Lola Falana: “First Lady of Las Vegas” “Queen of Las Vegas”

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Lola Falana Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1970: Photo of Lola Falana Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Born: Loletha Elyane Folana on September 11, 1942, Camden New, Jersey

Parents: Cleo Falana (Mother), Bennett Falana (Father)

Siblings:  ?

Spouse: Feliciano “Butch” Tavares (married: 1971, divorced: 1975)

                                                                                       Lola and Butch

Children: 0

Education: Germantown High School

Occupation: Singer, Dancer, and Actress; later became a Roman Catholic evangelist

Accomplishments, Achievements, and Contributions: From Wikipedia

While dancing in a nightclub, Falana was discovered by Sammy Davis Jr., who gave her a featured role in his 1964 Broadway musical Golden Boy. Her first single, “My Baby”, was recorded for Mercury Records in 1965. Later in her career she recorded under Frank Sinatra‘s record label. In the late 1960s Falana was mentored by Davis. In 1966 Davis cast her, along with himself, Ossie Davis, and Cicely Tyson, in her first film role in the film, A Man Called Adam.

Falana became a major star of Italian cinema beginning in 1967. In Italy she learned to speak fluent Italian while starring in three movies, the first of which was considered a spaghetti western. She was known as the “Black Venus”. During this time she was busy touring with Davis as a singer and dancer, making films in Italy, and reprising her role in Golden Boy during its revival in London.

In 1969 Falana ended her close working relationship with Sammy Davis Jr., though the two remained friends. “If I didn’t break away,” Lola told TV Guide, “I would always be known as the little dancer with Sammy Davis Jr. … I wanted to be known as something more.” The previous year, Sammy Davis Jr. was divorced by his second wife, May Britt, after Davis admitted to having had an affair with Falana.

In 1970, Falana made her American film debut in The Liberation of L.B. Jones and was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for New Star Of The Year – Actress for her performance. That same year she posed forPlayboy magazine. She was the first black woman to model for a line of cosmetics that was not targeted solely at blacks, in the successful Faberge Tigress perfume ads. In those early years, she also starred in a few movies considered to be of the blaxploitation genre. She appeared at the Val Air Ballroom sponsored by Black Pride, Inc., in 1978.

American TV audiences became familiar with Falana during the early 1970s. She often appeared on The Joey Bishop Show and The Hollywood Palace, displaying her talent for music, dance, and light comedy. These appearances led to more opportunities.

She was the first supporting player hired by Bill Cosby for his much-anticipated variety hour, The New Bill Cosby Show, which made its debut on September 11, 1972 (her 30th birthday) on CBS. Cosby had met Falana in his college days, when he was a struggling comic and she was a 14-year-old dancing for $10 a show in Philadelphia nightclubs.[citation needed] Throughout the mid-1970s Falana made guest appearances on many popular TV shows, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Muppet Show, Laugh-In and The Flip Wilson Show. She also starred in her own television specials.

In 1975, her disco record “There’s A Man Out There Somewhere” reached #67 on the Billboard R&B chart. That same year, she returned to Broadway as the lead in the musical Doctor Jazz. Although the production closed after just five performances, Lola was nominated for a Tony Award and won the 1975 Theater World Award.

With help from Sammy Davis, Falana brought her act to Las Vegas and became a top draw there. By the late 1970s, she was considered the Queen of Las Vegas. She played to sold-out crowds at The Sands, The Riviera, and the MGM Grand hotels. Finally,  The Aladdin offered her $100,000 a week to perform. At the time, Falana was the highest paid female performer in Las Vegas. Her show ran twenty weeks a year and became a major tourist attraction.

While still playing to sell-out crowds in Las Vegas, Falana joined the cast of a short-lived CBS soap opera, Capitol, as Charity Blake, a wealthy entertainment mogul. In 1983, Falana was appearing at Bally’s hotel and casino in Atlantic City and, while playing baccarat, won a minority stake in the New York Mets, a stake she held until she sold it in 1988 for 14 million dollars to Frank Cashen.

Awards/Honors: 1975 Theatre World Reward

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lola_falana_unlvsc_0049_0251_WEB                                                                                                         Lola Falana

                                          Lola Falana Today

I Salute This AMAZING  HER-story sista!

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13 thoughts on “Lola Falana: “First Lady of Las Vegas” “Queen of Las Vegas”

    1. Yep. Same with my older male relatives. She was a true sex symbol. She still looks great! BTW, it’s interesting that she was the highest paid woman performer in Las Vegas. It’s always a white woman that gets paid more (in most cases).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Nah, I get a full waiver on the re-blogs, lol! Lola as the highest paid woman performer in Las Vegas is in the second to last paragraph (I bolded it), but noooo you didn’t see that, now did ya because you were smitten by the beauty of the women in these last few profiles, LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

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