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Jedda Jones

Comedian and actress Jedda Jones was born on August 8, 1952 in New Orleans, Louisiana to Audrey Lieteau and Louis J. White. She graduated from Xavier University Preparatory School in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1970 and received her B.A. degree from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1974.

After graduation, Jones was recruited to work at Bell South in New Orleans. She was later promoted to manager and remained in that position for ten years. She left Bell South in 1985, and moved to New York to pursue a career in standup comedy. During this period, Jones also worked as a writer and wrote monologues and speeches for actress and comedian Marsha Warfield. She served as the head writer for two seasons of The Martha Warfield Show. Jones later appeared on The Sunday Comics television program on Fox and was a featured performer at Montreal’s Just For Laughs Comedy Festival. Jones made her television acting debut on the series New Attitude, in the role of Celina. In 1991, Jones was featured in Whoopi Goldberg’s HBO show Chez Whoopi. That same year, she portrayed Rubie Lin in the film Talkin’ Dirty After Dark and appeared as Sadie in the film Shattered, starring Tom Berenger and Bob Hoskins. In 1993, Jones was cast in Indecent Proposal, starring Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore. She also appeared in the film CB4 with Chris Rock and had a recurring role as Mrs. Lawrence in the series Tall Hopes. The following year, Jones had appearances on the television series Murphy Brown and Coach. From 1994 to 1998, Jones had two recurring roles in the television series Sister, Sister as Charlotte and Marjorie. In 1998, Jones appeared in Warren Beatty’s Bulworth starring Halle Berry. She was later cast in the role of Agnes in the film Catfish in Black Bean Sauce in 2000. In 2004, Jones portrayed Mercedes in Ray, starring Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles. The next year, she was cast in the film Treasure n tha Hood as Ms. Minne and made several recurring appearances as Miss Dupree on The Tom Joyner Show. In 2009, Jones was featured in the films The Final Destination and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Two years later, she was cast in the film Snatched.

Comedian and actress Jedda Jones was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 28, 2019.

Accession Number

A2019.032

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/28/2019

Last Name

Jones

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Occupation
Schools

Tulane University

Xavier University Preparatory School

First Name

Jedda

Birth City, State, Country

New Orleans

HM ID

JON45

Favorite Season

The Time Between Mardi Gras and Easter

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Greece, Pompei, Athens

Favorite Quote

Hey Baby, How You Doin' Cher?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Louisiana

Birth Date

8/8/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New Orleans

Favorite Food

King Crab Legs

Short Description

Comedian and actress Jedda Jones (1952 - ) portrayed Miss Dupree on The Tom Joyner Morning Show and appeared in the films Talkin’ Dirty After Dark, Shattered, Indecent Proposal, Bulworth, and Ray.

Employment

Sister, Sister

Bell South

Marsha Warfield

The Marsha Warfield Show

The Sunday Comics

Just for Laughs Comedy Festival

New Attitude

Chez Whoopi

Tallkin' Dirty After Dark

Catfish in Blackbean Sauce

Ray

The Tom Joyner Show

Treasure n tha Hood

The Final Destination

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Snatched

Favorite Color

Orange

Phylicia Rashad

Actress and stage director Phylicia Rashad was born on June 19, 1948 in Houston, Texas. Rashad graduated from Howard University in 1970, magna cum laude, with a B.F.A. degree.

Best known for her role of Clair Huxtable on the long-running NBC sitcom The Cosby Show, Rashad has enjoyed a distinguished acting career on television, stage, and film. Her theater credits include Broadway productions of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof , Gem of the Ocean, Into the Woods, Jelly’s Last Jam, Dreamgirls, Ain’t Supposed To Die A Natural Death; also Cymbeline and Bernada at Lincoln Center. Rashad has appeared in films: The Old Settler, For Colored Girls, Creed, and Creed II.

A critically acclaimed stage director, Rashad has led productions at prestigious venues throughout the United States including the Mark Taper Forum, the McCarter, the Goodman, the Long Wharf, the Steppenwolf, Ebony Repertory and the Signature Theatre. Among her growing list of directorial credits are: August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean, Fences, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, for which she received the 2014 NAACP Theatre Award for Best Director, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun; Paul Oakley Stovall’s Immediate Family and Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Our Lady of 121st Street.

Respected in the academic world, Rashad was the first recipient of the Denzel Washington Chair in Theatre at Fordham University, and has been bestowed with numerous honorary doctorate degrees from institutions like Providence College, Tuskegee University, Carnegie Mellon University, Fordham University, Howard University, Barber-Scotia College, Bennett College, Brown University, Clark Atlanta University, Morris Brown College, and Spelman College, presented to her by former First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2011 commencement. Together, she and her sister, Debbie Allen Nixon, established the Dr. Andrew A. Allen Scholarship Award for theater students at Howard University. Rashad also conducts Master Classes at colleges and universities across the country, and served as a master teacher for the 2015 Lunt Fontanne Fellows at the Ten Chimneys Foundation.

Throughout her lifetime, Rashad has maintained a commitment to community service exemplified through her participation as a Director of Brainerd Institute Heritage in Chester, South Carolina. An active member of several organizations devoted to arts education and philanthropic endeavors, Rashad is honored to serve as Brand Ambassador of the National Trust for Historic Preservation African American Cultural Heritage Fund.

Inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2016, Rashad counts among her many honors: People’s Choice Awards, NAACP Image Awards, The Will Award from the National Shakespeare Theatre, the Spirit of Shakespeare Award from the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Drama Desk and Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Play for her riveting performance as Lena Younger in the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, and the 2016 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play for her performance as Shelah in Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s Head of Passes at the Public Theater.

Phylicia Rashad was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 13, 2016 and February 2, 2017.

Accession Number

A2016.150

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/13/2016 |and| 02/02/2017

Last Name

Rashad

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Phylicia

Birth City, State, Country

Houston

HM ID

RAS02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii, Oman, Muscat

Favorite Quote

Honey please.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

6/19/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Palak paneer, yellow daal...

Short Description

Actress Phylicia Rashad (1948 - ) was best known for playing Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show from 1984 to 1992. She made her Broadway debut as a munchkin in the original production of The Wiz in 1975, and would star in the Broadway productions of A Raisin in the Sun, Gem of the Ocean, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Favorite Color

Red

Dee Dee Bridgewater

Singer and actress Dee Dee Bridgewater was born on May 27, 1950 in Memphis, Tennessee. Raised in Flint, Michigan, Bridgewater was exposed early to jazz music; her father, Matthew Garrett, was a jazz trumpeter and teacher at Manassas High School. After high school, Bridgewater attended Michigan State University before transferring to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1969, she toured the Soviet Union with the University of Illinois Big Band.

In 1970, Bridgewater met and married trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater and moved to New York City. She sang lead vocals for the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra in the early 1970s, and appeared in the Broadway musical The Wiz from 1974 to 1976. Bridgewater also released her first album in 1974, entitled Afro Blue. Then, after touring France in 1984 with the musical Sophisticated Ladies, she moved to Paris in 1986 and acted in the show Lady Day. Bridgewater also formed her own backup group around this time and performed at the Sanremo Song Festival in Italy and the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1990. Four years later, she collaborated with Horace Silver and released the album Love and Peace: A Tribute to Horace Silver. She then released a tribute album, entitled Dear Ella, in 1997, and the record Live at Yoshi’s in 1998. Subsequent albums included This is New (2002); J'ai Deux Amours (2005); Red Earth (2007); and Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie with Love from Dee Dee Bridgewater (2010). She has also performed with the Terence Blanchard Quintet at the prestigious John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and opened the Shanghai JZ Jazz Festival in 2009. Bridgewater also appeared regularly at other music festivals and on numerous television shows, radio programs, and in feature films. She owns a production company and record label, and has hosted NPR’s syndicated radio show JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater since 2001. In addition, Bridgewater served as a United Nations Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Bridgewater has received seven Grammy Award nominations and won three. She also won the 1975 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance in The Wiz. Bridgewater was the first American to be inducted to the Haut Conseil de la Francophonie and has received the Award of Arts and Letters in France, as well as the country’s 1998 top honor, Victoire de la Musique.

Dee Dee Bridgewater was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 10, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.254

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/10/2014

Last Name

Bridgewater

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Michigan State University

Clark Elementary School

St. Matthew Catholic School

Southwestern Classical Academy

First Name

Dee Dee

Birth City, State, Country

Memphis

HM ID

BRI08

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Any Island

Favorite Quote

Awesome Sauce.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Louisiana

Birth Date

5/27/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New Orleans

Country

United States

Favorite Food

All Food

Short Description

Singer and actress Dee Dee Bridgewater (1950 - ) was a three-time Grammy Award-winning singer, as well as a Tony Award-winning stage actress, and hosted NPR’s JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater.

Employment

Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra

NPR

DDB Productions, Inc.

DDB Records

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dee Dee Bridgewater's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dee Dee Bridgewater lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about her mother's education and occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about her father's education and musical talent

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about how her parents met and married

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers her father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about her relationship with her sister

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers the St. Matthews Catholic School in Flint, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her early musical influences

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers her teenage personality

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about her high school education

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dee Dee Bridgewater reflects upon the role of religion in her upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about her artistic development

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her experiences of sexual abuse in the Catholic church

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her experiences of childhood sexual abuse

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers forming The Irisdescents

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about the prevalence of childhood molestation

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her college aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers the development of her political consciousness

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her college counseling

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her activism with the Black Panther Party

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers her early singing performances

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers meeting her first husband, Cecil Bridgewater

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers obtaining an illegal abortion

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls transferring to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls joining the Jazz Big Band at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers touring the Soviet Union with the Jazz Big Band

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about jazz music in the Soviet Union

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers Horace Silver

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her collaboration with Horace Silver

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes the jazz fusion scene in the 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dee Dee Bridgewater describes her development as a musician

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her early albums

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her role in 'The Wiz,' pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her role in 'The Wiz,' pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about the contention over casting for 'The Wiz' movie

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her relationship with Gilbert Moses

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers the critical acclaim for her album, 'Dee Dee Bridgewater'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Dee Dee Bridgewater reflects upon her experiences performing in 'The Wiz'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Dee Dee Bridgewater remembers her album, 'Just Family'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Dee Dee Bridgewater talks about her television appearances

