Stand-up comedian Jay Pharoah is known for his hilarious, dead-on impersonations (Barack Obama, Kanye West, Ben Carson, Tupac Shakur, Shaq), his years on Saturday Night Live (2010-2016), his Showtime series White Famous (2017), and now as a movie star.
Pharoah will appear next on the big screen in the biopic Spinning Gold, about Neil Bogart, the record producer who co-founded Casablanca Records with Cecil Holmes. Casablanca signed 1970s sensations Kiss, Donna Summer, Village People, Cher, and Parliament, among others. Jeremy Jordan plays Bogart; Pharoah plays Holmes. (Spinning Gold, which started filming in September 2019, is written and directed by Neil’s son Timothy Scott Bogart.)
In 1986, while working at Columbia Records’ “black-music division,” Holmes signed New Kids on the Block to their first record deal. The boy band (which still performs today!) consists of brothers Jonathan and Jordan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, and Danny Wood. Note: Donnie’s younger brother, movie star Mark Wahlberg, was a former member (1984–1985) and was not on the debut album.
According to a 1990 The New York Times article, the record executives “had tried to sell the New Kids to a black audience with the goal of eventually ‘crossing over’ to a white audience (a traditional way of introducing black acts), and programmers of black radio had resisted.” The crossover was a fail.
But Holmes and Columbia charted a new course, hung in there with the act, and found a new audience. NKOTB’s second album, Hangin’ Tough, which targeted the teenage market, was a huge hit.
Fun fact: Cecil Holmes was also a member of The Solitaries, a doo-wop group from Harlem, New York (1959-1964). Listen to their hit “Walking Along”, above.