A new discovery — and as has been the fate of Hot Lips Page, even seventy years after his death, he is hidden in plain sight. Facebook friends told the world about MAMBO’S GONE MAD, a collection of short performances by lesser-known Black artists, perhaps for television, introduced by the very refined Mary Smith. There’s a good deal of mambo, costumes, dancing, pulchritude; then a ballad sung by Charles Riley or Reilly in the best Bill Kenny – Orlando Roberson manner . . . then Lips and one Connie Carrol do THROW IT OUT [OF] YOUR MIND, another paean to marriage and premarital chastity.

Lips doesn’t get to play here, and the camera clearly lingers on Connie, but he is his ebullient self, as much as the number allows, even when playing a semi-supporting role:

Those of us who admire Lips more than words can say always shake our heads and ask, “Why should such a charismatic performer never have become a star?” The answers — sad ones — have nothing to do with talent.

In the three television / film appearances I know of, Lips is always placed in a subsidiary role. He tries to get Pearl Bailey to stay the night at his house, and she is clearly the star; he woos Connie in this performance but she takes his money and won’t be his lover without a wedding; in another performance, he teaches a ventriloquist’s dummy how to swing and scat-sing. In none of those three instances, is he given any particular power: either he is a semi-comic implorer or on an equal footing only with a wooden miniature. White America in 1954 wasn’t ready for a handsome Black man who triumphed, even in musical numbers.

And Lips was dead — at 46 — on November 5. A heart attack and then pneumonia. I think of two other heroes, Frank Newton and Sidney Catlett, neither of whom reached fifty, and their world, where men smoked and drank, ate delicious deadly food, didn’t get enough sleep, and didn’t have regular physical examinations. Men went to the doctor only when they felt terrible, and the first heart attack was soon followed by death. And, yes, I know, the list could be much longer.

So, dear JAZZ LIVES readers, take good care of yourselves and the ones you love. And immerse yourself in the music of Lips, Frank, and Sidney: this way their lives will never have ended.

May your happiness increase!

4 responses to “HOT LIPS PAGE ON FILM (1954): “MAMBO’S GONE MAD”

  1. Richard McNeil

    A very nice article.

  2. Michael, Thanks for Mambo’s Gone Mad. I viewed w/ fresh eyes. Lips brought me to Kansas City sitting with Lester. So I had to touch base. Hope you are well. Long time. I’m still playing w/ Prez. I have a Hail Mary pass to Clint Eastwood who wrote me a few years back.

    If he likes it….it would make a very nice ending to the film. If he doesn’t I’ll probably give up on the animation which is the big ticket item. Anyhow, love reading and hearing your posts. As the poet says, “We live to see what comes before us.” My best Henry

    Henry Ferrini Founding Director

    Gloucester Writers Center 126 East Main Street Gloucester, MA 01930-3847

    Cell: 978-290-3445 www.


  3. This was shown where? It is very suggestive and frankly sensual, too much for 1950’s TV I think. Cuba? The mambo number is eye popping.

    When Mary says she ‘hopes to see us next time’ my heart sunk upon realizing there will be no “next time”.

    Lips swings even when speaking! He died a few years before R&B became big and he might have made it big(ger) if he had managed to stick around

  4. You mentioned Lips Page, Frankie Newton and Sidney Catlett – my all time favourites ( just add Louis, Red Allen and Bechet)
    Your posts are manna from heaven to me, I love to read them, I am happy you saw the post in Facebook (I was downright shocked to see it), now want to see Lips play trumpet on one, so we can see our hero as he truly was, as one of the all-time immortal musicians who have ever graced our planet.
    There must be more – and we will keep on looking.

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