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

5$1

DATitle
Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her collaboration with Horace Silver
Dee Dee Bridgewater recalls her role in 'The Wiz,' pt. 1
Transcript
So, imagine his surprise when I called him in 1995 and said, "Horace [Horace Silver], I'm gonna do an album of your music ['Love and Peace: A Tribute to Horace Silver']." He was stunned, he said, "But Dee [HistoryMaker Dee Dee Bridgewater], I mean after, after I threw you off the stage all those years ago, you wanna do it with me?" I said, "I love your music, I love your music." So, when I picked the songs he, he said, "Well, then I will write all the lyrics." And some of the songs had lyrics that had been (simultaneous)-- (Simultaneous) So, you wrote the lyrics?$$Horace wrote, (unclear)--$$Horace said he'd write all the lyrics.$$--said he would write all the lyrics for the songs that I selected, and he had, had some kind of publishing conflict with Jon Hendricks who had written a lot of lyrics on his songs, and their, their agreement can--had come up so he was getting all his publishing back and so he said he would write all the lyrics for me.$$'Cause he had some songs that had lyrics like the "Song for My Father" and then others that didn't have any.$$Yep.$$As of yet.$$He wrote--$$Yeah.$$--all the lyrics, yep for that album and then he agreed, I asked him if he would perform on the album and Horace never guested on anyone's albums. And he did, I flew him to Paris [France], I recorded the album in Paris and he came.$$That was "Permit Me to Introduce You to Yourself" (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) "You to Yourself."$$Did he write those lyrics--$$Yes.$$--especially for you?$$No, that he had (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Were they already--$$--written for--he did this trilogy called The United States of Mind' and that, that was on one of those albums. It was on the first album. So, he'd written those lyrics already.$$Okay, all right.$$But like "Pretty Eyes" well he rewrote the lyrics, they were famous lyrics that had been written by Jon Hendricks, so rewrote the lyrics on, on "Song for My Father" on "Doodlin'" then he wrote me the lyrics for everything else. "Saint Vitus Dance," "Soulville," "Nica's Dream," "Filthy McNasty," "The Jody Grind;" all those songs, every song on that album.$$Okay.$$Those are all Horace Silver lyrics and as a result of that album project, if you look at Horace's CDs [compact discs] that came after, he wrote lyrics on many of the songs and put them in the, the CD sleeves. So, I'm very proud that I initiated that.$$We are all grateful.$$Well, I wanted to at that time give singers other material to choose from other than the 'American Songbooks' ['Great American Songbook'] and I wanted him to be able to reap the rewards while he was alive.$Now you were married to Cecil Bridgewater for two years?$$Four and a half.$$Four and a half, okay, so, you're still married when you produce 'Afro Blue' and--$$Yes.$$Okay.$$He did that horrible contract, Cecil is a horrible negotiator for a contract.$$So you didn't (unclear) (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) He gave our rights away.$$Oh.$$For four thousand dollars, we were paid four thousand dollars for that, and that's it.$$So, now at some point here, as we approach 1975, now you appeared on a Norman Connors album 'Love from the Sun'?$$Um-hm.$$On Buddah Records and at some point, you auditioned for--$$'The Wiz.'$$The Broadway production of 'The Wiz,' right.$$I auditioned for 'The Wiz'--let me get this straight 'cause we started the rehearsals in '74 [1974]. So, it was like I did a--I just went to a cattle call audition in '73 [1973], seems like it was in the summer of '73 [1973] and I got a call back and I went back and I just sang. I don't remember what I sang but it was certainly jazz. Then the band, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis [The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra] had a tour, a summer tour and we were going to Europe and I remember we came back in August. So, this is like two months later or something and we come back and I get a call to come and audition again, and I'm like, this is weird, for the director and the director is Gilbert Moses. So, I go and, and I, I audition and then the, he called he said he wants to see me and he wants to spend some time with me. So, I go for my fourth audition and that audition he made me do some improvisational stuff. He made me run around this rehearsal room with my arms dangling and shouting at the top of my voice so I could get relaxed and I could--I don't know, release or whatever that thing was.$$This is Free Southern Theater style (unclear) (laughter).$$Gilbert was a genius, Gilbert was a--he really was a genius but he had demons. He had really, really, really, really major demons but I didn't know that at the time, and he did this thing called transformation where we had to improvise like a scene and I had to like create dialogue and he'd throw dialogue at me and then he'd go, "Transformation," and then I had to become another character, doing something else. That was a fun--that was fun. Gilbert was a great, great actor's director. He really, really was. So, after that audition he gave me the role of Glinda, the Good Witch of the South which was a very big role when I first got it. During the tryouts, I don't know, maybe because I was so slender and I had you know, I was so well endowed upstairs, every straight man involved in that show hit on me and I'm married to Cecil. I'm trying to get a divorce from Cecil, he won't give me a divorce. I've already tried to embarrass him by having an affair with a trumpet player, 'cause I just love my trumpets, and I started having an affair with, with Gilbert while we're doing the tryouts. Then the man who was behind 20th Century Fox [Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation] who was a liaison who had given some of the funding to Ken Harper [Kenneth Harper], the producer, decided that he wanted me to be his mistress and he would send notes. He'd come to see the show periodically and he would send notes to me by the ushers and that he wanted to meet me and so I'd go out and I'd be polite, and you know go out in my robe and my makeup half done you know, for the show and he'd be sitting in the theater and you know and he was like you know, I, I--he was very straightforward. "I want you to be my mistress," but I was like, "I'm sorry, I'm with someone and I don't do that, and you're married. I'm sorry. I'm flattered," you know, I tried everything I could think of. "So flattered, but oh, I, I, oh, no that's too scary." So, he came to Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] and this is just before--I think this is about a month, 'cause were out six weeks, I mean six weeks, we were out six months because then we did tryouts you know where they would fix everything before you got to Broadway, and I think we were about a month out from coming back into New York [New York] and it was in Philadelphia and he came and he sent Nasha [ph.] back and so I come out and he says, "You will be my mistress," and I said, "I'm sorry, if you were the last man on this earth, I would not sleep with you. I'm in a relationship, I am not going to do it." And the next day Gilbert was fired.

Marilyn McCoo

Singer and actress Marilyn McCoo was born on September 30, 1943 in Jersey City, New Jersey. Her parents, Mary and Waymon McCoo, were both doctors and moved the family to Los Angeles, California when McCoo was seven years old. She graduated from Dorsey High School and went on to attend the University of California-Los Angeles, where she received her B.S. degree in business administration.

In 1962, McCoo entered the Miss Bronze California beauty pageant where she won the Grand Talent award and met Lamonte McLemore, who asked her to join his singing group, the Hi-Fi’s. She went on to perform with Ray Charles and record the single "Lonesome Mood." The Hi-Fi’s disbanded in 1965, and that same year McCoo, McLemore, Florence LaRue, Ron Townson, and Billy Davis, Jr. formed The Versatiles. The group signed to the Soul City label, changed their name to The 5th Dimension, and recorded their first hit in 1966, "Go Where You Wanna Go." In 1967, they released “Up, Up, and Away,” which won four Grammy Awards and was the title track to the 5th Dimension's first hit album. In 1969, The 5th Dimension released The Age of Aquarius. The album's first single, "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In," became a mega-hit and occupied the number one spot on the charts for six weeks. It earned the group two more Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year.

In 1969, McCoo married bandmate Billy Davis, Jr., and in 1975, they left The 5th Dimension. Together, they released 1976's I Hope We Get To Love In Time, featuring the single, "You Don't Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)." The song went straight to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned the duo a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus. McCoo and Davis went on to host The Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr. Show on CBS in 1977. In the 1980s McCoo hosted the music countdown show Solid Gold. She also had a recurring spot on the soap opera Days of Our Lives in the 1980s, and acted in a number of movies. She appeared on stage in productions of Anything Goes, A...My Name is Alice, Man of La Mancha, and the Broadway production of Show Boat.

McCoo released a solo album, Solid Gold, in 1983, and then a gospel album in 1991 entitled The Me Nobody Knows; its title single went to number one on the gospel charts. She received another Grammy Award the following year for participating as a guest artist on Quincy Jones’ Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration, which won Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album. In 2004, McCoo and Davis co-authored the book Up, Up and Away…How We Found Love, Faith and Lasting Marriage in the Entertainment World.

McCoo has also earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and The 5th Dimension was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002. She has received two honorary doctorate degrees and served on the boards of the Children's Miracle Network, the Los Angeles Mission, and the Cancer Research Foundation.

Marilyn McCoo was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 29, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.178

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/29/2014

Last Name

McCoo

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

University of California, Los Angeles

Talladega College

University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Arlington Heights Elementary School

Los Angeles High School

Susan Miller Dorsey High School

First Name

Marilyn

Birth City, State, Country

Jersey City

HM ID

MCC18

Favorite Season

None

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

9/30/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Singer and actress Marilyn McCoo (1943 - ) is an eight-time Grammy Award-winning singer and an original member of The 5th Dimension. She has also hosted television shows, appeared on Broadway, and acted in a number of movies. McCoo is co-author, with her husband Billy Davis, Jr., of Up, Up and Away…How We Found Love, Faith and Lasting Marriage in the Entertainment World.

Employment

Joseph Magnin

Westminster Neighborhood Association

The 5th Dimension

McCoo & Davis, Inc.

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:3299,53:5483,94:6120,102:10924,123:26553,353:30490,420:32590,428:32940,434:33500,443:34690,466:36090,502:36440,508:36720,517:37630,530:38050,538:41970,627:47430,655:49183,670:49822,686:51810,723:54224,767:54508,772:57658,801:58154,817:58774,837:60572,868:61006,876:66222,911:66666,920:69245,950:69623,959:70883,984:77750,1179:79199,1231:79640,1239:80018,1247:80333,1253:82160,1294:88118,1313:88610,1321:89266,1337:92710,1476:93448,1486:99290,1588:99650,1593:100280,1602:101090,1615:102170,1649:102800,1657:103250,1663:129671,2050:130252,2058:130667,2064:131829,2098:135896,2171:136394,2180:137058,2191:140808,2205:146733,2342:147049,2347:147365,2352:153448,2476:153764,2481:154238,2489:159980,2516:160330,2524:161100,2541:161450,2548:161730,2553:162570,2579:162920,2585:163340,2593:163970,2604:165230,2625:166280,2650:166700,2657:167540,2669:168170,2681:170130,2721:170620,2729:173998,2751:174818,2764:175474,2774:175884,2780:176212,2785:176704,2795:177032,2800:180696,2834:181950,2859:187109,2910:189090,2920:190533,2938:194117,2963:194651,2971:195185,2978:197160,3007$0,0:13100,202:17020,280:17820,296:19260,322:24090,344:24455,350:25915,376:26207,381:26572,387:28251,409:28908,419:29200,425:29565,432:30149,438:33580,496:36427,561:36792,567:37449,577:42508,686:44770,718:49918,801:51244,844:52648,881:57299,910:60352,979:62553,1044:68217,1121:73350,1272:73763,1284:79304,1306:79794,1314:80676,1327:82310,1333:82578,1338:86933,1425:91382,1471:91678,1476:92566,1494:93306,1512:94120,1524:98338,1602:102393,1639:102711,1648:102976,1655:103559,1668:104330,1674
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Marilyn McCoo's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Marilyn McCoo lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Marilyn McCoo talks about her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Marilyn McCoo talks about her mother's upbringing and education

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Marilyn McCoo describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Marily McCoo talks about her father's career as a singer

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Marily McCoo describes how her parents met and their move to Columbus, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Marilyn McCoo talks about her family's civil rights activism

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Marily McCoo describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Marily McCoo talks about her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Marily McCoo describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Marily McCoo describes her early childhood education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Marilyn McCoo talks about her childhood in Columbus, Georgia and her family's move to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Marilyn McCoo describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Marilyn McCoo describes her early interest in show business

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Marilyn McCoo describes the role of religion in her upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Marilyn McCoo talks about the importance of music in her family.

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Marilyn McCoo talks about her early education and her parents' influence on her career path

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Marilyn McCoo describes her early musical education and her mentor Eddie Beal

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Marilyn McCoo describes the music she listened to and how it influenced her

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Marilyn McCoo shares her experience in high school activities

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Marilyn McCoo describes singing with her sisters as a youth

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Marilyn McCoo talks about her early career goals and her decision to attend college

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Marilyn McCoo talks about her private vocal lessons with Florence Russell during her college years

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Marilyn McCoo talks about competing in Miss Bronze California

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Marilyn McCoo talks about meeting HistoryMaker Lamonte McLemore and joining the Hi-Fi's.

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Marilyn McCoo talks about performing with the Hi-Fi's and her mother's reaction.

