lol. Yeah, I got a ton of sh*t going on. Doing the z-index causes an appearance, but the whole body.
The idea of the black background is to "lights out" everything, so it mimics flash fullscreen, but doesn't use all the flash fullscreen resources; enabling slower computers to enjoy bigger video.
Since the java appends it to body, it means it is practically the last element on the page, and ie7 and earlier versions automatically give z-index priority to elements that come last; unless each and every element has a z-index given to it.
In ie7, the flash can't even expand out of left column -- though I have overflow: visible -- without the right column getting a lower z-index. I've tried changing the z-index on each, but then it causes the black to cover everything up in all other browsers too.
I might just disable the expand function (maybe a java alert) if the user is running any IE version but 8.x