BILLIE HOLIDAY & LOUIS MCKAY:
Billie Holiday and husband Louis McKay (pictured above) were portrayed by Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams in the film "Lady Sings The Blues." Holiday seemed to be attracted to abusive men, and McKay was no different, although he was portrayed as decent man and stabilizing influence in the film, people described him as manipulative and sinister in real life. He was also a fearful mob enforcer. It was even rumored that he was a brutal pimp. In a 1959 taped phone conversation, while discussing Holiday, he made the following comments: "If I got a whore, I get some money from her, or I don't have anything to do with the bitch," he also threatened to beat Holiday during the conversation. His only redeeming quality, he did try to get Holiday off drugs.
Recent autobiography's on Billie Holiday make allegations that she was openly bi-sexual and was rumored to have had several affairs with notable stage and film actresses, including Tallulah Bankhead (who was also rumored to have had an affair with black actress Hattie McDaniel). These rumors have never been substantiated.
In the early 1940's, Holiday was at the peak of her career, making $1,000 per week but she spent all of her money on drugs, mainly, opium and heroin. In the late 40's, she was jailed on drug charges and served eight months in prison. Her New York City Cabaret Card was revoked, which kept her from working in clubs there for the remaining 12 years of her life.
By the 1950's, Holiday's drug abuse, drinking and relationships with abusive men set her life on a steady decline.
In 1959, before she died, a teenaged boy named Frankie Freedom (who was also a big fan) moved into her apartment, made her meals, did her hair and took her to the hospital when she was gravely ill.
Louis McKay was the technical advisor on the movie, "Lady Sings The Blues." He would die shortly after the film was released.