[AUTHOR'S NOTE Maggie Hathaway made what I consider to be a really nice record: "Here Goes A Fool" / "Too Late To Be Good Blues". To me, it's a two-sided treat. What wasn't a treat was researching Maggie. In the 1950s and beyond, she became very well-known (and deservedly so) for her civil rights activism and her golfing (both of which are mostly beyond the scope of this article). However, before that, there's mystery, confusion, and a dearth of data.
In 1935, she was referred to as a singer, but not again until 1944. While she made numerous documented singing appearances over the years, I could only find two ads for her. Also an actress, she appeared in many, many movies, although always in bit parts and, except for a single instance, always uncredited. (I've included a list of the ones I know about at the end of the article.)
Maggie was married four times; or was it three? I can't really tell. Her most publicized husband was bandleader Floyd Ray, but I can't find a shred of objective evidence that they were actually ever married (although I tend to believe it). And, since she married one of them twice, I suppose I should have said "Maggie was married five times; or was it four?". Interestingly, although she was married multiple times, Maggie never recorded her name with Social Security as anything other than "Hathaway".
And, with all her appearances in clubs and movies, I can't locate a single good-quality publicity photo of her.
But I soldier on.]
Quick, name an R&B singer who had a golf course named after her. You guessed it: Maggie Hathaway.
Per her Social Security record, Maggie Mae Hathaway was born on July 1, 1911 in Campti, a sawmill town in Nachitoches County, Louisiana. Her mother was Bernice McKee and her father, per that record, was "Ulyss Hathaway".
Naturally, there's never been anyone with that name, but in the 1900 census there was a farm laborer named "Ulysesses Hathaway" living in Nachitoches County. He was 11 at the time, which would make him the right age to have fathered Maggie a decade later. "Ulysesses" (boy, I wish census takers could spell) never appears anywhere else, either before or after 1900. In an article in the October 9, 2001 Final Call (printed a couple of weeks after her death), Maggie mentioned her father: "I could hear the voice of my father, a Louisiana farmer, telling me to get an education and never pick a piece of cotton." Since I can't find Ulysses anywhere other than the 1900 census, and since mother Bernice remarried in 1920, my feeling is that Ulysses had died sometime prior to that year (probably in 1918 or 1919, as Maggie was able to remember that conversation).
I can't find Maggie in either the 1920 or 1930 censuses, but she'll show up in 1940.
By 1931, Maggie had moved to Los Angeles. There, she met Bertrand Willis (or maybe earlier; he was also from Louisiana) and they married on February 24, 1932 in Los Angeles. Bertrand and Maggie M. Willis are in the 1933 City Directory.
But that's the last we ever hear of Bertrand and Maggie as man and wife, because on May 18, 1936, Maggie M. Hathaway married Maurice P. Fleming. From then on (for a while), she'd be known as either Maggie Hathaway, Maggie Hathaway Fleming, or Maggie Fleming (often spelled "Flemming"). Maurice and Maggie M. Fleming could be found in the 1937 and 1938 City Directories. However, in spite of my having found the 1936 marriage record, nearly a year before that, the Pittsburgh Courier of June 29, 1935 referred to "Maggie Hathway-Flemings" [sic] as one of the hostesses for a ball given for athlete Jesse Owens. Nothing about her marriages will prove to be easy; actually, nothing about her recordings will either.
But enough of domestic bliss (for a while), the first we hear of "Maggie Hathaway" is in the California Eagle of September 20, 1935. In an article titled "Vaudeville Stars, Film Players Make Hit at Swanky Riverside Drive Breakfast Club", we find out that "Maggie Hathaway, popular young socialite and singer was presented as a sun-tan model and sang 'I Got Harlem On My Mind'." Not sure how she's a "socialite" when her husband is a waiter, but maybe he got really great tips.
Most of the references to Maggie, for many years, deal with her being in fashion shows and acting as a hostess at some event. Somewhat like Zsa Zsa Gabor, she became famous for being famous.
Okay, back to domestic bliss. On November 5, 1936, Maggie's daughter Ondra Louise Fleming was born. The California Eagle of November 27 announced the happy event, getting only one minor detail wrong: "Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Fleming (Maggie Hathaway) are the proud parents of a six and one-half pound baby girl. The young miss born several weeks ago has been named Audray [sic] Louise."
The April 2, 1937 California Eagle reported that "Mrs. Maggie Hathaway-Fleming, one of Los Angeles' most charming matrons and proud mother of a beautiful four months old baby girl, Andre [sic] Louise...."
The June 4, 1938 Pittsburgh Courier had this: "Maggie Hathaway, exotic film bit player who evoked a slight storm when she played the wife of [white actor] C. Henry Gordon, a sheik in the film 'The Return Of Tarzan,' which starred Eleanor Holm. Because of Miss Hathaway's exotic, seductive Oriental features she will in the future only be given roles of that nature." Not only is the conclusion the usual press agent garbage, but the film was actually called "Tarzan's Revenge", with Glenn Morris in the title role. (While Edgar Rice Burroughs' second Tarzan book was called "The Return Of Tarzan", it was never filmed under that title.)
