Speaker Sure. Could you tell me about the first time I heard you sing first on record? Of course, and I believe RCA Victor had recorded eight or 10 songs. They labeled they call them albums. Back in those days, they were all singles, 78. And she recorded some songs under the label of Songs of the Heart. There were standards like more than, you know, the man I love, songs like that. And I was swept away, of course, by her voice. Well, it was very sweet voice, and I was impressed with the fact that she understood what she was singing about, it was it put her in a class apart from the singers, from black singers I’d heard up to that time. I think that pop singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday were in another category all together, but this was something quite different. Ethel Waters before her, it had magnificent diction and, of course, wonderful understanding of her lyrics. But this was quite, quite something special. About Ethel Waters, I believe Ethel Waters was known for her wonderful diction and also her understanding of songs, dramatic quality and worth, but even then I had something quite different from that. It was a wonderful freshness about her. I saw Lena Horne the first time in Los Angeles around 1943, the war was on and we were all backstage at a theater out there called the Lincoln Theater, a black vaudeville house there to put on a big show to sell war bonds, of all things. Lena came backstage with her pianist, Fillmore. We were all very nervous and she was very nervous because I think a singer’s best friend is her accompanist. And whenever a film was out of her sight, she was very, very nervous about that.

Speaker We just ask this because once we went to the with the.

Speaker Little truck was opened by a man named, I believe, Felix Young. It was very far out on the Sunset Strip, which was kind of Los Angeles County as opposed to Los Angeles proper. And you found the big nightclubs like Mocambo, the Clover Club and Serros along the strip. Then far out on the strip was a lovely little modern building called the Little Trocadero, as opposed to the main big Trocadero. No, I did not see her perform in a nightclub until much, much later I met Lena Horne at and got to know her at the CAFE gala around 1948 49, the place where I worked for three or four years in Southern California. She came there often with Lenny, her husband, and a great crowd of people from MGM, part of the Friede unit, people like Conrad Sallinger and Roger Edens and so forth.

Speaker What we I.

Speaker Very relaxed, she seemed to be extremely happy and of course, she was utterly beautiful and enchanting to be around because she was so enthusiastic and so bubbling all the time. And we’d often take over the two panels at the end of the evening and perform together, not only play one piano, I played the other piano and lead in the middle trying out new material, just having a good time. We’d often go back to their house after the last show and have a drink or something to eat during that period.

Speaker I got to meet her young daughter Gail, who was going to school, I think, in the east at the Quakers school, and she was home for vacations.

Speaker She was shy. We’d wake her up at 1:00 in the morning, of course, and she would be sleepy and but very sweet.

Speaker You were telling me about a beautiful number that we had had one of those things when we went to.

Speaker Well, Nina was always on the lookout, as most performers are, for new material, and Billie Holiday had just recorded Good Morning Heartache, which is a wonderful song. And, you know, I think was was playing around with it. And one evening that he and I were performing at the gala together with Lena and she was learning Good Morning Heartache. I remember that her dramatic take on the last line, Good morning heartache, sit down was with great, great vigor to the good morning heartache. Sit down like that. Delivery will later Hornes overall blend or combination of qualities is interesting, it was a splendid mixture of of, first of all, her talent and then her intelligence and her taste and her energy, because even standing still, a performer has to exhibit energy of some kind. And of course, of course, her staggering beauty made it all work very, very well. Lina was different for her time because she chose to sing standards and she sang many songs by people I call the golden composers of American popular song, Cole Porter, for instance, Richard Rodgers and Irving Berlin and Duke Ellington and Jerome Kern. People like that wrote the songs that are still in our repertoire around the country. And Lena sang those songs and sang them splendidly.

Speaker That’s not what you’re telling me, that, you know, what does it mean for syntheses? I think it means in this case that. And just say, yes, what I need to say, actually, Lina.

