May 31, 2009
June 3rd marks the birthday of dancer extraordinaire and cultural phenom, Josephine Baker. Born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Missouri in 1906, Josephine rose to fame in the 1920s primarily in France. As an entertainer, actress, and dancer, she split her early career years between New York City, where she performed at the legendary Cotton Club and Paris, where she hit the stage for Folies Bergere. This production is where Josephine’s memorable banana skirt and “suggestive” dancing style became all the rave.
She also appeared in a series of European films including the silent piece Siren of the Tropics, ZouZou, and Princess Tam Tam. It is said that Josephine was a muse for such artistic greats as Langston Hughes, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and Christian Dior. In the late 1930s Josephine became a French citizen and later an activist for racial equality in the United States. Josephine is equally famous for her “Rainbow Tribe” family where she adopted and raised several children of various nationalities. She died in 1975 from a brain hemorrhage.
May 27, 2009
Today would have been the 38th birthday of stand-out rapper/singer Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes. Born in Philadelphia, Lisa was one third of the flamboyant pop/R&B girl group TLC which also consisted of members T-Boz and Chili. Throughout the 90’s and into the early 2000s, TLC experienced severe ups and downs. From Left-Eye’s arson of then boyfriend Andre Rison’s home, to the group filing bankruptcy to ultimately returning to the top of the charts, the girls had more than a dozen hits from their multi-platinum albums Oooooooh On the TLC Tip (1992), Crazy, Sexy, Cool (1994), Fanmail (1999), 3D (2002). Sadly, on April 25th, 2002, Left-Eye was killed in a car accident while on a retreat in Honduras.
May 5, 2009
Mrs. Johnson was born in 1914 in NC, and moved to New York City in 1938, where she found work as a waitress in a club owned by singer/actress Ethel Waters. In 1948 she met and married Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson, the legendary Harlem gangster who was depicted in the movies “The Cotton Club,” “Hoodlum,” and “American Gangster.”
I was stunned, but I kept my composure. I said simply, “Is that right?”
He said, “Yes, that’s right,” and kept on driving.
We were married in a civil ceremony just two weeks later.”
She remained married to Bumpy until his death of a heart attack in 1968, though he was incarcerated at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary for ten years of their marriage.
Mrs. Johnson was a long-time member of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Harlem, and was known for her charitable and volunteer activities.
“Mayme was a class act, and had a big heart,” said Henry “Perk” Perkins, a Harlem restaurateur who was a close friend of both Bumpy and Mrs. Johnson. “She was the sweetest woman in the world, but she didn’t take any nonsense. She carried herself like a real lady and expected to be treated as such.”
In 2004, Mrs. Johnson moved to Philadelphia, and three years later decided to finally write a biography about her husband, so that “people could know the truth about him rather than all the myths.” Harlem Godfather was published in February 2008. More than 200 people attended the book launch party held in Harlem.
“Yeah, she was tickled pink to tell people she was an author at age 93,” Perkins said with a laugh. “Boy, it really made her proud to finally get that book done.”
Mrs. Johnson was notified two days before her death that a film production company was negotiating to purchase a book option for Harlem Godfather.
May 3, 2009
Audrey Hepburn was born in Belgium on May 4, 1929. This amazing woman went on to become an Oscar, Tony, Grammy and Emmy award winning actress, starring in more than 25 films, including the classic and priceless gem that is: Breakfast at Tiffanys, before passing away in 1993. Her spirit lives on through her life’s work with UNICEF.
April 19, 2009
Jill of all trades, Carmen Electra celebrates her birthday on April 20. The former host of MTV’s “Singled Out,” model, “BayWatch” television actress, and funny film siren was born in Ohio and originally named Tara Leigh Patrick.
When she moved to Los Angeles in the mid-90s, Carmen was convinced by Prince (yes, the Purple One) to change her name to Carmen Electra as part of her new singing career persona. While the singing was short lived, Carmen persevered, landing several gigs ont he small screen. Of course, her numerous photo spreads in Playboy magazine have served the lady well - resulting in more high profile work. Carmen also lists Scary Movie, Scary Movie 4, and Starksy & Hutch on her film resume.
April 15, 2009
Supermodel with the dashing smile Alek Wek celebrates her birthday April 16. The Sudanese model broke onto the scene in 1995 aiding in changing the face of fashion.
She was signed to Ford Models in 1996 after being discovered in London. In 1997, she was named MTV model of the year after appearing in Janet Jackson’s “Got Till It’s Gone” video. She has served as a Victoria Secret and Moschino model and walk the runways for Donna Karan,Calvin Klein, and John Galliano.
April 13, 2009
Happy Birthday is due to young actress Abigail Breslin who celebrates her born day on April 14. The Academy Award nominated actress is best known for her break out performance in the widely acclaimed comedy Little Miss Sunshine (2006). Following that box office blockbuster, Abigail went on to star in No Reservations, Definitely, Maybe, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. She is currently in production for Dear Eleanor and Zombieland.
April 6, 2009
Great American jazz singer Billie Holiday was born on April 7, 1915. One of the most amazing singers ever, Billie, affectionately known as Lady Day, was a pioneering force in the music scene. Born in Philadelphia, Billie later moved to New York City where she experienced an extremely traumatic childhood.
In the early 1930s Billie started singing in Harlem. By the end of that decade, Billie had begun to sing professionally, signed to Columbia Records. It was at that time that she recorded the classic tune “Strange Fruit”. In the 40s Billie went to jail behind a narcotics charge, was released early, and then performed at Carnegie Hall at a comeback concert. Sadly, Ms. Holiday went through a period of drug addiction and abuse in the 40s and 50s.
In July of 1959 Billie Holiday died of liver complications in New York City. She left behind a catalogue of music consisting of more than a half a dozen studio albums, half a dozen live albums, and several posthumously awarded Grammy Hall of Fame Awards.
March 30, 2009
Puerto Rico born actress and model Roselyn Sanchez celebrates her birthday on April 2. Roselyn moved to New York City at 21 to pursue a career in acting. By 2001, she had scored the role as Jackie Chan’s love interest in Rush Hour 2.
As a silver screen star, her name is found on the credits of movies Boat Trip, Chasing Papi, Underclassman, and The Perfect Sleep. Roselyn was also a regular on the TV show “Without A Trace” and even starred as the sexy undercover agent in the Fabolous and Ne-Yo video for “Make Me Better”.
March 24, 2009
A lot of baby making was going on nine months before March 25th… And who knew so many culturally significant women would be born on that day. Grab your cake and sorbet because the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin celebrates her day. The Barack Obama inauguration singer and legendary vocalist has won 20 Grammys, had 20 #1 singles, and is noted as RollingStone Magazine’s best singer of all time.
Also blowing out candles on March 25 is Sarah Jessica Parker. The stand-out star of Sex & The City has won four Golden Globes, two SAG Awards and two Emmys. Sarah was born in Ohio, but moved to New York in her early years to develop her career as a child actor. SJP has also worn hats as a producer, fashion designer, and perfumiere.
Lark Voorhies otherwise known as Lisa Turtle from her long run on “Saved By The Bell” celebrates her birthday on this bright day in March. The actor was born in Tennessee but grew up in California. After great success as a child star, she embarked on a music career becoming a part of the group Third Degree. Lark is currently working on her own solo album.
Fast and furious switch hitter Danica Patrick also falls into the March 25 birth date category. The American auto race driver was born in Wisconsin, but raised in Illinois. She was named Rookie of the Year in 2005, before making history in 2008 when she became the first woman to win the Indy Japan 300.