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 involved.

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 Pace). 

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.

However, 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

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