[Here's something you should know about Eleanor Holm: She was on the American swimming team sailing to Germany for the 1936 Olympics. On the voyage, she attended a cocktail party and attempted to drink the ship dry all by herself. She became so intoxicated that she was thrown off the team.]
December 1938 saw the release of "Gang Smashers", the only movie in which Maggie received any credit. She was in the cast list as "Margaret Flemming".
Maggie was mentioned in the February 4, 1939 Pittsburgh Courier: "Glamorous, bewitching Maggie Hathaway, film actress, whose charming ways charm you, rides about in a ducky, flashy red coupe." ("whose charming ways charm you"??? Don't the people who write this drivel even read it?)
The Pittsburgh Courier of April 22, 1939 had a large photo titled "Press Photographers Besiege Hollywood Girls On Warner Lot". It was a candid (sure it was!) photo of several photographers snapping pics of Kathryn Kane and Maggie. The accompanying caption said: "Press photographers besieging Kathryn Kane and Maggie Flemming [sic] as they left their dressing rooms heading for the 'Quiet, Please' set on Warner Brothers' lot. Miss Kane is the star of the Technicolor satire comedy film on Hollywood. Maggie Flemming, well known film actress who portrays one of the major roles in the flicker is to the right." Maybe I just don't understand Hollywood, but to my mind, if you're in a major role, shouldn't your name be in the credits? (Maggie's wasn't.) On top of that, it was only an 18-minute short, not "Gone With The Wind".
The 1940 Los Angeles City Directory (compiled and distributed in 1939) has Mrs. Maggie Fleming (studio worker) living on East 25 Street. Maurice P. Fleming (whose wife, he tells us, is Maggie) is living on McKinley Avenue. Obviously he's not dealing well with this separation.
The 1940 census shows Maggie M. Fleming as an "actress - motion pictures". Daughter Ondra is there too, but not Maurice Fleming (even though Maggie says she's married). And, because nothing is ever made too easy for me, she's listed as the step-daughter of the head of that household, Luther Wade. I have no idea who he is, but he's only 39 years old to Maggie's 28, so how can he be her stepfather? (That would make Luther's wife, Myrtle, Maggie's mother, even though she's only 34.) Strangely, that data came from Maggie herself; there's a circled "X" next to Maggie's name and in 1940, the census taker placed an "X" next to the person who gave the information. [You may not learn all that much about performers from my articles, but you sure gain a lot of knowledge about the frustrations of research.]
On October 3, 1940, there was a "gala reception and ball" at the Elk's Auditorium to honor Eddie "Rochester" Anderson (of the Jack Benny radio show), termed the "Mayor of Central Avenue". Maggie was the "chairman of styles", according to the blurb in the September 19 California Eagle.
The October 24, 1940 California Eagle stumbled through an explanation of why Maggie and Maurice hadn't been listed together in the census: "Did you know ... that the glamour girl, Maggie Fleming and hubby are all smiles again." I guess that explains it all.
However, the February 13, 1941 California Eagle had this: "While dancing cheek to cheek t'other night with movie star Maggie Hathaway, her ex didn't seem to like it a bit." There's no clue as to who was dancing with Maggie. Were she and Maurice Fleming now divorced? I can't find any record of it. (But I will, chillun, I will.)
But they did get back together, at least for a while. The 1942 California Voter Registration rolls show Mrs. Maggie M. Fleming (actress) and Maurice P. Fleming (waiter) both living at 4224 Hooper Avenue (an address you might want to remember).
The California Eagle of June 26, 1941 said: "Maggie (Hathaway) Fleming out sightseeing, wearing a sport suit and hat big as a cash register blocking traffic." There was obviously no requirement for blurb writers to speak English.
On July 31, 1941, the California Eagle had a new nickname for Maggie: "We've hit upon an apt description of Maggie Hathaway, we think! After running into her at the Biltmore t'other noon, it occurred to us - Brown Circe!" Words fail me. At least, they never used it again.
On November 27, 1941, J.T. Gipson's column in the California Eagle told us that: "Maggie Hathaway lvs [leaves] on Dec. 23rd for a p. a. [personal appearance] stint somewhere in deep Dixie ... leave it to Maggie, Gertie [J.T.'s wife]." Well, Gertie, there's no indication that she ever left Los Angeles (at least she never shows up in any other city in 1942); actually, in all of 1942, her name is only mentioned in lists of people who put on or showed up at local Los Angeles affairs, never as a performer.
But in 1943, a hint of her future feistiness is revealed. The February 27 Pittsburgh Courier had an article titled "Actress Victor In Civil Rights Suit":
Maggie Hathaway Fleming, glamorous actress of stage and screen, was awarded a judgment last week by Municipal Judge Joseph Marchetti against the Royal Coffee Shop for racial discrimination.
Miss Hathaway told the court that when she entered the establishment the waitress stated, "I am not going to serve you."
Miss Ozelia Allen who was present with Miss Hathaway was also awarded $100.