Speaker Yes. Allena never believed in holding back or in cheating the audience was everything for her when she performed in cabarets and she sang out to the audience. I mean, she didn’t hold back. She didn’t hide behind a blue spotlight or a sensitive microphone. She sang out as though she had to sing out. And of course, she did have to sing out. She sang from this moment on like that. She did not hide behind a timid note, you see. You seeing in the film, of course, we all rushed to see that, and I remember seeing her first on camera in the sky, I had had a drink with Vincent Minnelli, who directed the film before the film came out. And he was so excited about Lena Horne. He had done wonderful Broadway shows. Of course, it was lured to Hollywood to do films. And he said and Lena Horne is so wonderful that he said, you know, she’s strolling down the street going to visit Eddie Rochester’s house to tempt him because she was an agent of the devil, of course. And she stops because in the front of the house is a huge oleander, bush and oleander or something like that hibiscus bush. And he said at the last moment, I thought, would it be great if Lena stopped in front of the house, saw the hibiscus bush, picked a flower and put it behind her ear just to make him more seducer. And of course, I suppose that’s just what happened in the film.

Speaker I think the black community was overjoyed because he was a young, fresh, beautiful black woman who was talented and was kind of the Hollywood ideal.

Speaker Had there been anybody before, any black female star?

Speaker Well, you must think about people like speaking about women of color who were on the screen back in those days, you have to remember that Freddie Washington made a mark with a film called Imitation of Life, and she made the mark because she did not play a typical black woman’s role. She was a black woman passing for white. Then we had the beautiful McKinney, who made a lot of films with Paul Robeson and other people, was quite lovely. And from time to time, young Dorothy Dandridge appeared on the screen, but she was always a maid until her final breakthrough. So was not the first, but she was one of the first to come out with a determination not to be a typical black woman playing the maid on the screen.

Speaker And Hazel Scott, of course, made films, I recall a film once with Hazel Scott Ilina together they sang a song about. And in the end, Hazel jumped up and apparently pushed the wall down. It’s very funny film. Hazel was a beauty, of course, and they both had beginnings of Barney Josephson’s Cafe Society downtown and Balnaves or whatever else it was, had a kind of notion about preserving black performers. He gave them dignity and style and a kind of glamour that they hadn’t they hadn’t known before in nightclubs around the country.

Speaker I was there once, I believe in the nineteen forties, I went down to Cafe Society downtown and I’m thinking there was a girl, Julie Wilson was there, and this is a funny story about Lena before it became really and truly when she reached the pinnacle of Cabaret performing in this country.

Speaker There were many, many young girls around the country who turned themselves after her. They got slick hairdos and pretty dresses and even learned her songs. And at one point, this could this could be an apocryphal story. But I think it’s true because dailiness humor, it’s probably true. Somebody approached me and said, Linda, what are you going to do about all these girls out in the country who are copying your style, wearing your clothes in your songs? She said, yeah, but none of them at all know what I’m thinking when I’m doing it. See, which is just like her.

Speaker I mean, today, Lena Horne, of course, is no longer a debutante, and I find her a very, very quiet, peaceful person, there could be a tiger inside, but I’m sure there is a tiger inside somewhere. But she controls that tiger. I find it to be very, very sensitive and a very profound kind of person. That’s hard to to juxtapose with the person that she personified on the nightclub floor back in the 1940s and 50s, where she was all dynamite and entirely the tigress.

Speaker Could you tell me after this stuff is.

Speaker Oh, quite, quite.

Speaker Cafe Society was opened downtown by principle, I suppose, Barney Josephson, and it was a man of very, very liberal ideas politically and it was opened.

Speaker Thank you so much, sir.

Speaker I believe Cafe Society was open in the early 1940s, was opened by principally a man named Barney Josephson, and it was in response to the discrimination practiced uptown in New York in such nightclubs. It was kind of a spoof. It was invented. It was an invented notion to to to to play off the snobbery of Uptown Cafe Society uptown, meaning the middle 50s and so forth. Barney was a man of extremely liberal political notions. I think he took great pride in welcoming an integrated crowd and then presenting a lot of black performers in an elegant and dignified fashion. Lena Horne performed there. Hazel Scott began there. I recall that Napoleon read an opera singer performed there and many other performers who would who came and went and had their beginnings down at Cafe Society. I believe Billie Holiday sat there one time.

