Just saying his name conjures up images of high-flying feats on the basketball court that have inspired every player who has taken to the court in the last 40 years. NBA Hall of Famer, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe may be known for basketball, but his amazing life is so much more. In college, he lead the nation in scoring with an amazing 41 ppg average while leading his team to the College Division National title and being named Player of the Year. He has won an NBA Championship with the New York Knicks and in 1990 was named to the Naismith Basketball Hall Of Fame. In 1996, he was named one of the “50 Greatest Players” in the history of the game. He has been a commentator at the World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden. He’s done everything from working in corporate America to serving on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health. He has an Honorary Doctorate from Manhattanville College and another one from his Alma mater, Winston-Salem State University. He’s a Peabody Award winning producer for the ESPN documentary, “Black Magic” and there is even a possible feature film in the works.
His life has always been entertaining and entertainment is his life. It’s not some cliché about an athlete who’s trying to venture into new waters. Earl Monroe has always been close to the entertainment business, through music and other outlets. As executive producer of the off-broadway musical, “Bones,” that helped launch the careers of such notable performers as Robert Townsend, Loretta Divine, Epatha Merkerson and others, he is now putting forth his best moves with the multi-faceted entertainment company, Reverse Spin Entertainment.
Earl Monroe started in the entertainment business in 1972, when he started managing Albert and Arthur Allen, “The Aleems,” twin teenagers who had been in Jimi Hendrix’s last band before his death. Monroe also did record promotion for Spring Records, for artists such as Joe Simon, Millie Jackson and The Fatback Band. He later formed Tiffany Entertainment Corporation, an artist management group, with veteran record executive Dick Scott (Maurice Starr, New Edition, New Kids on The Block) and Barry Orms (Patti Austin).
Monroe started Pretty Pearl Records in the mid 1980’s, when he released projects from several artists, including The BB&Q Band with the hits, “Dreamer,” “Minutes Away,” “Genie” and “On The Shelf”. The roster also included Curtis Hairston, who had a #1 hit (“I Want You All Tonight”) in 1984.
Monroe’s connection to entertainment goes back much further. “Reverse Spin Entertainment is a re-visitation of things I’ve always done. My father used to sing and dance with “The Empress of the Blues” Bessie Smith. R&B Pioneer Solomon Burke was always coming through our house with a cousin of mine (‘I don’t know if he’s a cousin or not, but I’ve heard that’). As a kid, I would charge 5 cents for people to come and see him. My brother-in-law was the first manager of the great Philadelphian group, The Intruders”.
Although, immersed in music at home and in the air of Philadelphia, basketball got his attention and made him a household name. But while he played the game, he entertained other careers. Earl did magic tricks at halftime of Baltimore Bullets games and stand-up comedy at Baltimore’s Lyric Theatre with greats like Pigmeat Markham. He even introduced the great Moms Mabley at one of her last shows at the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C. and did the same for the incomparable Duke Ellington at Avery Fisher Hall in New York.
Earl has been very civic minded during his years in the public eye. He’s been involved in the following organizations: The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health, The Literacy Foundation of New York; as well as the Boards of Healthy America, The Crown Heights Youth Collective, Project Renewal and The National Basketball Retired Players Association. He’s also received numerous awards and other recognitions, a few being YMCA Citizenship Award, Harlem Professionals Inspiration Award, Long Island City Business Development Award, The Paralysis Project of America Sports Legend Award and, of course, The Peabody Award along with many Hall of Fame and Civic Awards.