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In tribute to Martin Luther King Jr and the holiday named for him, Howard Schnellenberger provides his list of his top 25 favorite African-Americans.


1. Eartha Kitt. There's still an empty spot in the Batcave of my heart for you, both because you broke my heart, and because a drifter harpooned me in the chest during a street fight in Tulsa in 1967.

2. Serena Williams, who's been an able substitute for my recently escaped pet panther, particularly in the boudoir. She's killed four intruders and shredded my curtains.

3. Suspenders. They transcend race.

4. Dr. Charles Drew, inventor of the blood bank. Without you my biweekly blood-changings would be impossible.

5. George Washington Carver, inventor of the peanut. I know thirty-nine ways to kill a man with a peanut, and for that I'm in his debt.

6. Levar Burton. Based my entire 1986 Cardinals playbook on a single episode of Reading Rainbow.

7. Lou Rawls. I play "You'll Never Find" whenever I pass the Ruth Chris' Steak House in Ft. Lauderdale. It's addressed to the salad bar there. When they find a waiter who doesn't giggle at my man-sized bib and shows some respect we'll be reunited, salad bar.

8. Young Jeezy. Quite the shuffleboard player!

9. Maya Angelou, who broke my heart and both my thumbs in 1979 in Buenos Aires. I'm still not able to maintain an erection around kept birds.

10. Toni Morrison. We'll always have that weekend in Montreaux.  We made three masterpieces that weekend. I'll name two. You wrote the last line of The Bluest Eye; I set fire to a casino. The last, we made together in the hotel, but a gentleman never tells.

11. Ron Artest. I'm proud to call him my son.

12. Tyra Banks. Accidentally cut in front of her in an El Pollo Loco drive-thru on a recruiting trip to Glendale last summer. That is the first and last time I have ever known mortal fear.


13. Greg Gumbel. Being America's first African-American lesbian sportscaster couldn't have been easy, but she made it happen, obstacles be damned.

14. Bill Clinton. Lacked morals, but a surplus of style never fails a man.

15. Shorty Robinson. The Kentucky hustler and horseman who introduced me to affordable but potent E and J Cognac. An unfairly deserted brand rescued by your older gentlemen's fondness for it and the teenagers who nip it from their cabinets.

16. Colin Powell. We go shootin' every Thursday at the whooping crane reserve. (It's called that because they're reserving the birds for you, and no amount of fines or ticketin' will convince me otherwise.)

17. Charles Barkley.  Paid him to eat a Plymouth once for insurance purposes, and I'll be damned if he didn't do it.

18. Nell Carter, who always knew a bit more about misbehavin' than she professed.

19. Sandra "Pepa" Denton. Hands down the finest middle linebacker I had at Louisville.


20. Tyler Perry. I know we have conquered racism in our nation when we can all agree someone is horrible not because of the color of their skin, but because of the content of their terrible, terrible films.

21. Pam Grier. True story: our 1976 weekend trip to Bolivia was the basis for Romancing the Stone. Kathleen Turner got me all wrong; Kirk Douglas' son, however, depicted Pam brilliantly. He's going places someday.

22. Ghostface Killa. I don't appreciate his music, but we use the same daywear-pajama tailor, and that's enough for me.

23. Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, Father of Chicago and therefore progenitor of my favorite skin treatment, deep-dish pizza casserole.

24. Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Thanks for claiming more than your share, compadre, thus saving some of us some serious financial trouble. 

25. Oprah. No hustle whatsoever in that woman.