Hello Family: Personal, wordpress and FB. Yesterday I got a chance to attend a mini-fair and community gathering at the William Grant Still Community Arts Center in the West Adams District of Los Angeles, California. William Grant Still (May 11, 1895 – December 3, 1978) was an African-American classical composer who wrote more than 150 compositions. He was the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony (his first symphony) performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television.
The Art Center focuses on the artistic efforts of the community and has a variety of programming throughout the year reflecting the multicultural diversity of its neighborhood where Still resided for twenty years. It has been serving the Westside of Los Angeles since 1978.
My mom, pictured above, had aspirations to become an opera star, and I thought by attending this mini-fair I might be able to hook up with someone who remembered those days, the late 1930s through 1945. Well, I did. I also discovered a lot more information about the 1940s and 1950s and what was then a mostly Black neighborhood that was home to many entertainers, architects, doctors and lawyers.
I am focusing on entertainers in this post because that is what my mother and father did. I chose to go to the gathering at the William Grant Still Center because I also figured I would find people there who had an interest in opera. My mom used to sing at weddings at the Wilfandel Club on Adams Boulevard, and I found out yesterday that the club is still active. Possibly I will be able to find more information when I visit them.
I was actually able to provide some new information to the people I met, who were very interested in who Grandma Norma was. I forgot to mention while I was there that mom was Hattie McDaniel’s protege’, (Hattie McDaniel, first Black female to win an Academy Award,) though I did show them a picture with mom and Hattie, which a couple of people copied for themselves. I also had the following article, but I didn’t get a chance to share it yesterday. ” Representing Miss Hattie McDaniel as guest of Miss Lena Horne at her “after theatre,” party closing her Headline Orpheum appearance, was Miss Norma Anne Amato and her mother, Sinclaire White Amato, violinist and pedagog.” The Caifornial Eagle newspaper, June 22, 1944.
I was able to share information about mom’s mother, Sinclaire, who like Mr. Still, played the violin and was the sponsor of the Music Arts Association back in the day. 1931 to be exact. I was able to become acquainted with someone who would like to begin some type of Art Appreciation club here in L A. again for our kids.
Of course, I also took pictures of Eddie, my father, songwriter, producer, comedian, to share with the people I met. As I suspected, even though there were older people at this function, not one of them remembered Eddie. However, I found people who knew of people that Eddie worked with. So I was able to acquaint them with Eddie and I got a chance to exchange cards with other writers of black history.
Bringing Eddie’s accomplishments in the entertainment industry out of the shadows is my quest. I was able to accomplish that, somewhat, at yesterday’s event. I found one one-page article with information on it that I could connect to Eddie. Such as: The article mentioned Clarence Muse, actor, director, composer. I have this picture of Eddie and Clarence Courtesy of L. A. Public Library, donated by Attorney Walter L. Gordon, Jr., my godfather.
The article I saw yesterday also mentioned Lena Horne, I have an article from the Pittsburgh Courier, 1945, in which the columnist wrote: “Last Monday through the courtesy of the NBC broadcasting studios, I witnessed the second production of “Jubilee” to be sent to those fine fellows across the sea: Eddie Green did a comic script with Santa Claus (Whitman) and Lena Horne.”
This same one page article that I found yesterday mentioned Sydney P. Dones, former actor and producer, well I found an article from The California Eagle, March 20, 1947, that mentioned Eddie and my godfather being at the same function, as Mr. Dones.: “Dropped in on the candlelight introduction of Les Dames club Sunday evening, Atty. Walt Gordon seemed to be having a grand time greeting old friends, as did Norma and Eddie Green, Sidney Dones.”
The point here is that though Eddie was a visible, well-known figure in those days, it seem to me that he has faded from view. I hope to rectify that.
These folks lived near each other in the Adams Historical District in the 40s and 50s. Hattie McDaniel on Harvard, Sidney Dones, on Hobart, Clarence Muse on 24th Street, Rochester, a friend of the family lived off of 37th Street and we lived on Second Avenue, near 36th Street.
I got the chance yesterday to network and share Eddie’s history, and mom’s. And I will go to great lengths to do that. It took me 4 hours on the bus to get there, same to get back (MTA and Red Line), but I did it.
I will leave you with a few lines from the Eddie Green, Ernest Whitman, Lena Horne skit.
SANTA(Ernest Whitman): Well, my boy, I brought you something that you’ll like. This is your package.
EDDIE: I guess I’ll open it. Well, looka here, it’s a Lena Horne mamas doll, ain’t that nice. It’ll be good if when I squeeze it, it says mama.
LENA (seductively): Oh daddy.
EDDIE: Well, That’s good enough!
By folks, thanks for stopping by, and thank you Kristina, for giving me the idea to research Grandma Norma’s singing career.
Peace and love