Felix In Hollywood

A Blog for the Smart Set

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Why You Could Knock Me Over With A Feather!

I opened up shop here at Felix In Hollywood two weeks ago, and according to my cunning little flag counter in that brief time this blog has been viewed over 500 times! By people from 25 different countries on 6 different continents! I also have 8 people following the blog (it's not too late to get on the 'follow' bandwagon).
Also, that crafty little widget over there >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
(no, not that one; that's the flag counter, the one below it) links to my online vintage store, and it's gotten much more traffic and purchases!

Needless to say, I never expected this kind of response and to say that I'm flummoxed and quite humbled, would be an understatement.

Thank you all so very much, and may 2010 offer nothing but sparkling health, gobs of toys, beautiful lovers, and bright shiny Cadillacs. For everyone!

Holy Happy New Year, Batman!

Delightful Tricks of the Mind

I know I'm not the only one who this happens to. I hope. You look at some written copy really fast and you think it says something other than what it actually says.

For instance, once a few years back, I was parking my car on Beverly Dr. in Beverly Hills right in front of The Gap. (depressing, isn't it, Beverly Hills having a Gap)
While in the midst of fishing for meter change, grabing my bag, getting out of the car, feeding the meter and heading off, I glanced at the store and there in the front window was a lineup of mannequins in jean and two or three different colors of t-shirts piled on each. The huge sign announced "Lawyers of Color". I kinda thought it was odd, but remembered it was February, and everyone knows that February is Black History Month, and this being B.H. I just figured The Gap was doing their Legal-Profession-Black-History-Month-Tribute. About an hour later I got back to the car and noticed the sign actually said "Layers of Color" referring to the t-shirts.

My dear friend Charlie and I play a game with each other called, "What It Said-What I Saw", the game can also be played as "What I Saw-What It Said" if the payoff is better that way.

So this morning, while paying my daily visit to Chateau Thombeau and looked at a sentance,
WHAT IT SAID: Farewell, 2009. You didn't kill us---you made us stronger!
WHAT I SAW: Farewell, 2009. You didn't kill us---you made us sausage!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rather Lazy Of Me.

The following is actually a comment that I left on Muscato's site some time back, and through the magic of cut and paste: Viola! A new posting.

Having come out at the ripe old age of 17, I was a nightly habituate of The Lost & Found. (Washington, DC's premiere superdisco!) Everytime Donna Summer would release a new record, posters would go up around the club about a month in advance announcing that at the stroke of midnight on said date, our beloved DJ would drop the needle so be sure not to miss out on being the first to hear Miss Donna's latest revelatory effort. The minute those posters went up, the work began: new outfits were procured, haircuts purchased, groups of friends assembled, decisions about where to have dinner on the special evening. Girl, we was plannin'!! (Mind you, all this for a few ounces of black vinyl sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard) Excitement would be built on the night in question as we showed our fabulous selves off to each other over dinner. We would be sufficiently fed and subsequently likkered up. At the 'L&F' the DJ would devote almost two hours to spinning an incredible set whipping us to near frenzy level and then at 11:59:30 the lights would begin to dim, the music begin to fade so that by 11:59:45 we would be in silent darkness where we would be left for the next interminable 15 seconds. During that time we would all turn and face the DJ booth like Mecca and gaze up at the glass, popper bottles at the ready, and wait. There would be a silent timpani roll deep inside each of us and just when we thought we couldn't take it anymore, he'd drop the needle. Our shrieks, screams and whoops were that of Donna's newborn being welcomed into the world and, honey, we'd DANCE!!!

The next morning, with hangovers that should have been in the Smithsonian under glass, we'd rush to the record store to buy our own copy of the musical heaven that we'd hear nightly for the next year until the next one came out.

And that, children, was part of what it was like to be gay in the 1970's!

True That.

"I have to say that tonight is a dream come true for me. But I feel very, very prepared because I have been singing for queens my entire life."

-Bette Midler in performance for Queen Elizabeth II, Royal Variety Show Blackpool, England.

The Musical Question

Nancy and I would really like to know.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Good Day at Black Rock


Sorry about the 'slide show' visuals. The thing is, I could've posted a live version of this, but it's the studio version that first blew me away and it's the studio version I wanted to share.

Mother's Finest was an interracial rock/funk band that formed in Georgia in the early 7o's. The front woman with 'the voice' is Joyce "Baby Jean" Kennedy. This monumental cut was from the 1977 Epic album, "Another Mother Further"

In 1992 the band put out an album called, "Black Radio Won't Play This Record" which was just really their hard earned experience. The single for "Baby Love" went up to #58 on the PoP Singles Chart, but topped out at only #79 on the Black Singles Chart.

