Pearl Bailey

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Actor, Singer
Pittsburgh, Allegheny Cemetery

Pearl Mae Bailey (March 29, 1918 – August 17, 1990) was an American actress and singer. After appearing in vaudeville she made her Broadway debut in St. Louis Woman in 1946.

She won a Tony Award for the title role in the all-black production of Hello, Dolly! in 1968. In 1986, she won a Daytime Emmy awardfor her performance as a fairy godmother in the ABC Afterschool Special, Cindy Eller: A Modern Fairy Tale.

Her rendition of "Takes Two to Tango" hit the top ten in 1952. She received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Awardin 1976 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom on October 17, 1988.


John Randolph Pinkett (m. 1948–1952)
Louie Bellson (m. 1952–1990)

Early life

Bailey was born in Newport News in Virginia, to the Reverend Joseph James and Ella Mae Ricks Bailey.[2] She was raised in the Bloodfields neighborhood of Newport News, Virginia.

She made her stage-singing debut when she was 15 years old. Her brother Bill Bailey was beginning his own career as a tap dancer, and suggested she enter an amateur contest at the Pearl Theatre in Philadelphia. Bailey won and was offered $35 a week to perform there for two weeks. However, the theatre closed during her engagement and she was not paid. She later won a similar competition at Harlem's famous Apollo Theater and decided to pursue a career in entertainment.


Bailey began by singing and dancing in Philadelphia's black nightclubs in the 1930s, and soon started performing in other parts of the East Coast. In 1941, during World War II, Bailey toured the country with the USO, performing for American troops. After the tour, she settled in New York. Her solo successes as a nightclub performer were followed by acts with such entertainers as Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. In 1946, Bailey made her Broadway debut in St. Louis Woman. For her performance, she won a Donaldson Award as the best Broadway newcomer. Bailey continued to tour and record albums in between her stage and screen performances. Bailey's most important Broadway role was as Dolly Levi in the all-black version of Hello Dolly! Early in the television medium, Bailey guest starred on CBS's Faye Emerson's Wonderful Town. She hosted her own variety series on ABC, The Pearl Bailey Show (January–May 1971).

Her support of female impersonator Lynne Carter led him to credit Bailey with launching his career.

In 1967, Bailey and Cab Calloway headlined an all-black cast version of Hello, Dolly! The touring version was so successful, producer David Merrick took it to Broadway where it played to sold-out houses and revitalized the long running musical. Bailey was given a special Tony Award for her role and RCA Victor made a second original cast album. That is the only recording of the score to have an overture which was written especially for that recording.

A passionate fan of the New York Mets, Bailey sang the national anthem at Shea Stadium prior to game 5 of the 1969 World Series, and appears in the Series highlight film showing her support for the team. She also sang the national anthem prior to game 1 of the 1981 World Series between the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers at Yankee Stadium.

Following her 1971 television series, she provided voices for animations such as Tubby the Tuba (1976) and Disney's The Fox and the Hound(1981). She returned to Broadway in 1975, playing the lead in an all-black production of Hello, Dolly! She earned a degree in theology from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., in 1985 at age 67.

Later in her career, Bailey was a fixture as a spokesperson in a series of Duncan Hines commercials, singing "Bill Bailey (Won't You Come Home)". She also appeared in commercials for Jell-O,[4] and Westinghouse.

In her later years Bailey wrote several books: The Raw Pearl (1968), Talking to Myself (1971), Pearl's Kitchen (1973), and Hurry Up America and Spit (1976). In 1975 she was appointed special ambassador to the United Nations by President Gerald Ford. Her last book, Between You and Me (1989), details her experiences with higher education. On January 19, 1985, she appeared on the nationally televised broadcast of the 50th Presidential Inaugural Gala, the night before the second inauguration of Ronald Reagan. In 1988 Bailey received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Reagan.

Personal life

On November 19, 1952, Bailey married jazz drummer Louie Bellson in London. They adopted a boy, Tony, in the mid-1950s. A girl, Dee Dee J. Bellson, was born April 20, 1960. Tony Bellson died in 2004. Dee Dee Bellson died on July 4, 2009, at the age of 49, five months after her father, who died on Valentine's Day 2009.

