Harlem playboy Dickie Wells, in photo above with Billie Holiday and Tullulah Bankhead in the Club Ebony night spot in Harlem. The suave, handsome gigolo was part of the dance team making $500 a week with his dance troupe “Wells, Mordecai, & Taylor” who danced at the ‘Cotton Club’, Small’s Paradise and all over the world. Dickie was once considered the most popular man in Harlem. He also owned the Hoofer’s Club where all the great dancers would go to dance.
The tree of life stood right in front of his club next to the Lincoln Theater on 7th. Ave & 132 street by the place know as “the corner” which was a hangout street spot. Connie’s Inn was there also.
Dickie was soon known as the Ebony Lorathio and rumors of his lovemaking became legendary. The rumors had to be true because Dickie became of the wealthiest men in Harlem and he beame better known as a gigolo than a dancer. His wealth allowed him to open up a chicken and waffles restaurant and a popular nightclub. Dickie was the first person to introduce New York to chicken and waffles and his spot had the best fried chicken in town. Across town, actress Ethel Waters had the best BBQ. He was also the most suave and sophisticated man on the East Coast, black or white. He was charming and when he was introduced to a woman, instead of shaking her hand, he would simply hold it in his own. He had a way of making women feel that when he was with you, no one else in the universe mattered. And, he knew how to compliment a woman, on the color of her eyes or the shape of her lips, or her intelligence. But most importantly, when he looked at you he made you feel like he was looking at the most beautiful woman in the world.
Women loved him and would vie for his attention with their pocketbooks. They gave him money, jewels and cars. His conquests included white socialites, famous singers and even movie stars like Tallulah Bankhead, above, (who fainted when she heard he had died). Referring to Bankhead as “black friendly” would be an understatement because she was also allegedly linked to Billie Holiday and Hattie McDaniel. Another client was actress Ava Gardner who gave him a cigarette holder made of solid gold, and engraved “from A to D,” as well as a diamond encrusted watch, gold cuff links and a diamond tie pin to go with the silk ties she also bought for him. Even Joan Crawford, who wasn’t exactly known for her fondness of blacks, invited Dickie to visit her whenever he was in California and Marilyn Monroe made inquiries about him but never met him. Many of his white female conquests would tell him that they didn’t believe he was really all black, and he looked more like he could be Cuban. Dickie would get upset and tell them he was “all black, nothing more.” Famous white men envied him. Clark Gable, Errol Flynn and Charlie Chaplin bowed down to him. They considered him the master when it came to beautiful women. The only time this notorious gigolo got bad press was when the daughter of a Swedish diplomat had a nervous breakdown because Dickie would no longer pay attention to her or her needs. She revealed that she had abandoned her children to be with him. Like Rubi, Dickie refused to take money from black women but he would siphon every dollar he could from rich white women who were willing to pay for his affections, and then go uptown to Harlem and spend the money partying with the most beautiful black women of the day like Margherite Chapman (who later married Willie Mays) and Jean Parks (sister of Henry Parks who founded Parks sausage). These women were his two running buddies and he spoiled them rotten. Often taking them on shopping sprees or out to fancy dinners.
Dickie Wells also was a best and dear friend to Bumpy Johnson, Harlem’s notorious gangster. His house still stands in Harlem’s Strivers Row. Dickie died in 1949.
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