This Day in Black History: Dec. 23, 1902

Vivian Harris

This Day in Black History: Dec. 23, 1902

Vivian Harris, the Voice of the Apollo Theater, was born on Dec. 23, 1902.

Published December 23, 2013

Vivian Harris, whose multifaceted career included singer, chorus girl, comedienne and the Voice of the Apollo Theater, was born in Harlem, New York, on Dec. 23, 1902. She was the second-oldest in a family of five daughters, all but one of whom worked in show business.

Their Harlem brownstone was such a popular place for the local performers sister Lottie frequently invited for dinner, the New York Times reports, that Harris' father, Sam, turned it into a rooming house. They also helped the girls develop their own crafts, and when Harris graduated from high school, she joined the wildly successful Broadway production Shuffle Along.

She went on to be a chorus girl in Runnin' Wild, which introduced the nation to the dance the Charleston. After performing in a number of Broadway productions and touring Europe, Harris joined the chorus line at the famed Cotton Club, where Duke Ellington launched his career. She was briefly married to Louis Metcalf, a trumpeter in Ellington's band.

In 1935, Harris became the Voice of the historic Apollo Theater, where she introduced the main act nearly every night from 1935 to the mid-1950s. Harris also performed at the theater with legendary Black comedy acts including Pigmeat Markham of "Here Comes de Judge" fame, Spider Bruce, Dusty Fletcher and Ralph Cooper. She made a record 10,000 appearances at the Apollo.

Harris died in Englewood, New Jersey, on Feb. 18, 2000, at age 97.

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(Photo: PoPsie Randolph/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Written by Joyce Jones


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