Barbers seek Jackson 'Barbershop' apology


LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- In a classic tale of what goes around comes around, a group of barbers in Los Angeles has asked the Reverend Jesse Jackson to apologize for demanding an apology from the makers of hit movie "Barbershop."

Members of the National Association of Cosmetologists led by Chief Executive James Stern Thursday said Jackson erred when, in September, he demanded the film's makers apologize for for jokes about U.S. civil rights icons Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks made in the movie.

Stern told Reuters his group had screened the film, a comedy starring Ice Cube as the young owner of a community barbershop, and the 100 or so African-American cosmetologists at the screening found nothing offensive about the movie.

"Reverend Jackson did not consider the future of black filmmakers," said Stern, adding that now, every time a black filmmaker produces a movie or writes a screenplay, they are going to have to consider whether they will offend some group, which in turn will stifle their creativity.

"We, as blacks, have to let the movie studios know that when he (Jackson) is wrong, we're willing to speak out for ourselves," Stern said.

Stern added that members of his group have seen their businesses hurt by Jackson's comment, and he said if the leader of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition did not apologize himself, his group would sue Jackson for defamation of character.

A Jackson spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment.

"Barbershop" tells the story of a young man, Calvin, who is discontented running his father's old barbershop. But after he sells the shop, he learns it is more than just a place where men get their hair cut. They come there to speak their minds and share their troubles and triumphs with friends, and Calvin sets about trying to buy back the shop.

The jokes that have raised the ire of Jackson and other black leaders come from the shop's veteran barber, Eddie, played by Cedric the Entertainer, who believes there are several things black Americans will only say in private.

One is that Rosa Park's intentions were less than noble when she refused to move from a public bus seat reserved for whites. Parks' action is viewed as a key moment in U.S. civil rights history. Other jokes dealt with Martin Luther King, Jr.

In September, Jackson demanded the film's makers apologize to Parks and to the King family and that they delete the references from future videos and DVDs of the movie.

Cast members and co-producers George Tillman Jr. and Robert Teitel subsequently issued a statement saying: "We never meant to offend anyone, especially the civil rights leaders."

The movie's distributors at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., in their own statement, noted the Eddie character was offering his opinion and no other characters in the movie agreed with him. The film was a box office hit, raking in $70 million at U.S. box offices and sparking plans for a sequel and talk of a TV show.