In the 1920’s, Harlem developed as an uptown alternative to New York City’s Greenwich Village, and a place where one could go to experience those “in the life.” There in nightclubs, female entertainers sang of gay desire.
Gladys Bentley was a bisexual male impersonator, wearing her signature white tuxedo and top hat. Putting risque lyrics to popular melodies, she flirted with women in the audience.
Ma Rainey made no secret of her relationships with women, and her songs sometimes had explicit lesbian content. She became known as “Mother of the Blues.”
Bessie Smith also crooned of lesbian desire, as in, “It’s Dirty But Good.” She even got in trouble with her husband over an affair with a chorus girl in her show.
Suddenly, same-sex desire was part and parcel of a cultural explosion.
“The Rainbow Minute,” a radio show on WRIR, Richmond Independent Radio, is produced by Judd Proctor and Brian Burns and airs on 97.3 FM every Weekday at 9:03am, 12:30pm and 4:30pm. Listen to the WRIR’s audio stream here.
The Rainbow Minute is produced by Judd Proctor and Brian Burns and airs on 97.3 FM, WRIR Richmond Independent Radio, every Weekday at 7:59 a.m, 12:29 p.m. and 4:59 p.m. Listen to the WRIR’s audio stream here.
Patricia R. Corbett is an award-winning playwright, an artist, advocate, educator, published author, personal historian, editor, feminist, and entrepreneur. Her passions are art, community service, social justice, and education. Patricia holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Virginia Union University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College. Patricia’s art [...]