New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission is the New York City agency charged with administering the city's Landmarks Preservation Law. The Commission was created in April 1965 by Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr. following the destruction of Pennsylvania Station the previous year to make way for the construction of the current Madison Square Garden. The Commission is responsible for protecting New York City's architecturally and culturally significant buildings and sites by granting them landmark or historic district status, regulating them once they're designated, it is the largest municipal preservation agency in the nation. The Landmarks Preservation Commission consists of 11 commissioners, is required by law to include a minimum of three architects, a historian, a city planner or landscape architect, a realtor and at least one resident of each of the five New York City boroughs. According to the Landmarks Preservation Law, a building must be at least thirty years old before the Commission can declare it a landmark.
City law allows for the Commission's decision to be overturned if an appeal is filed within 90 days. The goal of New York City's landmarks law is to preserve the aesthetically and important buildings and other objects that make up the New York City vista; the Landmarks Preservation Commission is responsible for deciding which properties should be subject to landmark status and enacting regulations to protect the aesthetic and historic nature of these properties. These regulations are designed to allow property owners to continue to use and maintain their properties, while preserving the important architectural characteristics of the properties; the commission preserves not only architecturally significant buildings, but the overall historical sense of place of neighborhoods that are designated as historic districts. The commission is responsible for overseeing a range of designated landmarks in all five boroughs ranging from the Fonthill Castle in the North Bronx, built in 1852 for the actor Edwin Forrest, to the 1670s Conference House in Staten Island, where Benjamin Franklin and John Adams attended a conference aimed at ending the Revolutionary War.
The Commission helps preserve the City's landmark properties by regulating changes to their significant features. The role of the Commission has evolved over time with the changing real estate market in New York City; the Commission was created in 1965 through groundbreaking legislation signed by Mayor Robert F. Wagner in response to the mounting losses of significant buildings in New York City, most infamously Pennsylvania Station; the Landmarks Preservation Commission's first public hearing occurred in September, 1965 over the future of the Astor Library on Lafayette Street in Manhattan. The building was designated a New York City Landmark. Subsequently, the building was adaptively reused as The Public Theater. Twenty-five years the Commission was cited by David Dinkins as having preserved New York City's municipal identity and enhanced the market perception of a number of neighborhoods; this success is believed to be due, in part, to the general acceptance of the commission by the city's developers.
The Commission was headquartered in the Mutual Reserve Building from 1967 to 1980, the Old New York Evening Post Building from 1980 to 1987. In 1989, when the Commission and its process was under review following a panel created by Mayor Koch in 1985, a decision was made to change the process by which buildings are declared to be landmarks due to some perceived issues with the manner by which the Commission operates as well as the realization that the destruction feared when the Commission was formed was no longer imminent. In its first 25 years of existence, the Commission designated 856 buildings, 79 interiors and 9 parks or other outdoor places as landmarks, while declaring 52 neighborhoods with more than 15,000 buildings as historic districts; as of May 30, 2017, there are more than 36,000 landmark properties in New York City, most of which are located in 141 historic districts in all five boroughs. The total number of protected sites includes 1,398 individual landmarks, 119 interior landmarks and 10 scenic landmarks.
Some of these are National Historic Landmarks sites, many are National Registered Historic Places. One of the most prominent decisions in which the Commission was involved was the preservation of the Grand Central Terminal with the assistance of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In 1978, the United States Supreme Court upheld the law in Penn Central Transportation Co. et al. v. New York City, et al. stopping the Penn Central Railroad from altering the structure and placing a large office tower above it. This success is cited as significant due to the Commission's origins following the destruction of Pennsylvania Station, referred to by some as architectural vandalism. In 1989, the Commission designated the Ladies' Mile Historic District; the next year marked the first time in the Commission's history that a proposed landmark, the Guggenheim Museum, received a unanimous vote by the Commission members. The vast majority of the Commission's actions are not unanimous by the Commission members or the community with a number of cases including: St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church, Bryant Park and a number of Broadway theatres resulting in challenges.
