Saturday, 11 September 2010

The Secret Life Of...

Everybody has a secret life.No matter how dull or mundane you think it is, somebody out there will be interested. Maybe you've always wanted to be a burlesque dancer and you're taking classes but haven't told anyone. Maybe you used to be part of a circus and miss the nomadic lifestyle. Maybe you do a couple of lines of coke before going in to work to get you through the day,otherwise you might shoot yourself.
When newspapers write about the secret lives of famous people they usually cover the ones you'd expect. Below are some people whose secret lives I'd like to know more about.

Josephine Baker, exotic dancer, entertainer and spy. Disheartened by the state of America and the discrimination she faced there, Baker moved to France. In Paris she became a star and was adored.During world war two she collected intelligence for the french underground.She adopted twelve children from all corners of the world, long before you heard the name Angelina Jolie.

Bessie Coleman was the first black female pilot. Born in 1892 in Atlanta, Bessie decided she wanted to fly planes. Though no flight schools in America would admit a black woman. Undeterred, Bessie discovered she would fare better in Europe and studied french at a language school in Chicago. At the end of world war one Bessie moved to France. There she attended the world renowned flight school Ecole d'Aviation des Freres Caudron in a town called le Crotoy, northern France.Can you imagine the barriers she faced? Such character,guts and strength is admirable. She was an inspiration and still is. Somebody make a movie about this woman's life.

Writer Zora Neale Hurston was a talented author who never received the accolades she deserved.She was also politically active. I love this picture of her taken at a book fair, she looks so beautiful and elegant. It makes me wonder which other writers were there. Who did she go with? Most importantly who was she wearing? Etcetera etcetera etcetera!

James Baldwin. Novelist and civil rights activist. Baldwin was gay and a lot of his work explored the themes of identity and homosexuality in the 60's.

Akira Kurosawa. Legendary director of Seven Samurai and many other great movies.I'd love to know more about Kurosawa's struggles for artistic freedom, and how he managed to stay sane or not. A familiar battle for the artistically gifted.

Actor Paul Robeson was also a political activist who fought for equal rights for African Americans. His mother was involved in the underground railroad. I bet he had some stories to tell.

Singer Sam Cooke. The incredibly handsome man with the sweet soul voice is often credited for pioneering that genre of music. His track A Change Is Gonna Come was adopted by the civil rights movement. Bring It On Home To Me is one of my favourite songs ever. Every time I listen to it, it feels both familiar and new.It makes me long for something I cannot yet name. Cooke was tragically shot to death in an altercation with the manageress of a motel.He died way before his time.

The first woman to travel into space. Valentina Vladimirovna Nikolayava. Born in Russia in 1937 Valentina enjoyed parachuting and trained as an airline pilot. Her Vostok 6 mission orbited the earth in 1963. What a woman, fearless and intriguing.


  1. Thank you for remembering Sam Cooke on this list. His contributions to modern music--most notably his demand of ownership of his publishing rights in 1960--have been greatly underappreciated. It makes it even more tragic to know the circumstances surrounding his death have been grossly misunderstood all these years.

    Erik Greene
    Author, "Our Uncle Sam: The Sam Cooke Story From His Family's Perspective"

  2. My pleasure, he was an amazing artist. My father used to play his records when I was a kid and I'll never forget his voice, songs and the impact he had on music. I wish more people would acknowledge this.His death was a tragic tragic loss.Thanks for telling me about the book, I'll def get a copy.


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