By FREDI WASHINGTON PV's Theatrical Editor May 11, 1946 p. 26
BILL BAJANGLES ROBINSON! A magic name in the world of make-believe became even more magic last Monday, April 29. That was the day in this year, 1946, that New York, and particularly show business, paid unparallelled [sic] homage to a black man of humble birth who has, through 67 years of living, overcome and battered down most of the barriers a black man has to face in this, our "land of freedom." Sixty years of his 67 have been spent in entertaining and kicking down (with the most miraculous feet in the world) doors which could not be opened with eloquent speech. Dancing feet which never made an air tap since they first felt the rich soil under them; feet which bespeak a rhythmic language any and all can understand.
It was in tribute to these feet and the man who possesses them that city officials, the Governor of Virginia (Bill's home state), old timers, new timers, dancers who got their original start through Bill--all were on hand to wish him luck and God speed. Not only did they wish him luck but they (and particularly the old timers), entertained the King of Tapsters with a rare parade of nostalgic entertainment not to be found again in our life time.
From 9:30 pm until 2:30 am those who have worked with Uncle Bill through the years, entertained him. W.C. Handy, assisted to the floor, because of vision which he no longer has, played St. Louis Blues on his trumpet, with a clarity of tone and sureness that harkened [sic] back to days when he was a young man. Ray Bolger, dancing star of Three to Make Ready, in a grand Viennease manner, served as partner to the still lovely, blond Mae Murray in the Merry Widow Waltz. The Nicholas Brothers and Cab Calloway, who have appeared in innumerable shows, with Bill, danced and sang with a full knowledge of what this night would mean to the Negro performer for years to come. Long but touching was the performance.
At 11:30 the National Broadcast System aired to its entire network this historical event of show business. The Mayor of New York paid his tribute, presenting a gold plaque to Bill from the largest city in the world. Gene Buck, ex-president of ASCAP, came in from what he called his, "mortgage in Great Neck," to pay his respects. Buck said: "You columnists (they were all there), are really sitting in on something important and historic here. I never saw it happen before--trouping 60 years and still starring on this street. Bill's been," said Buck, "great from Sandow to Sinatra. A gentleman; a man who always thinks of others and never forgets himself."
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A STERLING SILVER LIFE MEMBERSHIP CARD was presented by the American Guild of Variety Artists. Bill said that he wanted it put in his casket, but hastened to add that he had no intention of dying any time soon. What bill did not mention or probably think of was, either place he will land after death will not necessitate a union card. Chances are spirits have no need for union organization. Bill, in an understandably choked voice, said that he was grateful to Joe Howard because he has given employment to Negro performers and presented them in a dignified manner.
He thanked the many people who made Bill Robinson Day a reality and the many wayfarers who participated. "In paying tribute to me," said Bill, "you are paying tribute to the many achievements of my people." With this, the music struck up and Bill's clear concise taps went out over the ether waves--so rhythmic that you saw as well as heard.
Glancing around the spacious Zanzibar, which was packed to the hilt with celebrities of the theatre, newspaper world, and other walks of life, you saw emotions being choked back by old and young guys and gals who would boast about their hard shell. It was a great day and when it was all over in the wee hours of the morning, Bill Robinson's tension broke when the orchestra played and the audience sang, Auld Lang Syne. The tears streamed down his face, and his voice broke when he tried to say it had been the greatest day in his life and he hoped that he could live up to the homage that had been paid him.
Yes, it was Uncle Bill's day, and for many of the kids who are still bedridden in hospitals, and who, from time to time, have been made happy by Bill's dancing feet, it was a great day, too.
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AN INTERESTING place a newspaper office. If you write, you have the opportunity to bring to the attention of readers many causes, etc., which readers will assist with, once they are given the facts. In this way, The Entre Nous Social Club has dedicated itself to a worthy cause. A letter from one of its members states: "My club became interested in raising funds to pay for the tuition of a deserving pupil at the Katherine Dunham School of Dance and Theatre through reading your column in PV. We are presently in contact with the executives of the Dunham School to make arrangements for that purpose in September or October."
This club lost no time in getting their fund raising drive under way once they decided talented children of small means should be given a fair opportunity for study. They start the ball rolling by giving their first annual dance at Club Danceland, Sunday evening, May 12.
This is the kind of spirit which is needed if we are going to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. The children of today will be the men and women of tomorrow and if we continue to confuse today's issues as we have been doing, these children will need plenty of fortification to straighten out the mess.