Sinbad a few years ago was rumored to be dead.
But for fun, the comic didn’t return calls for awhile. “I let myself be dead for a second,” he said in an interview earlier this month in Atlanta, with a chuckle.
His TV and movie career has effectively been six feet under for years. He’s made income instead doing around 150 stand-up dates a year, including a stop at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre April 23. But otherwise, Sinbad has struggled to find a way back into the spotlight.
Fortunately for many stars in a rut, there’s reality television.
“I was looking at a way to go back to TV but sitcoms are almost a dying breed. Networks are making so much money without spending money,” said Sinbad, whose birth name is Dave Adkins. “I wasn’t really impressed with reality shows. Let me find a way to make this make sense for me.”
WE tv’s “Sinbad It’s Just Family” shows him moving into his wife’s home with their two grown-up kids. Clashes ensue. Indeed, he’s described by the network, which targets women, as a “free spirit.”
“I’m an entertainer,” he said. “This is a chance to entertain in a different kind of medium. I’m bored if I’m not doing something. We’re always hopeful.”
“I bring a little sanity to the insanity,” added his wife Meredith Fuller. “It’s an adjustment for us all.”
Sinbad and his wife divorced in 1994 but reunited a few years later With mounting tax problems, he declared bankruptcy in 2009 with more than $8 million in debts and sold his house in 2010 to help pay for his tax debts.
“With all the financial problems, it was important for us to pull together as a family and be there for each other,” said his 24-year-old daughter and aspiring singer Paige. “Our whole entire life we’ve been each other’s biggest support systems.”
“I don’t dwell on it,” Sinbad said. “I’m a very positive person.”
At the same time, he doesn’t hide from his problems either.
“Why would we shy away from it?” Meredith said. “It’s life.”
He kept waiting for the next big break while his finances went south.
“I kept thinking if I get one more movie, if I get one more project, I’d get back on my feet,” he said.
Discovered on “Star Search,” his prominence grew after playing Coach Walter Oakes on “Cosby Show” spinoff “The Different World” from 1987 to 1991. This led to his own sitcom “The Sinbad Show,” which received good reviews at the time. But Fox Network was starting to shy away from shows with largely African-American casts and it was over after one season. He never got his Seinfeld-ian pay day.
Afterwards, he did garner a few movie roles including “Jingle All the Way” with Arnold Schwarzenegger and “Houseguest” with Phil Hartman. But his career faded out as the 1990s came to an end. By then, opportunities he had turned down earlier to do talk shows and game shows had disappeared as well.
“You go from hot to lukewarm,” Sinbad said. “I was never cold. I always had my fan base. I just kept touring. My fans would ask why I wasn’t on TV. They think I walked away. I couldn’t get work!”
But he realizes he has to be pragmatic in a format that has been populated by everyone from Hulk Hogan to Gene Simmons to fellow 1990s star and Duluth R&B singer Toni Braxton, whose show “Braxton Family Values” precedes Sinbad.
“Entertainers used to have an air of mystery, like Prince,” he said. “Now Snooki is just as popular.”
“If ratings get low,” he added, “we all get naked!”
I also got an interesting story about how Sinbad, who is usually easygoing with the paparazzi, getting peeved many years ago at a particularly obnoxious photographer who insulted his daughter. He literally grabbed the guys camera and threw it over a fence. Amazingly, the guy didn’t press charges. And the other paps (who didn’t like him) backed up Sinbad and said they saw nothing.
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Saturday, April 23, 2010, 8 p.m.
$45.45 after fees
“Sinbad It’s Just Family,” 10 p.m. WE tv, Tuesdays, starting April 12
By Rodney Ho, firstname.lastname@example.org, AJCRadioTV blog