gayharlem



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Gladys Bentley headlined at the Ubangi Club in the early 1930s


The Harlem Tavern and the Harlem Club reopened as the Ubangi Club in 1934. It was located on 131st Street and 7th Avenue. The name of the club was to evoke African roots and "the suggestion of voodooism." Due to the exotic taste of the club, it attracted a lot of tourists. Gladys Bentley, a popular female butch Blues performer who dressed in male evening attire, headlined in the early 1930s while backed up by a chorus line of "pansies". She attracted black, white, gay, and straight audiences.

“Its shows were frequently reviewed in the major black papers, including the Amsterdam News, Chicago Defender, and Pittsburgh Courier, but there were some rumblings that the club barred black customers, or at least those attending in mixed racial parties. In its ‘Night Club Notes’ column the New York Times refuted this claim in 1936, stating, ‘The Ubangi still draws a mixed crowd, is noisy and intimate and gay—altogether harlem, in short.”

Listen to her song "Wild Geese Blues"


Resources:

"Harlem Renaissance: Gladys Bentley." The Butch Caucus. Web. 03 May 2011. <http://thebutchcaucus.blogspot.com/2010/10/gladys-bentley-worlds-greatest-sepia.html>.

Nugent, Bruce, and Thomas H. Wirth. Gay Rebel of the Harlem Renaissance: Selections from the Work of Richard Bruce Nugent. Durham [N.C.: Duke UP, 2002. Print.

Wilson, James F. Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies: Performance, Race, and Sexuality in the Harlem Renaissance. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2010. Print.