Monday, January 25, 2016

Herb Jeffries: Just Who Did He Think He Was?

My friend Mary told me about Herb Jeffries last week, Hollywood's first black singing cowboy. I'd never heard of him, so I Googled him and found out some interesting facts. He was a facsinatng character who took advantage of both sides of his ethnicity before that was in vogue, so to speak. Here's a bit about this singing cowboy from Wikipedia:
Herb Jeffries (September 24, 1913 – May 25, 2014) was an American actor of film and television and popular music and jazz singer-songwriter, known of his baritone voice, he was of African descent and was Hollywood's first singing black cowboy
Jeffries was born Umberto Alexander Valentino in Detroit to a white Irish mother who ran a rooming house. His father, whom he never knew, was of mixed Sicilian, French, Italian and Moorish roots. He also claimed that his paternal great-grandmother was an Ethiopian with the surname of Carey.
Firm evidence of Jeffries’s race and age is hard to come by, but census documents from 1920 described him as mulattoand listed his father as a black man named Howard Jeffrey. Jeffries himself, late in life, said that Howard Jeffrey was his stepfather. He said his biological father was Domenico Balentino, a Sicilian who died in World War I.
Jeffries once described himself in an interview as "three-eighths Negro", claiming pride in an African-American heritage during a period when many light-skinned black performers were attempting "to pass" as all-white in an effort to broaden their commercial appeal. In marked contrast, Jeffries used make-up to darken his skin in order to pursue a career in jazz and to be seen as employable by the leading all-black musical ensembles of the day.
Much later in his career, Jeffries identified as white for economic or highly personal reasons. Jet reported that Jeffries identified as White and stated his "real" name as "Herbert Jeffrey Ball" on an application in order to marry Tempest Storm in 1959. Jeffries told the reporter for Jet:
"... I'm not passing, I never have, I never will. For all these years I've been wavering about the color question on the blanks. Suddenly I decided to fill in the blank the way I look and feel.

Look at my blue eyes, look at my brown hair, look at my color. What color do you see?" he demand to know. "My mother was 100 per cent white," Jeffries said, his blue eyes glinting in the New York sun. "My father is Portuguese, Spanish, American Indian, and Negro. How in the hell can I identify myself as one race or another?"  
Have you ever heard of Herb Jeffries? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, January 18, 2016

David Bowie and Iman: Love at First Sight

Camera Press
David Bowie and his wife Iman, pictured after their wedding in Florence in 1992
David Bowie and his wife Iman, pictured after their wedding in Florence in 1992
I was sad to hear of David Bowie's passing last week. Thought I'd share this story from The UK Mirror. It recalls Bowie's first meeting with supermodel Iman in 1990. She became his wife in 1992, but when he first saw her, it was love at first sight...
The man who introduced David Bowie to his future wife Iman has told how the pop icon was racked with loneliness before falling in love at first sight.
Bowie was at the height of worldwide fame but trapped in a desperately ­solitary life at the end of the 1980s, ­according to his close friend and ­personal hairdresser Teddy Antolin.
Too famous to lead an ordinary life, the megastar from a London suburb struggled with the adulation of millions of fans.
But that changed when Teddy ­arranged for the troubled star to meet supermodel Iman at his birthday party in Los Angeles in 1990.
The pair immediately hit it off and Bowie – who died last week aged 69 from liver cancer – dedicated his time away from music to being the perfect partner for Iman, now 60.
"...Teddy, 68, said: “David was very lonely. It was so sad – all this hard work David did each day and then he was alone.”
The flamboyant hairdresser met Somalia-born Iman at another showbiz party in LA.
Teddy said: “I didn’t want to speak to her at first. I thought it would be so cliché if I say ‘How beautiful you are’ but you end up doing that and we started talking and a light bulb went on.”
He begged New York-based Bowie to fly to LA specially for his birthday dinner party at a restaurant where ­unsuspecting Iman would be a guest.
Teddy said: “David arrived in a white Mustang sports car, wearing white jeans and a white jacket, all denim.
“Iman showed up in a black Mercedes wearing all black leather. And I thought, what could be more perfect.
“The minute she walked in all the attention went to her, she just claimed the room.
“She had a big smile, and [she] and David looked at each other and it was love at first sight, you could feel the electricity, something went off.
“They spent the night talking to each other like they had known each other forever..."
To read the complete article, click here. Do you believe in love at first sight? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Beefy Corn and Black Bean Chili

Today, it's 10 degrees where I live! When it's this chilly, there's nothing like a steaming bowl of chili to warm you up inside.  I searched for a quick and easy recipe I could make this week, and this one, from Myrecipes,com, fits the bill. Enjoy!