Bailey, a Republican, was appointed by President Richard Nixon as America's "Ambassador of Love" in 1970. She attended several meetings of the United Nations and later appeared in a campaign ad for President Gerald Ford in the 1976 election.

She was awarded the Bronze Medallion in 1968.

Bailey was a friend of actress Joan Crawford. In 1969, Crawford and Bailey joined fellow friend Gypsy Rose Lee in accepting a USO Award. In the same year, Bailey was recognized as USO "Woman of the Year". Upon the passing of Crawford in May 1977, Bailey spoke of Crawford as her sister before singing a hymn at her funeral. U.S. Ambassador and American socialite Perle Mesta was another close friend of Bailey's. In the waning days of Mesta's life, Bailey visited her frequently and sang hymns for her, as she slowly succumbed to old age, as Bailey would be unable to perform at her Christian Science funeral.


Pearl Bailey died at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia on August 17, 1990. Following an autopsy, Dr. Emanuel Rubin, professor and chairman of the Department of Pathology at Jefferson Medical College, announced the cause of death as arteriosclerotic coronary artery disease with significant narrowing of the coronary artery. Bailey is buried at Rolling Green Memorial Park in West Chester, Pennsylvania.



  • Variety Girl (1947) – Pearl Bailey – Singer
  • Isn't It Romantic? (1948) – Addie
  • Carmen Jones (1954) – Frankie
  • That Certain Feeling (1956) – Augusta aka Gussie
  • St. Louis Blues (1958) – Aunt Hagar
  • Porgy and Bess (1959) – Maria
  • All the Fine Young Cannibals (1960) – Ruby
  • The Landlord (1970) – Marge
  • Tubby the Tuba (1975) – Mrs. Elephant (voice)
  • Norman... Is That You? (1976) – Beatrice Chambers
  • The Fox and the Hound (1981) – Big Mama – Owl (voice)


  • The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom (prior to 1960) – Herself
  • Mike and Pearl (1968) – Herself
  • Carol Channing and Pearl Bailey: On Broadway (1969) – Herself
  • The Pearl Bailey Show (1971)
    (midseason replacement series) – Herself – Host / Singer
  • The Carol Burnett Show (1972) – Guest Star
  • One More Time (1974), a CBS musical comedy special
    with Carol Channing, George Burns and others – Herself
  • The Love Boat (1977) – Millie Washington
  • All-Star Salute to Pearl Bailey (1979) – Herself
  • The Muppet Show (1979) – Herself
  • The Member of the Wedding (1982) – Bernice Sadie Brown
  • As the World Turns (cast member in 1982) – Herself
  • Peter Gunn (1989) (unsold pilot) – Mother (final television appearance)


  • St. Louis Woman (1946) (Broadway)
  • Arms and the Girl (1950) (Broadway)
  • Bless You All (1950) (Broadway)
  • House of Flowers (1954) (Broadway)
  • Les Poupées de Paris (1962) (Off-Broadway) (voice only)
  • Call Me Madam (1966) (Melodyland Theater)
  • Hello, Dolly! (1967)
    (Broadway and US national tour)
  • Hello, Dolly! (1975) (Broadway)


