i've read a bio or two about josephine baker. i know the trajectory of her life, stateside and in paris -- her poverty stricken childhood in east st. louis, her initial successes, her delusions, her children, that bombastic ego, her downfall, her triumphant return -- but whenever i see her take the stage, it shakes me to my core. in the clips from the 60s and 70s, she is clearly not a young woman by any far stretch of the imagination. and yet, she is gorgeous, she is vibrant, she is sexy, with this lean, toned body that's so full of energy and vim, it's absolutely astonishing. as a performer, she's even more of a powerhouse than eartha kitt -- and that's saying quite a lot.
some time ago, someone told me that i reminded them of josephine baker. i didn't really get it at the time. they said that it's because i like to talk to the audience spontaneously, especially when things go wrong onstage. apparently, miss baker was a regular chatty cathy, too. i can't stand the idea of a dead mic. if something goes wrong, it's my job to deal with it head-on -- not walk off-stage until it gets fixed. if people got off the couch and paid good hard earned money to come and see me perform, the least i can do is give them a show.
they said that like la baker, i tend to drift towards elegance when i sing onstage. who doesn't look pulled together in a gown? i'm not so sure how far i delve into fantasy, though. clearly, she's a showgirl of the highest order, at all times. sylvester is definitely the male embodiment of that aspect of her performance. he actually met her before she died and she told him, it's all about the fantasy, give them the fantasy.
i'm kind of annoyed that she's wearing pants in the first clip because her legs are kind of fantastic.
there is something buoyant about all the charm she displays in these clips. so highbrow and yet so accessible and real. she looks like someone who should hold themselves away from you and yet she reaches out to you warmly, wanting to hold onto you, wide-eyed and friendly and smiling incessantly.
i know the following video says it's from the 50s but it was actually shot in the 60s. la baker was nearly 60 years old. (!!!)