It's the birthday of the "First Lady of Song," Ella Fitzgerald, born in Newport News, Virginia in 1918. When she was sixteen she entered a contest at the Apollo Theater, at that time no more than a hip local club in Harlem. She had a dance routine worked out and walked on stage wearing ragged clothes and men's boots, but she froze up. Later she said, "I got out there and I saw all the people and I just lost my nerve. And the man said, 'Well, you're out here, do something!' So I tried to sing." She sang a popular song called "Judy" and got such an ovation that she went on to sing "The Object of My Affection." Soon after, she joined Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington as the only performers who could draw audiences at the Apollo from south of 125th Street.
Marilyn Monroe was one of Ella's biggest fans. Fitzgerald said, "I owe Marilyn a real debt. It was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the '50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again."
Friday, April 25, 2008
Ella and Marilyn
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