Speaker How you wanted it?

Speaker How would you classify?

Speaker Well, I was reading Gail’s book a few days ago and and Gail’s book states that Barney Josephson was one of the persons who said to her that she must always sing standards. And I think that was perhaps his notion in terms of setting her apart from the other black singers around the country at that time. Or we had Ella Fitzgerald, of course, who set the standards and we had Billie Holiday. But Lena was going to be something else. She was going to be a great nightclub chanteuse in the style of, shall we say, Libbey, Holleman or performers of that of that ilk in that they had stature who were great stars around America back in those days.

Speaker Lina sang for a while with Charlie Barnetts orchestra, and out of that came one stunning recording of a lovely song called It’s a Haunted Town. Those records, of course, were reissued once Lena hit her stride in the business. And then, of course, she recorded for a while with Fillmore and the Fillmore for for Victor.

Speaker A song called I Was a Little Doggie, I remember that very well, and also a song by Uncle Strayhorn called Squeeze Me, but please don’t tease Me.

Speaker A very special relationship with Billy Strayhorn, what was Billy?

Speaker Well, I didn’t know Billy as well as I would like to have known him, I was the kid in the block and performers have an interesting way of of not putting up with babies. And I was a baby for a long time. And so I was never allowed into Billy’s crowd, like, I’d like to be allowed. But he was a very sweet man and utterly sensitive and devoted to Luna and possessed of profound musicality. He he loved what he did. And he was crazy about Duke Ellington, of course, and helped to revive the band back in the 1940s. Well, I think it’s daunting, first of all, it’s difficult to play, difficult to to.

Speaker Yes, it’s Billy Strayhorn music in jazz was completely innovative at the time, it was not easy. I mean, things like Chelsea Bridge and even take the train, which came out in my hometown as take the train.

Speaker We’re innovative and teaching, of course, in their innovation. And it was at the same time capable of writing very sweet songs like Something to Live For and of course, the monumental Lush Life. These are not easy songs to sing because it was a great musician and explored areas that jazz musicians hadn’t explored before.

Speaker What is it? What is the what what is what is the.

Speaker I think of all the venues for performing the performing in cabaret and nightclubs is the hardest, and during this time it was it was really, really quite difficult because you must think about how important Cabaret is and nightclubs were back in those days. I mean, it was possible to have a whole career in Cabaret, in nightclubs because there were cabarets of nightclubs of great, great stature all the way across the country and out of the country as well across Europe. And to go out twice a night back in those days, six nights a week, and to give your all to a sophisticated, demanding, very often half drunken audience with egos of their own was a very, very difficult task, is a very difficult task.

Speaker I don’t think today’s so-called cabaret compares at all with what used to be cabaret nightlife in America. Lina came to the CAFE gala very, very often and we talked about all kinds of conditions, I think that she’s been a very open person for as long as I’ve known her. And one evening she came by because they’re about to film Showboat again in Hollywood. And she told me how broken hearted she was. She said that the head of the unit, Mr. Freed, had gone to the head of the studio and I begged him to use Lena as Julie the octoroon or whatever, and she’d been had been refused. And the whole thing was based upon the fear that the film would not make its growth in the southern states, where very often even her report in the films was cut out. She was quite disappointed, I think, in that. And I was delighted to see that she rushed backstage opening night of Showboat here in New York on the stage to congratulate the young woman who played the role so successfully. I don’t think there was any kind of I was never aware of any kind of animosity. I think that people who were privileged to meet Lena fell in love with her. I think there were unspoken untold rules of the studio because it’s very plain her role in Hollywood was so limited, so boxed in. I’m sure she signed on at MGM hoping to create a place for herself in films and as other starlets did. This did not happen in her case for very obvious reasons. I think that she was treated very well in Hollywood by people around her, her colleagues. They loved her. She was adorable and sweet and intelligent and devoted to her craft.