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Marilyn McCoo talks about her centerfold in Jet magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Marilyn McCoo talks about her friend, actress Vonetta McGee

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Marilyn McCoo talks about working with Ray Charles through the Hi-Fi's

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Marilyn McCoo describes her experience as a woman in the entertainment world

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Marilyn McCoo talks about the music she performed with the Hi-Fi's and Ray Charles

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Marilyn McCoo talks about returning to school to study business administration

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Marilyn McCoo talks about earning money on the road with the Hi-Fi's

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Marilyn McCoo talks about her decision to leave the Hi-Fi's

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Marilyn McCoo talks about her career goals after leaving the Hi-Fi's

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$2

DAStory

9$3

DATitle
Marilyn McCoo talks about working with Ray Charles through the Hi-Fi's
Marilyn McCoo describes her early interest in show business
Transcript
So anyway, back to--so the Hi-Fi's are--well, you're still a minor with the Hi-Fi's, and at a certain point Hi-Fi's, they, they mu--they, they're still together until what, '65 [1965], '64 [1964] or '65 [1965]?$$Right, yeah, we stayed-- sa Okay.$$--together until the end of sixty-four [1964].$$And what--$$Yeah.$$Now you had Ray Charles--$$How did Ray Charles--$$Yeah, how did--$$--come into the picture?$$Yeah, yeah.$$Well, I don't remember exactly how we met Ray Charles. And [HM] Lamonte McLemore might have had something to with it because Lamonte was always trying to hook up the group with somebody. But Ray heard the group, and he liked what he heard. And he decided that he wanted to record us, and he did. He recorded us on his label, and we recorded a song called 'Lonesome Mood' and a couple of other things. And it was also during that time--so, Ray started managing the group. And now I was still in school, and Fritz Baskett was still in school, but he guys were ready to go out and work. You know, they wanted to go out on the road, so they went to Ray and said hey, why don't you take us out on the road? You know, you're managing us, and, and we're not doing anything, and you're out on the road. So Ray decided that he would take us out, and we ended up opening the show for him.$$Now this is really, this is like your father [Wayman McCoo] singing with Fletch Henderson [Fletcher Henderson].$$Yeah, well, it was, it was amay--$$Your--$$--it was a wonderful opportunity.$$Ray Charles--$$As a matter of fact, I dropped out of school for a semester to go out on tour with Ray Charles. My mother [Mary Ellen McCoo] was not pleased about this at all. So, and I was not twenty-one yet. And I'm, I'm forgetting Joe, Joe--what's Joe's last name?$$(OFF-CAMERA MALE VOICE): (Unclear)--$$Thank you, baby, okay.$$What, what was it?$$I'm just, I'm--now, my mother was not--$$What's his last name? What was Joe's last name?$$I'm gonna give it to.$$Okay, all right.$$I'm gonna give it to you in--$$Okay.$$So now, my mother was not excited about this at all.$$Okay.$$And I wasn't twenty one yet. But Joe Adams, who was managing Ray Charles now at this time, he came to my mother and he talked to her. And, and you know, he said you know your daughter wants to go out, and the group is gonna go out. And, and we'll, we'll take good care of her (laughter). And my mother didn't believe that at all. As a matter of fact, she told Lamonte, she said you all make sure my daughter is okay. And she made me promise her that when I came back home that I would go right back to school and finish and graduate, because I only had about twenty seven units left at the time that I dropped out. And it was an amazing experience for me. I really got a chance to learn what goes out, what goes on out on the road. I got a chance to sit out in the audience and watch Ray Charles perform. He was so amazing. What a brilliant, brilliant artist. And I really, really enjoyed those three months.$$$I read that you always interested in, been interested in show business. So when did this first manifest itself? Well, I guess always. I, I don't know. I mean, do you have any stories about when you first started thinking about yourself as being an entertainer at some point?$$Well, you know, when I was growing up, my father [Wayman McCoo] would come home sometimes with, with vocal arrangements, usually something from, from a book, because daddy at one time taught, taught choir at, at his church. He would come in with a vocal arrangement, and he would start assigning parts. And my mother [Mary Ellen Holloway McCoo] would sing her part; and my sister, Glenda, would sing her part; and then they'd give me a part to sing, and then we'd all four sing in harmony. And I loved it; I loved the sound of harmony. And we'd get around the piano, and daddy would plunk out the parts and, and play the, you know, play the chords. And I just loved that they included me in it because I was thinking I'm just one. And then they would marvel because I could, I could hold my note. And they'd say well, listen to her. She's holding her note. And I would think, well, of course I'm holding my note. That's what you told me to sing (laughter). It never occurred to me that it was unusual.$$Okay.$$So I just, I just enjoyed music from very on. And then my, my, my parents made sure that we studied piano lessons, that we took piano lessons. All four of us did. And they just wanted us to have, you know, a familiarity with, with music. My mother had studied violin when she was in, when she was growing up, and so they wanted us to have, to have a knowledge of music.

Jasmine Guy

Actress and entertainer Jasmine Guy was born on March 10, 1964, in Boston, Massachusetts to William Guy and Jaye Rudolph. Her mother is a former high school teacher, and her father, the pastor of Friendship Baptist Church of Atlanta. Guy was raised in the Collier Heights neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia where she attended the former Northside Performing Arts School (now North Atlanta High School). After graduating from high school, Guy was awarded a scholarship to the Alvin Ailey Dance Center in New York. She practiced performing arts at Ailey Center for several years, which prepared her for roles in musicals and television shows.

Guy landed a starring role as Whitley Gilbert in the television show A Different World, a spin-off of The Cosby Show, which ran on TV for six years. This is her best-known role. Guy received the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award every year that A Different World was on the air. One year after she began acting in A Different World, Guy was cast in her first film role in Spike Lee’s School Daze. In 1989, Guy co-starred with Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor in the film Harlem Nights and went on to have roles in numerous films, televisions shows, and stage productions. She released a self-titled R&B album in 1990, which reached number thirty-eight on the R&B charts.

Guy has been active in projects that promote and preserve African American history and culture, including the miniseries rendition of Alex Haley’s Queen, the film recording of the 1930s WPA ex-slave narratives, entitled Unchained Memories: Slave Narratives, and the film version of activist-historian Howard Zinn’s, “A People’s History of the United States”, entitled The People Speak. Guy also wrote the autobiography of Afeni Shakur, mother hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur, entitled, “Afeni Shakur: The Evolution of a Revolutionary”. Guy also won several awards for her work. From 1990 to 1995, Guy was nominated for and won six consecutive NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

Guy lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jasmine Guy was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 10, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.244

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/10/2012 |and| 10/2/2016

Last Name

Guy

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

North Atlanta High School

M. Agnes Jones Elementary

Sutton Middle Schol

First Name

Jasmine

Birth City, State, Country

Boston

HM ID

GUY04

Favorite Season

Fall, Summer

State

Massachusetts

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

Come On!

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

3/10/1964

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chowder, Barbecue, Fried Chicken, Sardines, Portuguese Food

Short Description

Actress Jasmine Guy (1964 - ) is best known for her starring role as Whitley Gilbert in the popular television sitcom A Different World.

Employment

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Viacom Productions

Columbia Pictures

Paramount Pictures, Inc.

Warner Brothers

Various

Simon & Schuster

True Colors Theatre Company

Alliance Theatre Company

Favorite Color

Black, Burgundy, Cream

Timing Pairs
0,0:5280,116:5520,121:8636,145:9016,151:36140,637:51555,876:58117,952:61445,973:69462,1076:79990,1228:92657,1393:95185,1439:95580,1445:95975,1451:100241,1523:115056,1747:115704,1758:117891,1785:118215,1790:119025,1803:120564,1822:125667,1918:125991,1923:130190,1937:131702,1964:132878,1994:133214,2002:141614,2174:142034,2180:150896,2268:151388,2274:155242,2380:165739,2482:166468,2493:173920,2621:188736,2803:200486,3064:202930,3094:209040,3183:219256,3308:219928,3339:224340,3364:224720,3370:225252,3381:237918,3566:262802,3845:270281,3948:270613,3953:280872,4086:282096,4102:296205,4261:296590,4267:301704,4315:304122,4361:305526,4399:307451,4435:314336,4569:315794,4588:317576,4621:328134,4770:331332,4843:332658,4872:338910,4941:344520,5045$0,0:778,21:3274,68:3946,77:12390,162:13166,177:15494,242:17919,314:18598,333:21217,374:21702,380:22963,394:23933,413:28421,442:30330,486:30828,499:31575,509:39850,627:41940,654:42710,663:44833,676:45497,686:46161,695:47572,718:47904,723:48402,730:49066,740:54880,859:60336,1009:61040,1018:64120,1077:64912,1088:65616,1098:76510,1221:77420,1240:78603,1266:88490,1289:90200,1340:105376,1566:108538,1668:111904,1726:116760,1747:118717,1774:127202,1849:127906,1859:128786,1873:134594,2005:135034,2011:135562,2019:148735,2192:151670,2203:152358,2213:158636,2310:162420,2393:162764,2399:163710,2414:164570,2427:165258,2437:166204,2454:173030,2506:173374,2511:174664,2533:175610,2547:176986,2569:186302,2676:189960,2740:192700,2756:193120,2763:197170,2819:205651,2942:206363,2952:228589,3269:229111,3276:230242,3292:230590,3297:231286,3306:231808,3313:234418,3349:235114,3361:238685,3371:241685,3431:242585,3457:244685,3514:249660,3572:249980,3603:252860,3636:253180,3641:255450,3652
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jasmine Guy's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jasmine Guy lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jasmine Guy describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jasmine Guy talks about her mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jasmine Guy describes her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jasmine Guy describes her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jasmine Guy describes her father's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jasmine Guy talks about how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jasmine Guy describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jasmine Guy describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jasmine Guy remembers her early interest in mimicking accents

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jasmine Guy reflects upon her interest in character acting

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jasmine Guy remembers moving to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jasmine Guy describes her school in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jasmine Guy talks about the black community in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jasmine Guy recalls her aspiration to become a professional dancer

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jasmine Guy recalls her introduction to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jasmine Guy remembers attending The Ailey School in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jasmine Guy describes her training at the Northside School of Performing Arts in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jasmine Guy remembers performing in her first musical

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jasmine Guy talks about her social life during high school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jasmine Guy talks about her favorite music and graduating from high school

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jasmine Guy remembers joining the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jasmine Guy recalls her decision to join the cast of 'Fame'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jasmine Guy remembers leaving the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jasmine Guy talks about her decision to move to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jasmine Guy remembers her role in Spike Lee's 'School Daze'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jasmine Guy talks about her experiences of color discrimination within the black community

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jasmine Guy talks about her roles in 'School Daze' and 'A Different World'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jasmine Guy remembers filming 'School Daze,' pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jasmine Guy remembers filming 'School Daze,' pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jasmine Guy recalls auditioning for 'A Different World'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jasmine Guy talks about 'A Different World'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Jasmine Guy talks about the character of Whitley Gilbert

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Jasmine Guy remembers meeting Denzel Washington on the set of 'A Different World'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Jasmine Guy remembers the controversial episodes of 'A Different World'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Jasmine Guy talks about her role in 'Harlem Nights'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Jasmine Guy remembers Tupac Shakur

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Jasmine Guy remembers Afeni Shakur, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Jasmine Guy remembers the death of Tupac Shakur

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Jasmine Guy remembers Afeni Shakur, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Jasmine Guy talks about her book, 'Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary,' pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Jasmine Guy talks about her book, 'Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary,' pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Jasmine Guy describes Afeni Shakur's family background

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Jasmine Guy talks about her writing process

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Jasmine Guy remembers balancing her writing and acting careers

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Jasmine Guy recalls the attacks of September 11, 2001

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Jasmine Guy talk about her favorite acting roles

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Jasmine Guy remembers the rehearsals for 'School Daze'

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Jasmine Guy talks about racial discrimination in the entertainment business

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Jasmine Guy talks about her work as a theater director

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Jasmine Guy talks about the differences between stage acting and screen acting

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Jasmine Guy remembers directing the opera, 'I Dream'

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Jasmine Guy describes the music in 'I Dream'

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Jasmine Guy talks about her film roles

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Jasmine Guy talks about her role in 'Big Stone Gap'

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Jasmine Guy talks about her recent television appearances

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Jasmine Guy reflects upon her acting style

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Jasmine Guy talks about her singing career

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Jasmine Guy talks about the entertainment industry in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Jasmine Guy describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Jasmine Guy reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 11 - Jasmine Guy describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$2

