Gary Dourdan photographed by Frederick V. Nielsen for THE TROVE.

Gary Dourdan photographed by Frederick V. Nielsen for THE TROVE.

When you've been hugged by actor/musician Gary Dourdan, you've been truly hugged. And not because he is a Sagittarian sensualist. It's genetic. A hug from any member of his large, loving and demonstrative clan reveals just that. No tepid, non-committal, A-line niceties here, but rather full-on, soul-felt embrace. With a hug and a dazzling smile, he welcomes me to an urban idyll, a pocket garden adjoining the home of a friend he’s visiting on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. (His home base these days is in Paris.)  Remembering how tenderly he performed Stevie Wonder's "If It's Magic," playing a vintage blues resonator at his sister Kim's unpretentious beach wedding, I ask him if he has his guitar. "Of course," he says. "But not that one." He runs in to get it, then centers himself on a garden swing. It’s a gorgeous day in May. Light dapples the leafy oasis. Birdsong and fountain stream underscore his bossa-inflected strumming. His storied green eyes glinting in the late afternoon sun, he plays as photographer Frederick V. Nielsen II snaps a casual portrait.

He launches into a rendition of a Denise Nicholas-penned song from Bill Withers: “Can we pretend baby?" he sings. "Can we pretend? Can we pretend that from now on there is no yesterday? Paint a portrait of tomorrow with no colors from today.” It seems an appeal from a man reclaiming his life, moving beyond past troubles played out in the public arena and heightened by the schadenfreude of an unrelenting press. In 2007, at the height of his popularity on television’s top-rated show, the celeb gossip site, TMZ, in typical muckraking shenanigans, posted a mugshot of a disheveled, light-eyed, sandy-haired Louisiana man alongside a photo of Gary with a snide plea to the CSI star, “to help a brother out” by posting the bail for the man identified as Demitris Hirsch. The Hirsch image, forwarded ad infinitum, still makes the social media rounds nearly a decade later, mistaken now as a photo of Gary himself with such commentary as “Damn shame, he used to be so fine.”  So let’s just clear this up. Not true, folks. Not him. And he’s still fine, in rugged, fit glory as he inches toward a milestone birthday.

With the offer of tea, we head inside. He lights up, drags on a cigarette and says, “my last vice, smoking." He quickly adds “and cookies, they are my weakness. Oh, it’s bad,” he laughs. We settle in to talk about everything from family to philanthropy; “Hollyweird” swinging to Mali grooving; recognition to redemption.

Gary, then and now. Left photo, courtesy of the Durdin Family. Right photo by Frederick V. Nielsen for THE TROVE.

Gary, then and now. Left photo, courtesy of the Durdin Family. Right photo by Frederick V. Nielsen for THE TROVE.

Born in Philadelphia, Gary Robert Durdin is the middle child (between Kimberly and Joel) of Robert “Bob” and Selma “Sandy” Durdin. Along with Bob’s children from his first marriage, Darryl, and Bobbie Ann, the Durdin family was and remains close through the triumphs and challenges of life and loss. Barely out of his teens, Darryl, on a mission to research family history, traveled to Haiti in 1972, never to return. He was killed, pushed from a hotel balcony by an unknown assailant. Sadly, his murder remains unsolved. Gary was six-years-old when he lost his idol. He distinctly remembers Darryl's mellow voice and listening to his show on Temple University's radio station. Garth Trinidad, deejay of Los Angeles' KCRW, "reminds me of my brother's voice," he says.

Darryl Andre Durdin (1951-1972)  Rest in Peace.

Darryl Andre Durdin (1951-1972)  Rest in Peace.

Music has been a part of Gary’s life from the very beginning. Darryl taught him to play the flute and their entrepreneurial Dad was an agent for jazz musicians. His thirteenth year was an important one in his musical development: his uncle, Robin Corley, a saxophonist for the band Platinum Hook and Sister Sledge, gave him a sax, and his father introduced him to the music of master drummer, Tony Allen, Fela Kuti's musical director for Africa 70. Today Gary is a singing, songwriting, multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. And he can still find his way on the flute.  

The Family Durdin. Selma and Robert flank their NAACP Image Award-winning son. Artist Bobbie enjoys a Cinderella moment on the red carpet with her "big baby bro." Look-alikes Kimberly and her "bro bro" get in some hang time. Gary convenes with his uncle, Robin Corley and younger brother, Joel. 