Speaker And I think that, of course, she was beautiful, which helps a great deal in Hollywood. I think that she, on the whole, was treated very nicely. When you talk about Hollywood itself and of course, the people who control the studios or something quite different.

Speaker They were bin Laden arrived in Hollywood, there was a thing called glamour that’s no longer present. I mean, think of the big stars of the time. They are the gardeners and the Lana Turner. And you had Dietrich from time to time making a film and women like Joan Crawford.

Speaker This was glamour and Lina was glamour. When I first saw Lena Horne at the CAFE gala one night, I couldn’t speak to her. I was so bowled over because she was positively dazzling. She was so beautiful and so well done up, pulled together, dressed beautifully. And she was glamour and stars who were glamorous, exuded glamour. And you were afraid to approach them because they were so glamorous. You mind your manners and you watched what you said because they were like goddesses. They really, truly were. It’s not the way it is today where the star next to is the girl next door who’s been out mowing the lawn all morning long or driving the truck in those days. Clumber was a very, very special kind of quality.

Speaker Well, I think she was shy. I think that the fact that I’m a performer helped to break down a few barriers between us and our musical, of course, and I sing and and. I’ve always respected her and I’ve put on a good face for her, and I think she responds to that.

Speaker And we have a lot of things in common, I know her children knew her son. And we’ve a lot of the same political views and lots and lots of friends in common. It’s only natural that we’re friends, I think. Well, I think we believe in right and wrong, and we both have similar stands on civil rights issues and women’s issues and so forth and children’s issues.

Speaker Did it make a difference?

Speaker I think that Leanna’s participation in the civil rights movement is something that only she could talk about making not only stand back and with somewhat mixed emotions, we were delighted that somebody so famous and so well known as Lena Horne was out carrying the banner in such an active fashion. But on the other hand, speaking realistically, mixing politics with show business has never paid off awfully well. And there was alarm in the black community. I think we were proud of Lena, but at the same time, we had the gut feeling that that perhaps it wasn’t the right thing for any of us.

Speaker Did you ever have. But I didn’t hear you very.

Speaker No, I was never involved in politics at all in an active way in California. I was certainly aware of the purge going on and the dangers, but I was never political enough to be even considered for a thing like that. You know, I never there were a number of performers in California who were, I’m sure, listed in red channels and who were being eyed suspiciously from time to time. I knew people like that around California. It’s a very eerie and strange kind of time to be in the middle of show business and and show people and to have politics by such a large part. I was bowled over, I thought that the lady in her music was almost a new Lenar for years, llena mesmerized nightclub audiences. I never said a word to them.

Speaker I remember going to the world of in 1956 and she sang a group of Cole Porter songs and she dared to break the silence by singing Now for Some for the more surprising songs by Cole Porter. Well, that was like reading a whole chapter of a book because she never said a word. And suddenly in the middle of of this, there’s one woman show she became this this different person. It’s as though she had channeled all of her rage and channeled all of her innermost thoughts and anxieties for this chance to be on the stage.

Speaker And and and. Let them all go. I have never before been so moved by. I had admired her for years, but she was. But she had gone into the depths of her soul for much of that performance. And she reached her audience because she did that. One of the songs you said was a song by Jacques Brel, I believe, a French song, and.

Speaker Yesterday when I was young and it. As Aznavour, of course, in the show, she sang a Charles Darwin of a song called Yesterday When I Was Young, well, she brought such dramatic impact to it that you couldn’t help but think, what did Lena Horne have done with her life, with her career? Had she been able to bring this sort of thing out 20 years earlier, 25 years earlier? It was brilliant.

