was born Loletha Elaine Falana on September 11, 1942 in Camden NJ to Bennet and Cleo Falana. Falana's Cuban father came to this country to work as a welder years before. Her early years were spent living at the Clement T. Branch Village public housing project in the Centerville section of Camden. At the age of three, Lola was dancing and at five, she was singing in the church choir. Music was so much a part of Falana's life that, although, her parents didn't sanction it, she left Germantown High School a few months before graduation, to ignite her soon-to-be legendary career in show business.
On arriving in the Big Apple, Lola had no money and slept in a subway car until she could afford to rent an apartment. She snatched her first dancing job at Small's Paradise on 7th Street in Harlem. She also shimmied for Dinah Washington's night club act before Sammy Davis Jr. spotted her moves one day and cast her as the lead dancer in his Broadway musical, "Golden Boy." Her association with Davis (who spent much of the year performing in Vegas) led to Lola's becoming a Las Vegas fixture as well.
The ingenue's star was just beginning to gleam as she cut her first record "My Baby" for Mercury Records in 1965. Lola was the first singer legendary producer Lenny Wanoker produced when he came to Warner Brothers in 1966. He cut her sterling rendition of "Coconut Grove and her sprightly cover of Lee Dorsey's "Working On The Coal Mine."
Over the balance of the decade, Lola traveled abroad and became a major star in Italy. She became fluent in the Italian language and co-starred with Jean-Louis Trintignant in the spaghetti western, "Lola Colt." She also starred with Tony Renis and Rocky Robert in two other Italian films during the period. Her beautiful face was plastered on the cover of so many Italian magazines that she was hailed as the "Black Venus.' It was once reported that over 500 Romans asked for Lola's hand in marriage during her sojourn in the country. After making several guest appearances on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," she began to make a similar impression in North America.
A consummate performer, Lola starred in the Broadway musical Dr. Jazz" in 1975. The show closed after four performances, but she won critical praise and was nominated for a Tony Award. New York Times critic Olive Barnes, wrote that: "She's a hand grenade of a woman! That summer she was a regular on Ben Vereen's summer replacement series, "Comin' At Cha." Earlier she made regular appearances on "The New Bill Cosby Show," "Laugh-In" and various Bob Hope specials.
In 1975 Lola found her first chart hit with the disco number "There's A Man Out There Somewhere" which reached #67 on Billboards R&B charts in June. The next year she signed with ABC to star in four highly acclaimed variety show specials. She also became the first black spokeswoman for a major perfume when she became the commercial pitch-woman for Faberge's Tigress.
By the late 1970s, Lola found even greater success as the Queen of Las Vegas. Although, she'd sold out ballrooms at The Sands, the Riviera and the M-G-M Grand hotels, the Aladdin made her an offer she couldn't refuse. For twenty weeks a year, she staged an electrifying show that became a major tourist attraction. The hotel management reciprocated by making Lola the highest paid woman in Las Vegas history up to the time, to the tune of $100,000 a week. Only the King of Las Vegas, Wayne Newton, who often shared the stage with Lola, earned more.
In 1984 Lola joined the cast of the CBS soap opera, Capitol, as Charity Blake, a wealthy entertainment mogul. But, in 1987, Lola's career came to a screeching halt when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She was crippled, partially blinded and doctors had no cure to offer her. She lay in her bed 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. During that time, there were days when she literally crawled on her belly to get to the bathroom, but God has given her a miraculous recovery.
She made a triumphant return to Las Vegas in 1989 with several sold-out shows at the Sand's Hotel. However, Lola has since left the glitz of Las Vegas to do God's work. Although, Hollywood often makes offers and Las Vegas beckons her back to the casinos, her answer is "no" for now. She doesn't want to go back to the past. She wants to move to the future. She knows that God has some new challenges and missions in store for her. She remains open to his will and follows his lead.
For the last few years, she's toured the country, giving inspirational lectures and sharing her testimony. Aside from devoting time to Catholic evangelism and spending a lot of time in prayer for the world, Lola is very happy with the simple things in life. She's become focused on seeing God's will done on earth as it is in heaven. One could say that she's left the throne of the Queen and adopted the wings of an Angel.