The Family Durdin. Selma and Robert flank their NAACP Image Award-winning son. Artist Bobbie enjoys a Cinderella moment on the red carpet with her "big baby bro." Look-alikes Kimberly and her "bro bro" get in some hang time. Gary convenes with his uncle, Robin Corley and younger brother, Joel. 

Like many other families from “Trenton, Camden and Philly,” the Durdins migrated to Willingboro, NJ.  “Your parents are only trying to give you the best when they move you out to the suburbs, but man, when you’re a teenager, it sucks!” Bored with life in the ‘burbs, he busied himself with reckless feats of derring-do. He was "super accident prone back-in-the-day,” says his sister, Kimberly. “He is daring, always has been." Founded in the year of his birth in a 19th century Philadelphia brownstone, Freedom Theatre is the oldest African-American theater in Pennsylvania. Weekend classes in the Performing Arts Training Program there quelled his suburban ennui and set his course for a life of performance. 

Late 1980’s New York City was the incubator for what’s become a lasting career. If you look quickly and closely you might spy him as the camera pans the crowd in Eric B & Rakim's 1987 "Move the Crowd" video. He gigged around with various bands, worked the requisite restaurant jobs and at 6’2” worked the door at city nightclubs as a bouncer while taking classes at Lee Strasberg, and performing in off and off-off Broadway musical theater. He leveraged his good looks and buff body for a spot on the roster of talent at Boss Models, though he says he was a "hard sell" because of his thick dreadlocked mane. "No one had locks at that time."

The young couple at "Seventh on Sixth," New York Fashion Week in 1991. Photo: Ron Galella Archive/Getty Images.  The lean model.

The young couple at "Seventh on Sixth," New York Fashion Week in 1991. Photo: Ron Galella Archive/Getty Images.  The lean model.

Gary met the beautiful model, Roshumba Williams, through Kimberly, then a model booker for Bethann Management, industry legend Bethann Hardison's model agency. After a whirlwind courtship, the twenty-somethings married in 1992. It was during a 1991 Paris vacation with Roshumba that he met Debbie Allen, then producer/director of the TV show A Different World. “I forwarded her a tape of a play I was in and she booked me for the show.”

In a classic scene from A Different World, Freddie (Cree Summer) and Shazza (Gary) receive a less-than-welcoming acknowledgement from Marion Gilbert (Diahann Carroll) at Whitley's wedding. Photo: NBC/Getty Images

In a classic scene from A Different World, Freddie (Cree Summer) and Shazza (Gary) receive a less-than-welcoming acknowledgement from Marion Gilbert (Diahann Carroll) at Whitley's wedding. Photo: NBC/Getty Images

It was an exciting, moving night in Fort Greene, Brooklyn when a coterie of friends and family huddled around the television in February 1991 to watch “Ms. Understanding,” the episode of A Different World that introduced Gary in the role of “Shazza Zulu.” Bearing a strong resemblance to his beloved late brother, his appearance prompted a tearful phone call from Darryl's former girlfriend.

A sultry moment with Janet Jackson in the music video for "Again."  Album art for Bell Café's the brooklyn tapes.

A sultry moment with Janet Jackson in the music video for "Again."  Album art for Bell Café's the brooklyn tapes.

Gary remained on the show for one season, as the love interest of character “Freddie Brooks.” The rest of the nineties were a flurry of activity: a sexy, buzz-worthy music video appearance with Janet Jackson in “Again,” and a recurring role as “Anthony” in the HBO miniseries Laurel Avenue in 1993. By 1994, he portrayed “Trey King” in the popular series New York Undercover and he and Roshumba divorced. In 1995 he began performing regular Sunday night gigs at Bell Café on Spring Street in Soho. Collaborating on percussion and vocals with Gbatokai Dakinah on bass, Lasse Illinton on keys and didjeridoo, Karsh Kale on tablas and Slim Rothaus on drums, they dubbed themselves eponymously, the Bell Café Band.   

In character as Christie, a mercenary and first mate of the ship, the Betty in Alien: Resurrection.

In character as Christie, a mercenary and first mate of the ship, the Betty in Alien: Resurrection.

