Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bro. Michael Richards' stage-rage: Scottish Rite Masonry's poster boy blasts hecklers

By now you've probably heard about the stage-rage of Michael Richards, the comedian who rose to fame by playing Jerry Seinfeld's wacky neighbor Kramer.

Last weekend Richards reacted to hecklers in the audience at a comedy club in Los Angeles with a rant peppered with f-bombs and n-words. His hecklers, who had shouted at him "you're not funny" were black.

One news report said:
Michael Richards stunned a comedy club audience, shouting racial epithets at people who heckled him during a stand-up routine.

The 57-year-old actor-comedian, best known for playing Jerry Seinfeld's eccentric neighbor Kramer on the hit TV show "Seinfeld," was performing at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood Friday night when he launched into the verbal rampage, according to video posted on TMZ.com.

The tirade apparently began after two black audience members started shouting at him that he wasn't funny.

Richards retorted: "Shut up! Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f------ fork up your a--."

He then paced across the stage taunting the men for interrupting his show, peppering his speech with racial slurs and profanities.

"You can talk, you can talk, you're brave now mother------. Throw his a-- out. He's a n-----!" Richards shouts before repeating the racial epithet over and over again.

While there is some audible chuckling in the audience throughout the outburst, someone can be heard gasping "Oh my God" and various people "0oh" after Richard uses the n-word.

Richards performed the next night at the Laugh Factory without incident.

Calls to Richards' representatives were not immediately returned early Monday.

He refused to comment on-camera when reached by CNN, but the network reported that he said off-camera he felt sorry for what had happened and had made amends.
Last night on Late Night with David Letterman, Richards, via remote from L.A., made an apology, while fellow comedian Seinfeld appeared in New York with Letterman. A video of that apology is available on TMZ.com today.

What many people may not know is that Michael Richards is a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason and a Knight Commander of the Court of Honour (K.C.C.H.). In 2000, he appeared on the cover of the Scottish Rite Journal.

Here's the story, titled "Brother Michael A. Richards, Renaissance Man, Not 'Kramer'," by Michael M. Marsellos, 32°, K.C.C.H., that appeared in the magazine, which is sent to all members of the Scottish Rite:
Cameras are rolling. Michael Richards is ad-libbing. "You ought to read Hinomaus," he informs a stunned actor. Behind the monitors, the production crew is in stitches. "Hinomaus?" Like so many of Richards' impromptus, it's ridiculous, and real, and funny at the same time.

Of course, you can't be sure the name is made up, because Richard's knowledge of great and obscure authors ranges wide. He collects rare books and reads voraciously, when he isn't acting, or hiking, or biking, or painting. The word "hobby" never applies because Brother Richards throws himself into every activity with the same intense passion.

Maybe that helped give rise to "Kramer," a character so real and subtle that viewers of the hit television series Seinfeld had a hard time separating Richards the actor from Kramer the role. But the two are worlds apart. Definitely, he is not Kramer!

Michael Richards was born on July 24, 1949, in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in Baldwin Hills and San Fernando Valley. At an early age, the adventurous lad enjoyed walking alone exploring the hillside and biking for miles from theater to theater spending the days watching movies. "These early treks of mine," says Richards, "produced an extraordinary freedom as well as a soulful sense of my own individuality."

In junior high, Richards, the perennial class clown, got his first taste of real fame when a performance in a school play brought daily plaudits from classmates in the halls. He says, "I enjoyed making my friends laugh by clowning around in classes, and I did get in trouble for it. I didn't know that I was actually doing what my calling in life demanded!"

Enrolled in the Los Angeles Valley College, he continued to dominate student productions and says "I am grateful that the public schools introduced me to the performing arts." With the Viet Nam war going on, Richards was drafted and stationed in Germany as one of the co-directors of the V Corps Training Road Show. He produced and directed shows dealing with race relations and drug abuse; "This was a successful, educational operation, boosting the moral of our men and incorporating the arts into the service."

