Thumbs up or thumbs down! Roger Ebert, along with Gene Siskel, changed the way America watched cinema. Brilliantly breaking down a film from the writing, directing, and performance, many counted on Ebert to give the thumbs up to pay their money to see a film or thumbs down to save a few bucks and their time. Changing the profile of film criticism, it became standard that every film be judged as a service to the public. Actors and movie houses sat in anticipation as to which way the thumbs would turn. Ebert held careers and dreams in his hands. So when this confirmed bachelor decided to finally get married, everyone wanted to know who this fortunate and amazing woman could be. After a menu selection of Hollywood glams chasing after Ebert, only one could land him for good.
Ebert met Chaz Hammelsmith at an alcoholics anonymous meeting. It is reported it was love at first sight. Exposing themselves at their own personal rock bottom, they were fortunate in a weird way to meet in a substance abuse program. Without the usual facade or fake representative that many present when they first start dating a love interest, Ebert and Hammelsmith got to know one another immediately on a deeper level than most and still loved one another in spite of the addictions.
Both successful in their own right, the couple would appear at first sight not to have anything common, including their cultural background. Ebert of Jewish faith and Hammelsmith being a Black woman, they appeared to be a mismatch. However, their connection was undeniable. Married in 1992 until death did them part in 2013 when Ebert succumbed to cancer, their love story was inspiring and had to be told. Hammelsmith approached the Chicago Black Ensemble Theater to tell her story. The Black White Love story was born.
Hammelsmith nor her husband were singers, so the play used songs that were symbolic throughout their union and had some sort of impact during their marriage. Many being romantic slow jams and ballads, the songs that played while Ebert was slipping away on his death-bed were Peter Cetera’s Baby, Please Don’t Go and Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through The Night. Hammelsmith’s church upbringing required some gospel gyms play as well.
While many would cringe at the thought of watching their love life played out on a big theatrical stage under big bright lights set to music and choreography in front of a critical audience of 200 or more with their thumbs ready, Hammelsmith was brave, confident, and found the experience to be euphoric. She reported that it was almost like reliving their love all over again. It was important to Hammelsmith to have her union with Ebert live on forever and become a part of Chicago’s history. She wants their union to be an example of devotion and unconditional love which are two key elements that are often missing in today’s marriages. The Black White Love is a documented story for generations to come to enjoy and re-enact. Thumbs up.