Tag Archives: Billie Holiday

Fantasy Lounge

Located across from Philadelphia International Records, the Fantasy Lounge was a popular hangout for PIR studio musicians, movers and shakers, and the rich and famous including Teddy Pendergrass, Lou Rawls and Diana Ross.

diana-ross

The Kimmel Center is in the footprint of the Fantasy Lounge.

Fantasy Lounge

While at the unveiling of Billie Holiday’s Walk of Fame plaque, I confirmed the location of the club with legendary DJ Jerry Blavat.

From a 1999 news story reporting on the death of Lauretta Tucker Adams, the owner of the Fantasy Lounge:

Among the most famous of her businesses was the Fantasy Lounge, a supper club at Broad and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia, where just about anyone could mingle with famous musicians, politicians and professional athletes. It was the spot where fabulous theater parties were tossed by performing casts, and Diana Ross boogied until the wee hours at a birthday party in her honor, according to a 1985 Daily News story lamenting the lounge’s closing to make room for expansion of the Philadelphia College of Art.

Walk of Fame inductee Kenny Gamble recounted:

She was a role model and mentor to many of us. She promoted us everywhere. She did things because she really cared. She didn’t care about material things, and she would help anybody who really needed help with no strings attached . . . and she was very smart in business.

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Billie Holiday Inducted into Philadelphia Walk of Fame

Billie Holiday was born in West Philly 100 years ago. This morning, her star will be reborn as Lady Day is inducted into the Philadelphia Walk of Fame.

I am proud to have played a role in making this happen.

Billie Holiday Joins Walk of Fame

For me, it was personal. After a failed romance when I was in law school, I started my day by playing “Good Morning Heartache.” My best friend would ask me, “Why are you always listening to that junkie?” I ignored him. We now know Lady Day was an early victim of racial profiling.

Billie helped me get through a rough patch. It will be my pleasure to help keep her bronze plaque clean.

UPDATE: Billie Holiday’s Walk of Fame plaque unveiled. It’s located in front of the Kimmel Center.

Billie Holiday - Walk of Fame Plaque - 10.26.15

Mary Lou Williams, Jazz Icon

This year marks the 115th anniversary of the birth of Mary Lou Williams. Since 1995, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has paid tribute to the legendary pianist and composer with the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival.

Williams is the subject of a new documentary, Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band. The film premiered on public television on April 1.

Missed it? If you’re in the Philly area, you’re in luck. There will be a screening of the documentary on Tuesday, July 14, at the International House. Hosted by the Scribe Video Center, the screening and conversation with director Carol Bash is co-sponsored by the Leeway Foundation, Philadelphia Jazz Project, Ars Nova Workshop and Reelblack.

Sadly, luck is running out on the Women of Jazz mural, which depicts jazz icons including Williams, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. This cultural asset is on the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s chopping block.

Women of Jazz Mural

On June 1, I provided public comment before the Philadelphia City Council Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless, which is chaired by Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. I brought to Blackwell’s attention the Philadelphia Housing Authority plans to demolish the mural. I made it clear the goal of increasing the availability of affordable housing and preserving the City’s jazz heritage is not mutually exclusive.

COUNCILWOMAN BLACKWELL: Thank you very much. So you’re saying they’re slated to tear down the mural?
MS. ANDERSON: Yes. The Women of Jazz mural at 3200 [block] of Arlington. It will be torn down sometime this year. The date to be determined.
COUNCILWOMAN BLACKWELL: All right. I’m happy to work on that.

The complete transcript is available here. Clap along if you’re happy.

Why Public Art Matters

June is Black Music Month. First observed in 1979 at the White House, I’m kicking off the celebration at City Hall where I will offer public comments at a hearing on the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund. Some background.

Last year, the Pennrose Company demolished the John Coltrane mural in Strawberry Mansion. Pennrose has been feeding at the public trough of government subsidies for decades. But in an instant, the company erased a tribute to an American cultural icon.

John Coltrane Collage

While the nation celebrates the centennial of the birth of Billie Holiday and  Mary Lou Williams, the Philadelphia Housing Authority plans to demolish the Women of Jazz mural.

Women of Jazz Mural

Now, you might be wondering what is the connection between murals and affordable housing? Kelvin Jeremiah, President and CEO of PHA, said it best in his remarks before the City Council Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and The Homeless on April 27:

It is my view that the affordable housing crisis that confronts this great city is also an issue of deep-seated structural poverty. … Solving the poverty problem will go a long way to solve the affordable housing crisis.

Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the nation. A whopping 40 percent of school-aged children live in poverty. There is a correlation between education and poverty. If the educational achievement of poor children is increased, fewer will end up on PHA’s 10-year waiting list for public housing.