Beefy Corn and Black Bean Chili

1 pound ground round
2 teaspoons salt-free chili powder blend (such as The Spice Hunter)
(14-ounce) package frozen seasoned corn and black beans 
(14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
(15-ounce) can seasoned tomato sauce for chili 
Reduced-fat sour cream (optional)
Sliced green onions (optional)

1. Combine beef and chili powder blend in a large Dutch oven. Cook 6 minutes over medium-high heat or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble. Drain and return to pan.
2. Stir in frozen corn mixture, broth, and tomato sauce; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Ladle chili into bowls. Top each serving with sour cream and onions, if desired.
Makes six one cup servings.

How cold is it where you are today, and do you have a favorite chili recipe?
Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Eugene Jacques Bullard: Black Swallow of Death

I learned about a fascinating historical figure over the weekend that I'd never heard of! Thought I'd share what I learned today. This article is from

Eugene James (Jacques) Bullard, the first African American combat aviator, was known as the “black swallow of death” for his courage during missions. He led a colorful life, much of it in Europe. 

Bullard was born in Columbus, Georgia, on October 9, 1895, the seventh child of Josephine Thomas and William O. Bullard. Eugene received a minimal education but learned to read, a key to his later successes. After witnessing the near-lynching of his own father and other racial violence, Bullard ran away from home in 1906. 

In Atlanta, he joined a group of gypsies and traveled with them, tending and learning to race their horses. In 1912 as a teen, Bullard stowed away on German merchant ship bound for Aberdeen, Scotland. For the next two years, he performed in a vaudeville troupe and supported himself as a prizefighter in Great Britain and elsewhere in Europe. He first appeared in Paris, his long-time destination, at a boxing match in November 1913. 

Bullard was nineteen years old when World War I broke out. He joined the French Foreign Legion, serving the Moroccan Division of the 170th Infantry Regiment. He was seriously wounded twice and pulled out of action. France awarded him the Croix de Guerre and Medaille Militaire for his bravery at the Battle of Verdun. In 1916 he joined the French air service, first training as a gunner but later as a pilot. Bullard quickly became known for flying into dangerous situations often with a pet monkey.  He amassed a distinguished record, flying twenty combat missions and downing at least one German plane. 

When the United States entered the war, Bullard, and other American expatriates, applied for transfers to U.S. forces.  Despite Bullard’s flight experience, his application was denied, and the United States military pressured France to ground Bullard permanently to uphold the U.S. policy against black pilots. France succumbed and removed Bullard from aviation duty. After the war, Bullard discovered jazz and eventually owning two nightclubs, including “L’Escadrille,” in the Montmartre section of Paris. 

Bullard married Marcelle Straumann in 1923 and had two daughters, Jacqueline and Lolita, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1931. Bullard later joined a French counterintelligence network in the early years of World War II, spying on Germans in Occupied Paris. His nightclubs were popular with German officers, who had no clue that Bullard, fluent in German, was indeed a spy. 

By the end World War II, although a national hero in France, Bullard and his daughters moved to New York City, New York. He established a new life, working odd jobs selling perfume and operating the elevator of the RCA building, home to The Today Show. In 1954 Bullard was interviewed for the show. 

In 1959 the French government named Bullard a national chevalier, or knight. The following year, French President Charles DeGaulle visited the United States. He traveled to New York City to meet Bullard personally. Eugene Jacques Bullard died in Harlem on October 12, 1961 at the age of 66.  In 1994 he was honored posthumously by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. 

Were you familiar with The Black Swallow of Death? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!