Folks may not realize, in the eighties, I was married for a time to Felicia Daley, best known as the long-time anchor for Action News. We sort of kept a low profile while we were together, both for my career and hers. As progressive as Atlanta pretends to be, interracial relationships were still a novelty in the early eighties.
When we first married, she was the weekend weather girl on channel five entertaining an offer to be a reporter on a local good morning show. Felicia had one important attribute other than being a Black newscaster who most Whites would tolerate and that was that she seemed to have stopped aging just after high school. Things started to cool for us around the same time she started sharing the anchor desk with Chuck Lively, who was about to retire. The only tangible result of our union was our daughter, Melissa Arjuna, who most know as the singer and actor Melli Strings. She remains my proudest accomplishment.
Neither Felicia nor I was a particularly good parent. I wonder which is worse for a child, a neglectful mother or an embarrassing father. In our case, the evidence isn’t conclusive. Felicia would show up on holidays for clips of her celebrating with her child to air on the six-o-clock news. Half the time I spent with Melli I can’t remember, because I was drunk.
Melli is slightly less hostile toward me, sort of like it’s slightly less sweltering under a tree in Atlanta during August. My kid sister, Juanita, moved in with us when Melli was born and she’s been the closest thing to a parent Melli has known. I finally realized how effective I was as a dad when I reported to her school for a career day only to learn that she’d told her teacher and classmates that her father had been killed in a drive by shooting.
“Well, what did you expect, Lenny,” Juanita said when I talked to her afterward. “She only sees you once in a blue moon and you’re usually three sheets to the wind when you do show up.”
Juanita suggested it might be best if I not publicly acknowledge our relationship after that. I reluctantly agreed.