Speaker I think life itself, she’s a sensitive person and she’s very perceptive, Lena Horne, and I think that she’s had a very dramatic life, lots of gains, lots of losses. I don’t think dealing with her son’s death was very easy for her. I think being black, being a woman, these were difficult things for her to surmount. And I think that all of us at one point in our lives have to sit back and review of what’s gone on before us. And Lina was a she became 17 during that show, I believe. And of course, it’s a time to reflect upon what you’ve done, where you’ve been, where you’re going, what’s in store for you, why you did the things that you did, the friends around you and so forth. The is almost like a catharsis of sorts for her.

Speaker When you perform in person in a nightclub scene situation.

Speaker It is very, very, very, very demanding. It requires enormous discipline on your part to begin with and there is no stopping tape and doing it over again. You’ve got to go out there prepared to do it. Then I said that one night she was standing in the kitchen, as performers always do, to go on the nightclub floor, all set to go on and her dressed makeup. And a lady came by and threw up all over her dress. And I said, What did you do? And she said, I got a napkin. And that brushed it off. And the band played and I went out and did my show. That’s only part of the obstacle that one faces when one works in person in a nightclub situation like that. What if there’s a drunk person in the front row or in the case of later being an attractive woman? What if there’s somebody else out there who made all kinds of obscene remarks to her or exposed himself as can happen at a nightclub very easily? It’s very, very daunting. And I think that the the age old plight of women in nightclubs is not a pretty thing to contemplate. Women in show business particularly, are all together.

Speaker Think about Ruth Etting, who just one day gave it up. Think about Doris Day lately. I think about Helen Morgan, think about Ethel Waters. Think about Pearl Bailey trying to hold it all together, trying to be married, trying to have a man and go out and do the two shows a night and travel across the country, keep the kids in school, preserve the image, stay young and keep the talent together. It’s not easy. And to go out every night and give your very soul you’re a very, very loyal to the audience. It’s tough for a man to. But my my sympathy lies with the women who really go out there and do it. They have a tough road.

Speaker Well, he was marvelous, he looked just like his mother. So it was Teddy Hornless was marvelous. He was a bright, bright boy and he looked just like his mother. So he wasn’t bad looking, believe me, and a very amiable, very, very genial kind of fellow and and bright.

Speaker When Teddy died, I wrote a note and she described him as a young warrior. And of course, he was a young warrior. I’ve watched Gayle grow up and she’s now a grandmother and she’s charming and she’s also fiercely bright. And we are in touch from time to time with lots and lots of friends around town in common when. I didn’t know a thing about those days in an intimate fashion, that is, I know that she had Galette with her every chance she got and Gail was going to a Quaker school, I believe, in the east. I never knew much about Teddy’s grape. Growing through Gail’s book, I read that he was back and forth between his father and his mother, which is difficult but not unusual in show business.

Speaker Well, I was crazy, of course, about I love many songs in her song, and I admire the way she took such meticulous care with the songs that she sang. It was as though she had the composer in her hands and she was careful not to to to harm the composer’s soul. And she’s always taken splendid care of the songs she’s chosen to sing, many things she’s done and have made me very, very happy. I thought Horded Tom was a wonderful recording. Of course, I was crazy about the Osterhaus song and I loved her when she sang a song called Take It Slow drove from Jamaica, but she sang some lovely things. She recorded and I like Wildwood some years ago called Is It Always Like This?

Speaker Which was wonderful.

Speaker Of course, I said, of course I saw Jamaica. I thought I think in the first week and I was delighted with it. I was I was delighted with the fact that that The New York Times reviewer said, I can’t even bother myself to talk about the direction or the costumes. And then sort of that is if Mishaal is so beautiful and so stunning that it doesn’t matter about anything else at all. Please rush to see the show.

Speaker What did you think of the show there, there were a lot of fights about how might the Four Corners and get moving this part more?

Speaker Well, think about the plethora of Broadway musicals back in those days, there were so many musicals being martyred every single season, I missed that kind of that kind of rush, rush, rush. But book shows were not often terribly weighty. I’m sure the idea of Jamaica came about because there was pretty Lena Horne who wanted to do a Broadway show, because even then she wanted to change her image a tiny bit to see and do something different from, as she put it, sing about my man’s gone on a nightclub floor. And so they put together a little show for her. Sammy Davis Jr. performed at a show called Mr. Wonderful, which had a very, very slight book. So it just didn’t matter. Back in those days, you got some good songs, some good scenery and a big glittering star and some costumes and the way you went.

