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LGBT People Of History Part Twenty Two Gladys Bentley

Updated on April 3, 2012
Gladys in her signature tuxedo and top hat.
Gladys in her signature tuxedo and top hat. | Source
The article about Gladys Bently's marriage
The article about Gladys Bently's marriage | Source
Top Left - Gladys Bently in her signature top hat and tuxedo. Top Right - along with her fur coat and collar. Below Right - Outside of a nightclub Gladys in her tuxedo.
Top Left - Gladys Bently in her signature top hat and tuxedo. Top Right - along with her fur coat and collar. Below Right - Outside of a nightclub Gladys in her tuxedo. | Source

Gladys Bentley

Born on August 12th 1907 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Gladys Bentley was the daughter of George L. Bentley and his wife, Mary Mote.

At 16 Gladys left Philadelphia for New York where she became a part of the Harlem Renaissance, where she began performing in rent parties and buffet parties and eventually night clubs and speakeasies. Gladys Bentley was a blues singer during the 1920s and 1930s. Gladys was openly lesbian and performed at “The Clam House" which was located on 133rd Street which became one of New York City’s most notorious gay speakeasies during the 1920s.

In the 1930s however Gladys was a headline act at Harlem's Ubangi Club. She dressed in men's clothes, most famous for her top hat and tuxedo. In the club Gladys played piano, and would perform her very own raunchy lyrics to popular tunes in her very deep, growling voice.

She would flirt outrageously with women in the audience.

When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Gladys moved to Southern California as the speakeasies had started to fall into decline. In Southern California Gladys became known as “Americas Greatest Sepia Piano Player” and also was termed “The Brown Bomber of Sophisticated Songs.” She performed at Joquins' El Rancho in Los Angeles and also she performed at Mona's Club 440 in San Francisco.

She was harassed constantly for wearing men’s clothing.

Gladys changed her image during the McCarthy Era as she began to wear dresses and put away her men’s clothing. She made claims that she had married the newspaper columnist, J. T. Gibson, though soon after this he openly and publicly denied that they had ever wed. In 1952 Gladys did marry a man named Charles Roberts. He was a cook and he was 16 years younger than Bentley. Gladys lied on the marriage certificate, writing her age as 36 rather than 45 - sadly her marriage to Charles eventually ended in divorce.

Gladys studied to become a minister and made claims that she was cured of being a lesbian by taking female hormones.

Sadly in 1960 aged 52 Gladys died of pneumonia.

Callum & Ian

With Thanks To Wikipedia and also to http://www.queerculturalcenter.org

LGBT People Of History Archive
LGBT People Of History Archive | Source
Marlene Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich | Source
Greta Garbo
Greta Garbo | Source

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    • alian346 profile image

      alian346 5 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Thank you clairemy and hawaiianodysseus for your kind comments.

      Ian.

    • calpol25 profile image
      Author

      Callum 5 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (At Home With My Wonderful Partner)

      Hi hawaiianodysseus

      Thank you for your kind comments, am so glad you enjoyed our article there is alot more to come.

      Thanks again x

      Aloha! x

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Thanks for the informative article. I just did a piece on political correctness, so this hit home with me. Keep up the great work, calpol25!

      Thumbs up!

      Aloha!

    • calpol25 profile image
      Author

      Callum 5 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (At Home With My Wonderful Partner)

      Thank you clairemy :) x

      Glad that you enjoyed our article :)

    • clairemy profile image

      Claire 5 years ago

      I had no idea about Greta Garbo, she was a great actress, and I never considered her sexual orientation, its what she did that counted. However, very interesting article.

    • calpol25 profile image
      Author

      Callum 5 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (At Home With My Wonderful Partner)

      Thanks Ian :)

    • alian346 profile image

      alian346 5 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      You have taught me something new today, Callum!

      Ian.