“In 1966, my partners Sandy and Kelli Ross, my wife Sheilah, and I were guests of one of our clients, Quincy Jones at an NAACP dinner for Lena Horne. The singer/ actress was being honored for the break through she made in music and film. She was the first “colored” actress who became a sex symbol around the world, featured in “Cabin In The Sky”, “Panama Hattie”, “Til The Clouds Roll By”, and “Stormy Weather.”

Her musical segments in mainstream (white) films were shot so they could be easily removed when they were shown in the “segregated south”. They also could use these clips to play among selected “shorts” to accompany feature films in the more “liberal north”.

Although I was honored to meet Lena Horne, I wasn’t as excited I as let’s say meeting Diana Ross, or a Dusty Springfield, since I considered her more of my mother’s generation than mine. As the lights dimmed a short film ran that had me mesmerized, not only was she beautiful and talented, she was a tireless champion of Civil Rights.

According to Wikipedia, “During World War II, when entertaining the troops for the USO, she refused to perform “for segregated audiences or for groups in which German POWs were seated in front of African American servicemen”, [7] according to her Kennedy Center biography. Since the US Army refused to allow integrated audiences, she wound up putting on a show for a mixed audience of black US soldiers and white German POWs. She was at an NAACP rally with Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi the weekend before Evers was assassinated. She also met President John F. Kennedy at the White House two days before he was assassinated. She was at the March on Washington with Martin Luther King.”

After the film, Ms. Horne walked to the podium through thunderous applause and a standing ovation! Talk about humility, she said a few thank yous and sat back down. You could almost hear a unanimous whisper saying how good she looked at 50 years old!

I smiled and thought how fortunate I was to be here at this special occasion and witness  something I’d remember for the rest of my life!


Respectfully, Artie Wayne

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