Lola Falana has risen from a star to a servant -- a much higher and rewarding cause than her previous career as an entertainer. During the seventies, Lola made millions as the Queen of Las Vegas, but she has left that career for the noble task of serving the poor and faithless. Today Ms. Falana is an introspective poet, a mesmerizing motivational speaker, a concerned civic activist and a Catholic evangelist.
(above photo of Lola Falana with Bob Hope)
Lola Falana has MS
Date: Sun, 18 Jul 1999 18:47:58 -0700
From: ilena rose firstname.lastname@example.org
NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE | Bruce Nolan is a staff writer for The Times-Picayune of New Orleans.
NEW ORLEANS -- The big, doelike eyes are still long-lashed and beautiful. But the sleek Bob Mackie gowns that helped shape Lola Falana's sexually charged Las Vegas stage persona 15 years ago have given way to a plain white cotton shift and sandals. A heavy crucifix around her neck has replaced the expensive jewelry. The whole show business career is over, she says.
What's left is evangelist Lola Falana, at 57 a soft-voiced survivor of multiple sclerosis who says she has undergone a radical religious conversion -- and who travels the country at the invitation of school principals, pastors and church groups urging audiences to embrace God. "I am not a star. I don't want to be called that dirty word," she told an audience of 100 last week.
Broken by disease and reborn, "I am confirmed in Christ. I am absolute in Christ," she says. "Ain't no man in the world can compete with my Lord. I gotta guy who can walk on water."
Now, she says, she lives on an uncertain income from such speaking tours, largely free of her disease. She is unsure whether it will return, yet she says she is largely content.
She is lukewarm at best about publicity. No publicist prepares the groundahead of her, and her hosts say she is reticent about interviews.
In three recent low-key appearances in Louisiana and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Falana preached a mainstream Christianity with a devotion to the Blessed Mother consistent with her 1991 conversion to Catholicism.
Her stage manner is simple: Thirty minutes to an hour that she manages without apparent fatigue, in a presentation that is part sermon, part personal memoir.
She advocates a dependence on God in language that is sometimes childlike, as when she urges listeners to "choose your daddy," and later asks the giggling audience to practice Christian love by giving each other "huggie-poos."
Her story involves a claim of a specific encounter with the healing power of God: an episode she describes as a tingling warmth ebbing slowly down her neck, past her paralyzed throat and tongue and into her useless left arm and hand as she lay abed at home, freshly stricken with multiple sclerosis in November 1987.
Over the next four years, she says, there followed slow healing, a deepening faith, several mystical encounters with Jesus Christ, Mary, her own guardian angel, a glimpse of heaven and a close encounter with the personification of evil.
The process, she says, has left her a transformed Catholic convert, willing to speak to small groups in small towns about faith, chastity and spiritual,commitment -- each one, she says, a hard-won souvenir of her own journey.
In Falana's telling, the tale begins at what would be the high point of many others. In the early and mid-1980s she was a Las Vegas star, booked 20 weeks a year at the Aladdin Hotel.
Her break had come when she was a teen-ager, when Sammy Davis Jr. discovered the athletic young singer and dancer in a chorus line and gave her a breakout role in his Broadway show, "Golden Boy."
A series of network TV specials for ABC followed in the '70s; her energy and sexuality made her the national symbol for Faberge's Tigress line of perfume.
She found a professional home in Las Vegas and settled in as a major resident star, not unlike her friend elsewhere on the strip, Wayne Newton.
The arrival of multiple sclerosis shattered that career, she said, and although she returned briefly to performing, she had already begun the personal transformation into the evangelist's role she plays today.
After returning for several years to her native Philadelphia, she recently moved back to Las Vegas, where she lives quietly and largely out of the limelight.
Occasionally her telephone rings with another speaking invitation from another group. She has no booking agent, she says, nor is she a member of a speaker's bureau. Her availability spreads by word of mouth, confirmed by two New Orleans priests who have hosted her appearances locally.
"She doesn't ask for anything in particular, makes no special demands," said the Rev. Jerome LeDoux, pastor of St. Augustine church, which sponsored Falana in New Orleans recently. "She says she'll appear before Catholic or Protestant groups; she doesn't care."
