On hearing the news of the death of Lena Horne, I am sure I am not the only one whose response was--she's still alive? Sure enough, there she was at the age of 92, an artifact from an almost irretrievably distant era. I felt the same way this morning when I read that the Tribune syndicate will be canceling "Annie," known to my pre-musical era as "Little Orphan Annie," at 85.
In the hard-edged world of segregated America, I doubt that Horne and Annie ever met, though if they did, they might have found that they had more in common than appeared at first blush. Annie, of course was the great avatar of resourcefulness, pluck and luck. Horne presented herself to her public as aloof and aristo but as she herself would tell you if you asked, she needed to do a lot of scratching and clawing along the way. They could have had a nice chat.
Horne for her part, was able to put her past behind her (although I am enchanted to learn that she once threw a table lamp at a guy who dissed her with a racial slur). Annie continued scratching and clawing to the end.
With Horne, it seems that some people marveled that such a cool demeanor could overlay such a turbulent past. But this apparent contradiction is more common than might at first appear, I suspect. I'd hazard a generalization that those who most successfully posture as aristos are those who had to learn it on there own; those born to the purple are no doubt more comfortable throwing it away. The coolest most butter-wouldn't-melt-in-your-mouth lady (white) that I knew grew up one flight above the candy store: her mother made her learn the piano as her ticket out.
And now that Annie is dead, perhaps we can at last learn the truth about her long-rumored involvement with this guy.