Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Film clip: My Family's Entertainment Legacy

 

My Family's Entertainment Legacy. Watch a clip from the documentary film JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton's Harlem in Havana by filmmaker Leslie Cunningham. In this educational video clip, a colorful cast share their memories about Harlem in Havana, one of America's most successful traveling shows that broke carnival records from the U.S. to Western Canada, helped birth icons Redd Foxx, Fontella Bass and Chuck Berry, and significantly impacted Black entertainment in the mid 20th century, during the Jim Crow era. In the video, we meet filmmaker Leslie, the granddaughter of a great African American impresario who shares her childhood memories in Tampa, Florida where the show was headquartered for nearly forty years. Leslie interviews her father John Cunningham (son of Leon Claxton) a musician who was raised on Harlem in Havana, and drove stakes with the tent-hands on the popular Black and Cuban carnival midway attraction. Their exclusive interviews add layers to this epic story. However, JIG SHOW is not just about family, but triumphs, connections and weaving across cultural divides. Above all else, Leslie is on a mission to preserve her family's legacy, before the memories die with a generation. Watch the full film at jigshow.com.

Part of The Harlem in Havana Project: Burlesque Education Series covering American burlesque history from the traveling carnival stage. Visit harleminhavana.com (Educate).

Friday, July 15, 2022

Brown Skin Showgirls Book


BROWN SKIN SHOWGIRLS is a black and white photographic collection of the Black and Cuban women who performed burlesque, shake, exotic, rhumba, salsa, calypso, striptease and female impersonation on Leon Claxton's Harlem in Havana Revue during its run on Royal American Shows from 1936 to 1967. This book is guaranteed to expand your knowledge of Black and Cuban performers that shaped American popular culture. Order your print copy today.

Film clip: Carnival Girl Shows and Jig Shows


Carnival Girl shows and Jig shows- a clip from the film JIG SHOW |  Leon Claxton's Harlem in Havana by filmmaker Leslie Cunningham. In this educational video clip, carnival historian Doc Rivera talks about the history of girl shows, burlesque and colored jig shows on the American traveling carnival in the early- to mid-20th century. Leslie looks at her grandfather Leon Claxton's earliest stage show productions on Royal American Shows in the 1930s. Watch the full film at jigshow.com
 

Part of The Harlem in Havana Project: Burlesque Education Series covering American burlesque history from the traveling carnival stage.  


Monday, July 11, 2022

Film clip: My Grandma Was An Exotic Dancer


My Grandma was an Exotic Dancer! From the documentary film JIG SHOW |  Leon Claxton's Harlem in Havana by filmmaker Leslie Cunningham. In this clip, Shirley Bates (now in her 90s) talks about her time as the lead dancer performing exotic dance on the Harlem in Havana revue in the 1940s. Shirley and her older sisters were some of the first brown-skin beauties to bump and grind during the heyday of burlesque. Watch the full film at jigshow.com.

Part of The Harlem in Havana Project: Burlesque Education Series covering American burlesque history from the traveling carnival stage.  

Monday, May 30, 2022

Burlesque Education Series

 

Coming Fall 2022!

The Harlem in Havana Project: Burlesque Education Series features three hour-long classes covering American burlesque history from the traveling carnival stage. The class list includes:

  1. Girl Shows! 

  2. My Grandma Was An Exotic Dancer!?   

  3. Burlesque Bloodlines: How I Documented My Family’s History


Presented by Leslie Cunningham, a documentary filmmaker and creator of the Harlem in Havana Project, these fun, passionate and energetic classes are filled with new and existing burlesque material, personal experiences, book reviews, film clips and much more.  Created for a global audience, these educational classes are guaranteed to expand your knowledge of American burlesque and Black entertainment history. To learn more, email lesliecunninghamfilms@gmail.com. 




Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Leon Claxton, Tampa’s Black variety show producer, is featured in new documentary (Tampa Bay Times)

Leon Claxton and the great Joe Louis 


Tampa Bay Times - by Paul Guzzo - Published Feb. 24, 2022

TAMPA — Redd Foxx and Chuck Berry were two of the most famous Black entertainers of their time. Each got a big break in front of white audiences performing for a Black producer whose fame once eclipsed theirs. 

From the 1930s through 1960s, Leon Claxton’s Black variety shows were celebrated throughout the United States and Canada as part of the traveling carnival and state fair circuit. When Claxton took a break from the road, home was Tampa, where he was a businessman who might have been the city’s first Black millionaire. Read more.