I suppose that, because this came from a press agent, he had to throw in "glamorous actress of stage and screen", but it rankles. Also, there's never been a mention of Maggie being a stage actress. I guess it was just a phrase he was going through.
In 1943, Maggie was part of the cast of two classic movies: "Cabin In The Sky" and "Stormy Weather". Although she only played a dancer in "Stormy Weather" (uncredited, as usual), she was also Lena Horne's stand-in, a fact that would be repeated endlessly down through the years.
[When Lena Horne first came to Hollywood in 1938 to film "The Duke Is Tops", Maggie was pictured at the railroad station as one of the throng waiting to welcome her. It's possible that she'd been selected as Lena's stand-in at that time, and might even have been in the movie, but nothing mentioned it.]
Another movie she was hired for was "Wilson", starring Alexander Knox. Filming took place in early 1944, but there was a problem. Reported many years later (in the February 19, 1959 California Eagle), the story went like this: "It is to be remembered that Maggie strolled indignantly off the 'Wilson' film set when asked to don a bandana and sit on a hay wagon as a welcome to the former chief executive. Maggie was the lone crusader against this buffoonery. All the other colored extras stood pat for fear of losing their moom pickcha [moving picture] career and the movie money." Again, this rankles. They're reporting something serious and important, but they can't resist being cutesy. Maybe it's just me.
The 1944 Los Angeles City Directory has her still living at 4224 Hooper Avenue; she'd be there until 1950. I know that this seems meaningless to you now, but have patience.
Possibly her singing up to this point had been nothing to write home about, because the California Eagle of May 18, 1944 said: "Maggie Hathaway, whom we love dearly over at our house, is being coached in the singing profession by Cee Pee Johnson. Her Hollywood debut will get our blessings. She's one of our favorites. And just for the records, she can sing, too!"
The May 25 California Eagle talked about the upcoming singing debut:
The beautiful brown bundle of exotic loveliness in the picture above is Maggie Hathaway, who makes her singing debut June 3 at the Million Dollar Theatre [in Los Angeles]. Her new and distinctive blues singing style should have the talent scouts running over each other for an intro. Aided and abetted by Bardu Ali and Cee Pee Johnson, the gorgeous gal with the luscious limbs has been quietly coached in the singing profession for the past year. Her "discoverers" now feels [sic] she has what it takes to take what Hollywood's got! We felt that way when we caught a sneak preview of her voice a year ago. Since then, she is a much improved singer, and unless we miss our guess, her new and different blues singing style will skyrocket her to the top of the ladder of success. She's outstanding. And we'll be out standing in line for a ticket when she opens at the Million Dollar Theatre June third. We've a sneaking hunch she's going places!
Why is it that every new singer has a "new", "different", and "distinctive" style?
Columnist J. T. Gipson, interviewed her after that show for a big article in the June 22 California Eagle. Since most of it is the usual meaningless fluff, I'll just quote a few sentences. It starts: "Specializing in seductived-styled [sic] Blues numbers, the exotic Maggie Hathaway, who can best be described as having a beautiful profile all the way down, is hailed by many critics [unnamed, as usual] as the 'hottest' find of the year. She stopped all shows at the Million Dollar Theatre, where she made her singing debut a week ago. Her style of singing is refreshing, and definately [sic] different enough to merit our warmest praise." [When interviewed, she ...] "was wearing one of those woo wooish gowns you see in Vogue magazine under the captain [sic; man, did they need a proofreader] 'How To Relax At Home.' She was doing a great job of relaxing." [He then rambles on about her figure, before asking her plans for the future. Her answer was:] "They're rather far-fetched at the time being. I have several good propositions, but I'm sorta undecided just now. You know this being my debut and all. I don't wanna make plans right now. I might wake up and discover it's just a dream."
And now, a new nickname, one that explains why I found so few mentions of Maggie Hathaway for the next couple of years. The Pittsburgh Courier article of December 23, 1944 was titled "La Hathaway New Coast Vocal Find".
From the North Pole to the South Seas, all in one short jump, that's the record of La Hathaway, former Lena Horne film understudy who has blossomed out as a featured vocalist in her own right. The exotic warbler returned last week from a five-week tour up the coast which began with her appearance at the North Pole cafe in Oakland and concluded at Seattle's popular downtown rendezvous, "The South Seas." [I have no idea why one venue is in quotes and the other isn't.]
La Hathaway also entertained servicemen at Camp Jordan, Tacoma, Wash., and was forced to turn down a lucrative month's engagement at the Black and Tan in Seattle. [Why she had to turn it down wasn't explained.]
Home for the holidays, she has dates in Reno, Nev., Chicago and Washington, D.C.
A new and distinctive type of blues singer, she bids to stand the effete East on its collective head with her brand new melody, "You Don't Leave Me Any More." [I assume that's the song she wrote for and with Helen Humes, "He Don't Love Me Anymore".]
