HONOUR ROLL - Michael 'Boysie' London to get ODMonday, October 18, 2021
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
SAY the name Michael London and very few people might be able to make a visual connection. However, say “Boysie” and, for many, it is a virtual eureka moment.
London created the popular character Boysie for a television advertisement for O'Connor's Photo Lab, along with actress Joan Andrea Hutchinson, more than three decades ago.
Today, London is among the scores of Jamaicans who are set to be vested with national honours, receiving the Order of Distinction in the class of Officer for his contribution to the local film industry.
When the Jamaica Observer caught up with him at home in the United States, London shared that he is humbled and honoured by this latest accolade.
“I have been out of Jamaica for such a long time. I left in 2007 and have only been back once, and that was after 10 years. I was only there for a few days and I remember walking down the street and people kept greeting me: 'Hey, Boysie!' and I found it so interesting as I thought Jamaicans had forgotten me. So, to be awarded at this time means that Jamaica has not only remembered Boysie, but also Michael London.”
But where did the Boysie character come from?
London has spent a great part of his life working as a coordinator and production manager on film sets here in Jamaica. During those years, he explained that he was living in the United States and would come in for meetings or projects. At one particular time he came to Jamaica for a meeting but the client cancelled and so he had a few days to spare.
“I would hang out with my friend Peter Packer. Paul O'Connor of O'Connor's Photo Lab, which was located in Union Square, Cross Roads, always said he wanted a commercial and this time I had time to spare, so we said, 'Let's make it happen,' “ he said.
“Peter and I created the Boysie character and wrote the script. Boysie was based on Big Bwoy, the troublemaker we all grew up on. I called on my dear friend Joan Andrea Hutchinson to be the mother and the rest, as they say, is history,” London recalled.
The commercial was an instant hit. The character was so popular that about two years later comedy king Oliver Samuels would draw on London's Boysie for an appearance in another TV ad for Whitfield Bakery's Easter bun. That also proved extremely popular.
“That ad ran for years. At some point the quality was fading but it a run same way. Once is Easter they would draw on the ad to promote the bun brand,” London remembered.
While Boysie made him popular with the wider public, his film community valued him as the go-to person whenever a major film production was in town.
London has amassed an impressive list of credits for feature films and other video productions, including local and international music videos and commercials he has worked on over the years.
The Mighty Quinn with two-time Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington; Club Paradise with the late Robin Williams; Cocktails with Tom Cruise; Clara's Heart with Whoopi Goldberg; Milk and Honey, and Passion and Paradise with Armand Asante, are but some of the major films which have benefited from his expertise in one way or the other.
“I am in the process of documenting and journalling this process and some of the things I have done just to ensure that I remember all these great experiences,” London told the Observer.
Other players in the local entertainment industry to be recognised in the annual honour roll are guitarist Ernie Ranglin, who will be vested with the Order of Jamaica; and legendary bass player Aston “Family Man” Barrett, who will be bestowed with the Order of Distinction (Commander Class).
Lloyd “Judge” Ferguson, Donald “Tabby” Shaw, and Fitzroy “Bunny” Simpson of The Mighty Diamonds, as well as gospel deejay Cleve “Stitchie” Laing are be inducted to the Order of Distinction (Officer Class).
Mercedes “Sadie” Soas, a pioneer in Jamaican fashion, has also been honoured with the Order of Distinction (Commander Class).