The roles kept coming: as “Randall Patterson” in the short-lived series Swift Justice, and” Ziggy” in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, both, in 1996; “Christie” in Alien: Resurrection, the fourth installment in the popular Alien big-screen franchise in 1997; and as "Thierry" (alongside Brooke Shields) in The Weekend, in 1999.  He capped off the end of the 20th century as a new dad following the birth of his lovely, raven-haired daughter, Nyla that July. “She’s a beautiful birdie,” he says of the recent high school graduate. “I’m really proud.” Fruit falling close the tree, she sings, studied theater and arts in school and has already had bit parts in two films. ”She’s a bright girl. She’s got her head on straight, so that’s great."

With Kenya Moore (top) and Gretchen Palmer in Trois; Jack Van Adams (Gary) speaks to his cousin Lem (Darren Dewitt Henson) in Soul Food; and as Malcolm X in King of the World. Photo: ABC PhotoArchive/Getty Images.

With Kenya Moore (top) and Gretchen Palmer in Trois; Jack Van Adams (Gary) speaks to his cousin Lem (Darren Dewitt Henson) in Soul Food; and as Malcolm X in King of the World. Photo: ABC PhotoArchive/Getty Images.

At start of the new millennium, the pendulum swung from the sublime, portraying Malcolm X in the TV movie, King of the World to, well, Trois, a ménage à trois cautionary tale that's become a bit of a cult fave. His run on TV's Soul Food as Jack Van Adams, a sociopathic police officer, got the notice of the New York Times, saying he "delivered one of the season's most memorable speeches." But it's his casting as crime scene investigator Warrick Brown on the CBS forensics drama CSI that would place him in the television stratosphere and garner many awards as part of the ensemble: SAG, People's Choice (in multiple years); NAACP Image and TV Guide Awards, as well as an Emmy nom.

And then came CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

And then came CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

In addition to the sweet gig, the aughts brought him multiple voicing projects for CSI-related video games. And blessedly, fatherhood for the second time--a son, Lyric, who bears a striking resemblance to his grandmother Sandy. "They're doppelgangers for sure," Gary says. He smiles as he talks about Lyric's love of music. "He's been playing guitar since he was twelve; he's fourteen now." 

Proud papa: celebrating with Claas of 2016 graduate, Nyla.  Boys in blue: clowning with Lyric.

Proud papa: celebrating with Claas of 2016 graduate, Nyla.  Boys in blue: clowning with Lyric.

Gary built and operated a fully-equipped recording studio, Temple of Thoughts, in his Venice Beach home, fostering his love of music and opening the space to other artists. One, Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC recorded "Machine Gun," a rap homage to fallen soldiers of both war and the streets at the studio in 2005. Struck by both the caliber of the space and with Gary’s vocal skills, DMC invited him to collaborate on the song. 

Gary delivered a solid performance as Soledad Brother George Jackson in 2007's Black August.  He voiced the character of Detective Crispus Allen in the animated Batman: Gotham Knight, released in 2008, the year his CSI contract ended. Though many believed otherwise, the scenes of the shooting and ultimate demise of the character Warrick Brown were already in the can before Gary's April 28 arrest for possession of drugs. The character was not killed off in response to the charges against Gary. The network had not renewed his contract and he was free to pursue other opportunities, particularly his music, an endeavor he took very seriously.

As George Lester Jackson in Black August; Dies of gunshot wounds in Grissom's arms (William Petersen) as Warrick Brown on CSI.

As George Lester Jackson in Black August; Dies of gunshot wounds in Grissom's arms (William Petersen) as Warrick Brown on CSI.

It's a story he's understandably tired of rehashing but he shares a bit of the climate for his spiral. "We didn’t have social media then. Back then I was getting snail mail, handwritten by fans--bucketloads of it." He was grateful for the devoted followers putting pen to paper for him, but the eventual media encroachment became too much. "I couldn’t go out without getting paparazzied up. It wasn’t just people with cameras taking a picture, it was people with video cameras who follow you everywhere you go and tape your conversations; follow you everywhere you go and ask you stupid questions. Threatening you. Provoking you. And there were no laws against it. It became really disturbing. I didn’t know how to handle it and I turned on one of those videographers. I tried to take the camera away from him and it became this big fiasco." He'd enjoyed a good relationship with the media up until that point. "After that day it just went crash and burn and I was vilified, criminalized, demonized by the press. It just gutted me and I went into a hole," he says. He takes full responsibility for his former drug use, from which he has gotten clean. 