1945 began with a blurb in the January 11 California Eagle: "Remember Maggie Hathaway, she of the extravagant pompadour and exotic clothes which had you looking twice when we stopped in the Dunbar for a nightcap? She's now on a grand tour as a dancer-singer, if you please, and billed as 'La' Hathaway. A local columnist once referred to her as La Hathaway and now she's making that pay. She's booked to appear in clubs as far East as Washington, D.C."
Again I'll state the obvious: there are no advertisements for Maggie appearing anywhere and I have no idea why. For example, the California Eagle of February 1, 1945 said: "I went to the Alabam to hear and see Maggie Hathaway. I'll have you know she wasn't bad at all. She looked like a siren in black sequins and everybody applauded her. I was pleasantly surprised myself." Kind of damning with faint praise: he was surprised that she wasn't as bad as he'd anticipated. And, again, her appearance gets praised much more than her act. None of the Alabam ads of the time mentioned her. (Then again, I found an Alabam ad from February 1 and it didn't mention anyone, just saying "The best bands play two shows nightly".
Somewhere along the way she'd joined singer/bandleader Bob Parrish's band and they were both in that show at the Alabam. The February 17 Pittsburgh Courier characterized her as "Bob Parrish's exotic song stylist".
In April 1945, La Hathaway journeyed to Chicago to play the El Grotto. From there, she was headed to New York for some unspecified appearances. The New York Age of August 11, 1945 said: "La Hathaway, one of the stormiest of show business petrels [a reference to a bird called a stormy petrel], states that in Chicago, Deek Watson of the Brown Dots came on so strong with his '[Uncle] Tom' routine she had to leave the theater." That incident probably happened while she was at El Grotto.
Finally, two events of note. First, her name is mentioned in an ad! It was for an appearance at the Palomar Ballroom (Fresno, California) on July 20, 1945. Second, she's now the band singer with the Floyd Ray Orchestra.
In September, she went into Shepp's Playhouse Club, along with Valaida Snow. All the ads mention Valaida, but none of them have Maggie's name. I really wish I could account for that.
In early November, Floyd Ray's Orchestra (with Maggie) opened at Los Angeles' Club Plantation. With World War 2 over, musicians were being released from the service and it was hoped that Ray's band would regain its former quality.
The J.T. Gipson column in the January 31, 1946 California Eagle (written by Gertie [Mrs. J.T.] Gipson) had this prophesy: "La Hathaway has not as yet married maestro Floyd Ray - but it's just a matter of time . . . Maggie has just written a new number for Helen Humes soon to be recorded and is now working on several others." She and Maurice Fleming were divorced somewhere along the line, but I can't find any record of it.
Well, she and Floyd may not have been married, but remember that, from 1942 to 1950, she lived at 4224 Hooper Avenue (admit it, you'd completely forgotten that). Well, take a guess what Floyd Ray's address was in the 1946 to 1950 City Directories. I'll state again, no matter what's written in the press (and several blurbs called them married), there's no available marriage record for Maggie and Floyd. Doesn't mean it didn't happen (and I'm sure it did), but I can't prove it. Saxophonist Jackie Kelso said in a 1990 interview: "When I first met her [Maggie], she was a singer with Floyd Ray's big band. She and Floyd Ray finally got married."
On April 30, 1946, Maggie was part of the "Midnight Benefit Jamboree" at the Alabam. Due to start at midnight and last until 5:00 AM (didn't anyone sleep in Los Angeles?), it also featured Wild Bill Moore & combo, Lester Young, brother Lee Young & combo, the Trenier Twins, the 4 Step Brothers, the King Cole Trio, Harry (The Hipster) Gibson, the Lorenzo Flennoy Trio, the Slim Gaillard Trio, Joyce Bryant, Dootsie Williams, the Delta Rhythm Boys, the Johnny Otis Orchestra, and MC Floyd Ray. The April 11 California Eagle, in a big article trying to stir up enthusiasm for the show had this curious sentence: "The candle-burners along nite club row will welcome the good news that at last they will receive some good entertainment." (We have to wonder just what kind they've been getting up until now.) Interestingly, the article didn't bother to say just what the benefit was for.
The April 11, 1946 California Eagle mentioned "I Want A Hula Poppa", a song Maggie wrote and sang long before she recorded it (as "Too Late To Be Good Blues").
And here we go again, the blurb in the April 25, 1946 California Eagle said: "You can add 'La (Maggie) Hathaway' to your list of L.A.'s best dressed women. She was strollin' the ave Sunday noon with her charming daughter 'Andre'." OK, I know that Ondra is hardly a common name, but they never even tried to get it right.
And then Maggie recorded. And of course it's confusing. The tunes were done for Paul Reiner's Black & White label, recently relocated to Los Angeles from New York. The songs were "Here Goes A Fool" ("here goes a fool / all dressed in pain") and "Too Late To Be Good Blues" (the song that was called "I Want A Hula Poppa" back in April). They were released in December 1946 and appear in Billboard's Advance Record Releases of January 18, 1947 (although the pairing was "Here Goes A Fool" and "Love Is So Low Down", the title of another song that Maggie had written). Since the Advance Record Releases column was based on information provided by the companies, rather than on actual records received, this could just have been a clerical error on the part of Black & White. Or, they might have pressed it up that way and then recalled it for some reason. I say that because, although they released the information to Billboard in a timely fashion, the record (with "Too Late To Be Good Blues") wasn't reviewed in Cash Box until October 27, 1947 (and never in Billboard). (Note that Black & White records weren't necessarily released in numerical order. Number 831 [Jeannie McKeon] ended up in the Advance Record Releases column two months before Number 826 [Phil Moore].)
