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Gladys Bentley

( August 12, 1907 - January 18, 1960 )

Gladys Bentley Recordings

Gladys Bentley Articles

Bentley at The Ubangi Club

Bentley in Literature

Bentley Census Data

Video

Photos

Above postcard dates post-1937, as that is when Bentley relocated to California,
and the typing on the sides was done on the original image and not on this card,
with the interesting spelling, or misspelling, of "piana." Regarding the info
on the back, I was able to 'date' the Harry Walker Agency in L.A. as early as 1943,
which also jives with the tag "Brown Bomber of Sophisticated Songs," which
was used in the Mona's 440 ads, circa 1942-45

   

   

Above, Gladys Bentley, illustrator Prentiss Taylor, and Nora Holt, photo by Carl Van Vechten, 1935

Above, Bentley and bandleader Willie Bryant, April 17, 1936,
in front of posters for their Apollo show

Below, identified as from 1950-1951.
Despite the "13 yrs in NY," which would make it circa 1940, I think early 50's is
likely correct, as I've found verification of the "Johnny Robinson Agency"
in Los Angeles in the mid-1950's

Above, from Groucho Marx video, May 1958

( August 12, 1907 - January 18, 1960 )

And, I've played music by Gladys Bentley on these QMH Shows:

February 2013 - Special Tribute Show

June 2004

December 2004

October 2007

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Below, excellent summary bio

Some Bentley puzzles:

Despite the tons of research I've done on Gladys Bentley, or maybe because of it,
there are areas I would like to know more about and in some cases know verification
regarding some of the things others report. Researchers, if you can help, please email me.

I've seen many mention that she performed as a male impersonaton (Bobby Minton),
and she mentions it in the Ebony article, but I've found no outside verification, such as
any newspaper source, club ad, etc.

I would love to see a timeline of what clubs she worked at in Harlem, and when,
and did she own any of them? That data gets quite confusing.

I've read newspapers "covered" her wedding to a woman, would love to see proof of that,
and who was she? The New York Age, a black newspaper that covered her regularly
did not mention it. [ They can be researched at fultonlibrary.com ]

Regarding her marriages, when, how long, to whom?

For example, we don't know how long before the Ebony article was published,
in August 1952, that it was written, but its sister publication Jet reported in June
of 1952 that her "husband" JT Gipson died. You would think that tidbit would have
been addressed with the Ebony article. And I've read that right after it was announced
that she married Gipson that he denied it, never happened. Can that denial be
verified in print? The Ebony piece mentions a first husband, Don...this is the only
mention of him I've seen, wouldn't that marriage have made the newspapers?

Some sources say she was on Groucho's "You Bet Your Life" twice? Any
verification of that? Is there video? (why would a contestant be on twice?)

I'd love more data on the recordings she did in 1939, for "personal use,"
that supposedly were put in stores. And more data on all succeeding
recordings (other than the Excelsior ones) as to when they were done,
and if they were released on their own.

Recommended Reading
on Bentley and/or Harlem Renaissance

Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies - James F. Wilson
Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers - Lillian Faderman
Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife 1885 - 1940 - Chad Heap
Strange Brother - Blair Niles
Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance - Richard Bruce Nugent
The Greatest Taboo: essay Creation of Fantasies / Constructions of Identies:
The Oppositional Lives of Gladys Bentley - Carmen Mitchell

and any essay by Eric Garber