Last night my parents and I went to the Egyption Theater to view a multi-media retrospective celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Josephine Baker. Frankly, it was a bit of a oddity. The music was live, a chamber orchestra trying to take on Le Jazz Hot. It needed to be loud and brassy – I know about loud and brassy - but came off a little confused. The orchestra was accompanied by a singer who fancied herself a bit of a Persian chanteuse. I just wanted to push her down. When she sang 'Don't Touch My Tomatoes', by Christ I most certainly did not want to.
The highlight of the evening, not surprisingly, was Josephine herself – in photographs, in movie exerpts, in a comedy short and, of course, dancing. She danced with a type of happy madness, uninhibited and full of joy. When she danced the Charleston, it wasn't graceful, but it was beautiful.
There was a musical number where she was in a cage, swinging back and forth on her perch and wearing just enough feathers to stuff a throw pillow. She had a high, clear voice and was singing in French about Haiti.
There was an onscreen display of the programs for her shows – fabulous, colorful art deco designs. It was like a giant eBay auction. I wanted to stand up and yell 'HOW MANY DAYS LEFT?'
But that would have been wrong.