The label credits "Maggie Hathaway and Her Bluesmen", but lists no personnel for the vocal group. That's probably Teddy Bunn on guitar, so it's possible that he put together a band that could also back her vocally.
Maggie Hathaway wrote and copyrighted a bunch of songs in 1946; it's possible that she recorded them all for Black & White: "Here Goes A Fool", "I've Found A Hula Papa" ("Too Late To Be Good Blues"), "I've Had My Troubles", "A Little Cottage By The Sea", "Love Is So Low Down", and "Where Is My Man Today?".
The Sandusky Register of January 30, 1947 (among other papers) had this junk: "PASSING BY - Maggie Hathaway. Songstress and composer of popular ditties. Wrote 'Here Goes A Fool,' 'I've Had My Troubles' and 'Love Is A Lowdown [sic].' In one public library she read every book on poetry from cover to cover. Believes this has done much for her song writing."
The March 22, 1947 Billboard said that "Maggie Hathaway, pianist-blues composer, waxed for [sic] originals for Black & White Records this week." (While this is the only time she was ever referred to as a pianist, she once told an interviewer that she'd specifically come to Los Angeles in order to play piano in one of the many clubs on Central Avenue.) It's possible that this is when "Nobody's Business What I Do" and "You Have Fallen In Love" were recorded, but there's no Black & White session information.
On Easter Sunday 1947, Maggie and Mabel Scott appeared, as models, at the Independent Guild of the Independent Church's annual fashion tea.
Maggie became ill in August 1947 and the California Eagle (October 2) reported: "Hear now that Maggie Hathway [sic] seems to be up and on the medn [sic] again. Floyd is now hospitalized. Hearing all kind [sic] of things and really don't know what to believe." (I know what I believe: they should have hired a proofreader whose first language was English.)
As I said, Cash Box finally got around to reviewing "Here Goes A Fool" and "Too Late To Be Good Blues" in their October 27, 1947 issue. "Pair of sides done up in the blue moody vein, and offered here by Maggie Hathaway in pleasant vocal styling are aimed at ops who have those classy race spots." ["ops" were "operators", the people who owned and stocked the jukeboxes in bars, beauty parlors, and other venues.] "Maggie's vocal efforts are bound to be appreciated by those who love to set awhile and weave to the rhythm the music spills with." It closed with: "Although both sides won't stop traffic, they are nevertheless favorable renditions of blue wax." There was no rating of the songs, just the review.
And more confusion. The California Eagle of an unknown date in early December 1947 said: "Word from Maggie Hathaway who informs us that she's home now and feeling good, so much so, that she's head over heels in work . . . Maggie's latest release recorded on Black and White label and titled 'I've Had My Troubles' was released on December 10." While the song itself is real, it was never released as far as anyone knows. A Black & White discography doesn't show that title, nor are there any missing numbers in the series at that time. Just another Maggie mystery.
But there was another Black & White record on the horizon: "Nobody's Business What I Do" and "You Have Fallen In Love" were released in February 1948. While there's no way to know when they were recorded, this time the personnel (also called "Maggie Hathaway and her Bluesmen") were identified on the label: Ramon LaRue (piano), Samuel E. Joshua (drums), Theodore LeRoy Bunn (guitar), and Julius Gilmore (bass). They're only backing her instrumentally, not vocally, leading me to believe that these weren't recorded at her original session. (Note that Bunn and LaRue had been members of the Spirits Of Rhythm.)
The March 20, 1948 Billboard reviewed the record. They said, of "Nobody's Business What I Do": "Gal chirps rhythm item in high steppin' style, with bright combo instrumental backing." The flip, however, wasn't in for much praise: "Plaintive piping by Hathaway gal of dull blues ditty." "Nobody's Business What I Do" went back to the early 20s, although Maggie's name appears on the label as the writer.
The May 6, 1948 California Eagle said that Maggie "returns to her singing chores next week following a lengthy layoff due to illness." It also assured us that she'd "recently finished a stellar part in the Pearl Bailey Paramount picture, 'Isn't It Romantic?'." Do I have to say that whatever she did in the film was uncredited, as usual? So much for a "stellar role". I must say, though, that she had a stellar press agent.
The June 10, 1948 California Eagle had a little blurb that said, in part: "In private life Miss Hathaway is the wife of bandleader Floyd Ray...." I'd really like to believe that they were married.