  • Pearl Bailey Entertains(1950)
  • Birth of the Blues (1952)
  • Cultured Pearl (1952)
  • I'm with You (1953)
  • Say Si Si (1953)
  • Around the World with Me(1954)
  • Carmelina (1955)
  • The Intoxicating Pearl Bailey(1956)
  • The One and Only Pearl Bailey Sings (1956)
  • Gems by Pearl Bailey (1958)
  • Porgy & Bess, original motion picture soundtrack (1959) (Grammy Award winner)
  • Pearl Bailey A-Broad (1959)
  • Pearl Bailey Sings for Adults Only (1959)
  • Pearl Bailey Plus Margie Anderson Singing the Blues(1960?)
  • More Songs for Adults Only(1960)
  • For Adult Listening (1960)
  • Naughty But Nice (1960)
  • Songs of the Bad Old Days(1960)
  • Pearl Bailey Sings the Songs of Harold Arlen (1961)
  • Come On, Let's Play with Pearlie Mae (1962)
  • Happy Sounds (1962)
  • All About Good Little Girls and Bad Little Boys (1963)
  • C'est La Vie (1963)
  • Les Poupées de Paris (1964)
  • Songs By James Van Heusen (1964)
  • The Risque World of Pearl Bailey (1964)
  • For Women Only (1965)
  • The Jazz Singer (1965)
  • Hello, Dolly! (1967 Broadway cast)
  • After Hours (1969)
  • Pearl's Pearls (1971)


  • The Raw Pearl (1968) (autobiography)
  • Talking to Myself (1971) (autobiography)
  • Pearl's Kitchen: An Extraordinary Cookbook (1973)
  • Duey's Tale (1975) (Photos and Design by Arnold Skolnick)
  • Hurry Up America and Spit (1976)
  • Between You and Me: A Heartfelt Memoir on Learning, Loving, and Living (1989)


