Craig Eisele on …..

June 30, 2012

Lena Horne Would Have Been 95 Years Old Today June 30

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mr. Craig @ 9:37 pm

What most people forgot a long time ago is that lean Horne was married to a white man long before it was aceptable. She married in Paris as doing so here in the USA was mostly illegal back then.  I had always liked Lene Horne never knowing why in particular.. it was more than her performances and her vivacious personality … I guess in my own way I knew her to be a trail blazer  in inter racial relationships .. which led me to a new world. 

 I remember when Alicia Keys went to the HARLEM THEATER had personal time with Lena Horn. It was the first time I saw  Alicia as a real woman and learned to respect her as that and not as a performing artist .. her interactions with lena was genuine and real and actually moving in seeing both of them together.




June 30th, 1917 in Brooklyn, New York


May 9th, 2010 in New York, New York

Singer, Actor, Symbol of Black Pride

Jazz singer Lena Horne was primarily known for being one of the first black performers to be signed with a major film studio in Hollywood, and for her elegant and alluring big screen persona. Her expressive singing voice earned her musical roles in white movies in the 1940s, when it was still illegal for some theaters to screen films with black actors. Horne learned to sing jazz with help from Billy Strayhorn, and used her prestige to bring attention to the struggle for equal rights for blacks. 
Born in 1917 to an educated upper-middle-class black family in Brooklyn, New York, Lena Horne began her performance career at 16 as a chorus girl in Harlem’s Cotton Club.By age 19, she was married and living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she befriended Billy Strayhorn, an ambitious black composer who would go on to become Duke Ellington’s esteemed collaborator. By her own account, Strayhorn taught her the basics of music, and helped her develop her vocal style.After her first marriage dissolved, Horne moved to Hollywood in 1941 to pursue a career as a nightclub singer. The following year, she signed a contract with MGM studios, and in 1943 she achieved her first taste of fame after singing “Stormy Weather” in an all-black movie musical of the same name. She was one of the first black performers to sign a multi-year contract with a Hollywood studio.As a result, the N.A.A.C.P. regarded her as an icon in the battle for elevated status for blacks in show business. She also became popular among servicemen, and she went on several U.S.O. tours during World War II.Horne believed that her fame was due in part to the fact that she was light-skinned, and therefore the kind of black person that didn’t threaten whites. However, once she was in the public eye, she used it to further the cause of civil rights.During her stint with the U.S.O., she refused to sing at bases where she felt black soldiers were mistreated. She joined Martin Luther King on the March on Washington in 1963, and spoke that year at a rally led by Medger Evers, another civil rights leader.Throughout the following decades, Lena Horne continued to sing at nightclubs and to act in films. In 1981 she won a Tony award for her one-woman musical “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music.” She died on May 9th, 2010 at age 92


Although in later years, Lena Horne described her marriage to Lennie Hayton as “perfect”, their marriage started out as a secret for several years and was without Lena’s love in the beginning. Here is more information about the marriage of Lena Horne and Lennie Hayton.


Lena Mary Calhoun Horne: June 30, 1917 in Brooklyn, New York.Lennie Hayton aka leonard George Hayton: February 13, 1908 in New York City, New York.


Lena: On May 9, 2010, at the age of 92, Lena Horne died at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.Lennie: Lennie Hayton died of a heart attack on April 24, 1971 in Palm Springs, California.

How Lena and Lennie Met:

Lennie and Lena met during the filming of Stormy Weather in 1943.

Wedding Date and Info:

Lennie and Lena were married in France on December 1947 but kept their marriage a secret for nearly three years. Their marriage was announced in 1950 in Lifemagazine. See photo

“Lena and Lennie were married by the lady mayor of the 16 arrondissement, who concluded the ceremony with a gracious speech on Franco-American friendship. Lena wore a new black dress from Balenciaga (she was married in black both times). Auren Kahn was best man. Lena and Lennie sailed home, secretly married, on the S.S. America.”
Source: Gail Lumet Buckley, Lena Horne. The Hornes: An American Family. 2002. pg. 207.