There was a big article about her in the September 16 California Eagle, titled "Maggie Hathaway Now Set For Nation-Wide Cross-Country Tour". It said (while raving about her figure as usual) that she was finishing up an engagement at the York Club (which, I assume, was in Los Angeles). It praised her singing, while admitting that "she has never really been discovered in the accepted sense of the word." (Then in what sense?) Mentioning "Here Goes A Fool", the article hyped it with the report that it had "sold more than 100,000 copies, and swept the East like a hurricane" (even though it's only mentions in the trades were its inclusion on Billboard's Advance Record Releases and Cash Box's review). It gushed on with the absurd statement "... she is the only vocalist to ever write and record her own tunes, having written 12, which were released under the Black and White label." (Well, at least four of them were.)
We're also told, in that article, that at last "she began her climb up the stratospheric ladder of success last week when she was called to appear as guest star in a television show!" (Note that it's unnamed.) "She returned home a few months ago to rest her voice following a straineous [sic] tour of one-night stands. Her last Eastern nightclub engagement was a record-breaking six weeks at Mike DeLisa's club in Chicago. Next week she begins a nation-wide theater-nightclub tour, and unless we miss our guess she will break records in the future as she has in the past." I guess columnist J.T. Gipson missed his guess, since there's not a single mention of her appearing anywhere outside of Los Angeles over the next month. Again, I have no explanation for this; she should have been mentioned as appearing somewhere.
She was listed as one of the acts at a Benevolent Variety Artists benefit show (at Earl Carroll's restaurant in Hollywood) on November 8, 1948. The benefit was to raise money to build a home for down and out members of the theatrical profession. Other scheduled acts were: Steve Gibson's 5 Red Caps, Peg Leg Bates, Mantan Moreland, Mabel Scott, Jester Hairston, Lillian Randolph, Louise Beavers, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Little Miss Cornshucks, and some lesser lights: Jack Benny, Howard Duff, Phil Harris, the Great Gildersleeve (Harold Peary), and Sarah Vaughan.
Before that show, however, she fractured her jaw (in late October). The California Eagle of November 4 titled the article "La Hathaway Injures Jaw In Fall At Niteclub". It went: "While seated in one of the booths [at the Bal Tabarin] talking with members of the Mosetti Trio, Miss Hathaway suddenly became ill and upon getting up from the table she fainted, thus falling and fracturing her jaw. She was rushed to Georgia St. receiving hospital where she was given aid.... [She] is now up and about and will be one of the featured stars on the mammoth benefit program Nov. 8 at Earl Carroll's."
"Sure sorry to hear that Maggie Hathaway is back in the hospital again." That was from the December 2, 1948 California Eagle, but no explanation was given.
The March 10, 1949 California Eagle confusingly said that she'd "just released some new platta's [sic] on Black and White label that are destined to throw the light on La Hathaway." However, there were only two known releases by Maggie on Black & White, and neither of them was from 1949. (In fact, the second of these was over a year old at this time.) Possibly Black & White had considered releasing a third and let a press agent know about it before subsequently changing their mind and failing to inform him. Notice how both her press agent and J.T. Gipson always have her on the brink of becoming the greatest star this world has ever seen.
The Indianapolis Recorder of August 6, 1949 continued my confusion with an article titled "Floyd Ray - La Hathaway Split Story Of The Week". It began: "The La Hathaway - Floyd Ray divorce suit is the hottest copy on the Hollywood news griddle these days." It went on to say nothing at all about it and, in spite of that sentence, this is the only mention that I could find in the press. All I can say with assurance is that the 1950 Los Angeles City Directory (which was printed and distributed sometime in 1949) is the last time Maggie and Floyd shared an address. Note that, in 1961, Floyd Ray would become the sales manager for Dooto Records.
In December 1949, Maggie was at the Mardi Gras in Oakland, California, along with dancing comic Jack Lester (cousin of TV personality Jerry Lester), Paul Desmond, and Joannie Shepherd.
And now, the event you've been waiting for: Maggie appears in a second performance advertisement! She was part of the Xmas Dance And Jamboree at the Shrine in Los Angeles on December 25. Others on the bill were Little Miss Cornshucks, the Charlie Barnett All Stars, Ernie Andrews, the Robins, the Ebonaires, Delores Parker, and Floyd Ray (awkward). Guest artists were the Trenier Twins.
In their April 15, 1950 edition the Pittsburgh Courier made the last reference I can find to "La Hathaway". She was, they said going to be in one of the "series of musical shorts" planned by Republic Pictures. Maggie was called "blues singer, actress and regular stand-in for Lena Horne." This was the only mention of Maggie in the press in all of 1950.
Around June 1950, Maggie did some recording with the Robins, who were, at this time, Bobby Nunn (bass), Ty Terrell (tenor), Billy Richard (tenor), and Roy Richard (baritone). They cut some masters for John Dolphin's Recorded In Hollywood label: "Bayou Baby Blues", "A Falling Star", "When Gabriel Blows His Horn", and "School Girl Blues". On "Bayou Baby Blues" and "School Girl Blues", Maggie sang duet leads with Bobby Nunn, attempting to capitalize on the sound that the Robins had had earlier in the year with Little Esther on "Double Crossing Blues". The backup musicians were the "2 Sharps And A Natural": Red Callender (bass), Louis Speiginer (guitar), and Ted Mossman (piano).