DATape

5$6

DAStory

1$6

DATitle
Jasmine Guy remembers filming 'School Daze,' pt. 1
Jasmine Guy talks about her book, 'Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary,' pt. 2
Transcript
Tell us about the production nu- numbers in 'School Daze.' Those are, those are some of the great, really--$$Yeah. They were, they were, I mean great movie productions. Otis Sallid was our choreographer. And, you know, Otis was from--I knew him from Ailey's [Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater]. He had done Broadway. And, you know, Spike [Spike Lee] really studied those MGM [Metro Goldwyn Mayer Inc.; Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios Inc.] musicals because he had to edit them a certain way, you know, for them to flow. He worked very closely with Otis. And, Otis also choreographed 'Malcolm X.' The--all that jitterbug series. So, when we went into rehearsal for "I Don't Wanna Be Alone Tonight" ["Be Alone Tonight"] really young, Tisha [Tisha Campbell-Martin] is maybe seventeen. She's younger than I am. And, we're supposed to ooze sensuality. So, we got the steps early and we looked good. But, Otis spent so much time on bringing out our sensuality. And, at first it was so embarrassing. Like, how you gonna teach me how to, you know what I mean. And, it was something that, you know, I don't think we knew yet. We just didn't know it yet; what he was talking about, and how to emulate that, which didn't have anything to do with the steps; the music or the choreography. You're talking about an approach. You're talking about a motivation as an actor. Once you, once you access a certain emotional key then you don't worry about making a face or ooh, ooh. You just feel it and those things naturally happened when you have certain thoughts in your head. So, acting wise, "I Don't Wanna Be Alone Tonight" I think was a little challenging. And, as I said before, he let us add our little steps and our choreography in there because, I think by then, we realized that cameras were only gonna get you when the camera was on you. As opposed to being on Broadway where you can see everybody at the same time. So, we tried to get in on Tisha's shots whenever we could. So, that it wouldn't be, you know, Tisha and the three backup singers and they end up splicing a lot of our choreography out of it. So, that's why you see us, you know, traveling and doing things around her and breaking out as a rose, you know. It's like, "Otis I have a good idea, what if we stand behind Tisha and you can't see us and then we, you know." "Yeah, that's good, let's try that," so. I think ultimately it did make it very interesting, but you know, I do give Otis all that credit for letting us have our little input, you know. And, Tisha sharing the stage with us. But, that was my big lesson in that number; accessing your sensuality. And, then for "Good and Bad Hair." I mean, first of all we had musical rehearsal to learn that song for days with Spike Lee's father [Bill Lee]. And, I remember staying on cocka-bugs for about ten minutes 'cause we didn't know what a cocka-bugs was. And, he wanted to say it like a cocka-bugs, cocka-bugs, and we were like, like Coke--cocka-bugs. (Imitates accent), "No, cocka-bugs, cocka-bug." And, now I know what they are. They're those little our spiky seeds, I guess, that fall from pine trees.$$That stick in your--$$Yeah, that stick to you. And, our line was (singing), "Where you got cocka-bugs standing all over your head." I mean, every line that we learned, it's not like learning a pretty song. Every line is so derogatory and, and vice versa, you know, back at 'cha kind of thing. But, when we did it and we were in each other's face all day, I think we had fun on "Good and Bad Hair" 'cause by that time, we had gone through the worst filming day, which was the day of the big fight. And, it was the step show. Gammas [Gamma Rays] come on and the fellas bust in and do their own kind of mocking step of what the fellas believe. And, at the end of it, and we didn't know what they gonna do. They made up their own thing; the real actors. They unzipped their pants and hot dogs came out of it, in our, our faces. But, we didn't know that was gonna happen. It was not scripted. It was so profoundly offensive that one of the actors actually hit another actor, or grabbed him. And, a real fight ensued. And, Spike had it on film. The tension was so high because all day we had been going back and forth with the wannabes and the Gammas against the jigaboos. And, it was improv and people were saying horrible and nasty things. And, they were saying, you know, you're, "You're just an ape in the zoo." And you're just a, "You don't know you're black and you're a white--." I mean, and I couldn't improvise anything. I could say the lines that were scripted but I, you know. And, I felt like maybe I'm not a good actor 'cause I can't do this. I can't go there. I can go there, if you tell me what I'm supposed to say, but you know. And, then at the end we started, when we went to the parking lot to get on the bus, we started crying. 'Cause a lot of my friends were on the other side, and it was just very hard for us to do that with that kind of intensity.$Then my, and then my issue was, you know, how do I organize this so that the reader can, can flow, you know? So, I wrapped it around the times I would see her. Because I, you know, I lived in New York [New York]. I had an apartment in New York and a, and a house in L.A. [Los Angeles, California] But, I didn't always, we weren't always in the same city. So, some times those conversations were in New York. Sometimes they were in Marin County [California] where she lived and had house boat. Sometimes those conversations were in Atlanta [Georgia] where she lived in Stone Mountain. So, I tried to wrap around where we were in our real lives and what was going on. I think the greatest compliment that I have from people about the book ['Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary,' Jasmine Guy] is that it just sounds like me. Like it just, my, my friends that know me say, you know, "I just felt like it was just you talking. Like, it didn't feel like you were writing." And, that to me was the greatest compliment because I wanted it acceptable, you know. But, during the course of writing the book, I would sidetrack. Like she would mention something to me, and I didn't wanna stop her, her flow. But, sometimes I didn't know what she was talking about. Like, what was that, bembe? I think it was bembe. They were the drummers that would be in Central Park [New York, New York].$$Djembe, yeah, djembe.$$Well, the djembe, but it began with a B.$$Oh, okay.$$And, I don't, I, you know, but I didn't wanna stop her.$$Was that the name of the group that--?$$Yeah. And, then, another time she said her husband's father was a Garveyite. And, I didn't know what that was but I didn't wanna stop her. So, I go back and do research about Garveyites, which of course are from--followers of Marcus Garvey which--also, Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam and the Panthers [Black Panther Party]. So, now I'm starting to see this.$$See the lineage of all the groups--$$The lineage, yes, of these three ways of thinking; Du Bois [W.E.B. Du Bois], Garvey, and Wash- and Booker T. Washington. You know, 'cause people think all black people think the same way, but it depends. And, it depends on class and culture and, you know, I just saw a documentary about the Panthers and it feature Stoke- Stokely Carmichael [Kwame Ture] and how bright he was, and how brilliant he was. And, you know, what, what his friends were saying is that they missed that you don't see his personality in the footage. It's always him, you know, speaking in a public way. But, you didn't get to see how funny he was, how witty he was, how easy he was to be with, you what I mean. And, I wanted to, to make sure I gave Afeni [Afeni Shakur] that flavor that, you know, when I visited her home, and it was her first home, it was the first home that she owned and Tupac [Tupac Shakur] had bought it for her and, and they were in this area in Stone Mountain where the family was all near. And, she had this huge screened in back porch that overlooked woods and she was so happy. And, she talked to me about land and the importance of owning land. So, then when I got home, I started looking up landowners, black landowners and what happened. What happened to shar- why, why did we become sharecroppers? What happened during Reconstruction? So, all of that is just to say that, she would say something to me that I now have to ex- tell other people, so I had to do my research so I knew what I was talking about. I couldn't just throw, you know, he was a Garveyite in there and not know what a Garveyite was, and what that meant for that time of that generation.

Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt was an international star who gave new meaning to the word versatile. She distinguished herself in film, theater, cabaret, music, and on television. Kitt was one of only a handful of performers to be nominated for a Tony (three times), a Grammy (twice), and an Emmy Award (twice). She enthralled New York nightclub audiences during her extended stays at the Café Carlyle. These intimate performances have been captured in, Eartha Kitt, Live at The Carlyle.

Eartha Mae Kitt was born on January 17, 1927. She was ostracized at an early age because of her mixed-race heritage. At eight years old, Kitt was given away by her mother and sent from the South Carolina cotton fields to live with an aunt in Harlem. In New York, her distinct individuality and flair for show business manifested itself, and on a friend's dare, the shy teen auditioned for the famed Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe. She won a spot as a featured dancer and vocalist, and before the age of twenty, toured worldwide with the company. During a performance in Paris, Kitt was spotted by a nightclub owner and booked as a featured singer at his club. Her unique persona earned her fans and fame quickly, including Orson Welles. Welles was so taken with her talent that he cast her as “Helen of Troy” in his fabled production of Dr. Faust.

Back in New York, Kitt was booked at The Village Vanguard, and soon spotted by a Broadway producer who put her in New Faces of 1952, where every night she transfixed audiences with her sultry rendition of “Monotonous.” Her show stopping performance in New Faces of 1952, which ran for a year, led to a national tour and a Twentieth Century Fox film version.

Broadway stardom led to a recording contract and a succession of best-selling records including “Love for Sale,” “I Want to Be Evil,” “Santa Baby,” and “Folk Tales of the Tribes of Africa,” which earned her a Grammy nomination. During this period, she published her first autobiography, Thursday’s Child. Kitt then returned to Broadway in the dramatic play Mrs. Patterson, and received her first Tony nomination. Other stage appearances followed, as did films including The Mark of the Hawk with Sidney Poitier, Anna Lucasta with Sammy Davis, Jr. and St. Louis Blues with Nat King Cole.

Singing in ten different languages, Kitt performed in over 100 countries and was honored with a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. In 1966, she was nominated for a primetime Emmy Award for her role in the series, I SPY. In 1967, Kitt made an indelible mark on pop culture as the infamous “Catwoman” in the television series, Batman. She immediately became synonymous with the role and her trademark growl became imitated worldwide. In 1968, Kitt's career took a sudden turn when, at a White House luncheon hosted by Lady Bird Johnson, she spoke out against the Vietnam War. For years afterward, Kitt was blacklisted in the U.S. and was forced to work abroad where her status remained undiminished.

In 1974, Kitt returned to the United States with a triumphant Carnegie Hall concert, and in 1978, she received a second Tony nomination for her starring role in the musical, Timbuktu. Kitt's second autobiography, Alone with Me, was published in 1976, and I’m Still Here: Confessions of a Sex Kitten was released in 1989. Her best-selling book on fitness and positive attitude, REJUVENATE! (IT'S NEVER TOO LATE), was released by Scribner in May 2001.

Live theater was Kitt's passion. In 2001, Broadway critics singled her out with a Tony and Drama Desk nomination for her role as “Dolores” in George Wolfe's The Wild Party. Kitt has starred in National Tours of The Wizard of Oz and Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. In December 2003, Kitt dazzled Broadway audiences as “Liliane Le Fleur” in the revival of Nine, The Musical. In December 2004, she appeared as “The Fairy Godmother” in The New York City Opera production (Lincoln Center) of Cinderella. She also starred in the off-Broadway production of Mimi Le Duck (2006) and The Westport County Playhouse production of The Skin of our Teeth (2007).

Kitt's distinctive voice enthralled an entirely new generation of fans. Young fans loved her as “Yzma,” the villain, in Disney's animated feature The Emperor’s New Groove (2001 Annie Award for Best Vocal Performance /Animated Feature). Kitt was also featured in the sequel, The Emperor’s New Groove II, and reprised the role in the popular Saturday morning animated series The Emperor’s New School, for which she received a 2007 and 2008 Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program and a 2007 and 2008 Annie Award for Best Vocal Performance in an Animated Television Production.

On January 17, 2007, Kitt turned eighty years old and marked the occasion at Carnegie Hall with a celebratory concert, JVC Jazz Presents EARTHA KITT AND FRIENDS.

In February 2007, Kitt returned to London after a fifteen year absence for a remarkable series of sold-out performances at The Shaw Theater. She returned to Great Britain in 2008 to headline the prestigious Cheltenham Jazz Festival.

Kitt performed for the last time publicly for The HistoryMakers’ An Evening With Eartha Kitt. She passed away on December 25, 2008 at the age of 81. Kitt is survived by her daughter, Kitt Shapiro, and four grandchildren.

Kitt was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 20, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.145

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/20/2008

Last Name

Kitt

Middle Name

Mae

Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Eartha

Birth City, State, Country

North

HM ID

KIT02

Favorite Season

None

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

1/17/1927

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Scarsdale

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

12/25/2008

Short Description

Actress and singer Eartha Kitt (1927 - 2008 ) was an international star for over fifty years, from the Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe to Broadway, film and television, where she played the infamous “Catwoman” in the series, 'Batman'. She was one of only a handful of performers to be nominated for a Tony (three times), a Grammy (twice), and an Emmy Award (twice).

