Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Birthday Diva: Black Beauty

She turns up in the damnedest places...

...in the Albertina Museum in Vienna, for example, in a drawing by Paul Klee of all people.  It's perhaps the least characteristic Klee I can imagine, and while it bears the title "Negride Schonheit," I think it's pretty clear that it's today's birthday girl, the inimitable Miss Josephine Baker.

She stopped me dead in the gallery last March, her glance as insinuating in Klee's simple black lines as it likely was from the stage of La Revue nègre in 1925.

Photographically, around the same time, she was looking a great deal more sophisticated...

... to the point that here she seems to be auditioning for the role of Sally Bowles, forty years or so too early.  Talk about your divine decadence...

As for me, I'm terribly fond of her later looks - as here, for example, where what she may have lost in gamine freshness, she's certainly more than made up in Total Goddess Attitude.

And she's 108 today, doubtless raising a little hell to mark the occasion, don't you think?


  1. When you're next in NYC, be sure to dine at Chez Josephine. It's owned and operated by one of her many adopted children, Jean-Claude Baker. He's a lovely man and his restaurant is delightful. About 10 years ago, maybe more, I was having dinner there and Jean-Claude stopped everything to introduce his guest for the evening... Fayard Nicholas. That was an unforgettable brush with greatness. Chez Josephine can't deliver like that every night, but it delivers. If you like Jean-Claude's mother, you'll like his restaurant, too.

  2. I've always preferred her later look too. It's the look she seemed meant to have, you know?

  3. I second the comment from George W. Tush. Jean-Claude is a lovely man and the restaurant is a treat.

  4. Chez Josephine! A Manhattan treasure. When it first opened, Jean-Claude regularly featured performers of his mother's era - not stars of the Nicholases' stature, but some of the former Cotton Club and other showgirls, that sort of thing. There was one dear lady in a vast silver wig who sang on weekends who was almost Marie-Blakish in her splendor...

  5. You sly man, bringing in Sally Bowles like that!

    I had the distinct pleasure of seeing her on one of her last tours, in a theatre in Southern California. Even in age, she was a riveting figure on the stage, and although it was one of those "and then I sang" shows, you didn't get the feeling she was sad at all, just sharing her life and singing another song in a show-stopper gown and headdress. Pink, with a ruffled tail/train and rhinestones all over the place, plus feathers on the headdress. Her entrance was spectacular but you completely lost sight of the costume when she opened her mouth.