Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The life and death of Michael X

Not be be confused with Malcolm X.
– Wikipedia

Born in 1933 to an absent Portuguese father from St Kitts and a black Obeah-practicing mother from Barbados, Michael de Freitas emigrated from Trinidad to the UK in his early twenties and moved to West London in the 1960s, where he became a gambler, pimp and hustler, eventually working as an 'enforcer' for the notorious slum landlord Peter Rachman. He became immersed in the Black Power movement and, inspired by Malcolm X, de Freitas renamed himself Michael X and became a self-styled black revolutionary and civil rights activist. He was eventually exposed as a charlatan, but not before he'd hoodwinked John Lennon and Yoko Ono (among others) into giving him funds for his Black House commune on Holloway Road in North London. On the run from the UK for extortion, he was eventually hung for murder in Trinidad in 1971. A fascinating, complex character living in interesting times, de Freitas mixed with high and low life which included gangsters and pimps, artists and the aristocracy.

In the story of Michael X, there's something of the film Six Degrees of Separation (from the play by John Guare), starring Will Smith in one of his better film roles, a con artist (inspired by David Hampton) who poses as Sydney Poitier's father and infiltrates rich society in New York, hoodwinking them into accepting him and loaning him money.

The character of Michael X has appeared as a bit player in films and TV series about other, more famous people. But his story deserves centre stage: The life and death of Michael X would make a great film (or at least a BBC dramatisation). Perversely, perhaps, or at least as a contrast, I'd like to see the film of his life interspersed with a dramatisation of a book he'd been working on – a romantic novel, bizarrely, about a black man who wins the admiration of Lena Boyd-Richardson, a white English woman.

Previously on Barnflakes:
My top 5 unrealised film projects

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