If your father had a pulse in the 1960s and ’70s, chances are he was head-over-heels in love with actress/dancer/singer/model Lola Falana. Ever heard that Barry Manilow song “Copacabana”? Ms. Falana’s talent, beauty and endless charisma inspired the song and the famous lyric, “Her name is Lola / She was a showgirl…”
Born to a Cuban father and Black mother in Philadelphia, the teenage Falana made her way to New York City in the early ’60s, where she began dancing and singing nightclubs. She was soon discovered by Sammy Davis Jr., who immediately put the sexy up-and-comer in his 1964 Broadway musical, “Golden Boy,” and his feature film, “A Man Called Adam.” From there, Italian cinema came calling — and next thing she knew, Falana was vamping through a string of Italian westerns (we’re obsessed with the randomness of this), earning herself the moniker “Black Venus” and an international fan base.
In 1970, she returned to the states and began performing on the variety show circuit, appearing in Blaxploitation films and becoming the first Black woman to model for a mainstream cosmetics brand, Tigress. She went on to launch a wildly successful Las Vegas career, playing to sold-out crowds in fabulously sparkling Bob Mackie ensembles, and eventually becoming Sin City’s highest paid female performer! In the late ’80s, she developed multiple sclerosis, and after a spiritual awakening, devoted her life to spreading the word. She’s no longer performing, but we’ll never forget the razzle-dazzle fabulousness that was Lola Falana in her heyday.