Danced naked and died gay: The Life story of Josephine BakerPictolic
When asked to remember her lovers, she replied: there were thousands of them. When asked to name her income, she showed pearls: there is enough for them. She danced naked and died happy. This is how the French remember her.
Yes, the body. Beauty and flexibility - in youth, energy and skill - in sixty with kopecks. Therefore, it must be that she did not consider it necessary to hide it.
For the manner of performing naked (that is, as naked, most of the body was sometimes covered with rows of pearl beads and wide gold bracelets, but the chest was always defiantly free) , she was not allowed to many major venues in Europe, when Baker had already become a living legend. But they were invited to all the other sites — for the most fabulous fees.
The first black woman to star in a movie in a leading role. The first who performed Charleston on the European stage. The first of the stars deliberately adopted children from disadvantaged countries, one after another, and the first whose adopted children were so much discussed by the press. The first in terms of fees for dancing without clothes.
The first American woman to be buried in Monaco with military honors, among the princes and princesses of the past — well, yes, she also had the rank of lieutenant after the Second World War. The first in so many things. It's hard to imagine that Josephine started her life as the last of the last.
1906, St. Louis, Missouri. There is a revival in the maternity hospital: a white man brought a black laundress to give birth. This was, frankly, not in the factory. Nevertheless, the woman and the payment for services were accepted, they helped with the birth, the child was officially registered. The girl was named Frida Josephine McDonald. The last name is like my mother's. An unmarried mother.
It is assumed that Josephine's father was a Jewish musician, drummer Eddie Carson. But who knows for sure when it comes to the child of a black laundress, an almost disenfranchised woman who may look for love and support in men, or may simply give in to them, fearing persecution and attacks. Josephine herself would definitely have liked the version with a loving musician more than with the harassment of the owner of the laundry or the house where her mother worked.
The girl grew up musical, fidgety: she hears music and starts dancing. It turned out surprisingly well. She went to school and to work at the same time. In an altered dress, old worn-out shoes. During the day-desks, in the evening-helping my mother with laundry. The best way to experience day after day was to listen to the radio when it was possible-from other people's windows.
Music was playing on the radio, and they also told that there was a war going on in Europe. In the end, Americans went to that war, including many black soldiers. They died and killed there, as is usual in war. And Josephine was at home, and therefore, when black people began to be slaughtered in the streets, it was not only scary, but also wrong. The war is there. They kill here.
It was when she was eleven that there was a big massacre in St. Louis. Josephine survived, and so did her mother. No one asked them how they coped with horror and grief. Then they did not offer psychological help to people like Josephine. At the age of less than fourteen, Josephine was practically pushed into marriage by her mother.
Out of need. The husband was much older and more serious, earned decently, by the standards of their circle. Josephine wanted to dance, to learn all the dances that are just now in fashion, and her husband wanted obedience, even submission,and that she should think about the household. Josephine just left him after a few weeks.
The second husband, whom she herself soon found, was the same Baker, whose last name she would bear all her life. Conductor on passenger trains. Josephine will live with him for four years, you can say-she will divorce when she grows up. Moreover, she will have somewhere to go.
At the age of fourteen, she began performing with dance. Well, so-to entertain after someone else's numbers. A little mimic the artists, a little spin the wheel and generally acrobatic. After divorcing her first husband, Josephine literally ran away from him to Philadelphia — and there she sought the love of the public again from scratch. Married to the second, she already lived in New York. It was here that her star rose. However, at first it was still necessary to get a divorce.
Josephine wanted to perform naked, bold, bright, dazzling. My husband was not ready for this. The twenties, the time of shocking, bold women, an unspoken sexual revolution and experiments in art. Baker was noticed immediately; soon she signed a contract with the Paris theater.
She appeared in front of the French in a specially created show for herself and in a specially created skirt made of artificial bananas, in feathers and bracelets-the epitome of Africa (as she saw it, of course, from the United States — the girl has never been there). This was both a moment of indulging the tastes of the audience, and ... a certain protest. This is me, this is my blood, this is my skin. Hardly anyone considered the declaration, but the suit went down in history.
Rare grace and flexibility, shocking and impeccable accuracy of stage costumes, dancing skills and a dazzling smile that instantly flashes on her face — the audience began to adore Josephine. Artists-to draw, photographers-to shoot, socialites invite to their parties.
Josephine appeared there fully dressed, but as eye-catching as on stage. In a dress made from a painting by a Cubist artist. In a silk dress from a current fashion designer. And, of course, in pearls. Baker looked amazing with pearls, she knew it — and she used it.
Rich lovers and mistresses, marriage proposals, lucrative contracts. Baker enjoyed life while she could. The age of the dancer is not long, is it? She didn't know yet that she would dance until she died. And to remain a legend until his last days. That she will be mentioned as the beloved of Frida Kahlo, the muse of Corbusier, Picasso, Matisse, a patron of the arts, a mover of the arts, a heroine.
She was an illegitimate black girl, the daughter of a laundress who went to school in someone else's old shoes and who was now given a chance to join the beautiful life. She took this chance to the fullest. And, by the way, she took French citizenship.
During the Second World War, many artists began to cooperate with the intelligence of countries that fought with Hitler. Greta Garbo suddenly remembered that her homeland is Sweden, and began drinking champagne at parties with the Nazis in Stockholm. Olga Chekhov, under the indignation of Russian emigrants in Europe, had fun with major officers of the Third Reich and starred in films blessed with Nazi propaganda.
And Josephine Baker suddenly began to tour all the neutral countries so far with her naked dances. And, of course, I didn't miss a single party with local politicians.
