Loretta Aiken took her stage name, Jackie Mabley, from an early boyfriend, commenting to Ebony in a 1970s interview that he had taken so much from her, it was the least she could do to take his name.Later she became known as “Moms” because she was indeed a “Mom” to many other comedians on the circuit in the 1950s and 1960s.
She came out as a lesbian at the age of twenty-seven, becoming one of the first openly gay comedians. During the 1920s and 1930s, she appeared in androgynous clothing (as she did in the film version of The Emperor Jones with Paul Robeson) and recorded several of her early “lesbian stand-up” routines.
Mabley was billed as “The Funniest Woman in the World”. She tackled topics too edgy for most mainstream comics of the time, including racism. One of her regular themes was a romantic interest in handsome young men rather than old “washed-up geezers”, and she got away with it courtesy of her stage persona, where she appeared as a toothless, bedraggled woman in a house dress and floppy hat. She also added the occasional satirical song to her jokes, and her (completely serious and melancholy) cover version of Abraham, Martin and John hit #35 on the Hot 100 on July 19, 1969. At 75 years old, Moms Mabley became the oldest living person ever to have a US Top 40 hit (Louis Armstrong, who would have been 86 when “What a Wonderful World” became a hit in 1988, is the oldest overall, although Armstrong was younger than Mabley when the record was made).
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1028 NW 3rd Ave
Miami, FL 33136