"Bayou Baby Blues" was released around June, with the Robins-only "Race Of Man" as the flip. "Bayou" is unevenly done, with Bobby Nunn sometimes getting annoyingly close to the microphone. The record wasn't sent out for review.
September 1950 brought the release of two additional Maggie Hathaway & the Robins sides: "A Falling Star" and "When Gabriel Blows His Horn". Although the group doesn't really sound like the Robins, according to Ty Terrell, the male lead was Billy Richard, who echoes Hathaway nicely on the ballad side. Once again, the record wasn't sent out for review.
Around March of 1951, Recorded In Hollywood issued "School Girl Blues", with the Robins-only "Early Morning Blues" on the flip. Strangely, although "School Girl Blues" was another duet lead with Bobby Nunn, Maggie's name didn't appear on the label. Making it unanimous, this became the third of Maggie's Recorded In Hollywood records not sent out for review. Obviously John Dolphin had no idea how to publicize his acts; there was no mention of any of the records in the press either (nor was there a single mention of Maggie in the press in all of 1951).
On March 9, 1952, there was a big Barn Dance given as a benefit show by the Benevolent Variety Artists foundation. Held at Los Angeles' Cotton Club, the entertainment featured Mabel Scott and the Sherman Williams Orchestra. (Guests were asked to come attired as "rustics".) Maggie was chairman of publicity for the event (it doesn't seem that she performed).
On May 8, 1952, Maggie and Joe Liggins copyrighted a song called "Cryin' Over You", which Joe released on Specialty in October.
The December 17, 1953 California Eagle had this gem: "Add Italian haircuts: Maggie Hathaway Fleming. Her ex-mate Floyd Ray may marry again shortly, too." Don't you wish these things came with a translation? What does "Add Italian haircuts" mean? It turns out that 1953 saw a craze for women's Italian haircuts: the short, shaggy look that Gina Lollobrigida had. Now, Maggie had turned up with one.
And why the word "too"? It's because Maggie had wed once more. And guess who the groom was? She'd re-married Maurice Fleming and the event was reported in the October 29, 1953 Jet: "Singer Maggie Hathaway was re-wed to her former husband, Maurice Flemmings [sic], in Las Vegas, ending a 10-year separation. After the marriage ceremony, the couple and their 11-year old daughter departed for a honeymoon in New York." Actually, daughter Ondra was just a couple of weeks short of her 17th birthday at this time.
And then, Maggie changed her image. The January 7, 1954 California Eagle said: "They're still discussing Maggi [sic] Hathaway Fleming's silver hair and black sequin dress at the BVA hoedown." This seems to have been an annual affair and probably doesn't refer back to the one in March 1952. She'd keep (and be known for) the silver hair for many years.
In early September 1954, the seventh annual Amateur Open Tournament took place at Los Angeles' Vernondale Golf Club. "The highlight of the entertainment following the trophy award dinner", said the September 9, California Eagle, "was the singing of 'The Golf Course Blues' by Maggie Hathaway and the ensemble." By now, Maggie had become an excellent golfer (and would become Vernondale's treasurer).
Maggie and Maurice bought a house somewhere on La Cienga Boulevard. "She needs the room for her golf cups, medals, plaques, etc.", said the September 23, 1954 California Eagle.
A more important September announcement was that Maggie had won the women's title at the Houston Open golf tournament. Probably based on that, the California Eagle of February 17, 1955 reported that "Maggi [sic] Hathaway formed her own all-gals golf club. Quite a feat, that, for I just never figured Maggi had that much time to get out of her white MG."
A quiet year; nothing at all was reported about Maggie in 1956.
In mid-1957, a singer named Bill Jones recorded Maggie's "Here Goes A Fool". Cash Box gave it a C+.
Maggie opened at the Californian Club on September 18, 1957 (along with the Fabulous Tones). It's been a long while since I've been able to report a singing engagement, but she's been rather busy with golf and civil rights affairs.
A more momentous event: on November 29, 1957, daughter Ondra gave birth to Maggie's grandson, Dwain Lewis. However, Ondra and her husband would divorce a year later.
But all was not sweetness and light in Maggie's life. The Daily Court Review (a legal publication) of January 17, 1958 reported the "Maggie Hathaway Fleming vs Maurice Fleming" divorce action. It was also mentioned in the January 30 California Eagle: "Maggi Hathaway Fleming filed suit for divorce in Texas." Why Texas? I have no idea. Unless there actually was a divorce at this time and another re-marriage, this action would drag on for many years; there's a divorce record for Maggie and Maurice in 1972.
Later in 1958, Maggie got another small movie role, this time in the Lana Turner film, "Imitation Of Life". The California Eagle of August 28 informed us (courtesy of her press agent) that "Maggie Hathaway gets a $30.00 [per] day close-up in a night club scene." (Of course, the scene was probably filmed in a single day; two at the most. I wouldn't give up my day job for those wages.) And then, the September 25 edition let us know that "... platinum blond Maggie Hathaway wears a black wig in this picture that is being shot in Technicolor!" Another 1958 uncredited bit part was in "The Five Pennies" (the Red Nichols story), starring Danny Kaye.
