The Josephine Baker Story
By Ean Wood
This is a great story about a great (if, like us all, flawed) person, Josephine Baker. Growing up in grinding poverty in St. Louis, she found her way out of the slums by her self-taught dancing ability. Starting out with a touring family band, then working her way up to a scene-stealing chorus girl (the end of the chorus line was traditionally reserved for a chorus girl with comic abilities), and then a starring Broadway dancer and actress.
Being black in the first half of the 20th Century, Josephine had to go through a lot of segregation’s worst, and despite being unschooled and ignorant of the ways of the world, agreed to go star in a show in Paris, where there was less discrimination. She became both the toast and the scandal of Paree, dancing nearly naked as an African “sauvage.” Before she had left the States, she had already been married twice (the first time at 13, which, as any good Jerry Lee Lewis historian will tell you, was not that unusual back then), not bothering to get divorced in between. After she arrived France, which became her adopted country for the rest of her life, Josephine got married two more times, the first to an Italian who claimed to be a count but was in fact a former stonemason, and the second time to a wealthy Jewish Frenchman. All the while men (and a few women, as well) were literally throwing themselves at her, and very often, Josephine reciprocated.
Let’s see, what else? Operative for the French Resistance, crusader for anti-racism, nightclub owner, chanteuse and recording artist, tourist attraction developer, author, movie actress… This lady did it all, in a time where virtually nobody from her background did any of these things. Even was the first to come up with the name “Rainbow Tribe” (you didn’t really think those stinky neo-hippies who stole the name actually made it up, did you?), but you’ll have to read the book to find out about that and a lot more.