One of the most controversial properties was 2 Columbus Circle, which remained at the center of a discussion over its future for a number of years. Cultural landmarks, such as Greenwich Village's Stonewall Inn, are recognized as well not for their architecture, but rather for their location in a designated historic district. In a heatedly discussed decision on August 3, 2010, the Commission unanimo
New York City
The City of New York called either New York City or New York, is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles, New York is the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural and media capital of the world, exerts a significant impact upon commerce, research, education, tourism, art and sports; the city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.
Situated on one of the world's largest natural harbors, New York City consists of five boroughs, each of, a separate county of the State of New York. The five boroughs – Brooklyn, Manhattan, The Bronx, Staten Island – were consolidated into a single city in 1898; the city and its metropolitan area constitute the premier gateway for legal immigration to the United States. As many as 800 languages are spoken in New York, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world. New York City is home to more than 3.2 million residents born outside the United States, the largest foreign-born population of any city in the world. In 2017, the New York metropolitan area produced a gross metropolitan product of US$1.73 trillion. If greater New York City were a sovereign state, it would have the 12th highest GDP in the world. New York is home to the highest number of billionaires of any city in the world. New York City traces its origins to a trading post founded by colonists from the Dutch Republic in 1624 on Lower Manhattan.
The city and its surroundings came under English control in 1664 and were renamed New York after King Charles II of England granted the lands to his brother, the Duke of York. New York served as the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790, it has been the country's largest city since 1790. The Statue of Liberty greeted millions of immigrants as they came to the U. S. by ship in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is an international symbol of the U. S. and its ideals of liberty and peace. In the 21st century, New York has emerged as a global node of creativity and entrepreneurship, social tolerance, environmental sustainability, as a symbol of freedom and cultural diversity. Many districts and landmarks in New York City are well known, with the city having three of the world's ten most visited tourist attractions in 2013 and receiving a record 62.8 million tourists in 2017. Several sources have ranked New York the most photographed city in the world. Times Square, iconic as the world's "heart" and its "Crossroads", is the brightly illuminated hub of the Broadway Theater District, one of the world's busiest pedestrian intersections, a major center of the world's entertainment industry.
The names of many of the city's landmarks and parks are known around the world. Manhattan's real estate market is among the most expensive in the world. New York is home to the largest ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia, with multiple signature Chinatowns developing across the city. Providing continuous 24/7 service, the New York City Subway is the largest single-operator rapid transit system worldwide, with 472 rail stations. Over 120 colleges and universities are located in New York City, including Columbia University, New York University, Rockefeller University, which have been ranked among the top universities in the world. Anchored by Wall Street in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, New York has been called both the most economically powerful city and the leading financial center of the world, the city is home to the world's two largest stock exchanges by total market capitalization, the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ. In 1664, the city was named in honor of the Duke of York.
James's older brother, King Charles II, had appointed the Duke proprietor of the former territory of New Netherland, including the city of New Amsterdam, which England had seized from the Dutch. During the Wisconsinan glaciation, 75,000 to 11,000 years ago, the New York City region was situated at the edge of a large ice sheet over 1,000 feet in depth; the erosive forward movement of the ice contributed to the separation of what is now Long Island and Staten Island. That action left bedrock at a shallow depth, providing a solid foundation for most of Manhattan's skyscrapers. In the precolonial era, the area of present-day New York City was inhabited by Algonquian Native Americans, including the Lenape, whose homeland, known as Lenapehoking, included Staten Island; the first documented visit into New York Harbor by a European was in 1524 by Giovanni da Verrazzano, a Florentine explorer in the service of the French crown. He named it Nouvelle Angoulême. A Spanish expedition led by captain Estêvão Gomes, a Portuguese sailing for Emperor Charles V, arrived in New York Harbor in January 1525 and charted the mouth of the Hudson River, which he named Río de San Antonio.
