Lola Falana

  • Born: (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

Loletha Elayne Falana or Loletha Elaine Falana better known by her stage name Lola Falana. She is an American singer, dancer, model and actress.

In 1958, Lola Falana's first dancing gig was at age sixteen during a Dinah Washington nightclub appearance in Philadelphia in which Washington gave her the opening act slot to perform. Washington, dubbed the "Queen of Blues", was influential in fostering Falana's early career. While dancing in a chorus line in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Falana was discovered by Sammy Davis Jr., who gave her a featured role in his 1964 Broadway musical Golden Boy. After the musical, Falana launched her music career later in 1964. Her first single, "My Baby", was recorded and released 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 Sammy Davis, Jr.

In 1966, Davis cast Falana, along with himself, Ossie Davis, and Cicely Tyson, in her first film role, in A Man Called Adam. Lola 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, Lola Falana ended her close working relationship with Sammy Davis Jr., though the two remained friends. "If I didn't break away," She told TV Guide, "I would always be known as the little dancer with Sammy Davis Jr. ... I wanted to be known as something more." In 1970, she 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 for Playboy magazine. She was the first black woman to model for the 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 Lola 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 Lola 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. Throughout the mid-1970s, Lola 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, Lola Falana's 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, Falana was nominated for a Tony Award and won the 1975 Theater World Award.

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