Favorite Color

None

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Funding for 'An Evening with Eartha Kitt'

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Introduction to 'An Evening with Eartha Kitt'

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Eartha Kitt describes her childhood experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Film clip featuring Eartha Kitt's foray into theater

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Eartha Kitt describes working with HistoryMaker Katherine Dunham

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Eartha Kitt talks about her friendship with Ethel Waters

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Eartha Kitt reflects upon her experiences traveling in Europe in the 1950s

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Eartha Kitt recalls playing a prank on Sidney Poitier while they were filming 'The Mark of the Hawk' in Nigeria

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Eartha Kitt describes a racist incident she experienced when returning to the United States from her travels abroad

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Eartha Kitt talks about her work experiences in the United States after returning from her travels abroad

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Film clip of Eartha Kitt's recording and film career in the 1950s

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Eartha Kitt talks about her love life

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Eartha Kitt shares her perspective on race

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Eartha Kitt talks about her controversial visit to the White House in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Film clip of the evolution of Eartha Kitt's career following her exile from the United States

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Eartha Kitt reflects upon her experiences as an African American actress

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Eartha Kitt recalls an experience from the 'Ed Sullivan Show'

Tape: 1 Story: 18 - Eartha Kitt offers advice for young performers

Tape: 1 Story: 19 - Eartha Kitt performs 'Ain't Misbehavin'

Tape: 1 Story: 20 - Eartha Kitt performs 'La Vie En Rose'

Tape: 1 Story: 21 - Eartha Kitt performs 'Here's to Life'

Tape: 1 Story: 22 - Ending credits to 'An Evening with Eartha Kitt'

Tape: 1 Story: 23 - Funding for 'An Evening with Eartha Kitt'

Armelia McQueen

Actress Armelia McQueen was born on January 6, 1952 in Southern Pines, North Carolina to James and Kathleen McQueen. McQueen's parents divorced, and her mother married Robert Brown in New York. As a child, McQueen was raised in Brooklyn, New York where she performed in church plays. She attended P.S. 44 and P.S. 258 and graduated from New York City’s Central Commercial High School in 1969. Afterwards, McQueen briefly enrolled at the Fashion Industry School, where she majored in fashion design. In 1972, she attended the Herbert Berghoff Drama School.

McQueen’s acting career began when she was hired for a role in the production of, Hot & Cold Heroes. She was then hired in 1976 for the role of Tune Ann in the cult classic film Sparkle. Then, in 1978, she made her Broadway debut in the original production of, Ain’t Misbehavin’ ,appearing alongside Irene Cara, Ken Page and Nell Carter. She went on to win a Theatre World Award for Best Debut Performance and appeared in several Broadway productions, including Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Dance and Harrigan and Hart. She also appeared with the national touring companies of the following shows: South Pacific, Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair. During the 1980s, McQueen made several appearances in various films, made-for-television movies and sitcoms including Mr. Belvedere, Frank’s Place, Action Jackson and No Holds Barred.

Later in 1990, she was featured as Whoopi Goldberg’s on screen sister when she starred in the film Ghost. McQueen continued her work throughout the 1990s by appearing in episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Martin and Living Single. She was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Cable Ace Award for her role as Red Queen on the Disney Channel series, Adventures in Wonderland. Her other credits include Bulworth, All About the Andersons, JAG and That’s So Raven. McQueen currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

Armelia McQueen was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 3, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.072

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/3/2008

Last Name

McQueen

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Central Commercial High School

P.S. 44 Marcus Garvey Elementary School

Nathaniel Macon Junior High School 258

Fashion Institute of Technology

Brooklyn Conservatory of Music

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Armelia

Birth City, State, Country

Southern Pines

HM ID

MCQ02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Maui, Hawaii

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

1/6/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Macaroni, Cheese

Short Description

Actress Armelia McQueen (1952 - ) performed in Broadway musicals like 'Ain't Misbehavin,' 'Jesus Christ Superstar,' and 'Hair.' Her film and television credits included 'Sparkle,' 'Ghost,' and 'Living Single.'

Employment

Paramount Pictures, Inc.

Walt Disney Television

Nichol Moon Films

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Armelia McQueen's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Armelia McQueen lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Armelia McQueen describes her mother's family background and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Armelia McQueen describes her stepfather's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Armelia McQueen talks about her maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Armelia McQueen remembers her family's move to Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Armelia McQueen lists her siblings and relatives

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Armelia McQueen describes her upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Armelia McQueen describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Armelia McQueen recalls her neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Armelia McQueen remembers her early education

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Armelia McQueen remembers segregation in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Armelia McQueen describes her friends from childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Armelia McQueen remembers her dreams and aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Armelia McQueen describes her early interest in singing

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Armelia McQueen describes her introduction to acting

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Armelia McQueen remembers the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Armelia McQueen recalls the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Armelia McQueen remembers the Herbert Berghof Studio in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Armelia McQueen remembers her mother's death

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Armelia McQueen describes her teacher, Earle Hyman

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Armelia McQueen remembers her early professional acting roles

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Armelia McQueen remembers touring with 'The Who's Tommy,' pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Armelia McQueen remembers touring with 'The Who's Tommy,' pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Armelia McQueen talks about the attitudes toward plus sized actresses

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Armelia McQueen remembers her acting roles in the early 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Armelia McQueen talks about supporting her family

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Armelia McQueen recalls travelling to Africa with the company of 'Hair'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Armelia McQueen remembers her experiences in Africa

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Armelia McQueen reflects upon her travels in Africa

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Armelia McQueen describes the reviews of 'Hair' in Africa

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Armelia McQueen describes her experiences as an actor in Africa

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Armelia McQueen remembers her return trip to the United States

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Armelia McQueen remembers auditioning for 'Sparkle'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Armelia McQueen recalls her introduction to the Hollywood entertainment industry

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Armelia McQueen remembers filming 'Sparkle'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Armelia McQueen describes her career after 'Sparkle'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Armelia McQueen remembers the cast of 'Guys and Dolls'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Armelia McQueen remembers auditioning for 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Armelia McQueen remembers the cast of 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Armelia McQueen talks about 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Armelia McQueen describes the stars of 'Ain't Misbehavin',' pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Armelia McQueen remembers the production of 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Armelia McQueen describes the characters in 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Armelia McQueen recalls the reunion of the original cast of 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Armelia McQueen recalls mounting 'Ain't Misbehavin'' in Paris, France

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Armelia McQueen recalls the black community's response to 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Armelia McQueen describes her hopes for the black theater community

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Armelia McQueen recalls moving to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Armelia McQueen describes the televised version of 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Armelia McQueen talks about the changes in the entertainment industry

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Armelia McQueen describes her advice to aspiring entertainers, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Armelia McQueen describes her advice to aspiring entertainers, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Armelia McQueen describes her hopes for African American artists

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Armelia McQueen reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Armelia McQueen narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

6$1

DATitle
Armelia McQueen describes her career after 'Sparkle'
Armelia McQueen talks about 'Ain't Misbehavin''
Transcript
So the film, when you, when you were done shooting it wa- did you stay or did you return back to New York [New York]?$$No, I went back home after that. 'Cause we were getting ready for it to open and there was supposed to be a lot of publicity and fanfare and whatnot. And I was a supporting role so it wasn't any evidence if I would be the one going on the road. But then 'All the President's Men' came out and all the--and that they got our publicity money. So the publicity for 'Sparkle' was very small, you know, it got, got pushed, you know.$$You came back home after shooting the movie, now what did you do while you were waiting for this to be released?$$Well, I just tried to settle in and see what else I could get into, you know. That was just such a high, you know, shooting a film. And then I g- I went back to theater and, and then I went to do--is that '74 [1974], '75 [1975] the film came out. Just, you know, doing theater, you know.$$Anything of note that you'd like to mention during that time period after 'Sparkle'?$$No, 'cause I didn't do--I did 'On Toby Time' [Harley Hackett], which was gonna be pre-Broadway. That was '75 [1975], yeah. And I played female lead in that, which was great with Maurice Hines [HistoryMaker Maurice Hines, Jr.], we're still friends, we're, we're good friends. Amii Stewart who--she did 'Knock-' 'Knock on Wood,' she, she did a repeat of that song and she moved to London [England]. Do you remember that song? Obba Babatunde, Hinton Battle. Hinton Battle is a wonderful choreographer, wonderful dancer. He was in 'Dreamgirls.' I don't know if you know him. George Hillman, the Hillman brothers [George Hillman and Christopher Hillman] from way back in the day. And I say way back in the day, they were like the Nicholas brothers [HistoryMaker Fayard Nicholas and Harold Nicholas], the older men, and he was my partner. And we were like Desi Smith [ph.], you know, kind of era. I learned to tap through him you know for this particular role and whatnot. And, and so we were, like I said, pre-Broadway bound, but it never took off because of money, a lot of money situations got into that. And then I went to do 'Guys and Dolls,' and that's when I met Ri- Richard Roundtree.$$Now the movie comes out--$$Um-hm.$$--what is that like for you in New York now?$$Wonderful because in the neighborhoods, all of the neighborhoods, people recognized me. So people would just call my name out, Tune Ann, you know, driving the cars, "Oh aren't you Tune Ann, aren't you that girl in the film?" you know. And I was like, "Yes," you know. You know, and my brothers [Robert Brown, Jr. and David Brown (ph.)] and my brothers were like (gesture), and my dad [Robert Brown, Sr.] was the same way, you know. Very excited about it. And you know, it's different from being in theater, you get recognized more with film. Many thousands of people see it as opposed to theater, you know, and so it was a lot of recognition with that.$Ms. McQueen [HistoryMaker Armelia McQueen], 'Ain't Misbehavin'' [Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby, Jr.], what's the storyline behind that particular musical?$$The storyline was about Fats Waller, famous pianist, comedian, singer. And they decided that they wanted to honor him and do a musical about Fats Waller, who was not well known in, in our community during that time, in the '70s [1970s]. Back in the '30s [1930s] and '40s [1940s] he was known. So they wanted to bring some of his music to light. People know the music like, "Sit Down and Write Myself a Letter" ["I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter"], "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie." But they didn't know who did it, who wrote it. And so they decided that they wanted to do this musical about him. And Luther Henderson who is a great, who has now passed, great musician was our conductor and arranger. Murray Horwitz, it was his idea. Richard Maltby [Richard Maltby, Jr.] was the director and Arthur Faria was the choreographer.$$And what was your role?$$My role was of Aremlia McQueen is a role that I established. And it was a woman with a chameleon, many characters. I played many characters. And it's a woman that would be in that day and what she'd do and, and--each of the women, the "Squeeze Me" girl was, you know, a, a sweet candy little woman that men would, you know, love to bite and squeeze, you know, so I, I came up with her. You know, because of the song, the song dictated it, you know, what 'cause it's "oh daddy squeeze me and squeeze me again." So you, you, you form your characters from the, the music. And "That Ain't Right" lady was that lady who we'd talked about playing cards and cursing and you know, eating chicken, but yet she was a lady, but she got down low, yeah.$$So you actually formulated these characters outside of the music, the characters been totally written or did you kind of go into the song themselves and decide?$$The characters were never written. All the characters that we formed that we did, we did ourselves, so.$$Oh, could you--could you sing a piece from a, from a, from just a small portion of one of those songs, just anything?$$Oh my god.$$How about the daddy squeeze me?$$Okay, okay, wait a minute. You put me on the spot. (Singing) "Oh daddy squeeze me and squeeze me again. Oh papa don't stop 'til I tell you when. Oh daddy squeeze me and kiss me some more just like we did before. Your papa cupid is standing close by. Oh daddy don't let your sweet baby cry, just pick me up on your knee I just get so, you know, oh when you squeeze me."$$Bravo (claps hands), that's beautiful (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Oh god, I haven't done that for years. And you never forget it though, you know, never forget it.$$It's good. So, so those characters, so everybody developed their own character?$$Yes.$$So they gave you the freedom to do that?$$Yes, yes.$$And what did they say when they saw the character development, wha- what did the writers--'cause you know they have their idea?$$Well, the, the director and the choreographer, they were just happy for you to come up with that, you know. Then they could, they could then mold, you know. The character of Fats Waller was really kind of established because of my dear friend [HistoryMaker] Ken Page who looks like him, you know. And of course who is a wonderful comedian, actor, so he captured him, you know. Because this man was alive, he was real and so he captured him. The other characters, we were like people from that era, you know. And Nell [Nell Carter] was like, oh I don't know the character's name, but Luther Henderson called her name, you know, it reminded him of those women.

Irma P. Hall

Stage and film actress Irma P. Hall was born Irma Dolores Player on June 3, 1935, in Beaumont, Texas. In 1942, her family moved to the South Side of Chicago, Illinois where she was raised. Hall was introduced to the entertainment industry at the age of seven when her father, a jazz musician, began to take her with him when performing at clubs and local events. After graduating from high school, Hall went on to attend Briar Cliff College in Sioux City, Iowa where she was selected for her first acting role in a theatrical production of Amahl and the Night Visitors. Afterwards, she transferred to Texas College in Tyler, Texas and pursued her B.A. degree in foreign language education with a focus in French and Spanish.