Speaker So this is special.

Speaker It was a, first of all, a brilliant song written by Harold Arlen for the for the show. He was a great Body of Leaders Summit songs about the Cotton Club. And also she sang a song called Coconut Sweet, which was wonderful, sweet song. I sang that myself for a while.

Speaker It was coconut sweet honey, do you knew that? And Apple and Sherry and Ed Berry. That’s you. Very sweet song.

Speaker Wonderful cast. Well, the cast, but it was interesting because outside of Ricardo Montalban, who was Mexican, the cast had a lot of really wonderful black performers in it. And interestingly, they brought Adelaide Hall, who been a Cotton Club star from London, to portray Nina’s mother, which was very, I thought wonderful and Josephine baseman’s in the show.

Speaker And Josephine was kind of a second lead under Lena. Josephine was marvelous, of course, in the show, and we’re old buddies, and she just kind of just a good girlfriend down in Jamaica, of course, and they paddled around and sang a song together, I believe, called The Truth.

Speaker Oh, I never saw that that was used in the MGM film called That’s Entertainment, wasn’t it? I didn’t see a bubble bath in it all, but that scene was part of vincible direction. And I’m sure that Vincent Minnelli and his admiration for Lena was rebuffed over and over again because he kept taking these wonderful chances in the name of art and was being told by the studio head that, no, no, no, no, no, we can’t have this.

Speaker I was living in California, but Leonard made her first impact to give up to do Cabin in the Sky and many of my friends were black performers out there. I remember Mantan Moreland and I’ll tell you, when this began in earnest, began with stormy weather and the fact that they were going to cast Lena Horne opposite Bill Robinson. And there was a lot of a lot of objection to that. They thought Bill Robinson’s an old man and he shouldn’t be cast opposite Lena Horne, who is young and pretty.

Speaker And this caused a great, great deal of discussion in the black Hollywood community because the old black actors were all, of course, standing by Bill Robinson. And one heard things as stupid as well. All these performers from back East, they can’t act things like that. And it was very, very funny to witness all of that. Of course, those people are all dead by now, so I can say it without caring. But there was a great objection to the easterners coming out to California.

Speaker I believe I believe that awards contracts in Hollywood were more or less. Totally scrutinized by the NAACP. She was willing to give herself into their hands to make sure that what she was doing was going to be overall of an overall importance and and and helpfulness toward the Negro race and their image in Hollywood pictures. The black actors, it wouldn’t I wouldn’t wouldn’t be surprised by anything at all that goes on with with performers in show business there. They’re human beings. And of course, whether when their security is threatened, they think of all kinds of ways to get back at somebody. I know that there are many, many unhappy people in California when when Lena Horne came out and she was Eastern, she was beautiful, she was new, she was talented and she had integrity. She made demands that hadn’t been thought of before. So, of course.

Speaker Back in the night in the early 1940s, the average performer in Hollywood had come along under a very, very difficult times, I mean, through difficult times. Think of Ethel Waters, who came along all by herself, who had to fight for everything that she got and and who often was reduced to doing things she didn’t want to do because she had to do them to earn a living. And along came in the horn, who was protected. She had the NAACP on her side. She had been married. She had a husband. She got acquired another husband, a very good husband, and she had protection that was almost unheard of in the black entertainment community. People like Hattie McDaniel, Ruby Dandridge, Louise Beavers had come along that made it through their own efforts and with no protection, no guidance whatsoever. And so this was a great breakthrough. And I think that in years to come, people will think back about Lena Horne as a pioneer and many, many wonderful ways.

