In 1986 Taurean Blacque was co-starring in Hill Street Blues (he played gritty, streetwise detective Neal Washington), raking in the profits from a host of investments and living in a spacious home with a half-dozen classic cars spilling out of the driveway.
Still, the onetime mail carrier couldn’t help feeling that something was missing. “My life was all about me, my work and my grown kids,” remembers Blacque, now 49 and starring as patriarch Henry Marshall on the new NBC soap Generations. “I had to give something back, to share something.”
So when Wini Jackson, a Los Angeles County community affairs officer, asked him to lead a campaign aimed at encouraging black families to adopt hard-to-place children, Blacque agreed—on the condition that he be allowed to adopt one of those children himself. “I don’t want to be telling other people what to do if I don’t know anything about it myself,” said Blacque.
Three years and nine children later, he knows more than he ever expected.
First to arrive at the actor’s Baldwin Hills home were twins Paul and Christopher, now 6, who were in danger of being split up because families wanted to adopt only the lighter-skinned child. Then came Marc, 2, and his sister Jennifer, 3, whose mother was a drug addict serving time. Then Whitley, almost 2, born to a single mother who couldn’t keep her; Marshall, 9 months, another child born to Marc and Jennifer’s mother; Richard, 11, and Sammy, 10, who had spent nearly their entire lives in foster homes; and Randy, 5, who arrived in August.
“Taurean scares us sometimes,” jokes Zena Oglesby, executive director of the Institute for Black Parenting, a private organization that encourages adoption in black families. “He’d try to adopt all of North America.”
Blacque explains it by saying he simply loves children. After his marriage broke up 23 years ago, he remained active in the rearing of sons Rodney, now 26, and Shelby, 27, eventually bringing the boys to live with him when they turned 13. Deeply religious and active in the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, Blacque also felt compelled to help those kids less fortunate than his own. “They have no families and no one to really care about them,” he says. “And that’s when the gangs come along and say, ‘We’re your family.’ ”
Initially, Blacque found social workers reluctant to let a single man adopt children, but the Newark-born actor refused to give up. “One good parent is better than no parents,” he protested.
Now nobody’s arguing. Caseworkers say the youngsters have a new sense of security and a better attitude since they’ve moved in with Blacque. “It’s been a complete turnaround,” says Jackson. Richard, the oldest child in the Blacque brood, says it with more feeling: “It’s like I’ve been born all over again.”
Blacque’s efforts have been recognized by L. A. Mayor Tom Bradley, and since the actor became involved, adoptions at the Institute for Black Parenting have increased significantly. In the past nine months alone, the institute has signed up 140 adoptive families—making it one of the most successful agencies in Southern California.
Of course, a houseful of kids has forced Blacque to make some changes in his lifestyle. With the arrival of Marc and Jennifer last year, Blacque hired a live-in nanny-housekeeper to help him keep order and to care for the children while he’s at work. And finding a nanny willing and able to take care of nine kids wasn’t easy. “Either the women didn’t like to work for so many kids, or the kids didn’t like them,” Blacque says. Then along came Daisy Morataya, 28, who had been working for a friend of Blacque’s and was already acquainted with the actor’s growing family. “She won’t even take a day off,” says Blacque. “She keeps coming back to check on the kids and bring them new clothes.”
Thanks to the regimen of daytime television, Blacque is able to work a fairly regular schedule that allows him plenty of time at home. Last February he moved into the six-bedroom, four-bathroom house next door to accommodate his expanding family. (He has a bedroom in the second house, while nanny Daisy sleeps in the first house with the babies. The older boys have bunk beds in both houses and alternate between them.) He also owns a condominium—three minutes down the hill from the houses—where he can escape to study his soap opera scripts.
Even that becomes a family affair, though, when Richard reads the part of Blacque’s vengeful Generations business partner. And when acting assignments do call him out of town, Blacque makes it a point to phone home every night and talk to each child individually.
Some of the biggest changes, however, have been in his social life. A relationship with a woman he was dating—and thinking of marrying—grew rockier with each new addition. “I guess she couldn’t deal with it,” Blacque says of the shattered romance. Now, although he dates occasionally, Blacque says finding a wife is not a top priority. “That will come when it’s right,” he says. “The bells will go ding-dong, and the kids will love her.”
They could also use the extra hand; the division of labor around the Blacque camp only goes so far. Morataya does the cooking, cleaning and washing. The older boys make their own beds, help with the dishes, take out the trash and walk and feed the dogs. Blacque drives the kids to and from school, cleans the second house and does all the shopping—including midnight forays to all-night supermarkets for Pampers in three sizes.
And he isn’t yet ready to say he has reached his limit. “God will tell me when to stop,” says Blacque. “He’ll say, ‘Son, your family is complete now.’ ” Somebody say amen.
—Cynthia Sanz, Lois Armstrong in Los Angeles