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Legacy Oral History Online Collection

Langston Audio Clip and Transcript

Langston Audio Clip

Interviewer: Jim Murdoch

JM: Your mother, it sounds like she worked with you all through your career in show business... in one way or another.

TL: In one way or another.  As I told you, she wanted to be a dancer and a singer and she had no talent.

JM Right.

TL: Couldn't carry a note.  (Both laugh.)  Ballroom.  A beautiful ballroom dancer.

JM: Oh.

TL: But when it come to doin' something else, her feet just weren't mates.

JM: (Laughs)

TL:  And so the minute I was born, a little girl, I was destined...  I can picture her putting me to sleep each night, saying, "Maybe you're not old enough to walk, [but] you're gonna start dancing!"  (Laughs heartily.)

(Break in tape)

TL: And her... She loved show business of any kind, shape or form. And I... she wasn't, you know... had no talent. 

JM: Mm hmm. 

TL: And when I came along, she didn't know whether I had any talent or not, but she sure as hell was gonna find out, 'cause I was gonna have a... a dancing teacher.  But I was lucky.  I had this lady that came from um... Sydney, Australia, who not only taught dancing, but voice, um... poetry, you know, parts.  She had little parts for kids.  She was all-around... dancing teacher as you call her.

JM: Right.

TL: So I get into all aspects of show business—not just the dancing part of it.  At the end of each year, she... all her children appeared in a big, you know, thing.  Singing, dancing, or whatever they were...

JM: Yeah.  The mothers all wanted their little girls to be toe dancers, you know, ballerinas.

JM: Mm hmm. 

TL: And she'd look and say, "Oh, boy.  Not this one."  You know...

JM: (Laughs) 

TL: And she looked at me and she thought, "No.  This is not a ballerina. This is a funny kid."  I don't know what I did that was funny, but evidently, I was doing something.  So my mother she says, "She's not gonna..."  "In the first place," she says, "her ankles are not good for it. 'Gotta have good, strong, ankles.  She does not have them. And by the time I could strengthen her ankles up to where she could toe dance, she'd be way in her teens.

JM: Mm hmm.

TL: She wouldn't be working or wouldn't be in a... ," she says, "because she's got very weak ankles."  "So," she said, "you better get along to something else that she can do. Forget the toe dancing."  So, my mother said, "Okay, then.  Whatever you think."  She let my teacher take over.

JM:  Did your mother perform ever?

Social Censure on Performing Careers

TL: (In a whisper)  No, no. (Louder)  No.  Not even in high s... in school. Not even in school did she perform.  You know, not even the speech when you graduated.  She never did any of that.  No, she just had the desire to... perform, but never... never...  There was no way she could use it, 'cause she was never asked or my grandmother never put her, you know, into dancing school.  My grandmother, she came from Germany, and you taught the girls in your family how to cook...

 JM: Right.

 TL: to sew. So, when you became a wife, you knew what to... how to do these things.  You didn't do these other stupid things, that my grandmother used to call them.  "Stupid!  Stupid!"  (Both laugh).

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