Originally created 11/17/00

Head of Gooding clan feels called to entertain

Some people pursue the adoration of audiences. Some have adoration thrust upon them. And some, including Cuba Gooding Sr., seem born to entertain.

Mr. Gooding, who made his name as the lead singer in the 1970s soul group the Main Ingredient, performs Sunday in Be Careful What You Pray For, a gospel play that allows the talented performer to flex both his singing and acting chops.

Mr. Gooding said that as a born-again Christian, a singer and a father who had been threatening his talented progeny (Academy Award-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. and musicians Omar and April Gooding) with breaking into acting, the opportunity to appear in the play was too tempting to resist.

"This was a multi-faceted decision," he said. "I grew up as a singer in Harlem and always believed that singing was the most important thing you could do as an entertainer. I also believed that getting involved in any project that allowed me to talk about God and sing at the same time was appealing."

With gospel plays gaining in popularity, a formula has developed, a kind of boy-or-girl has faith/loses faith/regains faith progression that Mr. Gooding said Be Careful breaks away from.

"There is still a ministry here, but we approach it differently," he explained. "This is not your ordinary gospel play. The mandatory church scene is not here, and neither is the fire and brimstone. We wanted this play to be about real people."

After more than 30 years performing, Mr. Gooding said he still knows that entertaining is his purpose in life.

"It's even better now," he said. "I get that feeling all night. I mean, I get to sing and act and have my name in lights, and I'm surrounded by incredible talent. The only thing I don't look forward to is the six-hour bus rides and having to reintroduce myself to my dog every time I go home."

While Mr. Gooding said he is proud of the work he has done in the play, he claims that his children, all of whom have entered show business, are his greatest achievement. He said that he never discouraged them from pursuing careers in the brutal world of entertainment but instead challenged and encouraged them to develop their natural talents.

"Some folks may condemn me for that," he said, "but I've always loved entertaining, and to have my children follow in my footsteps is great. I never wanted them to do anything but do well. Entertainment is my life and my legacy and, other than being a good parent, all I ever wanted to do."

"Besides," he said with a laugh, "I never have to bail my kids out, and I know I can look forward to a lucrative Christmas."

On stage

What: Be Careful What You Pray For

When: 3 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Bell Auditorium, 712 Telfair St.

Admission: $18.50-$24.50

Phone: 722-3521

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or suhles@hotmail.com.


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