isn’t afraid to stick out in a crowd.
For the nearly five years he has served as a volunteer on the Studio City Neighborhood Counci—where he has been the sole African American on the board.
In the past four decades of working in the entertainment business, Taylor has often found himself the person with the darkest skin among the creative executives at the studios where he has worked—including Disney, Warner Bros. Spelling Productions, MGM, Sony TV, UPN and Fox.
And, at 61 (and a recent grandfather), he has chosen to live for more than a quarter century in Studio City where the population is only 3.8 percent black.
“I have not deliberately set up my career and life to be that way, but I am proud that I can offer a voice of a different point of view in a certain situation,” Taylor said, sitting for a breakfast with Studio City Patch atafé near the Colfax Bridge. “There is some responsibility with that.”
For more than seven years, Taylor was a vice president of Fox Broadcasting in charge of Diverse Programming. He tried to encourage culturally-diverse programming and racial sensitivity.
“There is still a certain civil rights reality in the United States, even after all the progress, where people of color have been underrepresented,” he said.
In 1986 he moved to the Colfax Meadows area on Kelsey Street across the street from silent movie actress Alice Terry (The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.) After she passed away, the big lot with large eucalyptus trees was going to be subdivided into six houses. That’s when Taylor’s activism kicked in. He helped get petitions signed to upgrade the zoning, and worked with then-Councilman Joel Wachs.
A decade after that, another larger piece of property was going to be divided up into 11 homes, and at that point Taylor first heard about this new level of community government called a “Neighborhood Council.”
“People don’t get involved unless it affects them directly, and that is what motivated me,” Taylor said. “I never knew about a Neighborhood Council at that time.”
So, Taylor met community activists Lisa Sarkin and John Walker and was swept in to the Studio City Neighborhood Council with a group calling themselves the Concerned Stakeholders of Studio City who were not against development, but wanted to limit mansionization of properties and keep development appropriate to the area. That election had more than 1,000 votes cast of the 20,000 stakeholders in Studio City, and brought in notable activists like Walker, Sarkin, Rita Villa, Gail Steinberg, Barbara Moynihan Burke and Michael McCue. Taylor was voted in, too.
“We had a lot of people from the community vote in that neighborhood council election, and I think our group continues to set trends and gets looked at by other neighborhood councils across the city,” Taylor said. “We have accomplished things in Studio City that has become a nexus for activism L.A.-wide, and that is a good thing.”
Ironically, despite major efforts to get the word out about what they do and trying to get the community more involved, Taylor and the SCNC hears the same complaints from locals that he once voiced of not knowing when something is happening in their neighborhood until it’s too late.
Taylor’s father was a school administrator who dealt with the busing issue for Los Angeles Unified School District, and Taylor attended the Audubon Junior High School in Baldwin Hills and John Marshall High School in Silver Lake before heading to USC—although the rest of his family went to UCLA.
“I didn’t see much racism in school when I grew up,” Taylor said. But he did remember knowing that at one time you didn’t go to Glendale after sundown if you were black. He recalls one incident when his football team was in the area and they got hissed at and there was some pushing and shoving.
He was accepted into Yale University, and majored in Latin American Studies. He said he sort of "wandered into the entertainment industry," which is not how people do it anymore.
Early in his years in the business, he realized that he was witnessing one of the significant moments in TV history while working on the mini-series “Roots.” The groundbreaking story of African-Americn history by Alex Haley created a visionary form of educating the public about Black History. It reminded people that slavery and bad conditions were not that long ago.
Taylor wrote a short film “Brothers of the Borderland” for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.
or Fox he mediated discussions with African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Muslim and Jewish communities who had concerns about their portrayal on Fox TV programming. Sometimes things were slow moving.
“At Fox, for example, they were surprised that the ‘Bernie Mac Show’ was an award-winning success, and they just didn’t know what to do with it,” Taylor said. “Some people thought it was mean, and didn’t get that was just his style of humor. Sometimes we have a way of expressing emphatic things, so when Bernie says ‘I’m going to slap the black off of someone’ he isn’t really going to hit someone. There were people at Fox who were puzzled about the show’s success.”
Taylor has lectured at schools and has brought up four boys in Studio City. He has a 12-year-old now attending. He has two older sons, one a golf pro and another a financial advisor who gave him his first grandchild six months ago.
He said Black History Month is a good chance to talk to youth about tolerance, the use of racial slurs and recognize sensitivity.
For now, Taylor is as much involved in politics as he wants to be—he sees no chance of running for an elected office. He is now writing scripts, and he has some projects in the works that may take him out of Studio City.
Because he sold his place and became a renter, he was moved to a different position on the Studio City Neighborhood Council. He lives in a historic apartment complex not far from in a place where Faye Dunaway, Madeleine Stowe and the Go-Gos girl band all lived at one time.
Taylor said, “The law reacts very slowly to social pressures.”
He realizes that the entertainment industry is unique from all others in America, and that is how people change public opinion. Taylor note that comedian Bill Cosby pointed out how commercials are far more diverse than the programming it interrupts.
“We have a way to go, but if anything is going to change it will be through the entertainment industry,” Taylor said. He hopes to continue to be a part of that.
(Meanwhile you can join Ron at any of the meetings or committee.)