeds from a special day of eating out at various restaurants to support AIDS services.
Windy City Times: Hi, Pam. Last time we met was when you were promoting your book Foxy: My Life In Three Acts at Borders here in Chicago. It has been a while.
Pam Grier: Oh, yes. I am so honored to be there and at places like Barnes & Noble but it is the small bookstores that they should keep open as well because they really support our community. They hold summer-reading camps and things for kids. I promote literacy where ever I go so it was full circle for me to not only have a book signing at the smaller bookstores but the major ones as well.
WCT: How did you get involved with Dining Out For Life?
Pam Grier: I had seen it on The Food Channel and I didn't know that some of my associates were connected with it, who were also connected with Subaru. Subaru has been my sponsor for my charities for almost 10 years. One is a no-kill animal shelter called PAALS: People and Animals Living Synergistically. They go out and find people in transition. We don't call them homeless, we call them people in transition. They live on a dairy farm and take care of all of these animals. It is a no-kill sanctuary.
So that is PAALS. With Pilots N Paws, All Breed Rescue, and Dining Out For Life there are only so many I can handle. A representative reached out to me since I was a lead on The L Word.
I wanted to do The L Word because it would bring a comfort zone to people who didn't understand it. I didn't know all the discriminatory practices that were directed towards the LGBT community until I talked to them finding out they couldn't get married, adopt children easily or celebrate the same benefits as others. People are under the assumption that they are treated equally as the heterosexual community and they are not.
People thanked me for being a beacon of comprehension to a lot of people. They may not understand that maybe, just maybe that is a fact of life and is normal. If I can get people to sit down with dialogue just to explain that no one has a right to tell someone who they can have a family with. You can have your own religion but not force it on other people. Why denounce another group because you don't understand it?
My mantra in my family is to take small steps and move forward. They are passing laws because of shows like Queer As Folk and the Fab 5. I would love to see The L Word being reintroduced on reruns on Showtime because it is timely now. I think the more exposure of great stories, because we covered a wide reach of story lines politically and religiously on various levels. The Fab 5 is now on the Esquire Channel and Ted Allen is on it.
WCT: I just spoke with him.
Pam Grier: I love him! We are going to have our superhero images with me, Ted Allen, Mondo Guerra and Daisy Martinez telling why we are supporting Dining Out For Life through animation. To be asked in the fourth year of the event and 3,000 restaurants participating across the country and the fact that it still supports not only people with AIDS but also supports research and education is wonderful. People that do the research are pioneers because they are discovering new medical therapy. Everyone participating are moving towards the eradication of it. We might just see that in the next 20 years. That would be a fabulous. I would like to see Dining Out For Life not just once a year but every day. People could send in even five dollars or donate at their favorite restaurant.
WCT: Every little bit helps.
Pam Grier: Those are the small steps I was talking about. I would also like to see the food truck industry participate not just restaurants. Many of them are gourmet high-standard food trucks all across the country. I love finding them in whatever city I am in.
WCT: Have you been to Hawaii, with [its] huge food-truck parking lot?
Pam Grier: First I have to get to Hawaii without my momma because you know I will have to bring her! [Both laugh.] She would have to get there by boat because she won't fly. No, I have not but I look forward to that.
WCT: Do you know where you are eating on Dining Out For Life day?
Pam Grier: Whereever I am shooting. I was shooting a Tom Hanks movie called Larry Crowne years ago and I went to a restaurant in the Valley there and there are also some in Palm Springs. Wherever in the world I am, I'm gonna go.
WCT: You did a great job in Larry Crowne, by the way.
Pam Grier: Oh, I enjoyed it so much. It was really difficult because I had the book tour and they had booked me for the Today Show and The View but I had to work with Mr. Hanks and couldn't pass that up. That project was his baby. We squeezed in everything but it almost gave me a stroke!
WCT: What is your favorite restaurant in Chicago?
Pam Grier: I go to Nana's. It is the best place to get tacos and is on the South Side of Chicago. I watch the Food Network with Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. When he tries out these new restaurants I write them down and when I am in that city that is where I am going.
WCT: He reviewed a friend of mine's restaurant named bopNgrill.
Pam Grier: I have a list on my phone that I want to try.
WCT: What projects are you working on right now?
Pam Grier: I am co-creator with Bennie Richburg, who wrote the screenplay to my memoir, of a one-hour drama series that we are creating right now as we speak.
WCT: Who is playing you?
Pam Grier: I play myself, honey! As far as a movie we don't know, since that process is way down the line. With the one-hour drama it's me. I have a group of Homeland Security [officers]. It is called Black Hawk. He is one of the producers of Hunger Games and The Butler. I can't believe a studio embraced it so quickly. Now we have to really do the work!
I am also in Grand Theft Auto 5 as a DJ. It's a hoot and fabulous.
WCT: Do you like doing comic-book conventions? I know you did a Wizard World signing here.
Pam Grier: I am a big fan of Stan Lee. For Marvel he created the first African-American superhero. When he created the African-American female Captain Marvel he said, "Think Pam Grier." He was a real pioneer to equality. He's a loving man and sees the genius of this convention and what inspires children.
I went on the book tour to thank my audience for supporting my career for 45 years. What a better place to meet with people bringing my movies from 1972 all the way to Jackie Brown or Larry Crowne the box set of The L Word. I went to one in New Orleans that was packed wall to wall people. The convention there was huge. I like to walk around and meet illustrators who are so creative.
I grew up on comic books and that is where I used to escape as well. I loved being there and thanking everyone because it is something I probably won't have a lot of time to do in the future with my projects. They loved my character in the WB's Smallville. I think everyone should go. You can't imagine what you will see.
WCT: When are you visiting Chicago again?
Pam Grier: I don't know but I am sure when the film comes out they will send me on the junket all across the country.
WCT: Keep me posted.
Pam Grier: I will and I saw your tweet. I got your name to the face so thank you for tweeting!
Dining Out For Life takes place April 24 in Chicago. For a list of participating venues, visit www.diningoutforlife.com .