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        Relation nameRelation typeBirth DateDeath dateDescription
        1Eartha  KittEartha KittCoworker, Familiar17.01.192725.12.2008
        2Nanette  FabrayNanette FabrayCoworker27.10.192022.02.2018
        3Paul  HornPaul HornCoworker17.03.193029.06.2014
        4Fritz  LangFritz LangCoworker05.12.189002.08.1976
        5Nat King ColeNat King ColeCoworker17.03.191915.02.1965
        6Duke EllingtonDuke EllingtonCoworker, Familiar29.04.189924.05.1974
        7Mario CuomoMario CuomoFamiliar15.06.193201.01.2015
        8Pat NixonPat NixonFamiliar16.03.191222.06.1993
        9Tommy Dorsey, Jr.Tommy Dorsey, Jr.Familiar19.11.190526.11.1956
        10Charles Milles MansonCharles Milles MansonFamiliar12.11.193419.11.2017
        11Stéphane GrappelliStéphane GrappelliFamiliar26.01.190801.12.1997
        12Virginia WoolfVirginia WoolfFamiliar25.01.188228.03.1941
        13Mel PowellMel PowellFamiliar12.02.192324.04.1998
        14James  SchlesingerJames SchlesingerFamiliar15.02.192927.03.2014
        15Buddy RichBuddy RichFamiliar30.09.191702.04.1987
        16Frank WessFrank WessFamiliar04.01.192230.10.2013
        17Adolph GreenAdolph GreenFamiliar02.12.191423.10.2002
        18Nick MenzaNick MenzaFamiliar23.06.196421.05.2016
        19Mickey RooneyMickey RooneyFamiliar23.11.192006.04.2014
        20Vic DamoneVic DamoneFamiliar12.06.192811.02.2018
        21Jack  RubyJack RubyFamiliar25.03.191103.01.1967
        22Sarah VaughanSarah VaughanFamiliar27.03.192403.04.1990
        23David FrostDavid FrostFamiliar07.04.193931.08.2013
        24John BardeenJohn BardeenFamiliar23.05.190830.01.1991
        25Jack  BrabhamJack BrabhamFamiliar02.04.192619.05.2014
        26Ravi ShankarRavi ShankarFamiliar07.04.192011.12.2012
        27Peter CushingPeter CushingFamiliar26.05.191311.08.1994
        28Betty ComdenBetty ComdenFamiliar03.05.191723.11.2006
        29Irving BerlinIrving BerlinFamiliar11.05.188822.09.1989
        30Sid CaesarSid CaesarFamiliar08.09.192212.02.2014
        31Max ReinhardtMax ReinhardtFamiliar09.09.187330.10.1943
        32Alexander CalderAlexander CalderFamiliar22.08.189811.11.1976
        33Vincent PriceVincent PriceFamiliar27.05.191125.10.1993
        34Suzanne PleshetteSuzanne PleshetteFamiliar31.01.193719.01.2008
        35David NivenDavid NivenFamiliar01.03.191029.07.1983
        36Ricky LawsonRicky LawsonFamiliar00.00.195423.12.2013
        37Joan FontaineJoan FontaineFamiliar22.10.191715.12.2013
        38Antonin ScaliaAntonin ScaliaFamiliar11.03.193613.02.2016
        39Violetta VillasVioletta VillasFamiliar10.06.193805.12.2011
        40Zbigniew BrzezinskiZbigniew BrzezinskiFamiliar28.03.192826.05.2017
        41James DeanJames DeanFamiliar08.02.193130.09.1955
        42John  UpdikeJohn UpdikeFamiliar18.03.193227.01.2009
        43Montgomery CliftMontgomery CliftFamiliar17.10.192023.07.1966
        44Ron RandellRon RandellFamiliar08.10.191811.06.2005
        45Ruby  DeeRuby DeeFamiliar27.10.192211.06.2014
        46Clark  GableClark GableFamiliar01.02.190116.11.1960
        47Boris KarloffBoris KarloffFamiliar23.11.188702.02.1969
        48Harvey MilkHarvey MilkFamiliar22.05.193027.11.1978
        49Ella FitzgeraldElla FitzgeraldFamiliar25.04.191715.06.1996
        50Bobby WomackBobby WomackFamiliar04.03.194427.06.2014
        51Lizabeth ScottLizabeth ScottFamiliar29.09.192231.01.2015
        52Spiro  AgnewSpiro AgnewFamiliar09.11.191817.09.1969
        53Meyer LanskyMeyer LanskyFamiliar04.07.190215.01.1983
        54Dick CrockettDick CrockettFamiliar27.02.191525.01.1979
        55Porfirio RubirosaPorfirio RubirosaFamiliar22.01.190905.07.1965
        56James HolshouserJames HolshouserFamiliar08.10.193417.06.2013
        57Paul LyndePaul LyndeFamiliar13.06.192611.01.1982
        58Richard SchweikerRichard SchweikerFamiliar01.06.192631.07.2015
        59John D. Rockefeller Jr.John D. Rockefeller Jr.Familiar29.01.187411.05.1960
        60Madge BellamyMadge BellamyFamiliar30.06.189924.01.1990
        61Dean ReedDean ReedFamiliar22.09.193813.06.1986
        62David RockefellerDavid RockefellerFamiliar12.06.191520.03.2017
        63Martin Luther  King Jr.Martin Luther King Jr.Familiar15.01.192904.04.1968