Speaker I saw Lena’s nightclub act in 1956 at the Waldorf, which was at that time the pinnacle of nightclub life around the country, outside of Las Vegas, of course, where the salaries were staggeringly high. And I was sitting there with Phillimore, who had accompanied her back in the floor is a cafe society. And Phil had worked with many, many performers. He’d worked with Julie Wilson and Dorothy Dandridge at that point and Marilyn Marilyn Monroe.

Speaker And we sat there and watching Linda’s performance and he turned to me and he said, without a doubt, this is the greatest nightclub act I have ever seen. Now, that from Phil, I thought was a great compliment. And of course, he was absolutely right. She was superb, in a word.

Speaker It was at the Waldorf was elegant and it was a beautiful room with wonderful acoustics, it had enormous prestige to it. And I think back in those days, this is going to shock you. Back in those days, the world of us paying about 25 or 30 thousand dollars a week to its star.

Speaker But I mean that today would be would have to be at least 10 times as much. And one of the reasons why the nightclub business suffered so is because performers, nightclubs began to make much more money in television and nightclubs went out of business. I remember that it was it’s still one of the best recordings to be found that the performance of the Waldorf to be found that was made, as they call it, live the entire performance was recorded for RCA Victor Collina, live at the Waldorf. And it is exciting today, as it was all those years ago. That’s 40 years ago because it captured the ambience of the true nightclub. You heard the fat lady laughing. You heard the drunk in the audience. And that’s what makes a saloon, a cabaret, if you will, a saloon at that sort of ambiance. You’ve got to have the fat lady in the back drunk and you’ve got to have the drunk over there. You’ve got to have cackling and all of that to to to make the whole thing exciting. And the record captures that. And it’s perfectly brilliant today.

Speaker I did not know their marriage intimately. I never saw I didn’t see them that often, but I felt as an outsider that Lenny brought a wonderful sense of security to to Lena.

Speaker He adored her, obviously adored her children. And I thought that Lena’s life was perhaps enriched by her marriage, her association, her friendship with Lennie Hayton. She will speak today of the trips they took together, of the things they saw, the things they learned about together. I think he had a very, very important influence upon her overall life.

Speaker He was a great musician and one of the top Lenny, it was a great musician himself and one of the top arrangers at MGM for all those wonderfully elaborate MGM musicals back in the 1940s and 50s. And Lena, who was a good musician herself, must have simply broadened her her her scope by being associated with Lennie Hayton.

Speaker Earlier on, I said that most singers who don’t have to themselves are always concerned with their accompanist, and that’s a very important part of the singer’s career. And I think that in that in L.A., a company, you know, not very often on the nightclub floor, it was always a pianist for that. But he conducted the orchestra with such tenderness and such care because he understood her own musical quirks and habits. And I thought that was a like that was being like rocked in your mother’s arms because there was a great security for her and performers, all suffering from insecurity. We need all we can get to get through.

Speaker Yes.

Speaker Kay Thompson was a very important figure in America in popular song in the 1930s. She had her own radio show and a kind of school. She taught people how to sing, and she was an authority on many, many things that were musical, of course. And she became Wiener’s friend in California came a lot of records on her own back in the old days, of course, in the 1940s came came to the to the fore again because she developed this marvelous nightclub act called Kay Thompson and the whatever it was, and the Williams brothers, of course, and they toured the country performing in major nightclubs and and causing a great sensation whenever they went. But her friendship with Lena was almost natural that there were two ladies and both talented, both dynamic, both smart and.

Speaker You’ve heard the story about Nina’s performance at a Beverly Hills nightclub restaurant when she was there to meet Kay Cain was late. Lina was seated waiting for Kay to arrive. And while she was waiting for her to arrive, some customer insulted Lina and she lost her temper. And Kay walked in saying, this wild practice going on. I was apologizing for having been late.

Speaker I didn’t shock me, and I think many people were shocked. I mean, I think that if you’re a black person, you are certainly aware of that. Not everything outside is is roses and champagne, that there are a lot of there’s a lot of animosity out there just because you’re black. And so when somebody says that Lena Horne threw a glass at somebody in a restaurant with good reason because he called her names and so forth, it insolvent her. Nobody black could possibly have objected to that or been surprised. I mean, black people in America are used to being abused in one way or another. And we’re certainly part of our our our daily routine, isn’t it?