When asked what he thinks is the greatest misconception about him, he says a 2011 charge of violence against a former lover. He explains that they'd been estranged. "I was trying to put my son to bed when she broke into my house through the garage and starting throwing things. I tried my best to diffuse it and she started punching me. So I pushed her out of my house," he recalls. "She ran down the street screaming bloody murder." Hearing the ruckus, a neighbor phoned the police. "The cops came and arrested me, carted me off to jail (in the presence of his eight-year-old son). It was a really unfortunate debacle."  He adds, "I don't hit women. I was raised to respect women."  The litany of troubles did not endear him to the media, but he is grateful to those who've championed him and the fans who've supported him and prayed for his healing. Prayers that have been answered in his sobriety and in his meditation practice which he now shares with his children. His sister Kim remarks, "I am grateful for all of the blessed and divine ways that he has been able to come back to himself." His mom, Sandy says that "whenever faced with challenges or correcting mistakes, he assumes the responsibility to not stop until he has worked it out." She is "particularly proud of how he has made his recovery--the commitment and the struggle--keeping his promise to himself and to family, proving his immense strength. He has the amazing ability to remain aware of and carry the concerns of us all (the family) and silently find a way to help--he is like his father in so many ways. Perhaps the best example of what Gary is about is that when his career began to take off, he would not stop until he had his family with him in California, that was most important!"

A loving touch from Dad, the "most giving" person he's ever known.  (Rest in peace, Mr. Robert Booth Durdin, 1925-2015) An encouraging word from Ruby Dee.

A loving touch from Dad, the "most giving" person he's ever known.  (Rest in peace, Mr. Robert Booth Durdin, 1925-2015) An encouraging word from Ruby Dee.

Of his children, avid readers Nyla and Lyric he says, "They’re really good kids. We never had to discipline them the way my mother definitely had to discipline me. I was a bit of a wayward child--a middle child and I was really reckless. My kids aren’t. Their mothers have done an excellent job of raising them. I’m very proud and feel very blessed. There were some uneasy years there; child rearing and relationships are difficult, but for some reason, those kids, those souls chose to be born through us. I have to thank them for that." His peripatetic lifestyle in entertainment has limited his time with them, so he cherishes every moment spent together.  And he fills the interstices between their live interactions with updates of his goings-on. Whether it's deejaying in Norway or playing music in Italy, "I played in front of 200,000 people on May 1 for their Labor Day," he says parenthetically. "I feel proud to text back pictures of what I’m doing to my kids because I know it affects them." He wants to show by example the "limitless possibility" of their dreams. He hopes that the children are gathering "the strength to color their own lives; be very independent and really find themselves." He wants his multi-racial children to be "proud of who they are, not feel like they are caught between worlds." He looks forward to the coming years, when "eventually we'll be living with each other. I like my relationship with my kids, we love the shit out of each other and they are my crew. They are my best friends and I feel very, very good about that. They are my cypher." And his music consigliere, keeping him abreast of what's new. "I find a lot of hip-hop with my son and great songwriters from my daughter-- she introduced me to Ed Sheeran, alt-J, alternative, great music that I wouldn't have known." 

The step away from La-La land has, in many ways, been restorative to his spirit. It has allowed him to stop the "noise" that plagued him; to embrace his love of music in different cultures and perhaps most importantly, to foster a sense of service.  As an ambassador for The Heart Fund, he helps raise awareness and money for the philanthropic organization founded by pediatric heart surgeon Dr. David Luu to bring surgical teams to impoverished nations to treat children with heart defects. "I went to India with them and they did open heart surgery on 30 kids in 7 days." A spectacular annual fundraising gala held during the Cannes Film Festival brings out deep-pocketed philanthropists in support of their programs. "We raised enough money to build a bus" (a mobile clinic equipped for every cardiac surgical need.) "A few months ago, they went to a fishing village in Ivory Coast with (soccer player) Didier Drogba and checked out 400 kids!"  Having raised 5 million euros for the fund, they are "working on another bus and a plane to go to even more remote areas."  