The Padrón Rea
Bessie Smith was an American blues singer. Nicknamed the Empress of the Blues, she was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s, she is regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and was a major influence on fellow blues singers, as well as jazz vocalists. The 1900 census indicates that her family reported that Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in July 1892; the 1910 census gives her age as 16, a birth date of April 15, 1894 appears on subsequent documents and was observed as her birthday by the Smith family. The 1870 and 1880 censuses report three older half-siblings, but interviews with Smith's family and contemporaries contain no mention of them among her siblings, she was William Smith, a laborer and part-time Baptist preacher. He died. By the time Bessie was nine, her mother and a brother had died, her older sister Viola took charge of caring for her siblings. To earn money for their impoverished household and her brother Andrew began busking on the streets of Chattanooga.
She danced as he played the guitar. Their favorite location was in front of the White Elephant Saloon at Thirteenth and Elm streets, in the heart of the city's African-American community. In 1904, her oldest brother Clarence left home, joining a small traveling troupe owned by Moses Stokes. "If Bessie had been old enough, she would have gone with him," said Clarence's widow, Maud. "That's why he left without telling her, but Clarence told me she was ready then. Of course, she was only a child."In 1912, Clarence returned to Chattanooga with the Stokes troupe and arranged an audition for his sister with the troupe managers and Cora Fisher. She was hired as a dancer rather than a singer, because the company included the well-known singer Ma Rainey. Smith moved on to performing in various chorus lines, making the "81" Theater in Atlanta her home base, she performed in shows on the black-owned circuit and became its biggest star after she signed a recording contract with Columbia Records. Smith's recording career began in 1923.
Despite her success, neither she nor her music was accepted in all circles. She once auditioned for Black Swan records and was dismissed because she was considered too rough, she stopped singing to spit. In fact her admirers and black, considered her a “rough” woman, she was living in Philadelphia, when she met Jack Gee, a security guard, whom she married on June 7, 1923, just as her first record was being released. During the marriage Smith became the highest-paid black entertainer of the day, heading her own shows, which sometimes featured as many as 40 troupers, touring in her own custom-built railroad car, their marriage was stormy with infidelity on both sides, including numerous female lovers for Bessie. Gee was never adjusted to show business life or to Smith's bisexuality. In 1929, when she learned of his affair with another singer, Gertrude Saunders, Smith ended the relationship, although neither of them sought a divorce. Smith entered a common-law marriage with an old friend, Richard Morgan, Lionel Hampton's uncle.
She stayed with him until her death. All contemporary accounts indicate that while Rainey did not teach Smith to sing, she helped her develop a stage presence. Smith began forming her own act at Atlanta's "81" Theater. By 1920, she had established a reputation along the East Coast. In 1920, sales of over 100,000 copies of "Crazy Blues," recorded for Okeh Records by the singer Mamie Smith, pointed to a new market; the recording industry had not directed its product to black people, but the success of the record led to a search for female blues singers. Bessie Smith was signed to Columbia Records in 1923 by Frank Walker, a talent agent who had seen her perform years earlier, her first session for Columbia was on February 15, 1923. For most of 1923, her records were issued on Columbia's regular A-series; when the company established a "race records" series, Smith's "Cemetery Blues" was the first issued. Both sides of her first record, "Downhearted Blues" backed with "Gulf Coast Blues", were hits. Smith became a headliner on the T.
O. B. A. Circuit and rose to become its top attraction in the 1920s. Working a heavy theater schedule during the winter and performing in tent shows the rest of the year, Smith became the highest-paid black entertainer of her day. Columbia nicknamed her "Queen of the Blues," but the press soon upgraded her title to "Empress of the Blues". Smith’s music stressed independence and sexual freedom, implicitly arguing that working-class women did not have to alter their behavior to be worthy of respect. Smith had a strong contralto voice, which recorded well from her first session, conducted when recordings were made acoustically; the advent of electrical recording made the power of her voice more evident. Her first electrical recording was "Cake Walking Babies ", recorded on May 5, 1925. Smith benefited from the new technology of radio broadcasting on stations in the segregated South. For example, after giving a concert to a white-only audience at a theater in Memphis, Tennessee, in O
Eighth Avenue (Manhattan)
Eighth Avenue is a major north-south avenue on the west side of Manhattan in New York City, carrying northbound traffic below 59th Street. While the avenue has different names at different points in Manhattan, it is one continuous stretch of road. Eighth Avenue begins in the West Village neighborhood at Abingdon Square and runs north for 44 blocks through Chelsea, the Garment District, Hell's Kitchen's east end and the Broadway theatre district in the eponymous neighborhood, before it enters Columbus Circle at 59th Street and becomes Central Park West. North of Frederick Douglass Circle, it resumes its Eighth Avenue designation, but is known as Frederick Douglass Boulevard; the avenue ends north of 155th Street, merges into the Harlem River Drive. The New York City Subway's IND Eighth Avenue Line, serving the A, C, E trains in Lower Manhattan and the A, B, C, D trains in the Upper West Side, runs under Eighth Avenue. MTA Regional Bus Operations operates two bus routes on the avenue; the northbound M20 serves Eighth Avenue between Abingdon Square and Columbus Circle, while the M10 serves the length of Eighth Avenue north of 59th Street in its entirety.