One further momentous 1958 event: Maggie got her own California Eagle golf column, called "The Tee". (And, after the California Eagle, she would have a golf column in the Sentinel for over 30 years. One of its purposes was to highlight the careers of black professional golfers.)
At a January 1959 party for Lionel and Gladys Hampton, Maggie and Mae Johnson (a singer who was once called "Miss Atomic Blues" when she sang with Austin McCoy in the mid-1940s), performed a "sister" act, with Les Hite at the piano.
In mid-1960, Maggie became president of a group called "International Artists", an organization she founded to make sure blacks got roles in movies (and more realistic ones).
In March 1961, Maggie teamed up with famed songwriter Charlie Singleton to write a couple of tunes: "Laugh To Keep From Crying" and "Troubles Don't Always Last" (I don't know if anyone ever recorded them). Singleton was the author (in whole or in part) of "It Hurts Me To My Heart", "Mambo Baby", "Tryin' To Get To You", "Don't Forbid Me", "If I May", "Pitter Patter", and biggies "Strangers In The Night" and "Spanish Eyes".
In April 1962, Maggie became president of the newly-chartered Beverly Hills-Hollywood branch of the NAACP, which she and Sammy Davis, Jr. formed.
Maggie wrote a column for the February 28, 1963 California Eagle about Floyd Ray. It was highly complimentary (and she credited him with introducing her to golf), but she never mentioned that they'd been married.
Nothing more about Maggie that's part of our story until May 1972, when she divorced Maurice Fleming again (the record appears in the California Divorce Index). A few small problems: Maggie gave her birth year as 1925 (making herself 14 years younger) and their marriage year as 1944. Maybe it was an average of 1936 and 1953 (the two years when she married Maurice).
And Maggie's marriages continue to bewilder. The January 20, 1979 Billboard had an article about the NAACP Image awards. They mention Maggie and "her husband and former air personality Carlton 'King' Coleman". The problem? This time, I can find a marriage record. She and Carlton Coleman were married on August 30, 1979 in Las Vegas. Billboard had jumped the gun by some eight months.
["King" Coleman had sung the lead vocals on James Brown's "(Do The) Mashed Potatoes" (which, for contractual reasons was credited to "Nat Kendricks & The Swans"). By the time Coleman moved to California in the 1970s, he'd turned to preaching, as well as acting (he was in an episode of "Welcome Back, Kotter"). Maggie and Coleman were subsequently divorced on August 10, 1984.]
To honor the outstanding work of blacks excluded from the Oscars and other awards, Maggie co-founded the Image Awards. She was also a Los Angeles County Commissioner, serving on the Alcoholism and Narcotics Commission, the Status of Women Commission, the Probations Commission, and the Martin Luther King Hospital Commission.
Maggie Mae Hathaway passed away on September 24, 2001 in Los Angeles. Unlike what her press agents would have you believe, she wasn't particularly important in the entertainment field; however, she found her niches (and outstanding ones) in sports, activism, and civic affairs. For many years, she was a coach and director at Los Angeles' Jack Thompson Golf Course; in 1997, it was renamed the "Maggie Hathaway Golf Course".
Maggie Hathaway's known films; there are most certainly many others. These were all bit parts (like "dancer", "guest", "native", "maid") and were all uncredited, with a single noted exception.
Two-Gun Man From Harlem - 1938
Gang Smashers - 1938 (credited as "Margaret Flemming")
Quiet, Please - 1939
Son Of Ingagi - 1939 (with the 4 Toppers)
At The Circus - 1939
Arabian Nights - 1942
Happy Go Lucky - 1943
Cabin In The Sky - 1943
Stormy Weather - 1943 (also Lena Horne's stand-in)
I Dood It - 1943
Wilson - 1944 (she walked off the set, because of a demeaning part)
Two-Man Submarine - 1944
Broadway Rhythm - 1944
Ziegfeld Follies - 1945
Isn't It Romantic - 1948
Tell It To The Judge - 1949
The Five Pennies - 1959
Imitation Of Life - 1959
The Manchurian Candidate - 1962
In a May 13, 1948 column in the California Eagle, she claimed to have been in over 50 films. Since she was uncredited in all but one of them, we may never know their titles. As much as she was played up as an actress in the press, she was never really more than a reliable extra.
BLACK & WHITE (Maggie Hathaway and Her Bluesmen)
113 Here Goes A Fool / Too Late To Be Good Blues - 12/46
124 Nobody's Business What I Do / You Have Fallen In Love - 2/48
RECORDED IN HOLLYWOOD (Maggie Hathaway, with the Robins)
112 Bayou Baby Blues / [Race Of Man - Robins] - 6/50
121 A Falling Star / When Gabriel Blows His Horn - 9/50
150 School Girl Blues * / [Early Morning Blues - Robins] - 3/51
* NOTE: Her name doesn't appear on the label of 150, but she's doing a duet lead with Bobby Nunn