Charlie Waddell, The Man Who Changed Everything...

This is an excerpt of a thing I wrote in my early 20's. The circumstances are all true, and I framed it as a high school diary entry, because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

This is what happens when I'm out of inspiration for new material, I rummage around for old stuff. Boy we're scraping the bottom today folks.

Monday, January 17, 1977.

Dear Diary: I’ve never done this before, and I still think it’s stupid. I mean what’s the point of writing stuff that nobody’s gonna see, but Miss Flemming says it really helps so hear goes. I guess I’d better tell you what’s going on. My name is Philip and I’m a senior in high school. I go to Surrattsville Senior High in Clinton Maryland. We specify the “Senior High” because there’s a Surrattsville Junior High too. They were named after Mary Surratt who has the honor of being the first woman hanged in the United States for being in on Lincoln’s assassination. Turns out that she probably didn’t know a thing about it; more likely than not, she was just some widow running a tavern and boarding house that John Wilkes Boothe came to a couple of times. There was an article last year in Time Magazine that listed the top ten east coast schools with on campus drug problems and Surrattsville was number three. Surratts Junior was number five. It seems like you can get drugs anywhere you want around here. Just go to almost any of the students, half of the teachers, all of the janitors and even a couple of the administration. I’m not talking about the hard stuff. It’s all about refer here. Refer and even more so, refer treated with PCP. Ah, PCP, CP, KW, Killer Weed, or our favorite nickname, Green. See our school colors are green and white, and when those Pep Squad geeks had buttons printed up that said “Mean Green” (referring of course to our loser football team, the Hornets) they were shocked at the overwhelming display of school spirit that produced a complete sellout. And how practically everyone in school, the vast majority of whom weren’t considered the spirited type, were now stumbling through the halls with their bloodshot, half mast eyes, and their spacey grins, sporting their “Mean Green” buttons.


Anyhow, none of that stuff is really for me. There’s nothing particularly glamorous, as far as I’m concerned, about crouching down in the woods or huddling in somebody’s car and smoking a bowl of weed only to go back to class and try to figure out what the hell Shakespeare is talking about, no thanks. Drinking a martini in an elegant New York nightclub wearing an ultrasuede Halston suit is more like it. I don’t know what it is about me, but I’ve always had a thirst for all things sophisticated, and so far it hasn’t been quenched with a coke at the Woolworth’s counter over on Old Branch Avenue. All I know is when I look at the sky at night I don’t see stars, I see the glow of downtown Washington, DC just sixteen miles away and I know I need to be there in the throbbing beat of the city instead of here with the tempo of the grass growing on the corner lot that surrounds our split-level colonial, that happens to look exactly like every other split-level colonial on the block.

Now just because I’m different than most of the kids here in my outlook and interests, doesn’t mean that I don’t have friends that I genuinely care for. See my dad used to be in the army and so for years we would move every time some colonel somewhere remembered to give transfer orders, and I had to learn to be the outgoing new kid. So I’m actually pretty popular here. And the beauty is , I have friends in all the different groups, collegiates, blacks, freaks, rednecks and jocks. And I’m not stuck or pigeonholed into any one of them.

Most of my life, the last couple of years, has been centered around room 109, the music room, and not because I’m a good singer (Jesus, far from it) but because that room is a nest for creativity and self expression. It happens no where else in the school. Not in the drama room, where that old fairy Chester Williams (yes, we call him Esther Williams) is more interested in Cutty Sark than in creative spark. Not in the band room where Dick Holman seems preoccupied with his weekend job at the Post Office. (His picture is gonna wind up on the wall there if they ever find out that it’s not the clarinet he’s teaching the girls how to finger.) And certainly not in the art room, where the poster boy for blotter acid know only as Buzzy thinks the greatest artist in history is the guy who drew the “Keep on Truckin’” poster.

No, it’s all in 109 under the loving and watchful eyes of Charlie Waddell. If it could ever be said about someone as old as 41, Charlie is cute. I’m serious. His light brown hair, mixed with a little grey, always seems to be falling over his eyes and ears. His 5’8” body is that of a former dancer that gravity is just starting to take a hold of, his standard uniform is either a t-shirt or sweatshirt, jeans and sneakers, and, except for a few lines around his eyes from smiling, which happens a lot, he has no wrinkles.

