Red Hot Mama: The Life of Sophie Tucker

  • From the Publisher
March 29, 2018

The First Lady of Show Busi­ness” and the Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” Sophie Tuck­er was a star in vaude­ville, radio, film, and tele­vi­sion. A gut­sy, song-belt­ing stage per­former, she enter­tained audi­ences for six­ty years and inspired a host of younger women, includ­ing Judy Gar­land, Car­ol Chan­ning, and Bette Midler. Tuck­er was a woman who defied tra­di­tion­al expec­ta­tions and achieved suc­cess on her own terms, becom­ing the first female pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Actors and win­ning many oth­er hon­ors usu­al­ly bestowed on men. Ded­i­cat­ed to social jus­tice, she advo­cat­ed for African Amer­i­cans in the enter­tain­ment indus­try and cul­ti­vat­ed friend­ships with lead­ing black activists and per­form­ers. Tuck­er was also one of the most gen­er­ous phil­an­thropists in show busi­ness, rais­ing over four mil­lion dol­lars for the reli­gious and racial caus­es she held dear.

Draw­ing from the hun­dreds of scrap­books Tuck­er com­piled, Red Hot Mama presents a com­pelling biog­ra­phy of this larg­er-than-life per­former. Lau­ren Rebec­ca Sklaroff tells an engross­ing sto­ry of how a daugh­ter of Russ­ian Jew­ish immi­grants set her sights on becom­ing one of the most for­mi­da­ble women in show busi­ness and achieved her ver­sion of the Amer­i­can dream. More than most of her con­tem­po­raries, Tuck­er under­stood how to keep her act fresh, to change brand­ing when audi­ences grew tired and, most impor­tant­ly, how to con­nect with her fans, the press, and enter­tain­ment moguls. Both deserved­ly famous and unjust­ly for­got­ten today, Tuck­er stands out as an exem­plar of the immi­grant expe­ri­ence and a trail­blaz­er for women in the enter­tain­ment industry.

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