I first met Derek Walcott, who died on March 20, in the late 1960s when we both worked as reporters at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Evening News in my native Trinidad.
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Midlife looking good for Crosby
Surviving two decades in any profession with consistent success is a milestone that cries out for celebration. And this is exactly what Nikki Crosby will be doing as she celebrates her 20th anniversary as a comedienne with the production Midlife Crosby, scheduled to premiere on May 9, at Central Bank Auditorium, Port-of-Spain.
Fresh from doing a photo shoot for a pilot with CNC3, Crosby paid T&T Guardian a visit and, while reminiscing about her professional career, she said: “Twenty years ago, one evening at Upper Level Club in West Mall, I won an amateur comedy competition. This opened the doors for me as an artiste.”
Back then, Crosby, a qualified accountant with a pest control company, answered to the name Nicole Nathaniel. A friend subsequently rechristened her Nikki Crosby.
“I went to NY on the Upper Level first prize,” said Crosby, “and on my return, Frank Martineau of Spektakula Promotions called me, as he was doing the first comedy festival at Hasely Crawford Stadium. He told me I had to do a routine lasting seven minutes, and this was in front of 17,000 people. It was my first professional gig. After that show I began getting calls to be the first female stand-up comedian in the Caribbean, receiving calls from throughout the region and around the world. Very quickly things started happening; I got invited to the acclaimed Montreal Comedy Festival in 2000, the year I met my husband Jerry Clarke. I was the first person to be invited from the Caribbean to perform at this event.”
Also having performed twice at The Apollo Theatre in New York, Crosby sought to expand her comedic career by doing theatre as well. She said: “So, I was doing the stand-up comedy side of things and of course there’s the theatre side of me as well. In 1997, I did Nikki Does. This production won six Cacique awards. Mairoon (Ali), Penny (Spencer) and I subsequently formed the first female theatre company—Ha Ha Ha Productions—and have produced several successful shows.” Of those awards, Crosby won the statuettes for Best Actress, Best Writer and Best Production.
Because of her zany persona, many fans continue to be amazed by Crosby’s seemingly rock-solid marriage. Speaking about her relationship with Clarke, she explained: “Around the time of the Montreal Festival my agents called and told me that they could not continue helping me secure jobs as I was resident in Trinidad. They told me I had to move to Los Angeles. I had just met Jerry in Trinidad, after he’d returned home after 30 years of residency in the United States. He definitely wasn’t going back there. I had a really tough decision to make.
“Something just felt very special with this man so it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. It turned out to be an excellent trade as I have retained a successful career in Trinidad, as well as got me a great, supportive husband. Jerry is my man and my husband. It’s hard to be in this business if you don’t have a supportive spouse.
“Jerry is so cool, he doesn’t argue about anything. Once you have Crix and cheese in the house he’s cool. When I am heavily engrossed in a production he is right there supporting me; making sure I eat healthy, take my vitamins, wash my clothes, etc.
“For instance with this production, I don’t even have time for myself. We have been together for 14 years and all these years Jerry has never made me feel insecure. He has never disrespected me. I have been blessed in that I have a solid foundation and solid marriage.”
Clarke is but one slice of the pie that supports Crosby. She said: “My grandfather Cecil, who I grew up calling ‘dad’, has been a solid rock of support for me as well. All he has ever wanted for me is for me to be happy in whatever I did. Uncle Earl (Crosby) has been my biggest fan and my mom, sister and my friend Susan David are all part of my support and fan club.”
There’s much more to Crosby beside her stand-up comedy and theatre careers. She said: “There is also the radio and TV side of me. I started at 96.1FM then went on to Caribbean Super Station (CSS). I have gone full circle and now I am back on the morning drive show at 96.1FM with Tweez.”
One of Crosby’s sterling qualities is her penchant of remembering people who have assisted her throughout her life. “Through my career a lot of people have been of tremendous help to me,” she said. “Among these people are Eric St Bernard, the first person to put me in front the television camera with Nikki on the Promenade; Errol Fabien, who pulled me up on stage at Upper Level that fateful day; Paul Richards, who hired me for radio; and journalists David Cuffy and Gary Cardinez, who have only written encouraging things about me.
“Before I forget, please mention that Nikki Land, my annual Carnival children’s all-inclusive party, in progress for nine years, is also a very inportant ingredient of my life. This has never been a money-making venture but was done entirely for enjoyment of the nation’s children.”
Her focus returning to Midlife Crosby, the comedienne said: “This show will consist of something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. It traces my entire career as an artiste.”
The production will have its climax on Mother’s Day, May 11, with two shows at 2.30 pm and 6.30 pm.