I first found Charlie a little over two years ago. I had just started in the school about a month earlier and along with my other classes, I was taking my one required year of Phys Ed. When I was 15 I was 5’3” and 87 lbs. and short of auditioning for the roll of a baseball bat, I had no business in Gym class. To make matters worse, the teacher, Mr. Wycznewski, who seemed to connect great sports ability with upright moral character, had divided the class into three groups based on talent.

Group One was for that select few, the Athletically Gifted. These were the guys who would spend their high school years scoring goals, hitting grand slams, running touchdowns, dating cheerleaders, driving camaros and performing other manly quests to compensate for their underdeveloped genitilia. Then there was Group Two. The sort of average, fit most of the rest of the guys, group. And finally, home sweet home, there was Group Three. My Group. Group Three, it was understood, existed solely to house the fats, fags and cripples.

Now, with this system designed to so praise the top and despise the bottom, a couple of things happened. First, even the nice, decent, Group Two kind of guys felt honor bound to make fun of those at the bottom, and secondly those at the bottom felt, and worse, accepted the failure thrust on us by the system and believed our only possible value was in supplying the fuel for the humor.

So after a few weeks I had had enough of that and decided it was time for a showdown with Wycznewski. Now to say that he and I didn’t like each other doesn’t really paint a complete picture. See my lack of sports ability combined with the fact that I’m basically a lot smarter than him seemed to indicate, I don’t know, communist leanings on my part, and so I guess you could say he was also wary of me.

“Listen,” I said to him, “if you fail me, you’re just gonna have to see me for three years instead of one.” The look on his face said I had his attention. “But, if I walk away right now and you keep giving me ‘Cs’ we’ll never have to deal with each other again.” He looked at me with a mixture of relief that the solution was so simple, and disgust that there was actually something in the world that could bring us together in agreement. He looked down at his clipboard and muttered, “Just get outta here.” Amen. I gave him a proper salute followed by a pivot turn and then skipped across the gym floor and out the door. The clang of the big double doors behind me sounded just like freedom ringing.

Just as my concerns were turning to what I was going to do to kill the next 35 minutes until third period, like a disco crossfade, the volume was being pulled down on the kids counting off jumping jacks as the decibels were increasing on…no it couldn’t be…Billie Holiday singing “Nice work if you can get it”. I followed it to the small corridor that went off the right of the lobby. Where was it coming from? The only things down this hall were the cafeteria, the band room, the chorus room and the janitor’s room. Where the cafeteria workers listening to Billie? Naw, they’d never let themselves have that much fun, it might make the food taste good. It couldn’t be the band room cause that was soundproofed. It was either the music room or, more likely, the janitor’s room which was exactly where I was headed. At least I knew that Rasheed and Mr. Johnson would have a bottle of Old Crow and I could talk them out of a drink.

I stopped in my tracks outside of 109 because the door was slightly ajar and from inside Billie was beckoning me with the musical question, “who could ask for anything more?”. ‘Well not me sister’, I thought as I flung open the door. And there was Charlie, between the risers and the piano, sitting cross legged on the floor. He didn’t see me come in as he was in a cloud of cigarette smoke, but the breeze generated by the door opening blew a piece of sheet music off the piano which, when it crossed his vision, startled him and he spilled his coffee all over the photos of nineteenth century farmhouses that were spread out on the floor.

“Well fuck me Mary!”, he blurted out. I had never heard that phrase in my life, but it seemed so perfect for his situation that I burst out laughing. Startled again, he whipped his head around to me, “Well now who the hell are you?” “I’m Philip. Here, let me help you wipe that up.” I said, grabbing a crumpled rag off his desk. “Hey, I was about to change into that.” I held it up. It was a t-shirt from the National Organization of Women and on the front it said, ‘A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle’. “Oh sorry” I answered. He got a rag from an open cabinet and started mopping up the floor. “So what brings you here?” he asked. “The Billie Holiday,” I confessed. “No, I mean where are you supposed to be right now.” “Oh, well I ah, I had some spare time and ah….”
“I see. Listen, you made me spill my coffee, if you really want to help me, get over there and make me another cup.” “Oh sure,” I took his cup to the cabinet where he had gotten the rag and saw a little electric pot to heat water, and a jar of Nescafe instant. “There’s another cup in there if you want some,” he said. “Thanks. Where’s the cream and sugar,” I asked. “Now don’t get prissy with me, if you’re gonna drink coffee in here, you’re gonna drink it black.” “ok,” I said.
“So you like Billie Holiday?” “Yeah,” I answered, “But I’ve heard this record before, and she loses the guy in the next song.” He laughed as I pulled out a cigarette. “Hey, what do you think you’re doing,” he demanded. “Well?” I said, pointing to his that was burning away in an ashtray that had once been a tuna fish can in it’s former life. “You left the door open, fool. Close it first.”