Following an honorable discharge, Richards returned to the United States to pursue a formal education in theater at the California Institute of the Arts and Evergreen College in Washington State, where he graduated with a degree in Theater Arts. He returned to Southern California to perform with the San Diego Repertory Company and, later, at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. It was through his stand-up comedy at the Improvisation and the Comedy Store in Hollywood that ABC hired him for his first television series, Fridays. Richards highlighted Fridays with popular characters like "Vinnie," "Dick," and "Battle Boy."

When Fridays ended, Richards continued to work in television guest starring on such diverse shows as Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues, Night Court, Cheers, and St. Elsewhere, followed by his second television series, Marblehead Manor for NBC. He was also a guest star on The Billy Crystal Special, The Bob Hope Comedy Special, The Jonathan Winters Comedy Special, The MTV Comedy Special, and The Andy Kaufman Special. In addition, he hosted The Montreal Comedy Special and The Aspen Comedy Festival.

Richards' fan base was ardent but limited—until a quirky, innovative show, NBC's Seinfeld, began to gain attention in the early 1990s. People who had never watched television tuned in to watch "The K-Man" flinging open doors and sliding into rooms, both physically and philosophically, as "a hipster-doofus on the prowl." Always exciting, never predictable, Richards created the off-the-wall memorable character "Cosmo Kramer" out of thin air and into one of the funniest, most unique characters ever created for television. His performances as "Kramer" brought him three Emmy Awards and three Screen Actors Guild Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a comedy series. He also co-starred in Diane Keaton's movie Unstrung Heroes, for which he was nominated for an American Comedy Award. Recently, he took on the role of Mr. Micawber in a soon to-be-aired TNT production of David Copperfield, the famous novel by Charles Dickens. Interestingly, Mr. Micawber was performed in the last American film production (1935) of this classic by another Brother Mason and great comedic actor, W. C. Fields. Currently, for NBC, Richards is producing The Michael Richards Show, an offbeat gumshoe comedy scheduled to premiere this fall, Tuesdays at 8:00 pm.

Like all great comedians, Richards is a complex man. Those lucky enough to have worked with him, or to have been his friends, know him as a quintessentially sensitive man, a playful practical joker, and serious student of the world as well as a seeker and a traveler in journeys to new horizons.

What prompted Richards to become a Mason? In 1996 at Lake Tahoe, Richards inducted Ill. Red Skelton, 33°, into The Comedy Hall of Fame. Bro. Richards says: "I was already interested in the Craft from reading Manly Palmer Hall's The Secret of All Ages, Albert Pike's Morals and Dogma, and Albert Mackey's Symbolism of Freemasonry. So, when I met Red and found out about his strong ties to Freemasonry, I was very impressed. Morals and Dogma certainly introduced me to Scottish Rite philosophy, but it was through Red's lovable nature, Masonic and all, that I really wanted to be a Mason."

Inspired by the high moral standards of Masonic teachings, as well as the fact that so many great men of all times were Freemasons, Michael Richards became a plural member of Riviera Lodge No. 780 and Culver City–Foshay No. 467, the Southern California Research Lodge, and a Life Member of the Los Angeles Scottish Rite Valley as well as a Life Member of the Scottish Rite Research Society.

Last year, the Supreme Council honored Bro. Richards by investing him with the rank and decoration of Knight Commander of the Court of Honour. He is humble and highly appreciative of this distinction bestowed upon him: "I am delighted and honored that I have had the opportunity to meet Scottish Rite leaders, such as Ill. Bros. Sovereign Grand Commander C. Fred Kleinknecht and Inspector H. Douglas Lemons, S.G.I.G. in California, as well as Ill. Bros. Rex Hutchens, Art deHoyos, Sean Graystone, and Bro. Michael Marsellos (whom I affectionately call "The Rat Pack" of the Scottish Rite), because they are devoted to the research and study needed to maintain and express the highest standards of Masonic wisdom." Bro. Richards' love of books and Masonry prompted him to donate over 1,000 volumes encompassing art, literature, science, and philosophy to the new Culver City–Foshay Lodge Library and Study Hall.