The southernmost section is known as Eighth Avenue between Abingdon Square and Columbus Circle. This portion of Eighth Avenue has carried traffic one-way northbound since June 6, 1954. Since the 1990s, the stretch of Eighth Avenue that runs through Greenwich Village and its adjacent Chelsea neighborhood has been a center of the city's gay community, with bars and restaurants catering to gay men. In fact, New York City's annual gay pride parade takes place along the Greenwich Village section of Eighth Avenue. Along with Times Square, the portion of Eighth Avenue from 42nd Street to 50th Street was an informal red-light district in the late 1960s, 1970s, 1980s before it was controversially renovated into a more family friendly environment under the first mayoral administration of Rudolph Giuliani. North of Columbus Circle, the roadway becomes Central Park West; as its name indicates, CPW forms the western edge of Central Park. It forms the eastern boundary of the Upper West Side, it runs 51 blocks from Columbus Circle to Frederick Douglass Circle.
The gates into Central Park along its western edge are: Merchants Gate at 59th Street, Women's Gate at 72nd, Naturalists Gate at 77th, Hunters Gate at 81st, Mariners Gate at 85th, Gate of All Saints at 96th, Boys Gate at 100th, Strangers Gate at 106th. Central Park West's expensive housing rivals that of Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side. Central Park West is the address of several famous residences, including The Dakota, The San Remo, The El Dorado, The Beresford, The Langham, The Century, 15 Central Park West, 41 Central Park West, 455 Central Park West, The St. Urban, The Majestic. According to The New York Times' architecture critic Paul Goldberger, the street's buildings, both the new ones like 15 Central Park West and the old ones such as The Century, "fit together the same way the ones in that hypothetical Main Street do, for the same reason. For more than a hundred years, their architects honor the unspoken agreement to work together, to line their buildings up with each other and to work in a consistent scale with materials that are compatible."Most of these housing cooperatives were built around 1930, replacing late 19th century hotels with the same names.
Some, including The Century, The San Remo, The Majestic, are twin towers. Other landmarks and institutions along its length include the New-York Historical Society and the American Museum of Natural History; the area from 61st to 97th Streets is included in the Central Park West Historic District. The building located at 55 Central Park West is the infamous "Spook Central" from the movie Ghostbusters; the famed New York City restaurant Tavern on the Green is located off of Central Park West, at 66th Street, within the grounds of Central Park. In 1899, while exiting a streetcar, Henry Bliss was run over by a taxi at CPW and West 74th Street, becoming the first person to be run down and killed by a motor car in the Americas. North of Frederick Douglass Circle at 110th Street in Harlem, it is Frederick Douglass Boulevard, though sometimes still unofficially referred to as Eighth Avenue. Frederick Douglass Boulevard terminates near the Harlem River at the Harlem River Drive around West 159th Street.
