Although she never achieved the fame she deserved, Mabel Mercer was one of the most respected singers of the mid-20th century, a most original stylist, and the toast of the New York cabaret scene. After the end of World War I, Mercer settled in Paris, where she met the celebrated Ada "Bricktop" Smith, an American singer and cabaret proprietor whose patrons included Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. During her Paris years, Mercer became friends (and possibly more) with the notoriously eccentric lesbian heiress, speedboat racer, and womanizer Marion “Joe” Carstairs. Carstairs, who had settled in her own "kingdom"--Whale Cay, on an island in the Bahamas--paid Mercer's way across the Atlantic, fearing what the Nazis would do to the biracial singer. Mercer resided in the Bahamas until 1941, when she married Kelsey Pharr, an openly gay African-American musician, and obtained an entry visa from the United States government. The marriage was clearly one of convenience, as Mercer and Pharr never lived together and rarely saw each other; however, Mercer, as a devout Catholic, would not divorce Pharr, and they remained legally married until his death. Pharr was one of The Delta Rhythm Boys, an American vocal group active for over 50 years from 1934 to 1987.
Together from 1941 to 1961: 20 years.
Mabel Mercer (February 3, 1900 - April 20, 1984)
Kelsey Leroy Pharr, Jr (January 10, 1917 - April 20, 1961)
Days of Love edited by Elisa Rolle
Release Date: September 21, 2014
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Kelsey Pharr (1917-1961) is buried at Lincoln Memorial Park (3001 NW 46th St, Miami, FL 33142). A native of Miami, young Pharr established himself as a distinguished international entertainer, and was a big favorite in America and European theatrical circles. Mabel Mercer, English-born cabaret singer, resided in the Bahamas with Marion “Joe” Carstairs until 1941, when she married Kelsey Pharr, an openly gay African-American musician, and obtained an entry visa from the United States government. The marriage was clearly one of convenience, as Mercer and Pharr never lived together and rarely saw each other.
Queer Places, Vol. 1 edited by Elisa Rolle
Release Date: July 24, 2016
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