Posts tagged "carl van vechten"

Pearl Bailey was born 96 years ago today in Newport News, Virginia. As a late bloomer who has yet to finish her degree at NYU, my favorite fact about Ms. Bailey (shown here in 1946 by Carl Van Vechten) was that she earned a B.A. in Theology from Georgetown University in 1985 at the age of 67! Initially, she majored in French, but she switched to theology “Because it’s easier to know the Lord that it is to know French.” Photo: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Joyce Bryant is one of the reasons I couldn’t wait to get Vintage Black Glamour in book form. This photograph was taken by Carl Van Vechten on May 28, 1953 at the height of her career. Even with her undeniable soprano (with a 4 octave range) the focus was on her sexy image. Once dubbed the “black Marilyn Monroe,” constant mentions in Walter Winchell’s gossip column made her a star and she was widely considered the first dark-skinned Black woman to be considered a sex symbol inside and outside of the black community. Joyce earned nearly $1 million at her peak, but her upbringing in a very strict Seventh Day Adventist home left her feeling guilty about sex and her sexy image. According to Dorothy Dandridge’s biographer Donald Bogle, Dorothy pulled Joyce aside after a date in still-segregated Miami Beach and asked for advice on negotiating her nightclub fees (“What do you do? How do you get ask?) She was also very impressed with her stage presence (“How do you walk up on that stage and stay as calm as you are? It seems so easy for you.”) After a series of trying events, Joyce Bryant left show business at the top of her career and returned home and to the church. She worked with the church for 20 years, singing, ministering to the poor, enduring sexism and lies from people who were less than forgiving about her past. Finally, disappointed with the people in her church, she left and eventually made her way back to the stage. After doing opera in Europe, South America and the New York Opera Company, she had a successful cabaret run in the late 1970s and 1980s. As far as I can tell, Ms. Bryant is still with us (see the link in the comments). If you would like to pre-order my book, go to this link - and thank you! http://vintageblackglamourbook.com/

Joyce Bryant is one of the reasons I couldn’t wait to get Vintage Black Glamour in book form. This photograph was taken by Carl Van Vechten on May 28, 1953 at the height of her career. Even with her undeniable soprano (with a 4 octave range) the focus was on her sexy image. Once dubbed the “black Marilyn Monroe,” constant mentions in Walter Winchell’s gossip column made her a star and she was widely considered the first dark-skinned Black woman to be considered a sex symbol inside and outside of the black community. Joyce earned nearly $1 million at her peak, but her upbringing in a very strict Seventh Day Adventist home left her feeling guilty about sex and her sexy image. According to Dorothy Dandridge’s biographer Donald Bogle, Dorothy pulled Joyce aside after a date in still-segregated Miami Beach and asked for advice on negotiating her nightclub fees (“What do you do? How do you get ask?) She was also very impressed with her stage presence (“How do you walk up on that stage and stay as calm as you are? It seems so easy for you.”) After a series of trying events, Joyce Bryant left show business at the top of her career and returned home and to the church. She worked with the church for 20 years, singing, ministering to the poor, enduring sexism and lies from people who were less than forgiving about her past. Finally, disappointed with the people in her church, she left and eventually made her way back to the stage. After doing opera in Europe, South America and the New York Opera Company, she had a successful cabaret run in the late 1970s and 1980s. As far as I can tell, Ms. Bryant is still with us (see the link in the comments). If you would like to pre-order my book, go to this link - and thank you! http://vintageblackglamourbook.com/

