Jimmie Walker played the popular character "J.J." in the nineteen seventies hit sitcom, "Good Times." But on this day, he was simply James Walker with a boarding pass. He gave his opinion for a few minutes on airport security. I didn't immediately recognize him, but he hasn't changed much. Yes, like me, a few extra pounds, but it was clear it was Jimmie Walker. When I finally figured it out I announced to him, somewhat stupidly, "You're Jimmie Walker". Of course he knew that. But he kindly nodded, smiled and brushed it off. We didn't speak further.
When he got on the plane he went to the rear and took a seat. I guessed when I recognized him he thought that I was going to bring up some of the past and his role in the show. So he brushed me off and moved on. And I was okay with that. I understood. No one else on the plane seemed to notice him as he fell into his seat. But actually I wanted to thank him for his role in such a brave, ground breaking show in the early seventies. When "Good Times" came along, minorities were severely underrepresented on television. And those that were largely portrayed in uncomplimentary, undesirable roles. When "Good Times," came along, shortly after "Sanford and Son", and "The Jefferson's", it signaled that maybe television was indeed changing. And during its first two or three years it dealt with many ground breaking social issues. Towards the end, the show caved into stereotypes and quietly went away. But during its heyday it shook up American households and help to awaken the consciousness of America's most popular medium. On this day Jimmie Walker was quiet, unlike the brash teenager he played in the sitcom that uttered the famous signature phrase of "Dy-no-mite!"
I wished more people had recognized him. Far more important than the role he played was his contribution to television during a very difficult growing period. And indeed, if Oscar Wilde was correct when he penned, "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life," well for once, television had gotten it right by refusing to acquiesce to this popular saying. Because with "Good Times," art had actually tried to imitate life.