‘Dyn-O-Mite!’ charts Jimmie Walker's rise

The cover of “Dyn-O-Mite!” by Jimmy Walker, is shown. — SUBMITTED PHOTO

Jimmie Walker made “Dyn-O-Mite!” a catchword for the Baby Boomer generation. Today, “Dyn-O-Mite!” will inspire that same generation to rediscover what once made America great — the freedom of thought, the freedom of speech and the belief in the individual.

As a young comedian, Jimmie Walker rose to fame with a generation of soon-to-be stars. Walker opened for Miles Davis, Bob Marley, Gladys Knight and Bruce Springsteen, but was fired by Barry Manilow. He was on the set during the early perfoming days oof the likes of Billy Crystal and Ben Stiller. He paid a group of up-and-coming comedians — David Letterman, Jay Leno, Louie Anderson and Robert Schimmel among them — $150 a week to write his jokes. Thus, in “Dyn-O-Mite!” (with Sal Manna, Da Capo Press, $25.00) not only does Walker share the candid story of his life growing up in New York, he shares the story of an incredible era in entertainment.

Born in the Bronx in 1947, Walker was raised in a violent and abusive home. At 22, he began performing as a standup comedian and was eventually discovered by the casting director for Norman Lear’s new, urban-styled comedy series, “Good Times.” Walker accepted a part in the role of the broadly strutting, wisecracking J.J. Evans would launch him into television superstardom. “Dyn-O-Mite!” was the phrase that made him famous nationwide. According to Walker’s website, as “Good Times” enjoyed a six-year run, Walker’s fame grew exponentially. He was the first winner of the NAACP Image Award, and won a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. He appeared on “The Mac Davis Show,” “Donny and Marie,” “The John Davidson Show,” “The Merv Griffin Show,” “Dinah,” “The Mike Douglas Show,” “The Hollywood Squares” and the “Match Game.” Clothing, T-shirts and even a talking doll that blurted out his signature catch phrase were soon on store shelves everywhere.

As the first successful young, Black sitcom star, Walker saw sudden and enormous fame in everything from comic books and a talking doll to pajamas, trading cards, a bestselling album and TV Guide covers. In “Dyn-O-Mite!,” Walker candidly talks about his rise and the considerable tensions on the set of “Good Times” that contradicted the show’s image of a close-knit, blue-collar family struggling to survive in the projects.

“Showbiz is like a greased pole — even if you have climbed to the top, sooner or later you are going to slide back down,” says Walker. “I still climb the pole everyday. I may not reach the top again, but at least my butt is off the ground.”

 

Contact staff writer Bobbi Booker at (215) 893-5749 or bbooker@phillytrib.com.

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