Zora Neale Hurston was born 123 years ago today, January 7, 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama and raised in the legendary all-black town of Eatonville, Florida. She made the following observation in her 1950 essay, What White Publishers Won’t Print. ”For various reasons, the average, struggling, non-morbid Negro is the best-kept secret in America. His revelation to the public is the thing needed to do away with that feeling of difference which inspires fear, and which ever expresses itself in dislike. It is inevitable that this knowledge will destroy many illusions and romantic traditions which America probably likes to have around. But then, we have no record of anybody sinking into a lingering death on finding out that there was no Santa Claus. The old world will take it in its stride. The realization that Negroes are no better nor no worse, and at times just as bonny as everybody else, will hardly kill off the population of the nation.” This rare color photograph of Ms. Hurston was taken by Carl Van Vechten in 1940. Photo: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Singer and actress Ruby Hill in character as “Della Green” from the 1946 Broadway production of “St. Louis Woman.” The Virginia-born Ms. Hill would go on to tell JET magazine in a cover story for their July 30, 1953 issue, that she believed her career suffered from the “Lena Horne jinx” because she resembled (and was modeled after) Ms. Horne too closely. “St. Louis Woman” was based on Arna Bontemps’ novel “God Sends Sunday” and written by Mr. Bontemps and Countee Cullen, with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Johnny Mercer. This photo was taken on July 2, 1946 by Carl Van Vechten. Photo: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
#BlackBritish brothers and sisters, I bring you the great Mabel Mercer, photographed by Carl Van Vechten on April 22, 1952. Ms. Mercer was one of the most influential singers of all time, influencing masters like Nat King Cole, Barbra Streisand, Leontyne Price, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra who once said, “Mabel Mercer taught me everything I know.” According to show biz legend, Billie Holiday almost lost her job for sneaking across the street one too many times to hear Ms. Mercer sing. Born to a white English vaudevillian mother and and an American jazz musician father on February 3, 1900, in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England, Ms. Mercer began singing at Ada “Bricktop” Smith’s fabled Paris nightclub in the 1920’s and was a fixture there well into the next decade. “People would say, ‘Come over here and sing such-and-such a song,’ ” she once said about her trademark style of singing while seated – an unusual choice at the time. ”So I’d sit down next to their table and sing. I had to learn not to stare at them when I sang because it made them uncomfortable. So I developed an impersonal thing of not really looking at anybody but just concentrating on the story of the song.” Ms. Mercer came to live in the United States after leaving Paris to escape the war in the late 1930s and settled in New York. Her influence on singers and songwriters was so great, she was credited with single-handedly keeping some songs alive before they became bona fide standards. One of those songs was “Little Girl Blue,” a song that singers like Mr. Sinatra and Lena Horne heard her perform before recording it themselves. Ms. Mercer once said, “I’ve always been shy of singing. It’s a great surprise to me when people say nice things. I can’t bear to listen to myself. I won’t listen to my own records.” She died at the age of 84 in 1984 in Massachusetts. Photo: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

#BlackBritish brothers and sisters, I bring you the great Mabel Mercer, photographed by Carl Van Vechten on April 22, 1952. Ms. Mercer was one of the most influential singers of all time, influencing masters like Nat King Cole, Barbra Streisand, Leontyne Price, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra who once said, “Mabel Mercer taught me everything I know.” According to show biz legend, Billie Holiday almost lost her job for sneaking across the street one too many times to hear Ms. Mercer sing. Born to a white English vaudevillian mother and and an American jazz musician father on February 3, 1900, in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England, Ms. Mercer began singing at Ada “Bricktop” Smith’s fabled Paris nightclub in the 1920’s and was a fixture there well into the next decade. “People would say, ‘Come over here and sing such-and-such a song,’ ” she once said about her trademark style of singing while seated – an unusual choice at the time. ”So I’d sit down next to their table and sing. I had to learn not to stare at them when I sang because it made them uncomfortable. So I developed an impersonal thing of not really looking at anybody but just concentrating on the story of the song.” Ms. Mercer came to live in the United States after leaving Paris to escape the war in the late 1930s and settled in New York. Her influence on singers and songwriters was so great, she was credited with single-handedly keeping some songs alive before they became bona fide standards. One of those songs was “Little Girl Blue,” a song that singers like Mr. Sinatra and Lena Horne heard her perform before recording it themselves. Ms. Mercer once said, “I’ve always been shy of singing. It’s a great surprise to me when people say nice things. I can’t bear to listen to myself. I won’t listen to my own records.” She died at the age of 84 in 1984 in Massachusetts. Photo: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Soprano Adele Addison, photographed by Carl Van Vechten on April 8, 1955, around the time she played Mimi in La Boheme at City Center in New York. Ms. Addison, a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, also dubbed Dorothy Dandridge’s singing voice for the 1959 film, “Porgy and Bess.” Photo: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Billie Holiday, photographed by Carl Van Vechten in 1949. One of my favorite scholars, Columbia University professor Farah Jasmine Griffin, noted the following in her book, “If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday: “The photographer remembers photographing her for two hours, and while she was initially despondent, she returned from a brief sojourn “on a different plane, all energy, sympathy, cooperation and interest.” Photo: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library