Hall taught in the Dallas, Texas school system for twenty years until she was discovered by actor and director Raymond St. Jacques. She was performing at a poetry reading when he offered her a role in one of his films, Book of Numbers (1973). In 1972, Hall co-founded the Dallas Minority Repertory Theatre and starred in a production of Happy Endings. After starring in several more productions, Hall realized her calling as an actress and officially retired from teaching in 1984. When her mother fell ill, Hall took a leave from acting and moved back to Chicago. After her mother's death in 1987, Hall returned to acting, starring in numerous stage productions such as Member of the Wedding, Black Girl, and Steppin' Out. For the Dallas Minority Repertory Theatre, she wrote a play, Gentle Fire which was based on her poetry. In 1996, Hall was featured alongside Robert Duvall and James Earl Jones in the film A Family Thing . Her performance won her Best Supporting Actress Awards from the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Kansas City Film Critics Circle. She went on to star in several films including Nothing to Lose (1997), Soul Food (1997) and Beloved (1998). In 2000, Hall starred in the revival of the Lorraine Hansberry play A Raisin in the Sun. Later, in 2004, Hall appeared in the films The Ladykillers and Collateral. She was also cast in the 2008 Tyler Perry film, Meet the Browns.

Hall has been nominated and has received several awards for her acting including a NAACP Image Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Soul Food. In 2004, she won the prestigious Prixe du Jury from Cannes Film Festival for her performance in the The Ladykillers while she was still recovering from a devastating car accident. Since then she has been inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame and has opened the African American Repertory Theatre in DeSoto, Texas so she can share her knowledge with and train the new generation of black actors.

Irma P. Hall was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 12, 2008

Accession Number

A2008.045

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/12/2008

Last Name

Hall

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

P.

Occupation
Schools

Corpus Christi Elementary School

Corpus Christi High School

Briar Cliff College

Texas College

First Name

Irma

Birth City, State, Country

Beaumont

HM ID

HAL12

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

When You’re Born You’re Like An Empty Vase...

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Birth Date

6/3/1935

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Dallas

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Rice

Short Description

Actress Irma P. Hall (1935 - ) starred in film and television, and founded the African American Repertory Theater in DeSoto, Texas.

Employment

African American Repertory Theatre

Dallas Express

Touchstone Pictures

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Avco Embassy Pictures

Theatre Three

Granny's Dinner Theater

Dallas Independent School District

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:2548,15:3136,22:4998,41:5488,47:11635,103:11975,108:12910,145:23960,367:26850,391:28890,425:34792,453:36232,472:42234,567:43950,598:46680,701:47772,717:51750,772:52452,815:69428,1042:69808,1059:76724,1181:79080,1218:93330,1474:102992,1614:103980,1654:120394,1868:125560,1939:126605,1953:127080,1959:127555,1965:131260,2015:134585,2065:135915,2097:136295,2102:141876,2120:147564,2231:151040,2291:159878,2379:160270,2384:165316,2436:167120,2461:187550,2769:189080,2827:194900,2892:195392,2899:197196,2958:199246,2973:199902,2986:205150,3081:205724,3090:211321,3110:213147,3147:213562,3153:226095,3320:226470,3326:231795,3392:233070,3416:238820,3486:240290,3513:240710,3521:245354,3578:248138,3634:250464,3652:254660,3719$0,0:37260,595:47240,656:48380,683:55718,743:58260,751:84266,1012:84562,1017:110940,1409:123953,1695:133123,1754:138477,1780:139093,1789:170590,2250:173670,2292:180677,2468:205330,2801:226106,3003:231020,3062
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Irma P. Hall's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Irma P. Hall lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Irma P. Hall describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Irma P. Hall describes her mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Irma P. Hall describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Irma P. Hall describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Irma P. Hall describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Irma P. Hall remembers the pastimes of her youth

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Irma P. Hall describes her needlework

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Irma P. Hall remembers her early activities

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Irma P. Hall describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Irma P. Hall describes how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Irma P. Hall remembers her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Irma P. Hall remembers Carroll Street Elementary School in Beaumont, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Irma P. Hall recalls visiting her father in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Irma P. Hall recalls visiting her father in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Irma P. Hall recalls her early experiences of religion

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Irma P. Hall remembers hog slaughtering in Tyler, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Irma P. Hall remembers performing on the train to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Irma P. Hall remembers her early involvement in the arts

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Irma P. Hall remembers life on the home front during World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Irma P. Hall remembers Corpus Christi Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Irma P. Hall remembers meeting notable African Americans

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Irma P. Hall describes her college experiences, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Irma P. Hall remembers her neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Irma P. Hall remembers the Bud Billiken Club

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Irma P. Hall recalls attending the prom at Corpus Christi High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Irma P. Hall describes her college experiences, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Irma P. Hall remembers Texas College in Tyler, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Irma P. Hall remembers her early teaching career, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Irma P. Hall recalls working as a butcher's apprentice

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Irma P. Hall remembers her early teaching career, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Irma P. Hall recalls the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Irma P. Hall remembers reporting for the Dallas Express

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Irma P. Hall recalls her introduction to screen acting

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Irma P. Hall describes her teaching career in Dallas, Texas

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Irma P. Hall remembers her early acting roles

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Irma P. Hall remembers appearing in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Irma P. Hall remembers her transition to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Irma P. Hall talks about starring in 'A Family Thing'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Irma P. Hall remembers her acting credits

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Irma P. Hall describes the reception to her performance in 'Soul Food'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Irma P. Hall describes her awards and honors

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Irma P. Hall talks about her recent acting projects

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Irma P. Hall describes her family

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Irma P. Hall reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Irma P. Hall reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Irma P. Hall describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Irma P. Hall shares a message to future generations

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

8$2

DATitle
Irma P. Hall talks about starring in 'A Family Thing'
Irma P. Hall describes the reception to her performance in 'Soul Food'
Transcript
So in 1996, 'A Family Thing,' talk to me about that film?$$Well, before then, I had, I remember it was very interesting I, I just firmly believe that God guides everything I do because I had no intention of teaching (laughter) and God said, yeah, you gonna teach (laughter) then when he stopped me, when I started acting you know I had no, I had no thoughts of doing that. I'm always doing these things I have no thought of doing. So okay, so now I'm acting. Acting was never on my menu in the first place. I didn't even buy movie magazines as a child, wasn't ac- interested. So okay I'm doing that and I said okay I'm doing this. Then when--teaching though, I'm still a teacher and I still feel that way, I'm a teacher. I don't know why I'm doing this acting, it's something God wants me to do. God decided that I should, I should do certain roles and certain things, so when I was asked because Raymond [Raymond St. Jacques] was my mentor and he said, "You need to decide what you're gonna do." And I said, "I wanna be the voice of older women, and women who have been voiceless, the, the mothers and aunts and so forth and so on. I wanna do them and tell their truth so profoundly so people will not forget them." I don't care if they know who [HistoryMaker] Irma P. Hall is, I really don't even--that doesn't matter to me, you know. It's surprising when people come up and they want my autograph, I'm still saying for what, when I was doing something important like teaching school, nobody came to ask for my autograph. I'm playing now, having fun, but that's good, that's all good, so.$$So you took this role--$$I, I--$$--because you felt that you needed to have a voice--$$Yeah.$$--for older women?$$Yes, and, and I had, and the interesting thing--why, I, I really believe it was God, the last acting assignment I had had been on stage. I was doing a play called 'Dry the Floor' [ph.] where I was a ninety-year old woman, which was two years older than I had to be in the film and I met this woman there, a woman, her last name Hoffman [ph.] and I would go to her house. She had been born blind, and I would go to her house with her, I observed how she handled herself in her house and everything and, and it was amazing 'cause she was just born, no eye things, and here I come along and I'm playing an eighty-eight year old blind woman. Then when I needed to know about the use of the stick, up until then I thought people carried it to let other people know they were blind (laughter), I really did. I didn't know it had a specific function, and I said, oh, lord what, what do they use it for? So I, I was on my way to get a newspaper in Memphis [Tennessee], where we're shooting and I said oh, I know how to be blind but I don't know how to use that stick and I saw a blind man, and I just followed him around. See God sent him, so I said, oh, it's like an antennae, that's what he's using--and I learned how to do that so, yes.$$In that film, how close to the character did you, I mean I know she was a lot older than you, but as far as the character and what she portrayed?$$I think that she was a combination of--I was sixty years old the day I found out I had the part. It was like my sixtieth birthday, and when you have been around for sixty years and you've been, you've been partial to older people you know, you just--you, you know these people. She was a compilation of a lot of women I've known. All of them really are compilations. So she was a compilation. I have known people. When I was a child, I didn't know what an orphan was, if somebody died or anything somebody took children in and raised them. So I knew about raising other people's children--it's just what you did.$Where does 'Soul Food' come in?$$Okay (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) What year is 'Soul Food'?$$Now, when I was working in--'Soul Food' came right after I had done--$$'Nothing to Lose'?$$--'Noth-' no, I--(makes sound) it was 'Buddy' I believe, and, and I got an opportunity to--I had worked with Oprah Winfrey before, I had worked on an episode 'Women of Brewster Place' ['The Women of Brewster Place'] in the first episode. So, so I read for a part in 'Beloved' and got a chance to work in that. I was doing--we, we went to Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] and then I did 'Beloved' and it was a wonderful, inspirational film to do. I was surprised people didn't get it any better.$$What year was 'Beloved' do you remember?$$I, you know I had already done 'Soul Food.'$$Okay.$$And 'Soul Food' came out while I was shooting 'Beloved' I remember because I went to the--. When I was doing 'Buddy,' George [George Tillman, Jr.] and Bob [ph.] came to my room. I was doing both 'Buddy' and 'Steel' at the same time. They came to me, they had this script they wanted me to read, and I said, "Okay." When I read it and I saw that the woman's name was Mama Joe. My mother's name was Josephine [Josephine Thomas Player] and my children called her Mama Jo then it was about the woman who had three girls and she was a diabetic and an amputee and then died in the hospital. My father's mother [Carrie Willis Player] died that way, my father's mother was a diabetic. They didn't know much about diabetes, she had her leg amputated and she died in the hospital, and she had three daughters and one son. So, I said, no I have to do this because it's sent, it's too close you know. So I did--and, and I remember it came out while I was doing 'Beloved' because I wanted to, I wanted to--I remember going to the theater to see it and I saw it and I got outside the theater and somebody recognized me (laughter) and they said, "There she is," and I said, whoa, 'cause it was so many people, it was so crowded. It was interesting, and I passed by and I stopped in a little shop and the, it was a camera shop and the guy said, "There she is, that's (unclear) in 'Soul Food.' Somebody give me a camera, give me a camera." The man said, "This is a camera store, just pick out" (laughter) "any camera you want." It was very exciting, yes. So I've been Big Mama, people stop me in Chicago [Illinois], I'm Big Mama. They can, I can--down in the Loop and they'll see me across the street, "Hey, Big Mama, how you doing? Can I have a hug?" "Yeah, baby come on." I get lots of hugs and things, yes.$$So were you nominated for any awards for 'Soul Food'?$$For 'Soul Food,' yes, I, I received a NAACP Image Award for that and yeah we, we got a lot of awards for that--the young man [Brandon Hammond] who played my grandson [Ahmad Chadway], and everybody. It was just a beautiful experience so yeah, that and I think that me doing 'Soul Food' well having--that it, it just, it--I think that's what propelled them to consider me for 'Ladykillers' ['The Ladykillers'] later on.

Denise Nicholas

Actress and fiction writer Denise Nicholas was born Donna Denise Nicholas on July 12th in Detroit, Michigan to Louise and Otto Nicholas. She grew up in Milan, Michigan, just south of Ann Arbor. After she graduated from Milan High School, she attended the University of Michigan. In 1963, she met Gilbert Moses, then a stage actor. The two married, and in 1964, Nicholas and Moses moved to Jackson, Mississippi.

Nicholas joined Moses’ Free Southern Theater and with a small troupe of actors performed significant plays for rural African-American audiences many of whom had never seen live theater before. They toured Ossie Davis’ Purlie Victorious, Samuel Beckett’s, Waiting for Godot as well as an Evening of Poetry and Song. Their production of In White America toured not only in Mississippi and Louisiana, but also in New York City. In 1965, the theater company moved its base of operations to New Orleans, Louisiana. Nicholas separated from Moses and the two were divorced in 1966.

