Harlem’s Cleo Hayes, Cotton Club Dancer And “Stormy Weather,” Actress, 1914 – 2012

Cleo Hayes was born in Greenville, Mississippi, August 18, 1914 – 2012. She was an actress, Cotton Club dancer, and a comedian.

One day she took a bus to New York and started at the newly opened Apollo Theater, as one of the Apollo “Rockettes.” After the war, with theaters wanting to cut expenses and chorus line work drying up, Cleo danced while the work lasted — at Broadway’s Café Zanzibar (below, third from left), the 845 Club, on tour with Cab Calloway, and in the film “Stormy Weather.” For almost fifty years, the resident bartender and “mixologist” at the Flash Inn in Harlem where she served regulars until 1956.

She is also known for The Chris Rock Show (1997), Been Rich All My Life (2006) and The South Bank Show (1978).

She died on May 23, 2012 in Harlem, New York.

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"The Clark Legacy Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark and their work," this post is made in partnership with Harlem Cultural Archives, get more at Harlem History.

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