When I was 10, I snuck into my first R-rated movie and caught my first glimpse of Cab Calloway. Mind you, I'd heard him numerous times, as my folks had Minnie the Moocher" on a 45.
But much like the young audience who flocked to The Blues Brothers" in 1980, I'd never actually seen him before. Until his musical number, Calloway looked like a nice old man. But once the strains of Minnie the Moocher" started playing, he became something astonishing.
He was hypnotic, dressed to the nines, with dreamlike movements and straight hair he shook like no Black person I knew. He was delivered to me the size Cab Calloway should always be delivered: On a big movie screen. I was in awe.
31 years later, I attended a midnight screening of The Blues Brothers" at the IFC Center in New York City. Despite my familiarity with Calloway's appearance and his other movies, I had the same reaction to seeing him on the big screen. That film remains the only time I've seen him in those dimensions, and he'd lost none of his allure.