Prelude to the Show:
Arriving at 11:00pm, a friend and I took a seat to check out the crowd. The club was already filling up with people neither of us had ever seen in our lives. There was no drama in sight; people seemed to blend right in with the atmosphere awaiting the arrival of Fonzworth Bentley.
Temperature high, energy high, and lights low. Fonzworth Bentley takes the stage. Anyone who isn’t naturally a fan wants to know what he’s about to do. Does he rap? Does he dance? Will he tell us all how to Advance Your Swagger? All eyes are on him, and he takes no time in ceasing the attention he has so easily captured from the audience. After a Mr. Bentley set, there’s no way you don’t walk away feeling inspired. I’d say he put on a good show, but those words would not be fitting of what I experienced in watching him perform. It was like nothing I have ever witnessed, and I’ve witnessed a lot. Putting on a bow tie with no mirror and to the beat of music, memorizing and performing the complete dance in the video Poison. I’m having trouble finding the words to describe it. Calling it a simple show seems to rob it of its true meaning.
A Conversation with Fonzworth Bentley
After formal introductions and a friendly spat between he and I about me not approaching him due to the fact we’d been talking back and forth on twitter throughout the week. We were both ready to get down to business. Sitting at a slightly crowded table with his fans all yearning for pictures, he was still somehow able to give me his full attention.
iKeish: Is there a set release date for the C.O.L.O.U.R.S album, I know that it has been pushed back a couple of times.
Mr. Bentley: No release date as of yet, we are still working on selecting songs, but trust me it will be released soon.
iKeish: You have inspired a lot of people with your From G’s to Gents series, especially our young men, do you plan to do another season of the show?
Mr. Bentley: The roles have changed at the MTV corporate office, so I’m not sure if there will be another season due to that. We are currently looking into a web series to replace the show though.
iKeish: You graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta as a biology major and later moved to New York. I also know that you were a Maitre D at a very popular restaurant when you moved New York City, but how did you get where you are now, from where you were then?
Mr. Bentley: You’re right, I did attend Morehouse College. I received my Bachelor of Science degree concentrating in biology, but that wasn’t where my heart was. I could not see myself working in a genetics lab for 16 hours out of a day. I’d been playing Suzuki Method Violin since I was 2 and a half. I always wanted to do classy hip hop. I moved to New York in 1998 and landed an apprenticeship under Purple Label. As you know apprenticeships don’t pay, so I had to find a job. So I thought ‘What does everyone do in New York…Eat. I became the Maitre D of a popular restaurant and was able to meet a lot of important people. I believe networking is about making relationships, sometimes the relationships don’t directly involve you, but the people you created that relationship for will remember that you’re the one that brought the union together.
iKeish: I know that you’ve already written a book entitled Advance Your Swagger. Can we look for more books from you?
Mr. Bentley: Certainly Advance Your Swagger was just a surface scratcher, my next book will go beyond, and it will be a lot deeper.
iKeish: I’ve seen you on shows, red carpets and even here tonight where the atmosphere is crazy, yet you are able to maintain composure, keep a polite smile on your face, and remain humble. What advice do you have for us in maintaining our composure as well as you do?
Mr. Bentley: I live by the golden rule; do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s simple. Treat people the way you want to be treated.
Our conversation ended there; as Bentley had pictures to take and hands to shake I had to give other people time. Realistically I could have sat there and talked to the 6’1 ¾” man all night, and I wanted to. I wanted to be selfish and take all of his time and soak in all of his knowledge. Listening to his southern twang and looking at his genuine smile. I almost did honestly, until I remembered what he told me about the golden rule. Reluctantly, I shook his hand and we parted ways. After sitting there for a while, near about 1:45am Bentley walked over to me and informed me he was leaving. I know you all know what usually follows. “Oh, after party in my room!” Ha…yea right. Bentley stated, and I quote:
“I’m going to get out of here; did you know there’s a Baptist convention in town? I spent about an hour talking to them in the lobby before I came out for the show. Yea, I want to get some rest so that I can catch early morning service.”
And with a smile and a gentle hug, he departed. What a person. I’m so honored to have had the chance to meet as well as talk with him. A night I’m sure I won’t forget.
Photos c/o Ben Rich Photography