Bailey, Pearl

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Portrait of Pearl Bailey (click to view image source)
Pearl Bailey
(to view image author and license, click here)
Bailey, Pearl Gender: F
Bailey, Pearl Mae
born on 29 March 1918 at 07:00 (= 07:00 AM )
Place Newport News VA, USA, 36n59, 76w25
Timezone EST h5w (is standard time)
Data source
From memory
Rodden Rating A
Collector: Rodden
Astrology data s_su.18.gif s_aricol.18.gif 07°59' s_mo.18.gif s_libcol.18.gif 28°16 Asc.s_taucol.18.gif 00°48'


American entertainer in vaudeville, night clubs, films and records. One of America's most beloved show-stoppers, she was known as a singer, dancer, humorist, stage, film and TV actress, social and political activist, author and a wife and mother.

The daughter of a Holy Roller-style revivalist, Bailey was the youngest of four kids and was singing in her dad's church choir by the time she was three. Her high cheekbones reflected the Cree Indians among her forebears. When she was 15, she won an amateur contest that held a $5.00 prize for a song and dance routine. In love with show business, she dropped out of school to become an entertainer. She was a chorus girl in Philadelphia nightclubs and worked the coal mining circuit during the height of the Depression. In 1944 she broke into major New York nightclubs where she cut her musical teeth working with such greats as Frank Sinatra, Count Basie and Cab Calloway.

In 1946 she was noted as the best newcomer on Broadway when she made her stage debut in "St. Louis Woman. Her movie debut was a year later in "Variety Girl." Her films include "Carmen Jones," St. Louis Blues," and "Porgy And Bess," in which she played the cook shop woman. Her Broadway credits include "Arms and the Girl," and "Bless You All." In 1970-71, she had her own TV show.

Bailey's heart problems began in the early 1960s, but when she performed, everything else faded. It was not unusual for her to collapse from exhaustion or heart strain after a nightclub show, be given oxygen and insist on returning to the stage to belt out a second show.

Her long and successful career peaked when she was selected by David Merrick to play Dolly Levi in the black version

of "Hello Dolly," 1967-1969, bringing audiences to their feet in standing ovations and winning a Tony. She said of her role that it gave her the change to "deliver what God gave me - and I'm dressed up besides."

Among her many awards, in 1970, President Nixon named her America's "ambassador of love" to the world. In 1975, President Ford named her special advisor to the U.S. Mission to the U.N. She was given an honorary degree from Georgetown University in 1978. The high school dropout enrolled as a freshman at that school and graduated in 1985 with an earned B.A. in theology. In 1988, she was awarded the Medal of Freedom.

Married five times (accounts vary from four to five as her earlier alliances were short term), she became the wife of six-year-younger Louis Bellson, a white jazz drummer, on 11/19/1952. It was a happy and enduring marriage and Bailey took great pride in their two adopted kids, Tony in 1954 and Dee Dee, 1960. Bailey wrote six books, including her autobiography, "The Raw Pearl," 1968.

On 7/11/1990 she had surgery to replace her left arthritic knee with a metal and plastic joint. With a 30-year history of heart problems, she entered the hospital again on 8/17/1990, feeling ill, and died 30 minutes later, at 6:12 PM, Philadelphia, PA.

Link to Wikipedia biography


  • Death by Heart Attack 17 August 1990 (Age 72)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : Prize 1969 (Tony for Hello Dolly)
  • Relationship : Marriage 19 November 1952 (Louis Bellson)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1968 (Autobiography)
  • Health : Medical procedure 17 August 1990 (Knee replacement)
    chart Placidus Equal_H.
  • Work : Gain social status 1967 (Hello Dolly great two year run)
  • Work : Prize 1978 (Honorary degree from Georgetown)
  • Work : Prize 1988 (Medal of Freedom)

Source Notes

Joan McEvers states, "from her to a mutual friend"


  • Notable : Awards : Tony (Hello Dolly)
  • Traits : Body : Weight (Mid-range overweight)
  • Vocation : Entertainment : Actor/ Actress
  • Vocation : Entertain/Music : Dancer/ Teacher (Pro)
  • Vocation : Entertain/Music : Vocalist/ Pop, Rock, etc.
  • Vocation : Writers : Fiction (Six books)
  • Notable : Book Collection : Profiles Of Women
  • Family : Parenting : Foster, Step, or Adopted Kids (Two adopted kids)
  • Family : Relationship : Mate - Interracial (Married a white musician)
  • Family : Relationship : Number of Marriages (Four or five)
  • Diagnoses : Body Part Problems : Heart (History of heart problems)
  • Family : Relationship : Marriage more than 15 Yrs (Bellson, 39 years)
  • Family : Relationship : Marriage less than 3 Yrs (Three or four short marriages)
  • Family : Relationship : Marriage - Very happy (Bellson)
  • Traits : Body : Race (Black, American Indian blood)
  • Traits : Personality : Gregarious/Extrovert
  • Lifestyle : Financial : Rags to riches
  • Lifestyle : Work : Loves job
  • Family : Childhood : Order of birth (Fourth of four)
  • Vocation : Entertainment : Child performer (Choir at three, debut at 15)
  • Traits : Personality : Loved by all
  • Traits : Mind : Education extensive (Went back to school)
  • Notable : Awards : Public Service (Special Advisor)
  • Vocation : Entertainment : Night Club/ Vaudeville (Vaudeville, clubs)
  • Traits : Personality : Persistent (Self-made)