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Josephine Baker Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (5) | Trivia (19)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 3 June 1906St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Date of Death 12 April 1975Paris, France  (cerebral hemorrhage)
Birth NameFreda Josephine McDonald
Nicknames Black Venus
Tumpie
Black Pearl
Creole Goddess
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Josephine Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, MO, in 1906 to Carrie McDonald, a laundress, and Eddie Carson, a musician. Her early life hinted at her future career. She first danced for the public on the streets of St. Louis for nickels and dimes. Later she became a chorus girl on the St. Louis stage. At age 15 she married Pullman porter William Howard Baker, but left him when she ran away from St. Louis at age 17, feeling there was too much racial discrimination in the city. She eventually made her way to Paris, France. Her first job in Paris was in "La revue negre". Her next significant job was at the Folies Bergere, where she was a member of the club's all-black revue. It was there, in 1925, that she first performed her famous "banana dance". She quickly became a favorite of the French, and her fame grew, but she had many ups and downs during her career. Although popular in France, during the "Red Scare" era of the 1950s, instigated by ultra-right-wing US Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), she was falsely accused of being a Communist and informed that she was no longer welcome in the US (in 1937 she had renounced her American citizenship, utterly disgusted by the blatant and official racism against blacks, and became a French citizen).

In 1961 Josephine was awarded the Legion of Honor, France's highest award. In the late 1960s she began having financial difficulties, and stopped performing in 1968. Grace Kelly, who by that time had married Prince Rainier of Monaco and was now known as Princess Grace of Monaco, offered her a home in Monaco when she learned of Josephine's financial problems. At the request of Princess Grace, Josephine performed at Monaco's summer ball in 1974 and was a great success. That same year she staged a week of performances in New York City and called the show "An Evening with Josephine Baker". She had just begun a Paris revue celebrating her half-century on the stage when on April 10, 1975, she was stricken with a cerebral hemorrhage and went into a coma. She died without regaining consciousness. Her funeral was held in Paris, and she was buried in Monaco.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: A. Nonymous

Spouse (5)

Robert Brady (1973 - 12 April 1975) (her death)
Jo Bouillon (3 June 1947 - 1961) (divorced) (12 children)
Jean Lion (30 October 1937 - 1938) (divorced)
William Howard Baker (1920 - 1923) (divorced)
Count' Pepito di Abatino (? - ?)

Trivia (19)

Refused to perform in clubs that practiced racial segregation.
In 1928, her husband/manager 'Count' Pepito di Abatino dueled Andrew Czolovodi, a Hungarian cavalry officer, over Josephine in St. Stephen's cemetery in Budapest. The duel lasted only 10 minutes, ending when di Abatino was scratched by Czolovodi's blade.
During World War II, she worked as a spy for the French resistance.
Once had a rejected (and dejected) suitor kill himself at her feet.
She adopted 12 children, partly because she couldn't have any of her own and partly because she believed in equality for all, no matter what nationality, religion or race they were of. They were called "the Rainbow Children" and their names were: Aiko (Korea), Luis (Colombia), Janot (Japan), Jari (Finland), Jean-Claude (Canada), Moses (French), Marianne (France), Noel (France), Brahim (Arab), Mara (Venezuela), Koffi (the Ivory-Coast), Stellina (Morocco).
Inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame on May 20, 1990 and the Hall of Famous Missourians on March 29, 1995.
Janet Flanner, "New Yorker" correspondent said of her "Her magnificent dark body, a new model to the French, proved for the first time that black was beautiful."
Pablo Picasso said of her: "Tall, coffee skin, ebony eyes, legs of paradise, a smile to end all smiles.".
In 1995, had a song written about her by the band Fossil titled "Josephine Baker".
In 2003, another musical went on stage, in Belgium, called "Simenon et Josephine". It was a musical comedy related to the Maigret year of 2003 in Belgium.
Georges Simenon, the Belgian author of the famous "Inspector "Maigret" series of detective novels, had a short relationship with Josephine in 1925. However, he couldn't take the fact that she was more famous and in spotlight than he was, and that he had begun calling himself "Mr. Josephine", so he broke it off.
The Dutchman Henk van der Meyden composed and wrote a musical about her life called "Josephine", which had its premiere in 1991 at Luxor Theater, Rotterdam. Cheryl Howard played the role of Josephine. The musical contained five of her original, as well as new material.
Buried in the Cimetiere de Monaco in Monte Carlo.
She became a French citizen in 1937.
Had pet leopards that she would walk down the Champs-Elysees.
In 1951, the Stork Club in New York City refused to serve her because she was black. This led to a confrontation with columnist Walter Winchell. Later, during the McCarthy "Red Scare" period in the early 1950s, she was falsely accused of being a Communist sympathizer, and the FBI started a file on her.
In a "Wayne's World" skit on Saturday Night Live (1975), she was ranked #8 in Wayne's Top 10 Babes of All Time.
Pictured in a poster for the film Princesse Tam-Tam (1935) on a 42¢ USA commemorative postage stamp celebrating Vintage Black Cinema, issued 16 July 2008.
In 1959, she sang at the Olympia the French songs "Paris mes Amours" and "Avec" which were written by Henri Betti, Bruno Coquatrix (music) and André Hornez (lyrics).

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