Nicholas then moved to New York City and, in 1967, was one of the first members of the famous Negro Ensemble Company. She studied with dance instructor Louis Johnson and voice instructor Kristin Linklater and performed in a production of German dramatist Peter Weiss’ Song for Lusitanian Bogey. The following year, she acted in a number of plays with the company, including Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Kongi’s Harvest and Daddy Goodness. That same year, Nicholas was cast in her first television role, as a character on the ABC-TV series It Takes a Thief, an action-adventure series that aired until 1970.

In 1969, she was cast as “Liz McIntyre” on the popular television series Room 222, about an American history class at Walt Whitman High School in Los Angeles, California. The following year, she was nominated for an Emmy Award and two Golden Globes for her work on Room 222. Nicholas also received four NAACP Image Awards during her career. In 1972, she was cast in Blacula, a blaxploitation horror movie based on Dracula with William Marshall playing the title character. Throughout the 1970s, she continued to take prominent roles in films, including a series of movies with Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby that included 1975’s Let’s Do It Again and 1977’s A Piece of the Action.

In 1981, she married Jim Hill, a Los Angeles sportscaster with KCBS-TV. In the early 1980s, she continued working on the stage, and was featured in Voices of Our People: In Celebration of Black Poetry for PBS. In 1987, Nicholas earned her B.A. degree in drama from the University of Southern California, and began teaching at the college that same year. In 1988, she returned to television, starring in In the Heat of the Night as Harriet DeLong, and in 1991 began writing for the program as well. In 1990, Nicholas again starred alongside Bill Cosby in Ghost Dad.

In 2005, Nicholas’ first novel, Freshwater Road, was published to widespread critical acclaim. New York Newsday called it, “perhaps the best work of fiction about the Civil Rights Movement.” In 2006, the novel won the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction. That same year, the book won the American Library Association’s Black Caucus Award for Debut Fiction.

Denise Nicholas was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 19, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.177

Sex

Female

Interview Date

5/19/2007 |and| 5/21/2007

Last Name

Nicholas

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Milan High School

University of Michigan

University of Southern California

Thirkell Elementary School

Fanny E. Wingert Elementary School

Pattengill Elementary School

Milan Middle School

National High School Institution

University of California, Los Angeles

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Evenings

First Name

Denise

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

NIC03

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $1,000 - $5,000

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Southern France

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

7/12/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Actress and fiction writer Denise Nicholas (1944 - ) was one of the first members of the Negro Ensemble Company. Her film and television credits include Let's Do It Again, Room 222 and the television version of In The Heat of the Night.

Employment

J. Walter Thompson

Free Southern Theater

Negro Ensemble Company

Room 222 (Television Program)

Delete

Let's Do It Again

A Piece of Action

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
0,0:816,12:1632,28:3570,51:19800,289:20322,297:22932,328:23541,349:27021,406:28239,419:30414,450:31284,457:31632,462:33030,468:33302,473:33574,478:34458,495:35070,506:37518,568:38470,585:38878,592:44961,680:45366,686:46743,709:47148,715:47715,724:53370,793:53795,799:58140,860:63061,879:63559,888:66796,935:67128,940:67709,952:68788,965:76726,1035:79830,1071:80800,1103:81673,1113:85659,1133:86044,1139:86352,1144:86737,1153:87122,1159:87738,1169:89906,1185:90350,1192:96978,1275:97914,1296:98538,1306:99552,1326:100800,1342:101502,1354:103764,1387:105636,1434:106806,1441:107118,1446:113660,1505:115638,1531:116412,1542:117874,1557:120712,1588:132252,1717:138344,1791:143246,1881:143934,1899:145740,1930:146514,1940:147116,1956:147890,1967:151970,1978:152530,1986:152850,1991:155650,2041:159145,2086:159520,2092:160570,2108:174780,2327:177160,2372:177755,2380:178180,2386:179795,2418:182030,2424:182960,2435:185378,2468:188348,2496:190402,2531:191550,2556$0,0:480,6:864,11:1344,17:1728,22:4032,46:4608,54:4992,59:6144,122:6528,127:13248,276:13920,301:17952,341:24960,388:25260,393:27510,440:31110,521:31560,528:32310,539:32910,550:33285,556:36435,605:40430,616:41172,635:42444,652:42868,657:48594,707:48964,713:50148,741:50666,750:51480,776:52590,835:55994,888:56586,898:59842,964:60360,972:62580,1050:63468,1069:74103,1164:75720,1196:80802,1312:81803,1326:85807,1398:87424,1434:91874,1443:92170,1448:93428,1493:93724,1498:97350,1610:104232,1785:110380,1835:110870,1843:115490,1949:116190,1966:116680,1974:116960,1979:119480,2042:119760,2047:121650,2086:122000,2092:124450,2156:134770,2273:135810,2291:140295,2400:140555,2405:141465,2419:142375,2438:142635,2443:143545,2462:143805,2471:144065,2476:145495,2533:145820,2543:146470,2555:150720,2580:151232,2590:151552,2596:153728,2633:156672,2718:157248,2728:160424,2746:160794,2752:161534,2764:162644,2783:163310,2793:165456,2827:165900,2841:167084,2874:169110,2882
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Denise Nicholas' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Denise Nicholas lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Denise Nicholas describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Denise Nicholas describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Denise Nicholas describes her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Denise Nicholas describes her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Denise Nicholas describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Denise Nicholas remembers her childhood in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Denise Nicholas describes the sights and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Denise Nicholas describes the sounds of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Denise Nicholas remembers the holidays with her family

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Denise Nicholas recalls her parents' discipline

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Denise Nicholas remembers her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Denise Nicholas describes her early interests

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Denise Nicholas recalls her parents' divorce

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Denise Nicholas describes her move to Milan, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Denise Nicholas describes her experiences in Milan, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Denise Nicholas describes her involvement in social organizations

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Denise Nicholas describes her family's perspective on black hair

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Denise Nicholas remembers her father

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Denise Nicholas remembers her father's work as a numbers runner

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Denise Nicholas describes her early interest in politics

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Denise Nicholas describes her decision to move to New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Denise Nicholas remembers meeting her first husband, Gilbert Moses

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Denise Nicholas describes her interest in theater

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Denise Nicholas recalls her marriage to Gilbert Moses

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Denise Nicholas describes the founding of the Free Southern Theater in Jackson, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Denise Nicholas remembers the Free Southern Theater's production of 'In White America'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Denise Nicholas describes her experiences of racial discrimination in the South

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Denise Nicholas recalls the Free Southern Theater's production of 'Waiting for Godot'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Denise Nicholas reflects upon her experiences with the Free Southern Theater

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Denise Nicholas recalls the Free Southern Theater's move to New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Denise Nicholas remembers the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Denise Nicholas describes her separation from Gilbert Moses

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Denise Nicholas remembers interacting with the White Citizens' Council

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Denise Nicholas describes her return to New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Denise Nicholas describes her start in New York City theater companies

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Denise Nicholas recalls her voice lessons with Kristin Linklater

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Denise Nicholas remembers the Negro Ensemble Company's first season

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Denise Nicholas describes the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Denise Nicholas recalls her decision to leave the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Denise Nicholas remembers auditioning for 'Room 222'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Denise Nicholas recalls her move to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Denise Nicholas describes her experiences on the set of 'Room 222'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Denise Nicholas talks about African American television writers

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Denise Nicholas reflects upon the success of 'Room 222'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Denise Nicholas remembers African American representation on television

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Denise Nicholas remembers her press tours for 'Room 222'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Denise Nicholas describes the business of being a television personality

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Denise Nicholas describes her Golden Globe Award nominations

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Denise Nicholas remembers the cast and crew of 'Room 222'

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Denise Nicholas describes her parents' opinion of her acting career

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Denise Nicholas remembers starring in 'Blacula'

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Denise Nicholas remembers filming 'Let's Do It Again'

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Denise Nicholas describes the plot of 'Let's Do It Again'

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Denise Nicholas remembers 'Mr. Ricco' and 'A Piece of the Action'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Denise Nicholas remembers performing with the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Denise Nicholas remembers the 'Song of the Lusitanian Bogey'

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Denise Nicholas remembers Michael A. Schultz and Douglas Turner Ward

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Denise Nicholas talks about the success of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Denise Nicholas describes the management of the Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Denise Nicholas reflects upon her transition to screen acting, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Denise Nicholas reflects upon her transition to screen acting, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Denise Nicholas remembers her audition for 'In the Heat of the Night'

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Denise Nicholas remembers earning her bachelor's degree

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Denise Nicholas recalls writing for 'In the Heat of the Night'

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Denise Nicholas remembers Carroll O'Connor

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Denise Nicholas describes her role as a writer on 'In the Heat of the Night'

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Denise Nicholas reflects upon her character's marriage in 'In the Heat of the Night'

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Denise Nicholas talks about her marriages

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Denise Nicholas recalls her marriage to Bill Withers

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Denise Nicholas remembers her sister's death

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Denise Nicholas talks about her involvement with writing workshops

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Denise Nicholas recalls publishing her book, 'Freshwater Road'

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Denise Nicholas reflects upon her writing career

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Denise Nicholas describes the male characters of her book, 'Freshwater Road'

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Denise Nicholas describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Denise Nicholas describes her advice for aspiring actors

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Denise Nicholas reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Denise Nicholas narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$2

DAStory

8$7

DATitle
Denise Nicholas remembers interacting with the White Citizens' Council
Denise Nicholas describes her move to Milan, Michigan
Transcript
What is the time period for Free Southern Theater? Would you say, you know having started in 1964 and then you know what is when we look at the height of the theater?$$Well I think the height of it was '65 [1965], '66 [1966] you know and, and maybe '67 [1967]. I was gone by '67 [1967]. I left in September of 1966 to go to New York [New York], but they kept the theater together and actually I think they were touring into the '70s [1970s]. I don't know I lost touch with them because I was so focused on what I had to do in New York.$$Okay. But when you look at the theater, what do people consider seminal and very important about the work that was done during that period?$$I think that we got--that we a small group of people, brought, created and built and brought theater to people who never seen theater before in Mississippi--in the rural South and I think that it--you used the expression guerilla theater and there was that feel about it as well. It was dangerous. It was oftentimes euphoric, the experiences, in Indianola, Mississippi, we performed 'In White America' [Martin Duberman] at a community center. We had a, a phone call from the White Citizens' Council via The Nation magazine and they said they wanted to come and see the performance. So twenty-five members of the White Citizens' Council came to the performance. We were in the theater, in the community center looking out the window, the townspeople, black people were coming and everybody was getting seated. We looked out the window and there was this caravan of cars, all with white men and stingy brim hats coming up the road, and they parked and they came in and they sat in the back of the performance area. They didn't say a word to anybody. We were terrified, terrified. We performed and we did a knockout performance of 'In White America' and then they were interviewed afterwards by The Nation magazine, and the piece that ran in the magazine basically said that their reason for coming was because they wanted to see if the Free Southern Theater was in fact Communist inspired and they had deduced after seeing the play that in fact (laughter) we were all a bunch of little Communists running around the South. It was so insane, so insane, but it was one of those moments where you're standing on the stage and you look out and the enemy, people who are just as soon see you dead are sitting there watching you perform. So we had these adrenaline pumping kinds of experiences all through the time that I was with the, with the theater. I mean just one after the other.$Let's talk about your stepfather and even the time of your parents [Louise Jones Burgen and Otto Nicholas, Sr.], you know your mother remarrying. Do you--how did she meet her--you know your--do you know that (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) I don't know.$$Do you know--can you give his name?$$Yes, his name was, he's deceased, Robert Burgen. He's from--$$Can you spell that?$$B-U-R-G-E-N. He's from a very old Detroit [Michigan] family. His sister, my Aunt Finette [ph.], as I said earlier was a guidance counselor in the public schools of Detroit. I don't know how they met or how their dating process is when I was into my own little world then. I do know that once they married, I stayed in Detroit for a while with my Aunt Ruby [ph.] and back and forth with my aunt and my grandparents [Waddy Nicholas and Samuel Nicholas] and then eventually moved with them, they had moved to Milan, Michigan, because my stepfather was the head of probation and parole at the federal prison [Federal Correctional Institution, Milan] in Milan, Michigan, and they moved there and my sister [Michele Burgen] was born. They settled in and then I went--my mother wanted all of her children, the three of us to be together. My brother [Otto Nicholas, Jr.] did not wanna go out there. He wanted to stay in Detroit, so he stayed at grandparents' house and I fought to stay in Detroit, but I was too young and then she brought me out there. So I ended up going to high school [Milan High School] in Milan and that last year of junior high [Milan Junior High School, Milan, Michigan].$$Was that hard since you loved your brother so much?$$It was very hard. It was very hard (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Okay. So--$$So every weekend I was skedaddled off to Detroit to be with him and, and you know now it started out as every weekend, but I must say as I settled into it and settled into school out there, the school, my schoolwork demanded that I stay and do you know because I was on college prep track so I had to work.$$So now, how far is Milan from--$$It's only about thirty-five miles, about fifteen miles south of Ann Arbor [Michigan], it's not any big trip.$$And your father was--your stepfather was doing what?$$Head of probation and parole at the federal prison there.$$Okay. So, so that was the main employer you think out there?$$Yes and it still is. Although there's some new industries moving there, I was just there to do a book event and the high school inducted me into the high school hall of fame [Academic Hall of Fame] and so I was there and driving all around and the prison is still the major thing, but there is I think a Toyota company factory [Toyota Technical Center, Saline, Michigan] coming in and some other companies coming in and the space between Ann Arbor and Milan is shrinking because of the development of Ann Arbor kind of reaching out to its (air quotes) suburbs.

