Jackson's among memorabilia in show
Michael Jackson's fedora, Ella Fitzgerald's yellow dress and Louis Armstrong's trumpet are together in a Smithsonian exhibit celebrating the famed Apollo Theater that helped these stars to shine.
The not-yet-built National Museum of African American History and Culture is bringing New York's Harlem to the nation's capital with the first-ever exhibit focused on the Apollo, where many musical careers were launched. It opens on Friday at the National Museum of American History.
About 100 items are on view, representing big names from entertainment today and from decades past.
"When I was growing up, the Apollo was for us our Radio City Music Hall -- it was the theatre to play in our community," said singer and actress Leslie Uggams, 66, who toured the exhibit. "From the time I was nine until about 16, I played the Apollo with some of the great, great stars -- Ella (Fitzgerald), Diana (Ross), you name them."
The theatre opened originally as a segregated, white burlesque hall in 1914. It was renamed the Apollo in 1928 and was early to integrate as black people migrated to Harlem. It was one of the first places where black performers could speak directly to white audiences, curator Tuliza Fleming said.
In 1934, it became the home of a live version of a popular Amateur Hour radio show, and Fitzgerald was one of the first winners at age 17.
Like Uggams, who once performed 29 Apollo shows a week, and many others, the late King of Pop started early at the Apollo as well. Jackson won the theatre's Amateur Night as a youngster in 1967 with the Jackson Five.
The exhibit traces the Apollo's history to its place on the campaign trail for President Barack Obama in 2007.
Among the items on view are Willie Nelson's bandanna and sneakers, LL Cool J's jacket, the Beastie Boys' boombox, James Brown's cape and jumpsuit, dresses worn by the Supremes, Miles Davis' flugelhorn (on public view for the first time) and Sammy Davis' childhood tap shoes.
Curators are showcasing some newly acquired items for the museum due to open in 2015 on the National Mall, including the hat from Jackson's 1984 Victory Tour. His fedoras were made famous when Jackson wore them low over his eyes for the moonwalk.