“There were threats of violence, as well as obscene mail, and Mr. Hayton built a wall around their California house and bought a shotgun.”
Source: Michiko Kakutani. “Lena Horne Aloofness Hid the Pain, Until Time Cooled Her Anger.”The New York Times. 5/03/1981. pg. A.1.


Lena Horne had two children.

  • Gail Horne Jones aka Gail Lumet Buckley: A journalist and author, Gail was born in 1937. Her father is Louis Jones.
  • Teddy Jones aka Edwin Fletcher Jones: Born in 1940. Teddy died in September 1970 of kidney failure at the age of 30. His father is Louis Jones.


Lena: Singer, dancer, actress, author.Lennie: Pianist, conductor, bandleader, arranger, composer, music director for MGM from 1940-1953.

Previous Marriages:

Lena was previously married to Louis Jordan Jones. Louis proposed three weeks after they met. They married in January 1937 when Lena was 19 and Louis was 28. Their wedding took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with the Reverend of the St. Luke Baptist Church officiating. They separated in the fall of 1940 and their marriage ended in a bitter divorce on June 15, 1944.

Lena: “I literally ran away and married the first man I met.”
Source: Gerald Clarke. ”Stormy Weather on Broadway.” 5/25/1981.

Lena: “I was a lousy wife for my first husband.”
Source: Hans J. Massaquoi. “Lena Horne on Her Loveless Childhood, Her Durable Beauty, Sex and the Older Woman, Her Life’s Triple Tragedy.” Ebony. 5/1980. pg. 42.

Lennie was previously married to Helen “Bubs” Gelderman, a former Ziegfeld dancer. They married in 1934. Their marriage ended in 1943 when Helen died of a heart attack.

Quotes About the Marriage of Lena Horne and Lennie Hayton (a white Man):

Lena: “It was cold-blooded and deliberate. I married him [Lennie] because he could get me into places a black man couldn’t. But I really learned to love him. He was beautiful, just so damned good. I had never met a man like him.”
Source: Gerald Clarke. ”Stormy Weather on Broadway.” 5/25/1981.

Lena: “At first, I became involved because I thought Lennie would be useful to my career. He could get me into places no black manager could. It was wrong of me, but as a black woman, I knew what I had against me. He was a nice man who wasn’t thinking all these things, and because he was a nice man and because he was in my corner, I began to love him.”
Source: Michiko Kakutani. “Lena Horne Aloofness Hid the Pain, Until Time Cooled Her Anger.” The New York Times. 5/03/1981. pg. A.1.

Lena about her later bitterness toward Lennie: “Lennie had washed me. He didn’t see me as black, and I realized that that was part of my feeling this whole sterility. I suddenly wanted him to see how different I was. I wanted him to feel I was black … We became close again, but in a different sort of way. He had to go beyond this whole thing of being liberal and thinking we’re all nice people … He finally had to come to terms with the depths of my own prejudice.”
Source: Michiko Kakutani. “Lena Horne Aloofness Hid the Pain, Until Time Cooled Her Anger.” The New York Times. 5/03/1981. pg. A.1.

Lena: You must know that in the beginning I didn’t marry Lennie because I was in love with him. I respected him because he knew a lot of music and I knew that I had to learn how to sing. I callously realized that I would have to associate with a White person to get the things I wanted professionally … And I learned to love him very much. It turned out to be a perfect marriage.”
Source: Hans J. Massaquoi. “Lena Horne on Her Loveless Childhood, Her Durable Beauty, Sex and the Older Woman, Her Life’s Triple Tragedy.” Ebony. 5/1980. pg. 44.


Singer and actress Lena Horne found success despite racial barriers she encountered early in her career.

Selected Lena Horne Quotations

• In my early days I was a sepia Hedy Lamarr. Now I’m black and a woman, singing my own way.

• I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept. I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed. It was because of the way I looked.

• Always be smarter than the people who hire you.

• Don’t be afraid to feel as angry or as loving as you can, because when you feel nothing, it’s just death.

• It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.

• You have to be taught to be second class; you’re not born that way.

