2010-03-05 / Front Page

Rosa Rock’s rules Over the Top

Comedian Chris Rock’s mother visits Ridgeway, SC
By Julia Rogers Hook

Top photo: Del’ Risha White, customer; Jacquie Lee, events planner; and Tina Johnson, owner of Over the Top. Left: Book by Rosa Rock. Right: Rosa Rock. Top photo: Del’ Risha White, customer; Jacquie Lee, events planner; and Tina Johnson, owner of Over the Top. Left: Book by Rosa Rock. Right: Rosa Rock. From the glitz of Hollywood to the glamour of New York, author Rosa Rock was in one of South Carolina’s small towns February 27 to promote and sign her

book, Mama Rock’s Rules.

The mother of comedian and director and the 2004 Academy Awards host, Chris Rock, was in the house of a local haberdashery, and the town of Ridgeway was coming out in droves to say hi and rub elbows with a true celebrity.

Tucked away in Fairfield County, just north of Columbia is the little bedroom community where Main Street makes a person tend to keep a sharp eye out for Andy, Barney, Opie, and Aunt Bee.

But last Saturday, along with perusing the tempting fares at Ridgeway’s newest boutique, Over the Top, and discovering what it offered the buyer, Rock was chatting with the townspeople and marveling at the different pieces of jewelry, wallets, hats, and handbags.

As one lady tried on an exceptional sevenstrand faux pearl necklace, Rock was among the first to tell her how classy it looked with her dress.

“She’s so down to earth,” that customer said. “You’d never know she’s been on every talk show in the country. She just fits right in here in our little town.”

Just like in the movies, when Over The Top proprietor Tina Johnson, who was hosting the book signing, dashes out of her hats, handbags, and accessory store to grab her special guest a cup of coffee, she is literally greeted by everyone on the street as she makes her way a few doors down to the restaurant. And when the owner of one of the town’s two eateries, Rebecca’s, realizes the coffee is for the honored guest, she refuses to put it in a paper cup, but instead sends the celebrity author a china cup, saucer, creamer and sugar.

“That’s why I fell in love with this town,” Johnson said. “The people are wonderful, and it’s so charming and unique. When I saw the empty store, I just knew I had to open a business here.”

So Johnson got the idea to open an exclusive hat store where ladies of taste could come to find distinctive hats and handbags along with one–of– a–kind pieces of jewelry and accessories.

“In this economy where we are all on a budget, I wanted to offer ladies a place to have fun while they shopped for affordable handbags and hats that makes them feel pampered,” Johnson said.

And when the opportunity presented itself for the book signing, Johnson said it felt like it was meant to be.

“Rosa is about down home child rearing even though she raised her children in New York,” she said. “The things she says in her book are things parents in this town and towns and cities across the country can employ.”

As Rock, a SC native, born in Andrews and now living in Georgetown, sits at a table sipping her coffee and amiably chatting with the customers, she seems almost surprised that her book has done so well.

“The book came out in April of 2008, and it was slated to be marketed for 12 weeks,” Rock said. “It’s been two years and it’s still selling.”

When her book first came out, all the shows were clamoring to get her. She has been on “The View,” “The Today Show” and “60 Minutes” to name a few.

She said that the book came naturally as she told the story of raising her family and the things that entailed.

“I was blessed with ten children and at one time I was doing a lot of community work in Georgetown,” she said. “I guess because of that, a reporter interviewed me and asked me how I managed to raise that many children, and I gave her ten rules that I made the kids live by. When the paper came out, it got an amazing response, and I was approached to write the book.”

She raised her children in a Brooklyn brownstone, and she said her home was always open to the neighborhood kids. She said that she had seven birth children and three

given children. When asked what given meant, she laughed.

“They came to spend the night and just never went home,” she quipped.

According to her book, in addition to the seven birth children and the three given ones, she and her husband had a total of 17 foster children who shared their home, and she said they all have turned out to be decent human beings. She said that she attributes that to “a lot of love and a lot of rules.”

“I always told all of my children I was their mama and not their friend,” she said. “I dedicated a chapter to that and to the theory that no child really wants to be left alone.”

She said that kids need rules to feel good about themselves.

“A child needs to know there are boundaries,” she said. “They need structure that includes bed times and meal times. They need to sit down with their families and talk about their days. Rules prove you love and care about them.”

Chris Rock wrote the foreword to her book, and he said it was quite a feat that his mother and father, Julius, raised him and his five brothers and one sister without any of them dropping dead. While in the ordinary world that may not seem like much, the son said that in his neighborhood, “where four out of five black men are either dead, in jail, or making a rap CD, it’s a major accomplishment.”

There was a poignant moment when Rock talked about her son Chris hosting the Academy Awards in 2005.

“For me that was a defining moment,” she said. “When I was growing up, I only had hand– me–downs. To see my son up there with all these world famous designers trying to get him to wear their best clothes….well that was something.”

Rock has worked as a teacher and has operated day care centers and preschools for the past 17 years. She is a sought–after speaker and the host of the weekly radio program, “The Mom Show” out of Myrtle Beach.

She was the first celebrity to appear at Johnson’s Ridgeway store, but Johnson said she won’t be the last.

“After all, we are called ‘Over the Top’ so stay tuned.”

Store hours are Thursdays and Fridays from 11 am to 7 pm and Saturdays from 10 am to 5 pm.

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