I saw this on Facebook and I am reposting – I had no idea!
Did you know?
Although many believe a white entertainer named Helen Kane was the inspiration for Betty Boop, the character would not have been possible without a 1920 African American jazz singer, Esther Jones, aka Baby Esther.
Nicknamed after her “baby” singing style, Esther performed regularly at the famous Cotton Club in Harlem.
She was known for using phrases like “Boop-oop-a-doop” (which would later become a signature of the cartoon’s). Yet, while the Betty Boop creators have acknowledged that Baby Esther is the true original, most people credit Helen Kane. Why? Because Helen Kane went out of her way to take the credit.
Betty Boop was initially intended, by creator Max Fleischer, to be a caricature of Helen Kane — though he didn’t know at the time that Kane was merely a Baby Esther copycat.
In 1930, Betty Boop appeared in the cartoon Dizzy Dishes as an anthropomorphic French poodle. Betty didn’t become human until 1932 when her floppy ears turned into hoop earrings.
Things took a bit of a messy turn in 1932 when Helen filed a $250,000 infringement lawsuit against Max Fleischer for exploiting her personality and image.
It was during this trial that the real Betty Boop was exposed. Theatrical Manager Lou Walton testified that Helen Kane had seen Baby Esther’s act in April, 1928. An act in which Baby Esther sang the song “I Wanna Be Loved By You” with phrases like “boop-boop-a-doop” sung throughout the performance. Just a few weeks later Kane began to “boop” like Baby Esther.
Lou Walton also testified that in 1925 he had personally taught a young Baby Esther her signature scat style. Helen Kane’s plan was unraveling.
By the time the trial had taken place, Baby Esther had already passed — the jazz singer had nothing to gain from the revelation. However, Helen Kane’s career was on the decline, and this was an easy way to get back in the public eye.
After the trial had gone on for two years, Max Fleischer managed to locate a 1928 sound film of Baby Esther’s performance “boop-a-doops” and all. The case was finally put to rest, Baby Esther’s legacy was restored and Helen Kane’s theft was exposed.
Judge Edward J. McGoldrick ruled, the plaintiff failed to sustain either cause of action by proof of sufficient probative force, and that in his opinion the “Baby” singing style did not originate with Kane. He also found that Kane did not create Betty Boop’s appearance, as the cartoon closely resembled another star of the era named Clara Bow.
Some continue to agrue that this does not mean that Betty Boop was black. Only that she was, in part, “inspired” by the musical style of a black artist. But no matter how others, like Helen Kane, try to rewrite or steal Black History…. the truth (not Alternative Facts) will always come out! So, now you know!