The India experience left an indelible imprint. "I was there, right there as David opened up chests and stitched up hearts. Emotionally, it didn’t hit me until after," he remembers. "Until I saw the looks on the parents faces when they realized their child is post-danger zone and their chances are good. The look in their eyes and the gratitude toward Dr. Luu. This weight comes off of their shoulders, minds, and spirits. They’re light; they’re buoyant, but they’re exhausted." He was amazed by the body's capacity for healing; how quickly the children bounced back. "Kids are really resilient because they’re growing so fast. Children growing is profound and it's a painful process, but it's mostly at night--bone stretching, skin, and ligaments and muscle." He was awed. "These small babies and children, the next day they had life. Blood was pumping through their little hearts." 

Along with actors Juliette Binoche, Catherine Deneuve and Djimon Hounsou, Gary raised funds and awareness for Ivorian First Lady Dominique Ouattara’s mission to build the Mother-Child Hospital of Bingerville. Back in February, he flew to Côte d’Ivoire to witness the culmination of the initiative.

He's also been spending time in the West African Republic of Mali. Back in its heyday, the Bell Café Band was managed by Malian expat, Fatou Sow. Following the region's stabilization after years of Sharia law and bans on music, Ms. Sow decided to mount a music festival there. One of the first groups she invited to perform was Bell Café. "We had been back together periodically over the years to do little gigs here and there, one in Dubai and a recording in Ibiza," he says. The band reunited and honored the commitment to perform even with the threat of resurgent unrest. Gary believes in using his visibility as an artist to spread awareness of the causes he supports.

On arrival in the capital city of Bamako, he geeked out when he learned he'd be sharing the bill with drummer Tony Allen--yes, the progenitor of Afrobeat--as well as Damon Albarn from Gorillaz and Blur. "And ALL of the Mali greats like Toumani Diabaté," he says. "My mind was blown. He's probably the finest Kora player in the world." Diabaté invited Gary to come back to Mali to record an album together.  “A few months later I was back on a plane, on a shoestring budget. That’s what I’ve been dividing my time doing--acting gigs here and there and trying to finish an album’s worth of material with Toumani, and also with the members of Bell Café. I've been recording with some musicians out of France as well. I had a recording studio in Brooklyn and the one in Venice Beach, but since I gave up these studios I’ve been recording anywhere I can." Today's technology makes it easier to facilitate. "These days, with a nice device you can record anywhere. It’s amazing, but it's not the same as having a studio. It takes a lot of resolve, a lot of resilience to get something good out of what you have. I’ve been doing that for about the last year and a half." He is pleased with what he's getting

"It’s definitely a progression in my musicality; a step up, playing with the people I’m playing with. It’s been a blessing." He likens it to going to school as he records. "Mali has some of the finest guitarists in the world. And our blues come from Mali. It’s hard to understand at first, it seems a culture away, but when you hear their desert blues, when you hear their music, it’s very apparent that it's African music that we’re playing; that our blues derive from there." As he learns about the instruments of antiquity, he traces the musical lineage from Africa to the Americas. "I’m watching a video of Ali Farka Touré play this little thing that looks like a violin. He’s from a place in Africa that takes you days to get to. So how could it have been possible that they derived blues from the U.S.?" 

Speaking with Cheick Tidiane Seck, who is guesting on Gary's forthcoming album. He exclaimed from Mali, "We visited the incomparable Salif Keita at his house!"  

Speaking with Cheick Tidiane Seck, who is guesting on Gary's forthcoming album. He exclaimed from Mali, "We visited the incomparable Salif Keita at his house!"  

He adds, "Let’s take an instrument like the banjo, it was brought from Africa." Recently given Its ancient predecessor, the Ngoni, he describes the instrument. "It’s made from goatskin stretched over carved wood and the strings are made from the ligaments of an animal." He marvels over its simplicity "it's like a small guitar--a stick with strings on it, and the sound they get out of it is completely transcendent. You can’t imagine the sound coming out of it," he says enthusiastically. The instrument predates the harp; it predates classical music. "Americans are not known for our language studies," he says. "Now that I’m traveling a lot, I find that I find that I’m picking up a lot more Spanish and French. Even when I was in Mali, Bambara started coming easier for me. It’s a more ercussive language, staccato. In trying to pick up some of the expressions, it felt really natural." 