• It’s ill-becoming for an old broad to sing about how bad she wants it. But occasionally we do

Remembering Lena Horne’s Contributions to Race Relations

The singer-actress has the distinction of being the first black woman to sign a contract with a major studio, MGM. Content with her singing career, Horne wasn’t keen on breaking into film, as she didn’t like the way blacks were portrayed on screen in the 1940s–as domestics, mammies, jungle natives, etc. Her contract stipulated that she would never play a maid, the Washington Post reported. With then NAACP Executive Secretary Walter White at her side, Horne worked to counteract the entertainment industry’s tendency to cast blacks in stereotypical roles.

For her efforts, she suffered the resentment of other black actors and of MGM producer Arthur Freed. Freed grew angry with Horne after she turned down a role in a Broadway show he was involved in because she found the black characters to be clichéd and offensive. According to the Post, Freed lashed out at Horne by ignoring her requests to be cast in the roles that did interest her.  

“I was not trying to embarrass anyone or show up my colleagues,” the Post said Horne explained to biographer Richard Schickel of her stance. “I was only trying to see if I could avoid in my career some of the traps [other blacks] had been forced into. It was no crusade, though of course I hoped that if I could set my own terms in the movies and also be successful, then others might be able to follow.”

While others may have resented her for refusing to indulge Hollywood’s racist views of blacks, film historian Donald Bogle told the Post that Horne’s challenging of the entertainment industry helped transform the image of black women on the silver screen. MGM, for example, featured Horne in promotional junkets in which she was portrayed as beautiful and glamorous. It was the same treatment given to white actresses of the time such as Betty Grable.

Horne not only challenged stereotypes on screen but segregation. In the 1940s and ’50s, it was customary for luxury hotels not to receive blacks. But Horne defied this norm by insisting that she and her band be permitted to stay at the high-end hotels she performed at in Miami Beach and Las Vegas, the Post reported. According to the paper, one Vegas hotel is said to have burned Horne’s sheets after she slept there. And during Horne’s early days singing with the all-black Noble Sissle’s Society Orchestra, Horne had to endure sleeping on circus grounds when hotels refused to accommodate the group.  

Because of the segregation she and other blacks experienced, Horne began to question the wisdom of singing about penthouses in the sky “when with the housing restrictions the way they are, I wouldn’t be allowed to rent the place,” she told the New York Times. That paper reported that when Horne wanted to move to Hollywood, which was once closed to blacks, she had to send a white friend to procure a house on her behalf. When the neighbors found out that the house was being occupied by a black woman, however, they circulated a petition to have her removed. Soon actor and Hollywood resident Humphrey Bogart heard about the petition and got those responsible to back down.

Due to her stance on not taking stereotypical roles, Horne often found herself with no work for long periods of time. Rather than filling these days with mundane activities, she became an advocate for fair employment and anti-lynching laws, the Post reported. In addition, she sang for soldiers on a studio-sponsored tour. During a performance at Fort Reilly, Kan., however, she was astonished to see German prisoners of war seated ahead of black soldiers and filed a complaint about what she had witnessed to the NAACP. This move didn’t sit well with MGM.  Despite being told not to make waves, Horne persisted. She appeared at the 1963 March on Washington and was one of a group of black entertainers to approach then Attorney General Robert Kennedy to ask that the government move swiftly and aggressively to end segregation.

Although today’s celebrities actively contribute to political campaigns and raise awareness about atrocities in developing nations, it’s rare for them to make a move that could actually hurt their careers. Horne should be applauded for taking such risks and experiencing backlashes as a result. Her experiences are all the more compelling when you consider that the light-skinned Horne could have skirted racial discrimination by passing for white. Early in her career, a club owner told Horne to tell everyone that she was “Spanish,” but she refused. Considering that other entertainers from Horne’s era–Raquel Welch, Carol Channing and Merle Oberon–all downplayed their racial heritage in the name of career advancement, Horne’s refusal to deny hers reveals her as a woman concerned more about integrity than what Hollywood could offer.  Because of the sacrifices she made and her consistent activism to better the lives of others, Horne  deserves to go down in history as a race relations trailblazer. 


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