Monday, April 5, 2010

Blowing UBM's Cover...

I have had the good fortune of having David Mills as an uncle for the entirety of my life. I won't take long but I wanted to take this time to blow UBM's cover and share with you all the real David Mills.

David was the youngest of five children and was born to his parents later in their life. His father was close to 51 when he was born and his mom in her mid thirties. Early in David's life his mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and her decline was both dramatic and life altering. Dave was an inquisitive child and a voracious reader...a true "old soul". His love for words became evident at an early age as he would pore over his dad's unabridged dictionary and read the Washington Star.

Due to his parents age and health Dave spent alot of time with me and my mother (his older sister by 19 years) growing up. He had an incredibly mature wit for a kid and would cause me to have multiple belly laughs due to his jokes. He created this character called "The Ghost of Chareshema" and would stand at the top of the stairs and scare the life out of me...this was likely the first character he ever created. We also LOVED "Charlie's Angels" as kids...I preferred Jaclyn Smith while he was more of a Kate Jackson guy. He would write scripts on 3 X 5 cards and create his own stories for the show while I drew cartoon strips showing how the scenes should look.

Dave was an involved uncle. He was five years my senior and always checked in on me. He flew me to Chicago after he got his first real job, gave me cash while in college, and always provided a listening ear. He taught me to love music from the Average White Band, Beatles, Elton John, Bee Gees to the Ohio Players, Spinners, Gap Band and of course Funkadelic. We used to sing B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets out loud in fake microphones an play pretend instruments. He was a boatload of fun!

Everyone knows his accomplishments and his intellectual heft but what most did not know is that Dave was a devoted family guy. He loved his parents and siblings. He had a father who modeled modesty and frugality for Dave and was equally brilliant. His mother had a wicked sense of humor in spite of her illness. David was a beautiful combination of the both of them...sensitive yet strong, compassionate and analytical.

David adored his mother and in spite of his success made time to regularly check in on his mom and provide anything she needed or wanted while she spent her last years in a nursing home. He always shared his success with his family, inviting them to awards ceremonies, premiers etc., but he always seemed to feel uncomfortable with the accolades. He hated the shallowness and fakeness of Hollywood, preferring to keep a small circle of friends. While insular in nature he shared his skills and talents with so many people.

Dave was an incredibly brave guy. As a young man he beat Cancer and always had the balls to confront ignorance from a purely intellectual vantage point, never letting the noise of the exchange get to him. Being a "red bone" brother he constantly was exposed to racial ignorance...from black folk in Northeast growing up to dumb rednecks on the internet and even uninformed Hollywood producers. He never let this paralyze was like mental weight lifting to made him strong. Interestingly enough for him to pass in diverse, Creole, Mullatto New Orleans was somewhat ironic. I truly feel that he felt peace there...he fit in.

Dave approached me a couple of years ago and said to me that "I hate to do this to you Clifie but in the event something happens to me I have designated you to take care of my business". I told him that I hope we will be old farts when that happened and that he is only five years ahead of me so he may need to have my back instead. He spent Christmases with me and my family. He was a super uncle to them coming to spelling bees, graduations and other stuff. When Uncle Dave came over we held Scrabble tournaments with the kids and played a newer game this year called Smart Mouth. He would always SPANK us but my oldest son would give him a run.

While on vacation on March 30th I got a frantic call from a close friend of Dave's telling me that Dave had an aneurism. I immediately made arrangements to fly to New Orleans but he left us that night. I am now forced to "take care of his business" but in classic Mills fashion he has made it easy. He died filming a scene in front of Cafe DuMonde...very quickly and apparently painlessly. I visited the spot and had the pleasure of sitting in a directors chair while a scene on his project was being filmed. I put on the headphones and looked through the computer screen at the scene and at that moment I fell apart. It was surreal, I felt him and I understood why he loved his craft so much. I witnessed how the script of his life closed, with a surprise ending but no less beautiful. I smelled the air, experienced the people, ate the food, marinated in the multi-cultural Gumbo called New Orleans.

David leaves so much for us to cherish and it is much deeper than his professional accomplishments. Dave never ever talked about himself. He rarely used the word "I", he hated the spotlight and always expected the best from himself. David was about excellence and exemplified it in an unassuming way.

I have the good fortune of telling my children that when they look at David Mills' life they can see what CHARACTER actually looks like. He modeled for us all how to shut up and put up, how to be the best and not talk about it. I recognize that I am blogging on hallowed ground but I feel it is important to reach out to his UBM peeps. The family will keep this living memorial available for all to see.

The service for Dave will be on Monday April 12th at the University of Maryland Chapel in College Park, MD. The wake will be from 9AM to 11AM and the service will begin at 11AM. You can google the chapel for directions. On behalf of UBM I want to thank you and let you know that he loved the exchange this medium provided.

Clifton Porter II
Nephew and Fellow Funkateer