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Tue, 12.23.1902

Vivian Harris, Voice of the Apollo

Vivian Harris

*Vivian Harris was born on this date in 1902. She was a Black Comedian, Chorus Girl and Longtime “Voice of the Apollo.”

From Harlem she was the second of five daughters. Her father, Sam was a boxer and customs inspector.  Her mother, Mary worked as a maid for Lillian Russell, and others.  They lived near the Lafayette Theater, where celebrities like Ethel Waters, Maud Russell and Butterbeans and Susie would perform. After graduating from Julia Richmond High School, Vivian joined the Broadway production "Shuffle Along" and went on to be a chorus girl in "Runnin' Wild," which added a new dance, the Charleston.

Harris performed in other productions on what came to be known as Black Broadway. She traveled to Paris, London and other European cities. When Duke Ellington started at the Cotton Club in 1927, the new chorus line included Harris.  Also in 1927, she married Louis Metcaff, a relationship that ended in divorce. In 1935, she started at the Apollo Theater as the voice behind the curtain, and over the years performed with most of the popular Black comedy acts including the first performance of Pigmeat Markham's "Here comes the judge" skit. In Dusty Fletcher's "Open the door, Richard" skit, another classic of the Black comedic stage, she played the woman in the window Dusty unsuccessfully tried to reach.

When Amos 'n' Andy (for TV) held auditions for parts, Harris was recommended to play Kingfish's wife, Sapphire but was turned down for looking too white.  She stayed at the Apollo until 1970, working as the voice, cashier and in the wardrobe department.

William Miles, a filmmaker who made the 1981 documentary ''I Remember Harlem,'' said Ms. Harris was known as the Voice of the Apollo. In addition to her announcements, he said, she often sang ''I May Be Wrong, but I Think You're Wonderful.'' Vivian Harris died Feb. 18, 2000 in Englewood, N.J at 97.

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