Josephina Baker, aka "La Baker," was a notorious black performer who left the United States because of oppressive segregation. Claiming France as her new Motherland, Baker performed her signature songs and dance moves (including her famous "banana dance") for new audiences, eventually becoming one of the most photographed and sought after celebrities of her time.
Most people are acquainted with Baker the performer, delighting in her singing, dancing, and acting skills but the woman's waters ran deep and there are many interesting facts about La Baker and her life that aren't common knowledge.
We spoke to lifelong Baker fan Naomi Witzig, owner/curator of the World Erotic Art Museum
in South Beach, and Gelan Lambert, star of the Broadway hit Fela!,
about Baker and learned a few interesting things. Lambert will be the guest speaker at WEAM tonight for the opening of the "Josephine Baker Re-Visited" exhibit, which celebrates Baker's life.
10. She Thwarted A Duel
Cavalry Captain Andrew Czlovoydi was challenged to a duel by La Baker's manager, Count Pepito di Albertini. Albertini's beef? That the Hungarian captain was too googly-eyed over Josephine. The two men met in a cemetery, with Baker cheering on from the sidelines, perched atop a tombstone. After letting the two men fight over her for about ten minutes, Baker intervened, forcing them to stop and form a truce.
9. Baker's Dozen
Before Angelina Jolie, there was La Baker. The sultry songstress also had a heart of gold. She adopted 12 orphans from all around the world in an effort to fight racism by setting an example for others.
8. Baker and Grace Kelly Were Biffles
We don't know if they actually split one of those heart-shaped "BFF" necklace charms, but Kelly and Baker were tight. When a restaurant refused to serve Baker and her party, Kelly stormed out of aforementioned restaurant and the two became instant friends. In later years, Kelly would help Baker financially.
7. She had some really cool nicknames besides "La Baker"
Baker was also called "Black Venus," "Black Pearl," and "Creole Goddess."
6. She Ran An Animal Safari
Baker was bozo for animals. La Baker had a cheetah named Chiquita (who wore a diamond collar) a chimpanzee, a parakeet, a snake, a pig, a goat, some dogs, and several husbands. (Zing!)
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