A growing body of evidence shows that students with access to arts education perform better on standardized tests. In addition to improved student achievement, arts education contributes to the development of cognitive and social skills, nurtures a motivation to learn, increases student attendance and fosters a positive school environment. At-risk students cite their participation in the arts as a reason for staying in school.

Students involved in arts instruction report less boredom in school. Ask students why they dropped out of school, they will say they were bored.

The School District of Philadelphia has drastically cut arts and music programs; 25 percent of schools offer no music instruction. In the absence of arts education, murals may be poor students’ only exposure to the arts.

At the opening of the new Whitney Museum, First Lady Michelle Obama said the arts “could inspire a young person to rise above the circumstances of their life and reach for something better.”

Community-based public art inspires young people to reach for their star.

Reach for Your Star

To be clear, it’s not about preserving brick-and-mortar. Instead, it’s about the transformative power of the arts to engage, motivate and keep students in schools.

It’s also not about money. Through digital and mobile technology, a mural can be recreated at a fraction of its original cost. Indeed, the cost of preserving this great city’s cultural heritage would be far less than, say, Pennrose’s hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions.

Billie Holiday Will Be Inducted into Walk of Fame

It’s been 100 years in the making, but Billie Holiday is finally getting a plaque on the Walk of Fame. The announcement was made by the Philadelphia Music Alliance earlier this week.

The induction ceremony will be held on October 26. For updates, follow @PhillyJazzApp on Twitter. Billie loved her man and we love Billie.

 

Douglass Hotel

In Jimmy Heath’s autobiography “I Walked with Giants,” drummer Roy Haynes recounted:

I met Jimmy around 1946 when I was with Luis Russell and we played the Earle Theater in Philadelphia. A lot of the big bands would come through the Earle. We stayed at the Douglas Hotel, which was in South Philly. That was the hotel where a lot of the big black bands stayed.

Douglass Hotel Guests

The building is still there. The historical marker out front notes that Billie Holiday lived here when she was in town.

Douglass Hotel

The Douglass Hotel, later renamed 1409 Hotel, was not just a place to lay one’s head. The legendary Showboat was located in the basement.

After the Showboat, the space became the Bijou Café. Grover Washington, Jr. recorded live from the Bijou Café in 1977.

The basement of 1409 Lombard Street was a magical space.

Billie Holiday@100

Today is the centennial of the birth of Billie Holiday. Contrary to popular belief, she was not born in Baltimore. Lady Day was born on April 7, 1915 at Philadelphia General Hospital.

The misapprehension about Holiday’s place of birth may account for why she hasn’t been inducted into the Walk of Fame. Despite her arrests and conviction in Philadelphia, she had love for her hometown. It was, after all, the place where she could work in the nightclubs. After her conviction, she lost her New York City cabaret card and could not work in places where alcohol was sold. So she could perform at a sold-out Carnegie Hall, but couldn’t get a gig at a hole-in-the-wall in Harlem.

Parenthetically, Holiday was inducted into the Apollo Theater’s Walk of Fame yesterday.

Yes, there’s a historical marker noting that when Lady Day was in town, she often lived at the Douglass Hotel.

Billie Holiday Historical Marker

Holiday is depicted in the Women of Jazz mural in Strawberry Mansion. But the mural is scheduled to be demolished by the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

Women of Jazz Mural Collage - 4.5.15

The Walk of Fame plaque is the highest honor Philadelphia bestows on a musician:

The Music Alliance is best known for the Walk of Fame along Broad Street’s Avenue of the Arts. This series of over 100 bronze commemorative plaques honors Philadelphia area musicians and music professionals who have made a significant contribution to the world of music. The Walk of Fame is the City’s most impressive public monument to the people who have made Philadelphia a great music city.

It’s never too late to do the right thing. So I nominated Billie Holiday for induction into the Walk of Fame.

Billie Holiday - PMA

Happy birthday, Lady Day. We love you more than you’ll ever know.

UPDATE: The Philadelphia Music Alliance announced that “as a special birthday gift,” Billie Holiday is the newest inductee into the Walk of Fame. In a statement, Chairman Alan Rubens said:

The Philadelphia Music Alliance wanted to present what we think is a ‘perfect’ birthday gift to an extraordinary vocalist, Billie Holiday, and announce her induction on her 100th birthday. It will be an absolute pleasure to be able to walk down Broad Street and see her name where it rightfully belongs, on the Philadelphia Music Walk of Fame, with other homegrown jazz giants like John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, and Grover Washington, Jr.

Again, it’s never too late to do the right thing.