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Houston Voice, No. 1173, April 18, 2003
File 020
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Houston Voice, No. 1173, April 18, 2003 - File 020. 2003-04-18. University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. November 28, 2020. https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/montrose/item/16682/show/16672.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(2003-04-18). Houston Voice, No. 1173, April 18, 2003 - File 020. Montrose Voice. University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/montrose/item/16682/show/16672

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Voice, No. 1173, April 18, 2003 - File 020, 2003-04-18, Montrose Voice, University of Houston Libraries, accessed November 28, 2020, https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/montrose/item/16682/show/16672.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Voice, No. 1173, April 18, 2003
Contributor
  • Weaver, Penny
Publisher Window Media
Date April 18, 2003
Language English
Subject
  • LGBTQ community
  • LGBTQ people
  • Gay liberation movement
Place
  • Houston, Texas
Genre
  • newspapers
Type
  • Text
Identifier OCLC: 31485329
Collection
  • University of Houston Libraries Special Collections
  • LGBT Research Collection
  • Montrose Voice
Rights In Copyright
Note This item was digitized from materials loaned by the Gulf Coast Archive and Museum (GCAM).
Item Description
Title File 020
Transcript HOUSTON VOICE www.houston voice.com APRIL 18, 2003 19 TAMARAADRINE-DAVIS Ben Neihart's effort to shed light on the life of Alelia Walker offers speculation about what gay life was like during Harlem Renaissance. Mixing fact and fiction THE PROBLEM WITH "HISTORICAL fiction" is that it is often difficult to tell where history begins and fiction ends. This is a major drawback with novelist Bob Neihart's "urban historical," "Rough Amusements: The True Story of A'Lelia Walker, Patroness of the Harlem Renaissance's Down-Low Culture." The book's title claims to be a factual account of the life of the daughter of Madam C.J. Walker, who made a fortune selling black hair care products to women in the days before beauty shops. Her estate reportedly was worth more than $1 million when she died in 1919, making her daughter, A'Lelia, who was 24 at the time, one of the country's richest black women. Neihart's book centers around A'Lelia Walker and "The Faggots Ball," an infamous Harlem drag ball held during the '20s. In addition to black gay partygoers, white gays would also attend. A'Lelia was something of a party girl who counted among her circle of friends such luminaries as poet Langston Hughes, socialite and heiress Mayme White, artist Harold Jackman, Vanity Fair social critic Carl Van Vechten and writer Richard Bruce Nugent. "People routinely referred to her as stupid, as ugly, as boring, as superficial," Neihart said in a recent telephone interview. "I think she had an incredibly playful sense of humor, and was genuinely interested in the arts that she followed, and was quite a genius at self-promotion," he said. "And that worked out well with her mother's business." Such rich, lively and complex characters of the Jazz Age could make for serious and fascinating study. But "Rough Amusements" misses the mark because it involves the author's speculation about people and events for which there is very little historic record. Nevertheless, the seminal work on the Walker family, "On Her Own Ground: The Life & Times of Madam C.J. Walker," by A'Lelia Bundles, a family descendant, does not mention much about A'Lelia Walker. And few of her personal letters remain, leaving Neihart to draw on the papers and work of A'Lelia's contemporaries to fill in the blanks. • SOME READERS MIGHT OBJECT TO Neihart, a white writer, interpreting events and speculating about black American icons. But Neihart defends his actions. "There's a lot of historical fiction, or speculative narrative history that re- imagines conversations," he said. "So I In 'Rough Amusement; Ben Neihart uses the literary device of historical fiction to fill in the blanks about the life of black socialite A'Lelia Walker. really didn't think it would be offensive." He said he tried to follow the "cadences of voice" that he found in writings by Hughes and others. He compared what he did with "Rough Amusements" to Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" and "The Executioner's Song" by Norman Mailer. It also is similar, he said, to Edmund Morris's historical novel, "Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan." Any speculation about A'Lelia Walker's sexual orientation is left unanswered. The book provides no proof and the author found little else to help. But in "Rough Amusements," he mentions A'Lelia's close friendship with Mayme White. A most revealing scene plays out at a New Jersey resort when A'Lelia is on her deathbed. "In the bedroom they shared, Mayme asked A'Lelia, 'Baby, what's wrong?'" Neihart writes. "I'm so glad you're here, Mayme," A'Lelia replies. "Look at me. I've had everything I wanted in life. I just didn't have it long enough." A'Lelia died of an apparent stroke the next morning. Despite such morsels, "Rough Amusements" isn't about A'Lelia Walker as much as it is speculation about black gay culture during the Harlem Renaissance. A FOR MORE INFO 'Rough Amusements: The True Story of A'Lelia Walker, Patroness of the Harlem Renaissance's Down-Low Culture' By Ben Neihart Bloomsbury Publishing $21.95 a different kind of ft? Ttero Call for a Free Video b Brochure 1-866-67 9-HAIR HOUSTON 4635 SW Freeway, Suite 182 www.MHRHouston.com financine available cBl MEDICAL HAIR RESTORATION" 40 LOCATIONS NATIONWIDE Dr. Matt L. Leavitt, Medical Director Dr. Carlos J. Puig, Hair Transplant Surgeon When you consider selling your home, wouldn't it be nice to have a Realtor in the family? Call me... I'm family. 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