Speaker No, I was never asked, I performed in California at the Hollywood Canteen a few times. That was my big performance during the war and of course, at various war bond rallies where I first met Lena.

Speaker Well, they were trying to sell bonds, as a matter of fact, to two colored people, black people, and the government’s pretty tough. I don’t know how many bonds they sold, actually, but they were they made the big effort. Do you think? I think that there was enough money around. I think I think that the average black person didn’t have the money to shell out for a bond. I’m sure that Negroes did buy war bonds, but I don’t recall any great mass buying back in those days. It’s.

Speaker When and then I got married, I believe they were in Paris and I heard about it on the other person’s radio show where everywhere else and I don’t think anybody was particularly shocked by people in showbusiness, certainly weren’t shocked by it. And I think most Americans were so in love with Lena and her beauty that they couldn’t have cared what she did or who she married and half the men that we knew who wanted to marry into themselves.

Speaker And so they thought, well, good for Lenny Hayton, you know.

Speaker The other one. Oh, I see, I’ve forgotten what the question was that put.

Speaker When do you remember when you heard?

Speaker I heard about Leanna’s marriage to hate and I guess over the radio, through Luella Parsons, how else, and she was the bigwig in those days and I was not overly surprised by it. There have been all kinds of alliances between blacks and whites before, legally or not legally, and nobody in show business paid much attention to it. I think that for the most part, most of the males around the country were jealous because they hadn’t married Lena.

Speaker Describing the horn.

Speaker Well, I think, you know, it is always surprising out of the blue, she’ll do something perfectly wonderful for you or she’ll show up someplace. I think she’s a vain woman. I think that’s to her to her credit. I think she’s very sincere and I think she’s very selfish. And I think I’d say that in the nicest kind of way, because I’m selfish, too. She’s selfish and that she takes care of herself and she knows what’s good for her and what’s bad for her. And she’s very mindful of how far she can go in this direction or that direction because she is the center of her universe.

Speaker Earned that I think she’s more than earned the right to retire if she wants to with performers, it’s always a matter of what they want to do. Other performers around the truth who the true wish would retire because you don’t want to see them anymore or hear them anymore. I can understand how former like Lena Horne could say, I’m tired. I don’t want to sing anymore. It’s very sad. I hope that whatever she decides to do will bring her great pleasure and bring her great joy, because I think that for many, many, many years, being able to sing the way she did and do to elicit from the public the response that she did must have made her extremely happy. And so I hope that whatever she decides to do for the rest of her life will bring her some kind of happiness.

Speaker Oh, I think she’d love to sing back in those days. Don’t forget that she began dancing in the chorus of the Cotton Club when she was a girl and her mother came to sit there while she danced. And I think that the chance to sing, to become a principal must have excited her a great deal. And then to continue that career by singing with Charlie Barnett and singing Cafe Society and then coming uptown to the Savoy Plaza, which was the ultimate in Chic back in those days. And to go from there to Hollywood to make films and to record, I think it must have filled her with all kinds of excitement and and joy.

Speaker But I can understand how one day you decide that it’s not that much fun anymore, because don’t forget that when you perform in person, as she’s done most of her life, you have to go out and do it whether you feel like it or not. And there are nights when you just would give anything to stay at home in bed and you would drag out you put on your clothes and you go out with a big smile and you sing your heart out.

Bobby Short
Susan Lacy
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-g73707xb5h, cpb-aacip-504-3n20c4t33w, cpb-aacip-504-5t3fx74f4t
"Bobby Short , Lena Horne: In Her Own Words" American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). January 25, 1996 ,
(1 , 1). Bobby Short , Lena Horne: In Her Own Words [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Bobby Short , Lena Horne: In Her Own Words" American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). January 25, 1996 . Accessed March 22, 2023


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