Melvin Van Peebles, innovative filmmaker and the ultimate Renaissance man, dies at 89


Rest in peace, Melvin Van Peebles.

The filmmaker and Renaissance Man had an amazing career, and he lived a fascinating life. Mr. Van Peebles was 89.

Of course, I’m more familiar with Mr. Van Peebles’ son, Mario Van Peebles, who had a memorable role as rebellious Marine “Stitch” Jones, who clashes with Gunnery Sergeant Clint Eastwood in the comedy/drama “Heartbreak Ridge.”

“I’m the Ayatollah of Rock-and-Rolla,” Mario Van Peebles said while wielding his guitar in the barracks. My boy Pete Koch​ was also in the movie, as the massive, personable Marine “Swede” Johanson, while taking a break from his seven-year NFL career with the Bengals, Chiefs and Los Angeles Raiders.

It’s an underrated flick, admittedly geared toward my demographic of the ’80s:

You know, too macho for my own good.

Melvin Van Peebles also had a memorable cameo in the 1993 movie “Posse,” a film looking at the role of African-American cowboys in the Wild West. Mario Van Peebles starred and directed that flick, and I actually wrote a movie review on it during my days on the border with the Brownsville Herald.

Melvin Van Peebles also worked as a playwright, composer, novelist and a cable car gripman in San Francisco, in his early years. He’s often remembered for directing Sweet Sweetback’s Baadass Song, a breakthrough film in the early days of the Blaxplotation movies of the early ’70s.

I’ve seen a couple television interviews he did a couple decades ago, and he was often wielding a short, snuffed-out cigar. He had four children, including Mario Van Peebles, and this compelling obituary by the Washington Post’s Adam Bernstein captures the essence of the amazing man.

Penned Bernstein:

“As his marriage and finances disintegrated, (Mr. Van Peebles) moved alone to Paris and supported himself as a gigolo while contributing to the satirical anarchist magazine Hara-Kiri.”

Cue David Lee Roth’s “Just A Gigolo/Ain’t Got Nobody” if you like.

Rest easy, Mr. Van Peebles. You will be missed. 9/23/2021

(also posting this on my personal web site,