Lola Falana (pictured
above) was born Loletha Falana on September 11, 1942 in New Jersey. She started
dancing when she was five. As a teenager, she moved to New York and slept in
a subway car until she could afford to rent an apartment. Her big break came
when Sammy Davis, Jr. spotted her in Dinah Washington’s nightclub
act. Davis cast her as the lead dancer in his Broadway musical “Golden Boy.”
She would become his protégé. Her association with Davis led to Lola becoming
a Las Vegas fixture. Rumors persisted, that Falana and Davis were also romantically
Over the next decade, Lola
traveled abroad and became a major star in Italy. She also became fluent in
the Italian language and her beautiful face was plastered on the cover of numerous
Italian magazines. It was once reported that 500 Romans asked for Lola’s hand
in marriage during this time. She was hailed as the ‘Black Venus.’
Lola returned to New York
and appeared on Broadway in the play “Dr. Jazz.” The show closed after
four performances but she won praise and critical acclaim and was nominated
for a Tony Award.
In 1975, Lola signed with
ABC to star in four highly acclaimed variety show specials. She also made history
when she became the first black spokeswoman for a major perfume when she signed
on to be the pitch-woman for Faberge’s Tigress. This commercial was
so sexy that it was banned in some states.
By the late 1970’s, Lola made
history again, by becoming the highest paid black entertainer in Las Vegas history,
commanding a then staggering $100,000 per week. She was referred to as the “Queen
Of Las Vegas.” She staged an electrifying show that became a major tourist attraction
for twenty weeks each year. Only the ‘King Of Las Vegas,’ Wayne Newton,
who often shared the stage with Lola, earned more. Lola had the innate ability
(like Halle Berry and Diana Ross) to surround herself with people who
proved helpful to her career.
In 1984, Lola joined a soap
opera, around this time, rumors began to circulate that she was allegedly involved
with black actor Don Mitchell (Ironside, and former husband of actress Judy
Lola would later marry the lead singer (Butchy Tavares) of the
R&B group Tavares. They would later divorce.
In the 80’s, I attended the
‘Black Filmmakers Hall Of Fame” in Oakland where Lola Falana was honored.
I noticed, something was wrong, she had a hard time climbing the stairs to the
stage to accept her award. Only later, did the world learn, Lola Falana
had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Her career came to a screeching
halt. She was crippled, partially blinded and doctors had not cure to offer
her. It was even rumored, due to financial problems, she had to allegedly move
in with her doctor’s family until she got on her feet.
Falana has stated that she
lay in bed for five days, spending quiet time and praying with God. On the fifth
day, Lola felt the presence of God sweep her body and begin what would be a
year-and-a-half healing process.
She made a triumphant return
to Las Vegas in 1989 with several sold-out shows at the Sands Hotel.
Lola has since left the glitz of Las Vegas to do God’s work. Hollywood often
beckons her and Las Vegas bookers contact her but her answer is “no” for now.
She doesn’t want to go back to the past. She wants to move to the future.
Falana tours the country giving
inspirational lectures and sharing her testimony. She is now happy with the
simple things in life and she donates her time to various charities and nunneries.
Source: Capital Entertainment