Racism in show biz

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Racism in show biz

Post  pinhedz on Sat Apr 23, 2011 5:19 am

pinhedz
Sat Feb 07, 2009 9:42 pm

I just read that the Obamas are going out tonight to the Kennedy Center. That made me think of this:

In 1935, the theaters in Washington DC were segregated. Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" was scheduled to play at the National Theater in Washington DC, and the friends and family of the cast could not get tickets because of the segregation policy.

Anne Brown, who was singing the role Bess, had family in Baltimore. She told Gershwin that if her family could not come to the theater, she would quit. The other cast members thought she was nuts to risk losing her part in the show.

But Gershwin had clout; he twisted a few arms and "Porgy" became the first show in DC to play for an integrated audience.


pinhedz

Then there's the story about Gene Krupa and his star trumpet soloist, Roy Eldridge (who was black), back in the 1940s.

The band was playing in York, Pennsylvania, just north of the border with Maryland. The band went to a restaurant for dinner, but the maitre d said sorry, Roy can't eat here. Krupa objected and things got physical (he punched out the maitre d). The police came and threw Gene into the clink, and the next morning he had to pay a fine to get out.

The local press asked Gene if he was sorry for what he did. Gene said "I am very sorry it was necessary to resort to violence in defense of right."

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Re: Racism in show biz

Post  pinhedz on Sat Apr 23, 2011 5:22 am

But for a bigger shocker than the sight of a black man in a white restaurant, Roy Eldridge recorded vocal duets with the white singer Anita O'Day, with lyrics suggesting that they might be making out: "Come'on, Anita, knock me a kiss!" Shocked


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Re: Racism in show biz

Post  pinhedz on Sat Apr 23, 2011 5:24 am

audreyfan1
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Sun Feb 08, 2009 5:16 am

I remember my dad telling me a story that he read about Groucho Marx.

Apparently Groucho took his son to go swimming in a public pool, but when they got there he was told that Jewish people weren't allowed to swim there with the 'normal' people. So (classic Groucho), he said, "well can my son go in the water up to his waist? He's only half-Jewish."

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Re: Racism in show biz

Post  pinhedz on Sat Apr 23, 2011 5:26 am

audreyfan1
Sun Feb 08, 2009 5:31 am

"I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt." - Ella Fitzgerald.

The Mocambo, a popular Hollywood night club in the '50s refused to book Ella Fitzgerald, an up-and-coming new singer at the time, because of segration.

When Marilyn Monroe found out, she told the manager of the club that she would come sit in the front row every day Ella was booked. Obviously aware of the publicity the club would receive if Marilyn Monroe became a frequent guest, he booked Ella every single night for one month. And every single night for one month, Marilyn kept her promise!


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Re: Racism in show biz

Post  pinhedz on Sat Apr 23, 2011 5:29 am

Hosni


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Re: Racism in show biz

Post  pinhedz on Sat Apr 23, 2011 5:33 am

pinhedz

Ever read old copies of "Downbeat Magazine?"

Group Seeks To Remove R&B Discs From Boxes
by Dave Banks
Downbeat Magazine, May 2 1956

New Orleans--White supremacists have chosen "rock and Roll" music as their latest target in the continuing fight against desegregation in the south. Asa Carter, Birmingham, executive secretary of the North Alabama White Citizens councils, told my station, WNOE, that negro radio stations and jukeboxes featuring negro performers were to be monitored by members of his group and action would be taken by them against stations, sponsors, operators, and locations.

Earlier, carter had declared pro-integration forces were encouraging rock and roll music as a means of "pulling the white man down to the level of the negro." international News Service quotes him as calling it a part of a plot by the NAACP, leading the integration fight, to "undermine the morals of the youth of our nation." He said the music is "sexualistic, unmoralistic, and the best way to bring young people of both races together, according to the late Walter White."


= ANDY =

This reminds me of something I've hear Lou Reed say wile DJ'ing at a radio station some time in the late 70s.

He speaks of going out to gay dance clubs in the late 50s / early 60s in NYC. Apparantly, some of these clubs had 2 seperate dance floors - one for gay men and one for lesbian women.
Whenever those clubs were informed of the police being on their way to check them out, they would ring an alarm-bell. Men and women would than mix with each other. By the time the police entered the club, all they could see were regular-looking couples of guys and girls dancing with each other.
As soon as they left, the girls went back to the girls and the guys to the guys.

I have no idea if this is something that actually ever happened, but it's a funny tale anyway.


John McLaughlin

THat's a lovely story about Marilyn and Ella, isn't it?


pinhedz

Yes, although Ella wasn't "up and coming" at the time, she was one of the biggest names in the biz, which makes it all the more amazing anyone would pass up a chance to book her.

Another story, which I'm not sure I believe, is that Ella was supposed to sing the song "Cry Me A River" in a film, but it didn't happen for a very bizarre reason.

The song contains these lyrics:

"You told me love was too plebian,
told me you were through with me, and ..."

Clever rhyme: "plebian" against "with me and"

Allegedly, the word "plebian" was considered too high-falutin for a black person, so the lyricist was asked to change it. He refused, so the number was dropped from the film. Shocked

As I said, I'm not sure I believe this.


John McLaughlin

Me neither. The Rodgers & Hart Songbook is full of clever rhymes like that, and nobody tried to stop her recording that - not that I ever heard, anyway.

pinhedz

My doubts notwithstanding (the story just sounds fishy) I think the film industry had some hang-ups that were different from the recording industry. Some film musicals included scenes with black performers that could be deleted without disrupting the flow of the film. That way the studio could release two versions of the film--one for southern theaters and one for northern theaters.

In M-G-M's "Zeigfield Follies" from 1946, there's a wonderful rendition of Gershwin's "Liza" sung by Lena Horne (in a formal gown) and Avon Long (in white tie and tails). My CD insert tells me that this scene was deleted from from the version of the movie that showed in the south.


audreyfan1

^I've heard about that too. There's an interview with Lena Horne in one the That's Entertainment movies, where clips of classic MGM musicals were shown with the stars talking about making them, where she talks about a scene deleted from one of her films where she sings in the bathtub. She says it was deleted because it was too risqué, not for an actress to sing supposedly nude in the bathtub, but for a black actress to sing supposedly nude in the bathtub.

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Re: Racism in show biz

Post  pinhedz on Sat Apr 23, 2011 5:37 am

Cook Pass Babtridge

Hosni wrote:
Disneyland in California are planning on showing this again from 2010 onwards. Yay!

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Re: Racism in show biz

Post  felix on Sat Apr 23, 2011 5:54 am

I've read stories of US 1950s rock 'n' roll gigs at dance halls where the audiences were segregated by a rope down the middle of the floor. A good rocking band generally resulted in the rope diappearing and the gig becoming de facto desegregated.

A quick google confirms thsi recollection:

For example, some music venues would hold two separate shows--one for whites and one for blacks. In still others, a long rope would be extended across the floor of an auditorium to separate the audience. As might be expected, when the rock and roll acts really began to rock, ropes would get torn down, audiences would mingle and the local authorities would panic. In fact, some political and religious leaders sought to ban rock concerts altogether (integrated or segregated) because kids would jump our of their seats, dance in the aisles and get "out of control."

http://people.missouristate.edu/dennishickey/segregatedconcertposters.htm

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