We talked nonstop for the next half hour. I told him about gym class. He asked me what I was going to do during second period for the next eight and a half months. I allowed that I hadn’t thought that far yet, but I imagined I would go out to the woods where there was always a group of freaks getting high and spend it with them. He said that while he absolutely did not condone what I had done, rather than seeing me become a worthless pothead, I could come to his room everyday. It was his planning period, he had no students, it would be our secret, and I could help him with things. He told me that every year he directed the big spring musical and the farm pictures were research for this years production of “Oklahoma!”. He told me I could be in the play as a dancer and chorus member and that in this case my size would be an asset because he needed a little guy for the other dancers to throw around in the big production numbers. I said that I thought I could probably dance, but I knew I couldn’t sing. He said that most of the kids in it could sing but they couldn’t dance for shit and I would be providing balance. About that time the bell rang, and Charlie’s final instructions were, “Be good. Stop causing trouble, and come back tomorrow.”

I did and blessed mother of Billie Holiday, my life changed.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Muscato Made Me Do It -or- The Earl Carroll Theater. A History in Review.

One of my favorite daily visits is to Cafe Muscato and if you haven't been, it's a must. Well in a post today, the wonderful Muscato encouraged us to celebrate the 71st anniversary of the opening of The Earl Carroll Theater in Hollywood. The idea struck me as being such a fine one that I have put on my showgirl drag and have prepared a brief history for you.

Mr. Conductor, if you please....

Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny and W.C. Fields, posed in overalls, were photographed with shovels in hand, breaking ground for the construction to begin. The building, situated at 6230 Sunset Blvd (just east of Vine St.), was designed by architect Gordon B. Kauffman the exterior featuring a 20-foot high neon silhouette of Beryl Wallace, one of the Earl Carroll girls (later his devoted companion). Over the entrance doors it said: "Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world." The massive 80-foot wide stage was designed with a 60-foot wide double revolving turntable and revolving staircase, and rigged with three swings that could be lowered from the ceiling. Oops, I almost forgot the rain machine. Oh yeah and the timespan from ground breaking to opening night was a mind bending 75 DAYS!!!

The house would seat 1000 guests.

The interiors were done by Kauffman and The Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky.

It instantly became the playground of the famous with industry executives Darryl F. Zanuck and Walter Wanger sitting on the theater's board of governors.

All was wonderful until a 1948 United Airlines plane crash claimed the lives of both Carroll and
Beryl Wallace.

The place then operated through much of the 50's and very early 60's as The Moulin Rouge
Looks familiar don't it.

The place actually led a dual life during this era. By night, The Moulin Rouge, by day, the broadcast stage for the television show "Queen For A Day".
In January of 1966 Realtor Gary Bookasta and KRLA disc jockey Dave Hull reopened 6230 Sunset as Club Hullabaloo, to capitalize on the hit TV show of the same name.

The cover charge was a rather steep $1.50 considering you only had to be 15 to get in.

Shuttered again, the place underwent another quick-change when in 1968 scenic designer Michael Baugh and a team of workers did a 60 day transformation to ready it for the arrival of L.A.’s production of "Hair", this time naming it The Aquarius Theater.
During the 80's, and now owned by Pick-Vanoff, nine seasons of Star Search was filmed there.

Then in the late 90's (and continuing today) it became the production facility of the Nickelodeon Network

And while a children's network may not be my idea of an ideal trustee for such a legendary piece of property, I suppose I'm just grateful that it didn't get bulldozed for a mini mall in the 80's along with everywhere else.

I would also be derelict not to mention my utter amazement that given it's lickety-split construction, it's still standing at all. They really just don't build 'em like they used to!

I Learned The Truth At Seventeen

Your Host, Autumn, 1976

That pretty boys with Dorothy Hamill haircuts, got to go places and do things. Ah, how fleeting is youth?

On This Day In 1924...

...billed as Baby Frances (aged 2 1/2), Judy Garland made her stage debut.

Happy Birthday

Rosemary Woods

Who taught us that superior shorthand and typing speed was really only a partial list of skills required to be a top-notch secretary. A talent for holding a deep stretch yoga pose, known as the 'tricky dick', for oh, say about eighteen and a half minutes was essential.