"She's a remarkable woman," said Monsignor Richard Carroll of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Slidell, La., which arranged for two visits in 1996 and 1998. "She flew down coach. We put her up in a nice guest suite here in the rectory. She's without pretense, easy to talk to. And she's a delight -- a great sense of humor. She teases if she thinks you're going to too much expense."
Carroll located records indicating the church gave her $2,000 after one of her two visits; each drew more than 900 to his suburban church.
"My feeling is whatever we collected, we'd give her. It's how she makes living now," he said. LeDoux said he would probably give her $300 or $400 from his smaller congregation. In an interview Falana said her income and her speaking schedule are both uncertain. "Sometimes I get only $50, and that's OK," she said. "Sometimes I accept three or four visits a month; sometimes a month goes by and I don't accept anything. "When I get invitations, I take them to God. When he tells me to go, I go. "I learned to depend on him in my illness. I'm certain he will continue to provide for me now."
She said she last performed professionally at Christmas 1997, singing a few carols with Newton at the entertainer's theater in Branson, Mo.
She has no plans to return to entertainment as she knew it, unless it fits with a message she believes came to her from God.
"He said, `You are an evangelist and you will sing for the glory of God,' "said Falana.
"Whether that means actually singing, or speaking about my love for him as an evangelist here on Earth, or later in heaven, I don't know.
"I know this: If I sing again, it'll be for the glory of God."
Copyright Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Lola Falana, Gene Washington, Joe Greene, James Watson,
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Action/Adventure, Action, Thriller, Vengeance
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After his wife has an affair with a white policeman, a wealthy black man files for divorce. A violent tale of racism in the south...
1 hour, 41 minutes
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Two more episodes of the musical series featuring Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs, Kim Weston, The Toys, Noel Harrison, Herman's Hermits, The Lovin' Spoonful, Petula Clark, The Everly Brothers and others...
Musical & Performing Arts, Pop Music, Pop Music, Television, Vintage TV, Variety Show, Pop/Rock, Pop Groups, 1960s, Musical Sequences, Television/TV Series
SOUL BROTHAS AND SISTAS
Released: Sep 3, 2003
Company: Platinum Disc Corporation
Runtime: 12 hours, 23 minutes
Rating: R (MPAA)
What It Is and What It Was! - 10 Movie Set Star
The Burning Cross Co-Star
Soul Brothas and Sistas - 8 Features Volume 1 Star
Lady Cocoa Star
The Klansman Star
The Liberation of L.B. Jones Star
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LOLA FALANA'S TV ROLES & GUEST APPEARANCES
Capitol (1982) - Charity Blake (1984-1986)
The New Bill Cosby Show (1972) - Announcer/Regular
Guest Starring Roles
Late Night With David Letterman - Guest - 870520 (1987)
Hotel - Sheila Wilson - Changes of Heart (1986)
The Big Show - Guest - Episode 4 (1980)
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson - Guest - 800128 (1980)
Circus of the Stars - Ringmaster - SPECIAL #4 (1979)
The Muppet Show - Herself - Lola Falana (1979)
Vegas - - Red Handed (1979)
Fantasy Island - Esther Bolling - Spending Spree / The Hunted (1979)
The Love Boat - Foxy Lady - Marooned (1) (1978)
The Love Boat - Foxy Lady - Marooned (2) (1978)
Circus of the Stars - Performer - SPECIAL #2 (1977)
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson - Guest - 760716 (1976)
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson - Guest - 750501 (1975)
The Streets of San Francisco - Ms. Sterling - A String of Puppets (1974)
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson - Guest - 731019 (1973)
The Mod Squad - Marcie Weaver - The Song of Willie (1970)
The Hollywood Palace - Guest - Host: Anthony Newley / Lulu / Dyan Cannon (1969)
The F.B.I. - Lenore Brooks - The Sanctuary (1969)
The Ed Sullivan Show - Guest - Young Rascals / Joan Rivers / Lola Falana / Nancy Walker (1967)
The Hollywood Palace - Guest - Host: Bing Crosby / The Mamas & the Papas (1966)
Hullabaloo! - Herself - Host: Frankie Avalon (1965)
Hullabaloo! - Herself - Host: The Dave Clark Five (1965)
Hullabaloo! - Herself - Host: Peter Noone (1965)