Billie Allen

Actor, dancer, director Billie Allen was born Wilhelmina Louise Allen on January 13, 1925 in Richmond, Virginia to Mamie Wimbush Allen and William Roswell Allen. Allen grew up in Richmond’s West End, attending Randolph Street School and Elba Elementary School before graduating from Armstrong High School in 1941. At Hampton University, Allen was inspired by Romare Bearden and mentored by Billie Davis. Drawn to show business, Allen moved to New York City in 1943 to take ballet classes and to study acting at the Lee Strasbourg Institute. Soon, Allen was dancing professionally and auditioning for stage roles.

In 1949, Allen was featured in the film Souls of Sin with Jimmy Wright and William Greaves. In 1953, Allen performed in the Broadway play, Take A Giant Step with Lou Gossett, Godfrey Cambridge and Lincoln Kilpatrick. She was cast as “WAC Billie” in five episodes of television’s Phil Silvers’ Show from 1955 to 1959. During this period, she also played Ada Chandler in the soap opera, The Edge of Night. In 1964, Allen was cast in Adrienne Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of a Negro, and in 1990, directed the play’s revival. She also portrayed “Vertel” in the movie Black Like Me in 1964 and appeared on stage in James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie. Since the 1960s, Allen was cast in a number of movies and television programs including Route 66, Car 54, Where Are You, The Wiz, Winter Kills, The Vernon Johns Story, Eddie Murphy Raw, and Law and Order. In the early 1980s, Allen directed the off-Broadway play Home featuring Samuel L. Jackson, and in 2001, she directed Saint Lucy’s Eyes starring Ruby Dee.

Allen was a founding member of the Women’s Project and Productions and served as a founding member and co-president of the League of Professional Theatre Women. In 1973, Allen with Morgan Freeman, Garland Lee Thompson and Clayton Riley founded Harlem’s Frank Silvera Writers’ Workshop. She interviewed Rosetta LeNoire, Julia Miles and Ruby Dee for the theatre archives of the Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, and in 1999 and 2000, served as a voting member of the Tony Awards nominating board. Allen married the late composer, Luther Henderson with whom she received the 2002 Audelco “VIV” Pioneer Awards. She had two children.

Allen passed away on December 29, 2015 at age 90.

Accession Number

A2007.142

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/16/2007

Last Name

Allen

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Armstrong High School

Elba Elementary School

Hampton University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Billie

Birth City, State, Country

Richmond

HM ID

ALL04

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

St. Martin

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

1/13/1925

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Yankee Bean Soup With Meatballs

Death Date

12/29/2015

Short Description

Actress and stage director Billie Allen (1925 - 2015 ) performed in The Wiz, Route 66, and Law and Order. Active in promoting the arts, Allen was a founding member of the Women's Project and Productions, and served as a founding member and co-president for the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Favorite Color

Royal Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Billie Allen's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Billie Allen lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Billie Allen describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Billie Allen describes the women in her maternal family

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Billie Allen describes her mother's civil rights activism

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Billie Allen describes her mother's teaching career

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Billie Allen describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Billie Allen describes her parents' involvement in African American society

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Billie Allen describes her parents' personalities

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Billie Allen describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Billie Allen describes her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Billie Allen describes her family's move to Richmond, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Billie Allen describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Billie Allen recalls her grade school experiences in Richmond, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Billie Allen talks about the role of music in her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Billie Allen describes her early activities in Richmond, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Billie Allen recalls the entertainers she admired

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Billie Allen remembers the release of 'Gone with the Wind'

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Billie Allen remembers Armstrong High School in Richmond, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Billie Allen recalls her influential teachers at Armstrong High School

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Billie Allen recalls the segregated transit system in Richmond, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Billie Allen describes her studies at Armstrong High School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Billie Allen remembers the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Billie Allen describes her social life at the Hampton Institute

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Billie Allen recalls her decision to move to New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Billie Allen recalls the arts community in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Billie Allen recalls meeting African American actors in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Billie Allen recalls her first film role

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Billie Allen remembers training under Lee Strasberg

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Billie Allen talks about her role on 'The Phil Silvers Show'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Billie Allen recalls being cast in a soap commercial

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Billie Allen describes her role in 'The Edge of Night'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Billie Allen talks about the play 'Blues for Mister Charlie'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Billie Allen remembers acting in 'Funnyhouse of the Negro,' pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Billie Allen remembers acting in 'Funnyhouse of the Negro,' pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Billie Allen talks about her career as an actress in New York

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Billie Allen recalls the Frank Silvera Writers' Workshop

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Billie Allen talks about her screen acting career

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Billie Allen talks about her recent acting roles

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Billie Allen describes her organizational affiliations

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Billie Allen reflects upon the variety of her character roles

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Billie Allen talks about her plans for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Billie Allen describes her hopes for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Billie Allen reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Billie Allen talks about her family

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Billie Allen describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Billie Allen narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Billie Allen narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Billie Allen narrates her photographs, pt. 3

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

5$4

DATitle
Billie Allen describes her mother's civil rights activism
Billie Allen recalls her first film role
Transcript
Now was your mother [Mamie Wimbush Allen] like an early member of the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People]?$$Oh yes, oh yes and she, she was like the mentor to Gloster Current [Gloster B. Current]. And the Church of the Master, was that Jimmy--and we--the NAACP was a great part of my social life. As a matter of fact because we went to the national conventions every year. And, you know, that's where my social life was. I met other people my age, teenagers or children or whatever it was, and we kept in touch, and it was like a network. No matter where you went, you knew somebody. But we were made aware of the issues and the struggle and my mother, she said, "You are no breath- you are no better than the least of your brethren. And you may not look down, you may bring them up."$$Now what--is there a story behind how she became the--not that it's unnatural, but a lot of people aren't activist? Is there a story that--behind her activism (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Well I think that--it seems to me those women were born in what we call struggle. And they were aware of that--this is what we have to do this is why we are put here. And this is what we have to do. And you may be privileged 'cause your folks could read and went to college, but you have to share that. You have to share that. I don't know what incident in her life but I think it was just handed down. I know that it's a set--Atlanta [Georgia] was a very, very progressive city at that time. A lot of black-owned businesses, I mean, and homes and very enterprising. And they always bragged about that as a matter of fact, they said, "Oh well in Atlanta we owned everything." In Atlanta we had our pharmacists and so forth. And I thought that everybody had a black woman doctor if they wanted one because my birth was attended by a black woman doctor, Marie Jeanette Jones, we called her Dr. Janie. Can you imagine that, in 1925? It was amazing because of when I came through New York [New York] to work in the theater, I was doing improvisation. So I decided that my character wanted to be a doctor so, we--when we were being critiqued, the improvisation. This woman who was white she said, "Why couldn't you be something reasonable like a nurse or a secretary?" So she said, "There are no black doctors, there are no Negro doctors," then. And then I had to give her a little history lesson right there on the spot, you know. And tell her about Doctor Marie Jeanette Jones, who got her medical degree at Tufts [sic.] and practiced in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband who was also an M.D., Dr. Miles B. Jones. They practiced in tandem from that big stone mansion in the middle of town. And we were well attended (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) That's, that's--$$I think that was a decided advantage in my life because I never lacked for women heroes or black heroes. And you see during that time there were no hotels where Paul Robeson and Roland Hayes, Marian Anderson, and all these people could stay when they came. When they did these concerts with--my mother belonged to this club called the treble clef music and book lovers club. And they met the first Thursday of every month, and these women would prepare a reading or piano solo or they would present Langston Hughes. Give him a book party, and he'd talk about this new book he had just written. Or Muriel Ryan [ph.] would come there, and that's where I met [HistoryMaker] Katherine Dunham and this is what they would do because they wanted to keep abreast of everything. And they wanted the children to appreciate our heritage and appreciate--$$Okay.$$--our lives.$I also got a call from this black filmmaker named Bill Alexander [William D. Alexander], who said he wanted me to act in this film, and I said, "But I'm not an actor, I'm a dancer." And he said, "No, everybody tells me that you would perfect." Well, what, no you don't have to audition. He said, "I got to make this film before, I think, the first of the year," and I had something to do with taxes or alimony or something. And he had to make this film, so I thought, oh, how much do I make? He said, "Seventy-five [dollars] for a day." I said, "Wow," you know, oh yeah, 'cause I was about making seventy [dollars] a week or something like that. So I decided to do it. And I said, but you must know, here's, here's the deal. I didn't have an agent 'cause he called me direct. I didn't know about agents so much. I said, "I will do it, but you have to pay me each day after we shoot, seventy-five dollars. And the day you don't pay me is the day you don't see me again the next day, it's finished." That's what we agreed to. So who was in the film? Jimmy Edwards [sic. Jimmy Wright] and Della Reese [sic.], a lot of people in this film. It was called 'Souls of Sin.' Well, it ended up in a warehouse in Tyler, Texas. It was stored away somewhere, and I thought, nobody's ever gonna see this film. Oh, I kept my job at Macy's [R.H. Macy and Co.; Macy's, Inc.] because my friends punched me in every day at the time clock. And I went over on my lunch hour and made a lot of noise so everybody'd see me. And then they'd punch me in for overtime, and I split my salary with them, I gave the half my salary. And so I had half my salary from Macy's plus seventy-five dollars a day from film. So I was rich when I went home, and my nieces who became filmmakers when they finished Harvard [Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts] and Brown [Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island] were living in California. This is years after they went to see these, this black film festival. They started screaming, "That's Aunt Billie [HistoryMaker Billie Allen], oh my god, that's Aunt Billie." And they got on the phone, well this turned out to be a big cult thing, that (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) What's the name of the film again?$$'Souls of Sin.'$$'Souls of Sin.'$$Jimmy Edwards, you know who else was in it? What the name of--he's a filmmaker now. Carter, Terry Carter, Terry Carter [sic.]. I think that is, well he's in it, and it was hilarious. I never--I was always afraid to look at it, 'cause I hadn't studied yet. I was just doing it, and I think I was the only one that really got paid. The other people are interested in honing their craft and being, having a film. I was not an actor, I was not honing any craft. I was in debt (laughter) but it worked out. And it got me interested, then as a dancer, Elia Kazan came to see me dance in some show I was in, and auditioned me for 'Camino Real,' Tennessee Williams' play. Eli Wallach was--so I did all these things, improvisations with Eli Wallach, and I mean I was learning a lot and I didn't mind.$$Now about what year was this, this is about what year? Are the--like 'Souls of Sin.' What, about what year was that (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) I'm trying to think--$$Can you--$$Before children, it was before children.$$Yeah 'cause you left Hampton [Hampton Institute; Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia], was it '44 [1944] or so?$$No, this was like the late '50s [sic.].$$Oh this late, we've already gotten late '50s [1950s]. Now, we're in the late '50s [1950s] now, yeah?$$I think so.