Being a snappy dresser never hurts either.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

True North Pole Confessions

"Listen Jeffery, I don't care if they're listening, I don't care who hears me. I love you, do you hear, I Love You! And as soon as the old boy heads out tonight, we're busting out of this burg. We'll go to Hollywood, where no one knows us and we can be ourselves. Maybe we can even get into the movies. Oh darling, it'll all be so different there."

The Rim Shot Heard 'Round The World

Album Cover Art - Robert Crumb

In the summer of 1968 when I was turning 9 years old, we lived in Niagara Falls, NY. Musically speaking I was pretty much up and through the top 40. So when the album Cheap Thrills was released it didn't even cause a blip on my radar screen. However, in the bedroom next door, the one that contained my 14 year old brother Mike, a revolution was going on. It suddenly seemed to me that the conversations between my brother and his friends went something like, "blah blah Cheap Thrills, blah blah blah, Janis, blah, tits, blah blah blah, Cheap Thrills!"

Whether you like this band and this album or not, one thing can't be denied: It was a game changer. From the record jacket art to the mere 7 songs contained therein it announced brother Mike's, and others, revolution loud and clear. In no uncertain terms it said 'We're stoned, we trip, we're sex positive, we drink like effin fishes, We Are Psychedelic Rock, and if you wanna rock with us, cool'.

It was originally intended to be called "Sex, Dope and Cheap Thrills", Columbia Records was not cool with that.

I was the number one album of the year in Billboard. And it's biggest hit, "Piece Of My Heart" still enjoys airplay to this day. It's funny, but it's one of those songs that when you even just read the title, you can hear it in your head (Oh come on, come on, come on, come on and didn't I make you feel.....). Janis singin' that song like her life depended on it. Like she sang every song.

But before Janis even enters the picture you know what song it is. And you know because of that shredding, shrieking guitar intro by James Gurley. Three notes in and you're goin', "Oh, cool, Piece Of My Heart!", and your gettin' ready to go, "Oh Come On, Come On...".

James Gurley passed away on Sunday, two days short of his 70th birthday. Pretty great life span for one of the founders of Psychedelic Rock.

Thank you James.

Female. And How!

Ruth Chatterton was born on this date in 1893. She was a diamond of the Pre-Code era, just as sparkling, just as cold, just as hard. The type of character she perfected is evident by the titles of some of her films: Lady Of Scandal, Anybody's Woman, Unfaithful, Once A Lady and Female. Sort of a pissed off Kay Francis.

She will probably be most remembered for being in the original Madam X (1929) and her magnificent turn in the equally magnificent Dodsworth (1936).

In the above trailer for Female, in which she co-starred with then husband George Brent, there is a card that reads, "It takes a real man to handle this type of female".
Well apparently the film suffered from poor casting, as she and Brent were divorced the following year.

Happy Birthday Ruth!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On This Day....

...in 1930, Bette Davis arrived in Hollywood under contract to Universal Studios.

And nothing's been the same since.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Brother Gibb

Maurice Ernest Gibb
22 December 1949 – 12 January 2003

Know in some circles as the quite one, in others as the wildest one of the brothers, it can be said with surety, that he was the musicianship behind The Bee Gees. A multiple instrumentalist, the melodies, and arrangements were his job. Older brother Barry and twin brother Robin handled the lyrics and those trademark harmonies.

Below is one of my favorite Bee Gees songs. It also gets a little lost in the shuffle because of the stratospheric success of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack just after. This is 1975's "Fanny Be Tender". It's a gorgeous mid-tempo groover that has one of the best builds of the pop music era. Because of the way it builds, it seems to have more key changes than a Barry Manilow song when in fact there's really only a couple.

Barry also had a brief, but famous marriage to Lulu that lasted from 1969 to 1973.
Here is a really lovely duet by them from a 2002 Lulu TV special, just months before he passed away. There's such a lovely, easy affection between these two and a respect that's visible.

You can see that from his energy in both clips, the 'quiet one' tag was well earned. As for the 'wildest one', well I do know that in the last part of his life he was a long time member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and from what I understand, you don't earn a seat in that fellowship because you burned the toast one morning! I'm sure he earned the second moniker as well.

My favorite tidbit about this man is that, also in later years, he became a feverish enthusiast of the paintball sport. He even opened a shop to sell paintball supplies;
"Commander Mo's Paintball Shop" in Miami.

