Audio Stories


TALENTED, BLACK, AND BLUE

LeRoy Meyers: There was a lot of prejudice among the big white stars towards black acts, you know. You name them, you know. Because once the acts - the black acts started getting big like, for instance, Buck and Bubbles. They were in the Ziegfield Follies and onto the stars - not calling no names. They didn't want them on the bill, you know. They said, you know bad things about blacks, you know, insinuations. And Bubbles and them went out there and stopped the show and Nat Nazarro wouldn't let them go back to take a bow. And he stopped the show for about 10 minutes. Wouldn't go back on. That Nat Nazarro was their was their - was their manager. They starred in the Ziegfield Follies. But once they got there, you know they took care of business, you know. So they just kept them at a minimum and they want you to do just do a hot tap dance and get off, you know. Get the show off to a rousing start.

June Cross:It must have been really frustrating for you guys as performers to try to - Knowing you're as talented as anybody else out there and yet you can't quite get over the -

LM: It never - It never came face - We knew what the situation was and hey, we just went along with it, you know. It didn't disturb us - I mean, rob us from still performing, you know. We knew that our chances were lousy but we just hoped that eventually one day that you'd get a decent break.

Buster Brown: We (blacks and whites) couldn't be on stage together sometimes. A lot of times, on stage together, when you were on stage you couldn't touch.....

JC: Did you all-did you all ever sit down and talk about this stuff or is it just...

BB: Oh, we'd talk about things happening. We used to sit around the clubhouse, you know, and talk and discuss, you know. But it was -Hardly anything there was to do about it at the time but like - we used to tell mostly of us. You know, if you get on a job. Leaving good for the next black act, you know. Leaving good. Don't do anything now that - Just try to be ladies and gentlemen. You know.

JC: So when we look at performers today, are there people that you can look at and say, "Yes, Stump used to do some for that"? Or, you know, you can see the influence -

BB: Yeah, every time I see Jerry Lewis. I say, "That's Stump." Because that was him.

JC: What's the difference between borrowing somebody and just - and stealing it?

BB: Well, when you used to borrow something, then you used to do it your way. You'd see something that you liked and you wouldn't just go and do it the way they did it. You'd put your own little ideas into it and then come across with a different -

JC: Act. Take it and make it your own.

BB: Yeah. Make it your own.

JC: And when you do it exactly the way somebody else does, that's stealing?

BB: Exactly. That's stealing.

Lois tells a story of how one time Stump and Stumpy's manager, Nat Nazarro, got so frustrated with Martin and Lewis that he called them on it one time in the middle of the show

Lois Badsen: I understand that at one time they were at - whether it was the Paramount - it wasn't the Palace I think it might have been the Paramount when Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis came on stage and they were doing Stump and Stumpy, and Nat Nazarro came down the center aisle from the back, "You've stolen my act!" You know. And went through the whole big thing and its a story that told many times over in black show business. But those people that were there and that remember, know that Jerry Lewis indeed is very deeply indebted to James Cross.

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