vbgmen

You’ve got to laugh at the great Cab Calloway easing out of the way as The Nicholas Brothers come to the stage for “Jumpin’ Jive” in the classic 1943 film, “Stormy Weather.” Unrivaled athleticism and elegance were the hallmark of The Nicholas Brothers, Fayard (1914-2006) and Harold (1921-2000). They enthralled audiences with their unforgettable performances in films like this iconic, never to be duplicated number from Stormy Weather in 1943. The brothers danced, sang, and acted together all the way up to the early 1990s when they made a memorable appearance in Janet Jackson’s “Alright” video with other legends like the great dancer Cyd Charisse and Mr. Calloway.

Yes, it’s true! The men’s edition of Vintage Black Glamour is on the way. As soon as my publisher Rocket 88​ and I finalize the publication date, we’ll announce it along with pre-order information. I’m not going to say much more for now, but I can tell you the title -  Vintage Black Glamour: Gentlemen’s Quarters.

This is one of the gentlemen who will be prominently featured in the book - our beloved icon, Langston Hughes. He is in Paris here in 1938 giving an audience his eye witness account of the battle of Teruel, Spain. Photo: Bettman/Corbis.

Nina Mae McKinney and Emmett “Babe” Wallace in a scene from the short 1936 film, “The Black Network.” McKinney (1912-1967) was the first Black performer to be signed to a long-term contract by a major Hollywood studio (A five year contract with MGM in 1929). Emmett “Babe” Wallace (1909-2006) was an actor, singer and composer who had a lot of juicy (and sometimes uncredited) parts in vintage Black movies, most notably as “Chick Bailey” in “Stormy Weather” in 1943. Ms. McKinney is featured in the women’s edition of “Vintage Black Glamour” and Mr. Wallace is in the men’s edition, “Vintage Black Glamour: Gentlemen’s Quarters (May 2016).

Paul Robeson and Elisabeth Welch in the 1937 British-produced film, “Big Fella.” Paul Robeson (1898-1976) was, of course, a majestic singer and actor, brilliant scholar and athlete and a fierce political activist. Elisabeth Welch (1904-2003) was an American singer who became a superstar in England. She was the first singer to popularize the classic Porter tune, “Love for Sale” and, among other highlights in her 70-year career, was nominated for a Tony award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical in 1986 at age 82, for her role in “Jerome Kern Goes to Hollywood.” Mr. Robeson is in the “Renaissance Men” chapter on my next book, Vintage Black Glamour: Gentlemen’s Quarters and Ms. Welch is in the Prima Donnas Assolutas (Opera and Dance) chapter of my first book, Vintage Black Glamour. Both are available at vbgbook.com.

Our beloved Langston Hughes was born 113 years ago today in Joplin, Missouri. I am going to inundate you with photos and links to his poetry today, so I hope you’re ready. This photo was taken in New York City in 1947 by his friend, the legendary French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. The men were once roommates in the early 1930s in Mexico along with the Mexican poet Andres Henestrosa. According to Arnold Rampersad’s biography on Mr. Hughes, he called their place “a vivienda, or apartment” but Mr. Cartier-Bresson insisted that “It was no apartment. It was a shack. We lived in a very humble place near the Lagunilla market and the little bars where the mariachi bands played. It was very cheap because we didn’t have any money. We pooled what we had and worked a little and entertained our girl friends there and enjoyed life a great deal.” Photo: Magnum Photos

So, this may be an unusual Vintage Black Glamour Father’s Day picture for you - but not for me. This is the Maestro of P-Funk, one George Clinton, photographed onstage emerging (from the Mothership?!) down a flight of stairs onstage in 1983. It’s taking everything in me not to include this picture in the upcoming men’s edition of VBG (What do you think? Let me know in the comment section!)  My father, Larry Gainer, was a HUGE P-Funk fan in the 1970s and 1980s - so much so that I nearly drowned in a pool at his apartment complex when I was a kid because he was so busy jammin’ to the P-Funk! Don’t worry - I have long forgiven him. And he is much more into gospel music these days but, it’s too late! The “damage” is done. ‪#‎MakeMyFunkThePFunk‬!

I want to honor the memory of the great civil rights activist Julian Bond, who died yesterday at the age of 75. As he often noted, Mr. Bond was from several generations of college graduates (his father, Horace Mann Bond, was the first Black president of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania) but spent the bulk of his life reaching out to help others gain equality in education and civil rights. I gratefully acknowledge the decades of fearless service and leadership of Julian Bond and extend my condolences to his wife Pamela and his family. This photo of Mr. Bond with members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (he was a co-founder) was taken by the legendary photographer Richard Avedon on March 23, 1963 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Langston Hughes (shown as a waiter in a Washington, D.C. hotel in 1925) wrote these words in September 1966: “Since most Negro writers from Chesnutt to Leroi Jones have found it hard to make a literary living, or to derive from other labor sufficient funds to sustain creative leisure, their individual output has of necessity often been limited in quantity, and sometimes in depth and quality as well - since Negroes seldom have time to loaf and invite their souls. When a man or woman must teach all day in a crowded school, or type in an office, or write news stories, read proofs and help edit a newspaper, creative prose does not always flow brilliantly or freely at night, or during that early morning hour torn from sleep before leaving for work. Yet some people ask, “Why aren’t there more Negro writers?” Or, “Why doesn’t Owen Dodson produce more books?” Or “how come So-and-So takes so long to complete his second novel”? I can tell you why. So-and-So hasn’t got the money. Unlike most promising white writers, he has never sold a single word to motion pictures, television or radio. He has never been asked to write a single well-playing soap commercial. He is not in touch with the peripheral sources of literary income that enable others more fortunate to take a year off and go somewhere and write.”

I thought I’d share one more picture from this extraordinary collection that will soon be featured in an exhibition in London. I think some of these fabulous vintage Black people, like boxing champion Peter Jackson, are worthy of their own movie. Where are you Idris Elba? Jamie Foxx? From The Guardian:

“Peter Jackson, December 2, 1889. Born in 1860 in St Croix, then the Danish West Indies, Jackson was a boxing champion who spent long periods of time touring Europe. In England, he staged the famous fight against Jem Smith at the Pelican Club in 1889. In 1888 he claimed the title of Australian heavyweight champion. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Langston Hughes meets with Paul Robeson, Canada Lee, and Arna Bontemps about the Maxine Wood play, “On Whitman Avenue” in 1946. The play was about a Black World War II veteran who encountered racist opposition when he and his family moved into a White neighborhood. Mr. Lee produced and starred in the play which ran for 148 performances. This photo is from the Billy Rose Theatre Collection at the New York Public Library. Their record does not identify the gentleman on the left as Arna Bontemps (it simply says “Unidentified man”) but I am confident that it is indeed Mr. Hughes’s fellow poet and friend, Mr. Bontemps.

Happy 88th Birthday Harry Belafonte​! I said it last year on your birthday and I’ll say it again -Thank you Mr. Belafonte for more than 50 years of art and activism behind the scenes in Hollywood and on the frontlines of the civil rights movement. Thank you for speaking up early and often and for still speaking up and enlightening us today.

In this photo, Mr. Belafonte is on the set of ‘The Strollin’ Twenties,’ a 1965 television special he produced, with a script by Langston Hughes. The show, a celebration of the Harlem Renaissance, featured Duke Ellington, Diahann Carroll and other luminaries and aired on February 21, 1966. Photo: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images.