He's one hard-working brother, frequently on a plane these days.  In addition to the international travel for philanthropic efforts and to perform and record music, Gary finds himself stateside quite a bit to commune of course, with his family and continue his steady work as an actor. The day after our New York meeting, he flew to Atlanta to shoot the forthcoming (in 2017) Media, for TV One, (having shot two other films for them) returned to France to perform and record for a Bob Marley tribute; then touched down in Morocco to film among the Berbers. He has gone back to Mali, "worked with a guy from Akon's Lighting Africa project, and was able to help get the village, the music school and maternity school lit and powered! A very good day indeed," he recalls. 

He is grateful for all the good coming his way, yet heart-weary from the violence around the world, particularly the pandemic gun violence and “the killing of unarmed black and brown people by the police in America.”  As one who has been “held at gunpoint by LAPD officers several times,” he doesn’t “feel safe in L.A.” 

Organizing is key to effecting change in this country, he says, admiring the activism of elders Harry Belafonte (Sankofa) and Jim Brown (Amer-I-Can) and emerging activists like Jesse Williams. We must also organize around the financial health of the black community, he says, and get on board with the current grassroots efforts encouraging investment in black-owned banks to build economic parity for blacks in America.

He speaks of a theory meaningful to him: that of the fighting stance and the learning stance. “You can’t have both at the same time."  People kept in a combative state assume the fighting stance. "If we are kept in the fighting stance then we will never be able to organize, learn and grow."  Having ventured abroad, he believes that “we must travel wide and get in touch with each other in the farthest corners of the world and help each other evolve.”  

Top: "Clyde" in Five Thirteen. Center: "Sheldon" in BET's Being Mary Jane; "Augie Johnson" in TV One's Love Under New Management; with Stephen C. Bishop in TV One's, Media, forthcoming in 2017. Bottom: "Ayden" in Reversion with Aja Naomi King; and on the TV One series, Belle's.

Top: "Clyde" in Five Thirteen. Center: "Sheldon" in BET's Being Mary Jane; "Augie Johnson" in TV One's Love Under New Management; with Stephen C. Bishop in TV One's, Media, forthcoming in 2017Bottom: "Ayden" in Reversion with Aja Naomi King; and on the TV One series, Belle's.

He returns to New York this month to start shooting the rom-com All She Wrote.  "He has come a very long way and accomplished so much," his eldest sister Bobbie says, proud of the strides he's made. "He looks fresh and at peace with himself," she notes. I'd have to agree. Far from his past tribulations in Venice, California, the new video for his song "The End," shot in Venice, Italy at the Berengo Murano glass studio, offers an apt metaphor as Gary endures the heat to create something beautiful from the fire.
 

Gary's TROVE

Photographed by Frederick V. Nielsen II for THE TROVE.

Photographed by Frederick V. Nielsen II for THE TROVE.

1. My Guild Guitar.  His eye was drawn to the jewel-toned, late sixties model from the Guild Starfire series, "I’ve always liked emerald green, but it was the tone that got me. I’m not a jazz musician, but I like jazz chordings, the colors they create and that guitar really brings it out. It has a very sensual vibe to it. I’m not a great lead player like Prince or Jimi Hendrix, but when I hit a chord, it rings true and sounds beautiful and warm.  And it lets me express myself when I have to sing or do some poetry.  It's semi hollow so it almost feels like an acoustic, which is great, but acoustic guitars can sound a bit thin from the stage and this guitar always sounds full bodied. I love how a guitar is shaped like a beautiful woman; really strong hips, small waist, she’s beautiful, that’s my girl, the Guild.”  

KIehl's Original Musk photo via 15 Steps. Ugo Cacciatore ring photographed by Frederick V. Nielsen II for THE TROVE.

KIehl's Original Musk photo via 15 Steps. Ugo Cacciatore ring photographed by Frederick V. Nielsen II for THE TROVE.

2. Musk Oil.  The earthy, classic fragrance from Kiehl's is a staple, though he's partial to musk oil obtained in Morocco as well.

3. Protective jewelry.  He'd always looked askance when folks in California started talking crystals, but he's come to understand that as the elements of the periodic table have certain properties, so do gemstones. "I don’t feel like I’m being overly esoteric or crunchy hippie about it, now I see it's science."  He says that his open energy leaves him vulnerable to the ill intentions of others, "unseen forces. Know they do exist. You don't see gravity but you know it exists. So I keep the stones around me." During a chance encounter with Italian designer, Ugo Cacciatori, Gary complimented him on his rings. Cacciatori generously responded, "here, take it," giving him the bold ring pictured above. Gary also wears beads on his wrist blessed by the "Hugging Saint," Amma

A view of Paris from Basilique du Sacré-Cœur de Monmartre. Photo by Florian Plag.