While Central Park West has its own address system, address numbers on Frederick Douglass Boulevard continue from where they would be if Central Park West used the Eighth Avenue numbering system. The corridor along Frederick Douglass Boulevard was reallocated in 2003, allowing for larger residential buildings of greater density, resulting in the construction of condominiums, rental buildings and cafes. Described as being "like Detroit" in its urban blight, it is now gentrified in the restaurants along its route, giving it the nickname "Restaurant Row"; this gentrif
Vaudeville is a theatrical genre of variety entertainment born in France at the end of the 18th century. A vaudeville was a comedy without psychological or moral intentions, based on a comical situation: a kind of dramatic composition or light poetry, interspersed with songs or ballets, it became popular in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s, but the idea of vaudeville's theatre changed radically from its French antecedent. In some ways analogous to music hall from Victorian Britain, a typical American vaudeville performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill. Types of acts have included popular and classical musicians, dancers, trained animals, ventriloquists, strongmen and male impersonators, illustrated songs, one-act plays or scenes from plays, lecturing celebrities and movies. A vaudeville performer is referred to as a "vaudevillian". Vaudeville developed from many sources including the concert saloon, freak shows, dime museums, literary American burlesque.
Called "the heart of American show business", vaudeville was one of the most popular types of entertainment in North America for several decades. The origin of the term is obscure, but is explained as being derived from the French expression voix de ville. A second speculation is that it comes from the 15th-century songs on satire by poet Olivier Basselin, "Vaux de Vire". In his Connections television series, science historian James Burke argues that the term is a corruption of the French "Vau de Vire", an area known for its bawdy drinking songs and where Basselin lived. Some, preferred the earlier term "variety" to what manager Tony Pastor called its "sissy and Frenchified" successor. Thus, vaudeville was marketed as "variety" well into the 20th century. With its first subtle appearances within the early 1860s, vaudeville was not a common form of entertainment; the form evolved from the concert saloon and variety hall into its mature form throughout the 1870s and 1880s. This more gentle form was known as "Polite Vaudeville".
In the years before the American Civil War, entertainment existed on a different scale. Variety theatre existed before 1860 in Europe and elsewhere. In the US, as early as the first decades of the 19th century, theatregoers could enjoy a performance consisting of Shakespeare plays, singing and comedy; as the years progressed, people seeking diversified amusement found an increasing number of ways to be entertained. Vaudeville was characterized by traveling companies touring through towns. A handful of circuses toured the country. In the 1840s, the minstrel show, another type of variety performance, "the first emanation of a pervasive and purely American mass culture", grew to enormous popularity and formed what Nick Tosches called "the heart of 19th-century show business". A significant influence came from Dutch minstrels and comedians. Medicine shows traveled the countryside offering programs of comedy, music and other novelties along with displays of tonics and miracle elixirs, while "Wild West" shows provided romantic vistas of the disappearing frontier, complete with trick riding and drama.
Vaudeville incorporated these various itinerant amusements into a stable, institutionalized form centered in America's growing urban hubs. In the early 1880s, impresario Tony Pastor, a circus ringmaster turned theatre manager, capitalized on middle class sensibilities and spending power when he began to feature "polite" variety programs in several of his New York City theatres; the usual date given for the "birth" of vaudeville is October 24, 1881 at New York's Fourteenth Street Theatre, when Pastor famously staged the first bill of self-proclaimed "clean" vaudeville in New York City. Hoping to draw a potential audience from female and family-based shopping traffic uptown, Pastor barred the sale of liquor in his theatres, eliminated bawdy material from his shows, offered gifts of coal and hams to attendees. Pastor's experiment proved successful, other managers soon followed suit. B. F. Keith took the next step, starting in Boston, where he built an empire of theatres and brought vaudeville to the US and Canada.
