In early August, Leslie spoke with writer Dustin Fitzharris about her life, career, and remarkable journey as expressed in her latest musical and CD, UPTOWN DOWNTOWN. Here’s how that interview, published by the Huffington Post in its POST 50 section edited by Rita Wilson, begins:
“Leslie Uggams may have been just 17 in January 1961, but she brought panic to the boardrooms at NBC when she joined the cast of ‘Sing Along With Mitch,’ starring Mitch Miller. At the time she was the only African-American performer on network television, and NBC and its sponsors were feeling the heat from the South. Eventually the show became such a hit that the issue of Uggams' skin color was no longer a concern.
“Sammy Davis Jr. recognized this triumph and a few years later told Newsweek: ‘She's very special. Everybody identifies with her. The first great step has happened with her...Leslie's bridged a very important space.’
“Uggams acknowledged it was a heavy load to carry because she wanted people to have respect for the black community. ‘At that particular time you carried your race on your back,’ Uggams said. ‘Today you can do anything you want, but back then you couldn't because it reflected the whole race. If you did something wrong people would say, 'See how they are!' That was a great responsibility, but I was willing to take it on.’ ”
Read the rest of this candid interview at Huff Post POST 50. Be sure to scroll down for great photos and videos.
Here’s just one of those remarkable videos: Leslie singing “The Lady Is a Tramp” with Frank Sinatra!