        64Donna SummerDonna SummerFamiliar31.12.194817.05.2012
        65Dorothy DandridgeDorothy DandridgeFamiliar09.11.192208.09.1965
        66Dinah  ShoreDinah ShoreFamiliar29.02.191624.02.1994
        67Happy RockefellerHappy RockefellerFamiliar09.06.192619.05.2015
        68Allen ToussaintAllen ToussaintFamiliar14.01.193810.11.2015
        69Yehudi MenuhinYehudi MenuhinFamiliar22.04.191612.03.1999
        70Buddy HollyBuddy HollyFamiliar07.09.193603.02.1959
        71Simon RamoSimon RamoFamiliar07.05.191327.06.2016
        72Billy PrestonBilly PrestonFamiliar02.09.194606.06.2006
        73Edward Moore KennedyEdward Moore KennedyFamiliar22.02.193225.08.2009
        74Jacqueline Kennedy OnassisJacqueline Kennedy OnassisFamiliar28.07.192919.05.1994
        75Betty  FordBetty FordFamiliar08.04.191808.07.2011
        76Minnie PearlMinnie PearlFamiliar25.10.191204.03.1996
        77Howard BakerHoward BakerFamiliar15.11.192526.06.2014
        78George  AvakianGeorge AvakianFamiliar15.03.191922.11.2017
        79Mary  MartinMary MartinFamiliar01.12.191303.11.1990
        80Bessie SmithBessie SmithFamiliar15.04.189426.09.1937
        81Joe  LouisJoe LouisFamiliar13.05.191412.04.1981
        Linda HopkinsFamiliar14.12.192410.04.2017
        83Joe DeverJoe DeverFamiliar12.02.195629.11.2016
        84Gerald FordGerald FordFamiliar14.07.191326.12.2006
        85Ruth  GordonRuth GordonFamiliar30.10.189628.08.1985
        86Richard  NixonRichard NixonFamiliar09.01.191322.04.1994
        87Helen ThomasHelen ThomasFamiliar04.08.192020.07.2013
        88Bob HoskinsBob HoskinsFamiliar26.10.194229.04.2014
        89William P. Clark, Jr.William P. Clark, Jr.Familiar23.10.193110.08.2013
        90Michael JacksonMichael JacksonFamiliar29.08.195825.06.2009
        91Jacques RivetteJacques RivetteFamiliar01.03.192829.01.2016
        92Muhameds AliMuhameds AliFamiliar17.01.194203.06.2016
        93Robert VaughnRobert VaughnFamiliar22.11.193211.11.2016
        94Bette DavisBette DavisFamiliar05.04.190806.10.1989
        95Richard AndersonRichard AndersonFamiliar08.08.192631.08.2017
        96Tony CurtisTony CurtisFamiliar03.06.192529.09.2010
        97Herbert  LomHerbert LomFamiliar11.09.191727.09.2012
        98Yvonne De CarloYvonne De CarloFamiliar01.09.192208.01.2007
        99Pol PotPol PotFamiliar19.05.192515.04.1998
        100Bob HopeBob HopeFamiliar29.05.190327.07.2003
        101John EisenhowerJohn EisenhowerFamiliar03.08.192221.12.2013
        102Charlie ChaplinCharlie ChaplinFamiliar16.04.188925.12.1977
        103Edward BrookeEdward BrookeFamiliar26.10.191903.01.2015
        104Judy GarlandJudy GarlandFamiliar10.06.192222.06.1969
        105Jerrie MockJerrie MockFamiliar22.11.192530.09.2014
        106Nancy ReaganNancy ReaganFamiliar06.07.192106.03.2016
        107James  FarentinoJames FarentinoFamiliar24.02.193824.01.2012
        108Anne MearaAnne MearaFamiliar20.09.192923.05.2015
        109Neil HamiltonNeil HamiltonFamiliar09.09.189924.09.1984
        110Joan CrawfordJoan CrawfordFamiliar23.03.190510.05.1977
        111Kurt  MasurKurt MasurFamiliar18.07.192719.12.2015
        112Ronald  ReaganRonald ReaganFamiliar06.02.191105.06.2004
        113Martha GrahamMartha GrahamFamiliar11.05.189401.04.1991
        114George HarrisonGeorge HarrisonFamiliar25.02.194329.11.2001
        115Barbara Farrell VucanovichBarbara Farrell VucanovichFamiliar22.06.192110.06.2013
        116Pat  HinglePat HingleFamiliar19.07.192403.01.2009
        117Bill BarrettBill BarrettFamiliar09.02.192920.09.2016
        118Joseph Paul FranklinJoseph Paul FranklinFamiliar13.04.195020.11.2013
        119Lou TellegenLou TellegenFamiliar26.11.188129.10.1934
        120Shirley  TempleShirley TempleFamiliar23.04.192810.02.2014
        121Errol FlynnErrol FlynnFamiliar20.06.190914.10.1959
        122Lady Bird  JohnsonLady Bird JohnsonFamiliar22.12.191211.07.2007
        123Wilfrid LawsonWilfrid LawsonFamiliar14.01.190010.10.1966
        124Louis  JourdanLouis JourdanFamiliar19.06.192114.02.2015
        125Marian NixonMarian NixonFamiliar20.10.190413.02.1983
        126Joan BennettJoan BennettFamiliar27.02.191007.12.1990
        Gerald J FordenFamiliar23.09.197506.03.2011

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