As a note of interest, at this year's 4th of July Pacific Palisades Americanism Parade (photo above), Bro. Richards was the Grand Marshall of the event, representing also Riviera Masonic Lodge. He was joined in this event by the Honorary Mayor of Pacific Palisades and last year's Grand Marshall, the renowned actor Anthony Hopkins.

Strangely enough, my path crossed that of Brother Richards, not so much in our common calling as Thespians, but in our common endeavors for enlightenment in Freemasonry. It is a privilege for me to share this article about Brother Richards with the readers of the Scottish Rite Journal and an honor for all Freemasons to be able to count this fine actor and scholar as a Brother in the Craft.
In a recent article in his Masonic blog Masonic Traveler, Bro. Greg Stewart, a Mason in Los Angeles, has called for Bro. Richards to resign from Freemasonry, or to be removed, for unmasonic conduct. Certainly brothers have been tried and expelled in Masonic courts for much less greivous acts. Others are saying that "we are all human," and that as Masons we should support Bro. Richards, who has already admitted and apologized for his mistake.

It will be interesting to watch as this story unfolds in the Masonic world.

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  1. Excellent! He now is a white hat man with the SR.

    Strange how he used the "n" word and the Scottish Rite was picketed in October for their lack of stopping racism in the Southern Jurisdiction.

  2. Imagine that; a member of the Scottish Rite SJ who uses the "N" word.
    Seems to me that the 12 or so states that chant to the "Whites only" mantra need to change their tune.
    Keep up the good work!

  3. Obviously the guy got rattled and went off on the hecklers with the first blunt object he could find. No question, it was stupid. It would have been stupid for anyone, although one would hope that a Mason would have managed to keep his passions within due bounds.

    This would not have been a big deal if it were a no-name comic. Like the stuff that's going on in Alabama, the non-Masons will make a bigger deal of it than it warrants.

    Tom Accuosti
    The Tao of Masonry

  4. He apoligized so let us all move on. I understand feelings were hurt for some therefore it will be harder.

    Life is stressful and making a living being a comic must be extremely difficult. We all have made mistakes and it was a sincere apology.

    We wish you well Michael.

    Your friend and brother, Bill in Arkansas. wekennard@hotmail.com

  5. yeah, those HUMAN BEINGS who were called N%#*@%$ should really move on.
    I don't understand what the big deal is. Why are these black people so sensative? It's just a word...
    give me a break, bro richardson is lucky to have lived through the experience!

    when will we grow up? as men and masons and stop with racism?

  6. http://www.conspiracyarchive.com/Commentary/Michael_Richards_Freemason.htm

  7. "This would not have been a big deal if it were a no-name comic. Like the stuff that's going on in Alabama, the non-Masons will make a bigger deal of it than it warrants."

    WHAT? Its not a big deal that a sitting Governor knowingly lied about what he knew?

    FYI it came out in Alabama (didn't anywhere else) that a member of his cabinet stated anonymously that the governor told a joke in his office about Prince Hall Masons OVER A YEAR AGO.

    Racism is all over this issue and the Scottish Rite is smack in the middle of it in the South and now nationwide after thier poster boy went klansmens on them.

    Racism warrants a big deal.

  8. He should have admitted to being a racist, he would have won respect points, and honesty points, but by declaring he is not, he is in complete denial. In his case of course an apology is not enough, it must be followed by action to repair the damage. It should be followed by service.

  9. I find it amazing that we can discuss this openly without the possibility of being arrested, imprisoned and or tortured. People make mistakes and history shows that we all make mistakes and if everyone were to be crucified for their mistakes life would be short. I’m not here to judge what has occurred, (it’s not my place) it’s up to every individual person to judge themselves. Life is too short.

