At the Eddie Murphy movie "Raw," a patron seated near a wall decided he wanted to move closer to the center of the theater, into a seat directly in front of me.
Ordinarily, people just change seats. But with two shootings and one stabbing inside theaters showing this particular movie and one near riot outside, the patron wasn't taking any chances.
"Excuse me, sir," the man whispered politely. "Would it be all right if I move?"
Soon after the lights dimmed and Murphy appeared on screen, it became apparent why weirdness follows Eddie Murphy, on screen and in real life. After hearing him belch out at least 500 curse words in an hour, after watching him strut his stuff, cup his crotch and talk cash trash about gays, guys and gals, you've got to leave feeling a little rambunctious.
To watch Murphy say all the things you were told not to say and rake in $50 million a year for saying it makes other people want to try it.
There is no doubt that much of his act is funny on film, but when other people try to take his attitude to the streets, they don't seem to get as many laughs.
When Murphy came to Kemp Mill Records in Georgetown in 1983, more than 1,000 youngsters decided it was okay to be "delirious" and shoved a D.C. police officer through a plate glass window.
In the Los Angeles area recently, two dozen police officers were called to quell a disturbance involving about 1,500 people who had gathered near a theater where Murphy's "Raw" movie was showing.
Just before that, a macho confrontation ended in the shooting death of a 21-year-old man at a drive-in in nearby Westwood Village where "Raw" was showing. A similar confrontation in Monrovia ended with a man being stabbed in the chest after patrons had seen the movie.
It's not so much that the movie is bad, but, like go-go nightclubs, it tends to attract a certain kind of person -- a troubled black youth who seems to be in a desperate search for culture and manhood.
The attendant troubles with Murphy productions and go-go music suggest that both leave much to be desired.
But there is not much choice.
Murphy fills a void that no other black man on television or in the movies does. Bill Cosby is fine, but where are our bold black superheroes? Why are there no black MacGyvers or black James Bonds? Why is it that only white men can do phenomenal stuff; you know, walk through the valley of the shadow of death and return -- with the girl?
The only extraordinary feats we see blacks perform are playing super offense on a sports team or being super-offensive in a raw movie -- if not on the streets.
For this, I think Eddie Murphy should take some responsibility. Here is a guy who has enough money to make the movie that young black boys are dying to see. (So does Cosby, but people don't kill after watching his show.)
But what do we get from Murphy -- a man who harbors such disdain and fear of women that it would be better if he did not exercise creative control but instead continued to front for Paramount Studios?
I was not impressed by his routine about "greedy" women -- especially his slurs against non-Western women. There was no question that he had toned down his earlier jabs at gays, as if to say he now knows who controls the purse strings. So his most sustained wrath moved to an easier target: black women.
In retrospect, the perpetrators of one of the shootings, which occurred at a theater in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, must have thought they were part of an Eddie Murphy production. According to police, two men were seated in the back row of the theater, watching "Raw," when two other men stepped in front of them, blocking their view.
When one man tapped another on the shoulder and asked him to move, the other man whirled around and said, "Don't touch me. You ain't got to touch me. Don't touch me no more."
The man who had been touched then stepped back, police said, pulled out a handgun and fired at least two shots. But whom did he hit? A woman, Delores Ann Curtis, 23, in the legs. From the tone of his monologue about women, Murphy wouldn't have had it any other way.