Ok, I can't help myself, as Lulu is one of my favs, I can't resist stitching on one of her songs while I'm at it. Sorry Mo, hope you don't mind, and Happy, Happy Birthday.

It's also my favorite version of this song. Yes, even more than Aretha's.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

These Three Kings - A Christmas Carl. Part 3

Today we celebrate Carl Van Vechten, June 17, 1880 – December 21, 1964, on the anniversary of his passing.


Though, in all fairness, I suppose one would have to say bisexual. He was married twice. For 5 years beginning in 1907, he was the husband of Anna Snyder, a childhood friend from Cedar Rapids. Then in 1914 he wed Russian born actress Fania Marinoff. They remained married for 50 years until his death. But a glance at the "self portrait" below, will tell you he wasn't the butchest thing on the planet!

Through all my research there is almost nothing that elaborates on the matter. Most sources simply say, "though married, an open homosexual." or "his personal papers were locked for 25 years following his death but when opened, letters and scrapbooks were found dealing with the matter". I did manage to find out, however, that he sat on the panel of judges for the gala drag balls hosted by the Savoy Ballroom. Now there's a fun job!

But really, the only research needed is ones eyes. When you look at the pictures, no matter their subject (authors, actors, dancers, or boys at the Harlem Public Swimming Pool) It's all there in black and white. And color.
Marlon Brando

Boy at pool






Truman Capote

So today on my official Carl Van Vechten Day we say Thanks! Now go put on a Bessie Smith record and mix up a pitcher of Sidecars!

These Three Kings - A Christmas Carl. Part 2

Today we celebrate Carl Van Vechten, June 17, 1880 – December 21, 1964, on the anniversary of his passing.

His next title is actually a three parter.
TITLE #2 - Photographer. Photo-Documentarian of the
International Modernist Crowd.

Champion of The Harlem Renaissance and it's Members.

After the death of his brother left him an inheritance of roughly six million dollars, he bought his first Leica 35mm camera in 1932. Chinese American actress (and Goddess) Anna May Wong was his first official sitting on April 20th of that year.

A small sampling of names that he would eventually shoot are: Judith Anderson, James Baldwin, Tallulah Bankhead, Jane Bowles, Marlon Brando, Erskine Caldwell, Truman Capote, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Ruby Dee, Ella Fitzgerald, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lynn Fontaine, Billie Holiday, Horst P. Horst, Mahalia Jackson, Frida Kalo, Sydney Lumet, Alfred Lunt, Norman Mailer, Somerset Maugham, Henry Miller, Georgia O'Keeffe, Lawrence Olivier, Diego Rivera, Cesar Romero, Beverly Sills, Gertrude Stein, James Stewart, Alfred Stieglitz, Bessie Smith, Gore Vidal and Orson Welles.
Billie Holiday and Mister

Harry Belafonte

Jane Bowles

Lady Day

Orson Welles

By 1924 Van Vechten became immersed in the Harlem Renaissance and in Harlem itself. Some of the members of this electric time of creativity were, novelist and NAACP co-founder James Weldon Johnson, nightclub propietrix Bricktop, novelist Zora Neale Hurston, and poets Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes. He interceded with Knopf on behalf of the latter so that the groundbreaking collection of Hughes's verse, The Weary Blues, appeared in print in 1926.

Beginning in 1925, he wrote a series of articles in Vanity Fair on blues singers like Bessie Smith and invested in a staging of African American spirituals performed by Paul Robeson.

At the very height of his career as an author he invited controversy with the release of his novel, "Nigger Heaven". The shocking (then as now) title had many critics from both races. The phrase nigger heaven had two meanings. Firstly, it was Harlem's nickname by it's own residents, and it was also the term used for the theater balconies where blacks were made to sit, even in their own neighborhood. But for all the detractors, there were equal in numbers of supporters. In an essay in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Bruce Kellner termed the novel "a deliberate attempt to educate Van Vechten's already large white reading public, the novel presents Harlem as a complex society fractured and united by individual and social groups of diverse interests, talents, and values." James Weldon Johnson stated in his review for Opportunity that Van Vechten "pays colored people the rare tribute of writing about them as people rather than puppets."
Zora Neale Hurston

The Weary Blues bookjacket


Smalls nightclub

Club Rendezvous

The Apollo Theater

Harlem Catholic Church

The Big Apple

Van Vechten's *sensitivity* to the arts and artists, both black and white was not merely intellectual.....

...Which will bring us to ...PART 3.