E. F. Albee, adoptive grandfather of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, managed the chain to its greatest success. Circuits such as those managed by Keith-Albee provided vaudeville's greatest economic innovation and the principal source of its industrial strength, they enabled a chain of allied vaudeville houses that remedied the chaos of the single-theatre booking system by contracting acts for regional and national tours. These could be lengthened from a few weeks to two years. Albee gave national prominence to vaudeville's trumpeting "polite" entertainment, a commitment to entertainment inoffensive to men and children. Acts that violated this ethos were admonished and threatened with expulsion from the week's remaining performances or were canceled altogether. In spite of such threats, performers flouted this censorship to the delight of the audience members whose sensibilities were supposedly
Blackface is a form of theatrical make-up used predominantly by non-black performers to represent a caricature of a black person. The practice gained popularity during the 19th century and contributed to the spread of racial stereotypes such as the "happy-go-lucky darky on the plantation" or the "dandified coon". By the middle of the century, blackface minstrel shows had become a distinctive American artform, translating formal works such as opera into popular terms for a general audience. Early in the 20th century, blackface branched off from the minstrel show and became a form in its own right. In the United States, blackface had fallen out of favor by the turn of the 21st century, is now considered offensive and disrespectful, though the practice continues in other countries. Blackface was a performance tradition in the American theater for 100 years beginning around 1830, it became popular elsewhere so in Britain, where the tradition lasted longer than in the U. S. occurring on primetime TV, most famously in The Black and White Minstrel Show, which ended in 1978, in Are You Being Served?'s Christmas specials in 1976 and in 1981.
In both the United States and Britain, blackface was most used in the minstrel performance tradition, which it both predated and outlasted. Early white performers in blackface used burnt cork and greasepaint or shoe polish to blacken their skin and exaggerate their lips wearing woolly wigs, tailcoats, or ragged clothes to complete the transformation. Black artists performed in blackface. Stereotypes embodied in the stock characters of blackface minstrels not only played a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist images and perceptions worldwide, but in popularizing black culture. In some quarters, the caricatures that were the legacy of blackface persist to the present day and are a cause of ongoing controversy. Another view is that "blackface is a form of cross-dressing in which one puts on the insignias of a sex, class, or race that stands in opposition to one's own."By the mid-20th century, changing attitudes about race and racism ended the prominence of blackface makeup used in performance in the U.
S. and elsewhere. Blackface in contemporary art remains in limited use as a theatrical device and is more used today as social commentary or satire; the most enduring effect of blackface is the precedent it established in the introduction of African-American culture to an international audience, albeit through a distorted lens. Blackface's appropriation and assimilation of African-American culture – as well as the inter-ethnic artistic collaborations that stemmed from it – were but a prologue to the lucrative packaging and dissemination of African-American cultural expression and its myriad derivative forms in today's world popular culture. There is no consensus about a single moment; the journalist and cultural commentator John Strausbaugh places it as part of a tradition of "displaying Blackness for the enjoyment and edification of white viewers" that dates back at least to 1441, when captive West Africans were displayed in Portugal. White people portrayed the black characters in the Elizabethan and Jacobean theater, most famously in Othello.
However and other plays of this era did not involve the emulation and caricature of "such supposed innate qualities of Blackness as inherent musicality, natural athleticism", etc. that Strausbaugh sees as crucial to blackface. Lewis Hallam, Jr. a white blackface actor of American Company fame, brought blackface in this more specific sense to prominence as a theatrical device in the United States when playing the role of "Mungo", an inebriated black man in The Padlock, a British play that premiered in New York City at the John Street Theatre on May 29, 1769. The play attracted notice, other performers adopted the style. From at least the 1810s, blackface clowns were popular in the United States. British actor Charles Mathews toured the U. S. in 1822–23, as a result added a "black" characterization to his repertoire of British regional types for his next show, A Trip to America, which included Mathews singing "Possum up a Gum Tree", a popular slave freedom song. Edwin Forrest played a plantation black in 1823, George Washington Dixon was building his stage career around blackface in 1828, but it was another white comic actor, Thomas D. Rice, who popularized blackface.
Rice introduced the song "Jump Jim Crow" accompanied by a dance in his stage act in 1828 and scored stardom with it by 1832. First on de heel tap, den on the toeEvery time I wheel about I jump Jim Crow. I wheel about and turn about an do just so. Rice traveled the U. S. performing under the stage name "Daddy Jim Crow". The name Jim Crow became attached to statutes that codified the reinstitution of segregation and discrimination after Reconstruction. In the 1830s and early 1840s, blackface performances mixed skits with comic songs and vigorous dances. Rice and his peers performed only in disreputable venues, but as blackface gained popularity they gained opportunities to perform as entr'actes in theatrical venues of a higher class. Stereotyped blackface characters developed: buffoonish, superstitious and lascivious characters, who stole, lied pathologically, mangled the English language. Early blackface minstrels were all male, so cross-dressing white men played black women who were portrayed as unappealingly and grotesquely mannish, in the matronly mammy mold, or as sexually provocative.