A view of Paris from Basilique du Sacré-Cœur de Monmartre. Photo by Florian Plag.

4. Paris.  He sleeps well in the City of Lights. "I feel really protected there, held as an artist. I travel all around, but as soon as I get to Paris, I relax. I start feeling like I can write again and it opens me up." He enjoys the simple pleasure of walking the streets there, unencumbered. "My two favorite places in Paris are the Olympia (concert hall) and the Sacré-Cœur. The Sacred Heart Church accepts everyone and they also have places where people can stay, which is what a church should be like. If you’re going to build a monument to God, there should probably be someplace where people can come rest--that’s cool," he says.  "And the Olympia always has the best sound." Every show I've seen at the Olympia has struck me emotionally. I've seen some amazing musicians there (including a recent appearance by Sting.)" So would he like to play there? "Oh God, that’s like getting to Carnegie Hall when you’re a musician in New York.”  

5. Carol's Daughter products.  Gary has supported Carol's Daughter from its early days, when founder, Lisa Price was whipping up potions in her Brooklyn kitchen. The two are like family now and he was happy to present the beauty maven with a WEEN award in 2014.

Naomi "Nai Palm" Saalfield of Hiatus Kaiyote. Prince performs in the rain during the Super Bowl XLI half-time show in 2007. Photographed by Chris O'Meara/AP.

Naomi "Nai Palm" Saalfield of Hiatus Kaiyote. Prince performs in the rain during the Super Bowl XLI half-time show in 2007. Photographed by Chris O'Meara/AP.

6. Listening to his favorite music.  With his extensive travel, he always keeps his iPod at hand to listen to his musical faves from the likes of Prince, Hiatus Kaiyote, Lalah Hathaway, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Q-Tip, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Logan Richardson, Tony Tixier, Ben Williams, Matthew Chedid and Yaron Herman.

7. Ayo’s songwriting. "Ayo is amazing, she’s a great songwriter. I love her voice. I love her spirit--she smiles when she sings. She’s really very present. All of her words are gut-wrenchingly true and from the heart and she’s inspired me as an artist." And she's performed at the Olympia. (view here)

8. Vintage muscle cars. "I'm from Philly and New Jersey, of course I love muscle cars."  Like a tricked-out, 1968 Dodge Charger he once owned, but it's now more in theory than in practice. "Until I can figure out how to make them electric, then it's a waste of the earth's resources," he says. Perhaps one day.    

9. Tate’s Cookies.  He loves the crispy, buttery treats from the Southampton bake shop. Which flavor? “Chocolate chip. Actually anything Tate’s, ginger, butterscotch...Cookies are a vice for me. I’ll go workout in the gym, have a healthy lifestyle, eat salad greens. I don’t really eat meat, I don’t really eat chicken that much anymore; just fish and veggies. But I will smash a bag of Tate's on my own. I’ll eat the last cookie unapologetically."

In Kirina, with the village griots and with a young student of the music school.

In Kirina, with the village griots and with a young student of the music school.

10. Malian honors.  January 2016, after performing at the Festival Acoustik Bamako, Gary traveled 25 miles south of the capital city to the Griot village of Kirina, and visited the music school, Ecole de Musique du Kirina. He was stunned to learn that he had fans in this village with no electricity. Some did have iPhones, though, and he took plenty of selfies with villagers. The main road to both the school and the maternity center--a very important passage--was named Gary Dourdan Road in his honor. Another "extraordinary honor' was bestowed upon him in a traditional Malian naming ceremony. Under the order of the elders, he was given the name Kouyaté and made a griot of the "Mandinke empire, which dates back 700 years of oral tradition." He doesn't take the responsibility lightly. "I am given the task of continuing this passing of information to the U.S." And share he does, that as the African presence in the Americas predates the Transatlantic slave trade, the gold found among the Aztec and Mayan empires traveled from the "the great Kingdom of Mali."

After a security breach, he's back up and running on facebook, instagram @garydourdan, and twitter @garydourdan