By that time, she had discovered not only her dancing talent. She sang, starred in a couple of French films. She had a good memory. Whether the lyrics of the songs, the script, the director's comments — any words printed or spoken aloud, she remembered well. During the war, this gift turned out to be one of the most popular. As well as the talent to make men listen to any of her speeches without being distracted.
Mostly, of course, she had to speak in North Africa. She had to convince someone there to abandon military operations with France. When it became impossible to continue the missions, Baker switched to concerts in front of the soldiers. She raised their morale with incendiary dances and patriotic songs. They say that the spirit really rose to unprecedented heights.
In any case, by the end of the war, Josephine came up with the rank of lieutenant, although not intelligence-she was officially a pilot, and she had the appropriate certificate. She was awarded the Resistance Medal, the Liberation Medal and the Legion of Honor. Josephine herself had no ambitions for a career in the army or intelligence — after the war, she closed this page for herself and remarried.
His name was Jo Bouillon, he led her orchestra and became her fourth husband. Yes, there was a third-such a not too significant Paris episode. And by the end of the war, Baker was about forty, and it seemed that her career was about to be interrupted, her life was about to calm down, and the public and the media were about to forget about her existence. As if not so, of course, as if not so.
Because of the stormy parties in the twenties and early thirties, Josephine had a gynecological problem. Some things were not able to treat then, and as a result, she had to have a surgical operation to remove the uterus. She couldn't have children. But Baker did not relate to Childfree and constantly kept in mind the possibility of adoption.
In a new marriage, she started her new project. It was called "The Rainbow Tribe". Baker adopted children from quite poor countries one by one, deliberately choosing the most different phenotypes — Europeans, Africans, Asians. Her new family was supposed to be a new declaration against racism. But this was only part of the project.
The children were supposed to be given the highest quality education — it does not matter whether it is technical, natural science or humanitarian, but not musical, as people usually assumed, knowing that both Baker and her husband are connected with the stage. These children were then supposed to return to their homeland as adult specialists with broad views and pull up local infrastructure, as well as educate new generations of high-quality specialists. In general, it was something like a progressor project.
Baker called her adopted children "the rainbow tribe". The rainbow is both about diversity and, in the context of Christian symbols, about hope. God hung out a rainbow after the Great Flood, promising that such terrible disasters would not happen again in the future... Initially, only boys were taken to the" tribe", so that novels would not accidentally start among the pupils when they grew up. But then someone apparently explained to Josephine that the origin of novels with gender is not connected in the way she thinks, and she began to take girls too.
Jo took care of the children. Baker earned money by providing for her ever-growing family. I bought a real old castle (and for years I played a good feudal lady, paying the poorest peasants of the district for Christmas coal), hired nannies and teachers, bought various animals.
In her youth, she herself was content with a tame cheetah, which she led everywhere on a leash. A couple of times, out of boredom, the cheetah climbed into the orchestra pit during the performance, creating a funny, from Baker's point of view, confusion. But the children needed other animals, and they got ponies, rabbits, dogs.
Jo turned out to be a wonderful foster father and tirelessly took care of the children, while Josephine spent time with them between tours. But his limit was ten children. When Baker brought the eleventh, Bouillon left and filed for divorce. In total, Baker adopted a dozen babies, but without Buyon it turned out that it was not so easy to cope with them.
The previously balanced life is all skewed. Josephine turned out to be a domineering mother, and the children began to study worse and constantly go sour after her growls. Besides, they missed their foster father. Work from the need to deal with the house and family (which Baker did not understand at all) it also flew off.
In the end, the French media spread a photo of Josephine huddled, wrapped in a blanket, on the steps of her castle. That is, not his own anymore. He was sold for debts. Josephine had no right to enter it, but she refused to leave it. This is the end of the fairy tale, but no.
Baker herself described her acquaintance with Grace Kelly, a Hollywood star, as follows: allegedly in New York, she, who was unaccustomed to segregation in France, entered a restaurant, and they began to expose her. Baker tried to make a row, but Kelly, who was sitting here, took her hand, described the restaurant in a not very flattering way and went out with Baker from there. Kelly and Baker became friends and remained friends after Kelly married the Prince of Monaco.
When the" rainbow tribe", led by her careless mother, was left without a roof over her head, Kelly began a rescue operation immediately. I raised the Red Cross, shook up my finances a little. Baker and the children received a new home. At that time, Josephine learned to earn money in another way — by publishing autobiographies. The public never got tired of Baker's autobiographies, because every time they gave out some new versions of events.
Someone would say-an excess of imagination, and Baker might have dropped the word "marketing". The audience was waiting for more and more new versions and revelations about her life — and she gave them. Nothing personal, just money.
The rainbow tribe grew and grew, Baker continued to dance in the United States and in France. She got fatter, covered with wrinkles, but when she danced her own backup dance in feathers and glitter, the audience didn't care. Although not all the same happened Baker. Once she stopped the show to ask the viewer to lower the binoculars-they say, do not deprive yourself of charm by looking at unnecessary details.
In honor of the half-century of his official stage activity (counting from the first personal show in Paris) Josephine has planned a concert and a party. The concert was a success. At the feast, she drank wine and danced on the table naked. She will be like this for another hundred years - it seems, everyone present thought. But the next day, the dancer suffered a stroke. She died on April 12, 1975. As the French used to say-from excess fun.
Kelly took her remains to be buried in the princely cemetery of Monaco. The coffin was carried under a military band. They raised swords in honor of the deceased. They fired volleys. Perhaps it was the most magnificent funeral of a lieutenant in the history of Europe. Seven years later, Kelly was also buried near Baker. In the meantime, the newspapers were just surprised: the singer is buried with military honors, among the tombs of a family as noble as the daughter of a laundress, illegitimate, black in the United States, was not.