Viewing page 395 of 484
It looks like you're using a mobile device. We recommend using a physical keyboard for transcription entry.
the color line and performed in Black face as top banana for Flo Ziegfield and his Ziegfield Folies. Bert worked for Ziegfield as his top act from 1913 until 1924 the time of his death. Bert was so popular that his stuff was copied by Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson, and Phil Harris and he, Bert, was inducted into a white Masonic lodge in New York. After World War II, the flood gate opened and better known Negro performers found themselves being courted by white managers, who in may instances so burdened them down that it looked like the old TOBA in another form. The new personnel manager fought hard to maintain a status of their own which did not encourage asking questions by the artists. Questions, like how much am I supposed to get for this gig - Why do I need an entourage of your family doing my business and not me or mine. Why can't get me hotel date - Why must I work in certain ballrooms or clubs - Why can't I eat in the hotel restaurant or why can't I mingle with the guests. The TOBA theatres in New York were the Lincoln on 135th near Lenox Avenue, where Fats Waller got his start; the Lafayette Theatre on 132nd Street and Seventh Avenue now a church; where Orson Wells staged his WPA Mercury Theatre presentation form; The Harlem Opera House, on 125th near Seventh Avenue where Ella Fitzgerald won an Amateur Hour and then went on to fame with Chick kWebbs orchestra; The Apollo Theatre further up the street where Frank Shiffman, who did not like competition turned a white Burlesque house into a Negro dynasty. Mr. Shiffman also operated the Roosevelt, a motion picture house at 145th & Seventh Avenue. The Alhambra Theatre on 126 and Seventh Avenue presented Negro artists like Rose McClenden and her company and other Black artists who tried their hands at serious theatre dramas. The Circuit theatres in Washington consisted of the Howard which presented stage shows runned by Shep Allen. Their movie houses were the Lincoln at 14th & T, the Republic and Booker T - a little further up the street. The Lincoln theatre building also housed the Lincoln Colonade, a ballroom where Negro Washington society held its function. The building also housed the offices of the Gaily News, the local scandal sheet which printed the pecadillos of Washington society and was distributed fro free to patrons attending the theatre. The Black promoters were the ones who booked the Tent and Carnival shows when they could get them and would work deals for the big acts to perform for them from the white promoters who held territorial rights. But Black performers made it despite all the hardships and the hectic booking and atrocious living conditions on the road (Besse Smith, the premier Black Blues singer bled to death because the white folds would not take her in a white hospital in Tennessee when her car crashed). Among the artists I remember as a young man growing up in Harlem were the Whitman Sisters, who came to New York with a young man named Willie Bryant. Butter Beans and Susie; Pigmeat Markham; Jackie "Moms" Mabley. The Hardy Brother Band, Leroy "Stuff" from Continued on next page [[images - collage of performers]] 393
Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact email@example.com.