Hollywood actor, director, producer, and likely racist Carl Reiner — best known for his role in leading a 1979 class action suit against black entrepreneur Navin R. Johnson over his OptiGrab invention — died Monday. He was 98.
Reiner, who served in the Air Force during World War II, cut his teeth in show business alongside Glenn Ford in 1959’s “The Gazebo” and with Mel Brooks on “The Steve Allen Show”, building a longstanding reputation of being exactly the kind of guy who would gladly take a role that a black actor could have played had a black actor been offered the role. He eventually joined the all-white cast of “The Dick Van Dyke” show, a popular series that quietly heckled black people by showing aspects of suburban middle-class white culture that were unattainable for most people of color. Over time, Reiner became involved as a writer and director of predominantly white entertainment.
In his most vulgar display as a member of the subversive white Hollywood culture, Reiner asserted himself as a preeminent Hollywood racist when he led the well-documented suit against Johnson for the OptiGrab invention, blaming Johnson for Reiner’s own irresponsibility, and famously decrying Johnson for releasing a product that “he didn’t even test on prisoners!”, a dog-whistle which established Reiner at the forefront of Hollywood racists who heavily favored medical testing inside disproportionately minority prisons, proving that Reiner valued the lives of laboratory rats over those of minorities.
Reiner’s victim, Navin Johnson, had been the born the poor black child of southern sharecroppers and had worked as a minimum-wage filling station attendant and a carney before hitting it big with the OptiGrab, a simple eyeglass accessory. Johnson was making waves in the black business community, however, by the time the lawsuit was settled, “uppity” Johnson had been disgraced and rendered penniless by Reiner’s $10 million power grab, with the disgraced Johnson being forced to move back in with his parents. Reiner, in turn, reportedly used the remaining unclaimed share of the $10M settlement to buy a sweet-ass Caddy with gold spinners that any black man would probably have loved to own if he could afford one, but probably couldn’t, because Carl Reiner had all the money.
Reiner died surrounded by family, who apparently think that Carl’s racist bullshit was not a dealbreaker.