  10. Bigotry is wrong, ugly, and un-Masonic. Bro. Richards should not be excused for casting us all in this ugly light. He was wrong in his actions and words and the damage those caused to our gentle Craft remain to be seen. At the same time, I hope he gets the help he obviously needs. Bigotry violates every tenet of Freemasonry, regardless of whether there are bigots who have become Masons. The fact that Albert Pike was a Southerner of his time (ie., an overt racist) does not excuse bigotry today. In California, we recognize Prince Hall Lodges and they recognize the Grand Lodge of California. The sooner the rest of our bodies follow suit, the sooner we can concentrate on living up to Masonic ideals.

  11. If bigotry is to be truly abolished, and Masonry is to start living up to its ideals of brotherhood and equality, why should the acceptance of "separate but equal" Masonic systems be considered "progress?"

    Shouldn't all Masonry be united into one "great house," rather than continuing to have Prince Hall Lodges dominated by African Americans, and "regular" Lodges dominated by men representing every other race? Where's the "equality" in that?

    Isn't it essentially like saying: "Children from white schools will now be allowed to visit Negro schools, and children from Negro schools will now be allowed to visit white schools?"

    The bottom line is the same as it was in "Brown vs. Board of Education," the landmark case which resulted in the integration of public schools in the United States: "Can separate truly be equal?"

    If not, isn't the idea of "mutual recognition" really just propaganda posing as progress?

    November 23, 2006 -- Michael Richards spewed anti-Semitic rants during a
    show earlier this year, witnesses said yesterday, as sickening new details
    of the comic's recent racist tirade came to light.

    Two customers at a Richards performance last spring told the celebrity-news
    Web site tmz.com that the "Seinfeld" comic - who is Jewish - lashed out at
    Jews after he was heckled onstage.

    "Michael Richards said, 'You're a f- - -ing Jew.' Your people are the cause
    of Jesus dying," said witness Carol Oschin, recalling an April 22 act at The
    Improv in Los Angeles.

    Richards soon stormed off stage, leaving audience members as confused as
    they were offended, said Oschin and another witness, J.P. Fillet.

    "We didn't know if this was part of the act . . . He was getting very
    [verbally] violent, very agitated," Oschin said.

  13. I'm hoping the whole Michael Richards thing is an elaborate but weird act to put him back in the public's eye with raw "comedy." I'm guessing the anti-Semitic rant last spring was part of his shtick. When he tried it again with blacks, it backfired.

    But then, I still think Andy Kaufman is faking being dead, and will one day reappear and say "Gotcha!" That would be so Andy.


  14. Michael Richards, said in public exactly what he feels in his heart, and probably what he whispers in private. I am a Master Mason, F&A.M., I am black (I prefer brown) and I am a long time Seinfeld fan, Kramer being my favorite character. His vitriolic tirade although disgraceful, was real. The sentiments that he expressed were squeezed out of him under duress and frustration, what better way to see of what a man is truly made. The heat of the moment burned away all p.c. bullshi* and in the crucible of the circumstances his true metal was exposed for us all to see. Now I know. Remember that although not officially recognized as such, the K.K.K. is also set up along Masonic lines, and as brothers we shall fight. But in the end there will only be one, I now know in what camp to find Richards.

    P.S. Did you here this joke? How does a white person start every black joke? By looking over their shoulders. :-)

  15. Bro Richards made a mistake. His association with freemasonry and the Scottish Rite have made it difficult for all masons to continue to exhault that we are an organization dedicated to morality and brotherly love. His photos should be removed from the many halls which honour him among other masons (I never really got why he was up there to begin with). I dont believe he should be expelled from the fraternity for this single action however he should apologize to the fraternity and not let his press say that he is no longer associated with the fraternity as no one believes that and it further hurts the integrity of those of us who strive to reinvigorate interest in ancient craft masonry. AFS Jr, NY F&AM(where Prince Hall and York have been united for 15 years).

  16. Bro. Michael Richards became the poster boy for the Scottish Rite because he's a celebrity. More recently, the SR has bragged about some famous country singer who just joined up; I forget who he is, but his father, not a celebrity, has been SR for years.

    Using a celebrity as a front man is a great idea, unless he then goes an makes a public ass out of himself like Richards did... then it doesn't look so good.


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