The 1830s American stage, where blackfa
Loretta Mary Aiken, known by her stage name Jackie "Moms" Mabley, was an American standup comedian. A veteran of the Chitlin' Circuit of African-American vaudeville, she appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Loretta Mary Aiken was born in Brevard, North Carolina on March 19, 1894 to James Aiken and Mary Smith, who married on May 21, 1891, in Transylvania County, North Carolina. Loretta was one of 16 children, her father owned and operated several successful businesses, while her mother kept house and took in boarders. While working as a volunteer fireman in 1909, her father died. Loretta was 15 years old at the time. In 1910, her mother took over a general store, she was killed after being run over by a truck while returning home from church on Christmas Day. By age 14, Loretta had two children who were given up for adoption. At the encouragement of her grandmother, Loretta ran away to Cleveland, joining a traveling vaudeville-style minstrel show starring Butterbeans and Susie, where she sang and entertained.
Loretta Aiken took her stage name, Jackie Mabley, from an early boyfriend, commenting to Ebony in a 1970s interview that he had taken so much from her, it was the least she could do to take his name. She became known as "Moms" because she was indeed a "Mom" to many other comedians on the circuit in the 1950s and 1960s, she came out as a lesbian at the age of twenty-seven, becoming one of the first gay comedians. During the 1920s and 1930s she appeared in androgynous clothing and recorded several of her early "lesbian stand-up" routines. Mabley was one of the most successful entertainers of the Chitlin' circuit, another name for T. O. B. A. or Theater Owners Booking Association. T. O. B. A. Sometimes called the "Tough On Black Asses Circuit", was the segregated organization for which Mabley performed until the organization dissolved during the Great Depression. Despite Mabley's popularity, wages for black women in show business were meager. Nonetheless, she persisted for more than sixty years. At the height of her career, she was earning US$10,000 a week at Harlem's Apollo Theater.
She made her New York City debut at Connie's Inn in Harlem. In the 1960s, she became known to a wider white audience, playing Carnegie Hall in 1962, making a number of mainstream TV appearances her multiple appearances on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour when that CBS show was number one on television in the late 1960s, which introduced her to a whole new Boomer audience. Mabley was billed as "The Funniest Woman in the World", she tackled topics too edgy for most mainstream comics including racism. One of her regular themes was a romantic interest in handsome young men rather than old "washed-up geezers", she got away with it courtesy of her stage persona, where she appeared as a toothless, bedraggled woman in a house dress and floppy hat, she added the occasional satirical song to her jokes, her cover version of "Abraham and John" hit #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 19, 1969. At 75 years old, Mabley became the oldest living person to have a US Top 40 hit. Mabley had six children: Bonnie, Christine and Yvonne Ailey, two given up for adoption when she was a teenager.
She died from heart failure in White Plains, New York on May 23, 1975. She is interred at Ferncliff Cemetery, New York. Mabley was the inspiration for the character of Grandma Klump in The Nutty Professor, she is the subject of Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley, a documentary film which first aired on HBO on November 18, 2013. This documentary was nominated for two Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the 66th ceremony held on August 16, 2014, at the Nokia Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles: Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special and Outstanding Narrator for Whoopi Goldberg. In 2015, she was named by Equality Forum as one of their 31 Icons of the 2015 LGBT History Month. Mabley was featured during the "HerStory" video tribute to notable women on U2's tour in 2017 for the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree during a performance of "Ultraviolet" from the band's 1991 album Achtung Baby. Discography Agitation in Moderation: The Moms Mabley Story by Kliph Nesteroff Moms Mabley at Find a Grave Moms Mabley at the Internet Broadway Database Moms Mabley on IMDb Moms Mabley on NPR