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The Josephine Baker Story

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Josephine Baker was born Freda Josephine Carson in St. Louis, Missouri, on June
3, 1906 to washerwoman, Carrie McDonald, and vaudeville drummer, Eddie Carson.
Josephine's father abandoned them shortly after her birth and her mother married a kind but perpetually unemployed man named Arthur Martin. Their family came to include a son and two more daughters. Josephine grew up cleaning houses and babysitting for wealthy white families until she got a job waitressing at The Old Chauffeur's Club when she was 13-years-old. While working there she met a man named Willie Wells whom she had a short marriage with. Josephine never depended on a man for financial support and she never hesitated to leave when a relationship hit its breaking point. Which is why she was married and divorced three more times to an American named Willie Baker in
1921 (whose last name she chose to keep), a Frenchman ,Jean Lion, in 1937 (from whom she attained French citizenship) and a French orchestra leader, Jo Bouillon, in 1947.
Josephine toured the United States with The Jones Family Band and The Dixie Steppers in 1919, performing various comical skits. When the troupes split, she tried to advance as a chorus girl for The Dixie Steppers in their production "Shuffle Along". She was turned away because she was "too skinny and too dark." Still determined as ever, she learned the chorus line's routines while working as part of the crew. Therefore, Josephine was the obvious replacement when one of the dancers left. Onstage she rolled her eyes and purposely acted clumsy. The audience loved her comedic touch and Josephine was a box office hit for the rest of the show's run. Josephine traveled to Paris for a new show that proved to be a turning point in her career. Josephine and dance partner Joe Alex captivated the audience with a routine that was new and exotic, and included Josephine boldly dressed in nothing but a feather skirt. Josephine worked the audience into frenzy with her uninhibited movements. She was an overnight sensation. Josephine's immense popularity afforded her a comfortable salary, which she spent mostly on clothes, jewelry and pets. She loved animals and at one time she owned a leopard, a chimpanzee, a pig, a snake, a goat, a parrot, parakeets, fish, three cats and seven dogs. When her routine with Alex got old she moved on and starred in La Folie du ...

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...eine. The French government honored her with a 21-gun salute, making Josephine Baker the first American woman buried in France with military honors. Her gravesite is in the Cimetiére de Monaco,
Monaco. Josephine Baker has continued to intrigue and inspire people throughout the world. In 1991, HBO released The Josephine Baker Story. The movie won two Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries and Outstanding Art Direction. The movie also picked up one of three Golden Globe nominations.
Josephine Baker sashayed onto stage with a comic, yet sensual appeal that took Europe, and eventually the world, by storm. Famous for barely-there dresses and uninhibited dance routines, her exotic beauty generated nicknames such as "Black Venus," "Black Pearl" and "Creole Goddess." Admirers bestowed a plethora of gifts, including diamonds and cars, and she received approximately 1,500 marriage proposals. Josephine Baker was once quoted saying "I love performing. I shall perform until the day I die." She maintained energetic performances and a celebrity status for 50 years before going softly in her sleep, but she did not go softly through life.
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