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Gladys Bentley

In Literature

Bentley was the inspiration for characters in several books of the time, including a gay novel by Blair Niles
called "Strange Brother." Carl Van Vechten, one of the homosexual literati, described someone obviously like
her in his book "Parties." He wrote about his character, "when she pounds the piano the dawn comes up
like thunder. She rocks the box, and tosses it...and jumps it through hoops." She was definitely a larger than
life figure. Here are some examples.

An unnamed entertainer is obviously inspired by Bentley

The play "Little Ham" premiered in 1935; and the character is just called
Masculine Woman. Play notes spell out that she looks "exactly like Gladys Bentley"
and makes a very short appearance

Bentley, or her character, receives large mention in Blair Niles' 1931 book

Note the club the main characters go to is called the Lobster Pot. Bentley's
first success was at the Clam House. Her character is called Sybil, and while
the main characters do not interact with her, she is commented on throughout
Chapter II. Also, perhaps to emphasize a point, two of the gay male characters
are named Nelly and Pansy. Our bar touring couple, June and Phil, had just left
the Magnolia Club, a swankier club catering to white tourists, and June wanted
to see "the other Harlem."

We mostly hear of Bently dressed as a man, in formal attire. It's interesing here that Sybil wears a skirt and simple clothing

Bentley reportedly "married" a woman, with her in a tux and the woman in wedding dress.

And, on page 59, Bentley was known for singing "St. James Infirmary."

Bentley is referred to, very briefly, in Clement Wood's 1934 book, "Deep River"