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BILL VAUGHAN’S TASTY CLIPS: Latifah swag to rock ‘The Wiz’

A few months back, TASTY CLIPS gave you the scoop that Queen Latifah would play a role in NBC’s next live musical revival of “The Wiz,” to air Dec. 3. The big surprise is that, in a major gender switch, she’ll become the first woman to play the title role!

In another bit of inspired casting, Mary J. Blige will play her nemeses, Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West.  Could Usher, Chris Brown or even Sean “Diddy” Combs be far behind in the production?

Kenny Leon (Tony winner, “A Raisin in the Sun”) will direct, with Harvey Fierstein (three-time Tony winner, “Torch Song Trilogy,” “Hairspray” and “La Cage aux Folles”) providing new written material. Esteemed choreographer Fatima Robinson (“Dreamgirls,” “Ali”) is also on board, along with music producer Harvey Mason Jr. (“Dreamgirls,” “Pitch Perfect 2”).

The Broadway show’s original Dorothy, Stephanie Mills, has been cast as Auntie Em. Meanwhile, rumors persist that this version’s Dorothy has come down to two pop divas: Janelle Monae and Brandy.  In fact, Brandy even took to NYC subways to try out her rendition of the show’s hit song “Home” (with little fanfare) in a video that has gone viral.

A dark horse may have arrived in Inaya Day, who is taking on the role in an upcoming free Central Park performance, with the musical’s original team of Tony Award-winners George Faison and Dee Dee Bridgewater, Phylicia Rashad and André De Shields (reprising his role as The Wiz).  In addition to her vocal skills, Day has written for artists as varied as Bootsy Collins, Randy Crawford and Missy Elliot.

REEL TALK: One of the most beloved films of the 1970’s, “Car Wash,” is getting the spotlight Aug. 5 on TV One’s “Unsung Hollywood.” Director Michael Schultz and stars Franklyn Ajaye, Bill Duke, Antonio Fargas and Bonnie Pointer (so memorable with her famous singing sisters) share their recollections about the “closet musical” that was honored with two awards at the Cannes Film Festival.

We reached out to the always candid Ajaye in Australia, where he is retired from performing, but currently working on a book that’s part memoir, funny essays, short stories, and serious opinions called “I’m Insane: Notes of a Vagabond Jazz Comedian.” Thankfully, he didn’t hold back as we found out that:

*  Everyone was interested in participating in the “Unsung Hollywood” docu-series, except his on-screen love interest Traci Reed: “Traci is a happy recluse these days just doing a lot of reading and making her pottery,” said Ajaye.  “She’s a great gal and very content, but she just wants to be left alone.  Last I saw her she was cheerful and aging gracefully…”

There are two versions of the film:“Scenes with Danny DeVito and Brooke Adams as café owners near the Car Wash were cut out of the released film,” he revealed. “They were returned to the televised version to replace Antonio Fargas’ scenes which were deemed too gay for television at that time.”

*  There was almost a sequel: Ajaye says two scripts were written. “One by Ehrich Van Lowe captured the spirit, humor and intent of the first [film].  One written by Forest Whittaker, they chose to do because they wanted him to direct it, but it was so dark and negative that nobody wanted to do it.  It was terrible.”

*  On his comedy peers: “Richard Pryor was a volatile, complex man.  While I deeply admired his art, I didn’t like to be around him.  It was like being around nitroglycerin. During my career, I received unsolicited compliments from Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Robert Klein, Redd Foxx, and Pryor – which was very gratifying.  Foxx told me I was ‘Richard Pryor without the hand grenade’…”

For more of his insights and classic clips, visit: www.youtube.com/franklynajaye

CLIPPETTES: No more “Key & Peele” after this 5th season on Comedy Central.  The duo is calling it quits to concentrate on movies and some solo projects…

Civil rights martyr Emmett Till will be the subject of an HBO miniseries produced by Jay-Z and Will Smith…

Supermodel/actress Naomi Campbell is moving from “Empire” to FX’s “American Horror Story: Hotel”…

Goapele with special guest Victoria Monet performs at the Troubadour on Aug. 1…

Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic “Miles Ahead” was chosen to make its premiere closing the New York Film Festival this September…

The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin makes her triumphant return to L.A. on Aug. 2 at the Microsoft Theatre…

ABC’s “The View” has gotten former co-host Sherri Shepherd to return as a contributor…

Lance Gross is joining Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow” this season as a potential love interest for Nicole Beharie (Abby)…

Mariah Carey is getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Aug. 5…

Bob Marley’s son, Julian, has dropped a new anthem and video, “Lemme Go,” to celebrate the recently passed law to decriminalize marijuana in Jamaica…

Coming before year’s end is “The Hit & Run Album,” described as Prince’s love letter to his super hard core fans…

Actor and now Grammy award-winning artist Malcolm-Jamal Warner continues his Selfless Summer Music Series at Sadie Kitchen & Lounge on Aug. 5.  Check www.sadiela.com for the skinny…

Min. Louis Farrakhan released a video aimed at the hip-hop community to encourage their participation in the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March to be held in D.C. on Oct. 10. Visit www.justiceorelse.com for details.

TC ON TV: JULY 30 – “The Tonight Show” (NBC): Ice-T and Ms. Lauryn Hill…

AUG. 1 – “Jay Pharoah: Can I Be Me?” (SHOWTIME): The SNL regular gets his own stand-up special…

AUG. 2 – “Close Up with The Hollywood Reporter” (SUNDANCE): Series premiere focuses on “Drama Actresses” Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson, Jessica Lange & others…

AUG. 3 – “Live with Kelly & Michael” (ABC): Michael B. Jordan (“Fantastic 4,” “Fruitvale Station”)…

AUG. 5 – “Mr. Robinson” (NBC): Craig Robinson’s sitcom surfaces at last…

AUG. 6 – “Versus & Flow” (TV1): Leela James & Chrisette Michele.

TASTY QUIP: “Every time a young girl comes in and asks me for advice, if you start your conversation with ‘How hard is it as a black woman’ or ‘How hard is it as a woman,’ I will turn you around because we cannot look at the roadblocks and see the road at the same time…

“There are challenges for black women, there are challenges for white women… We all have these challenges and stereotypes that exist, but you can’t let that hold you down… We have challenges, but if that’s the first thing you think about as a black woman… you are thinking in the wrong direction.” – “TAMRON HALL to HuffPost Live

“Tasty Clips” is an entertainment column published in The Wave to update readers on the activities and accomplishments of black celebrities and artists on television, in music and at the movies. To reach Bill Vaughan, send email to tastyclips@yahoo.com.