The gorgeous, gorgeously talented Lonette McKee just wrapped up an engagement at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel in New York. I had the chance to sit down with this woman I have always admired, ever since seeing her make her epochal film debut in SPARKLE in 1975. She continued to give me so much pleasure throuh the years, in her exquisite but frustratingly brief appearance in THE COTTON CLUB (1984), and then her unforgettable stage appearances, as Billie Holliday in LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR and as Julie LaVerne in SHOW BOAT.
Over tea (me) and coffee (her) in the cosy Algonquin lobby, she proved as beautiful both inside and out, super-intelligent, warm and completely real as you always imagine your idols be to.
To read my interview, click here
One question I had that didn’t make it into the article was my asking her if she’d ever encountered that other great mulatto beauty of the 1970s and beyond, Diahnne Abbott. These women both represented to me the kind of ultimate stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks looks and intelligent sensuality which comes along a few times every generation.
Here is Lonette’s answer: “I loved her! What a sweet girl she was. When I first met her, she was with Robert DeNiro and I was just starting. I was running in that group after SPARKLE and I was the toast of Hollywood. That group would invite me to their little parties and Diahnne would talk to me privately and say, ‘You know, you have your sister and I was like, ‘Yeah, you don’t know…’ but she said, ‘I’m out here by myself and I don’t fit in with these people and I’m the only black girl among all these white people. So let’s be friends.’
“She was so sweet and real and honest. She was very gifted in her own right, but I don’t think she pursued it. It must have been hard to have a career in his [DeNiro’s] shadow, the way he took off…”
and please, enjoy her McKee’s talent here
and feast your eyes on beauty most rare