Monday, November 26, 2012

Marky Bey on Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway's Hello, Dolly!

Marky Bey is an African-American TV and film actress of the 70s. She starred in Sugar Hill and had a recurring role on Starsky and Hutch. At the time of Hello, Dolly, she spelled her name with an "I”.
 Marky's nickname as a child was always Marky, short for Marqueeta.
She used it starting with her career in Philadelphia at 15 .She was later talked into  Marky with an "i" because it was more 'feminine'.  Later , she just said, screw it...she was 'going out' just like she 'came in'.  
So she changed it back to the original spelling.

In 1967, she was working as a singing waitress at the Improv and heard about auditions for Hello, Dolly starring Cab Calloway and Pearl Bailey through the grapevine.
She went to the auditions and got cast for the chorus and to understudy Minnie Fay. She also played Mrs. Rose. How did she approach the part? For weeks, Pearl Bailey had her walking in and out of her dressing room saying:”Well, well, well, look who’s here, Mrs. Levi.”

If she were given the opportunity to go back, Marky would not change a thing. On the  dark night when it was their company’s turn to perform for all the other Equity houses, she got great applause doing Mrs. Rose crossing that stage at the St. James Theater. Marki brought a style that was all her own, her own freshness of delivery. She didn’t continue to tweak her performance after the show opened. Marky’s thoughts on Pearl Bailey are that she was an artist, a DIVA, a master of comic timing, a teacher, a “second mother” as she signed her book to Marky.

There was never a time when she did not own the stage she was on.
Marky fell in love watching Dolly/Pearl’s entrance down the stairs into the Harmonia Gardens each show for the title number and the eating scene with Horace that followed it.

For most in this company, they were in their early twenties and it was their first encounter with “Celebrity Royalty.” There were ups and downs for some, Marki included.

Initially when Marky was cast, she was intimidated at the thought of playing opposite a star of Pearl Bailey’s magnitude. It was the “celebrity royalty” thing. 

After playing Minnie Fay in one of the National Companies and replacing Chris Calloway as understudy in their Broadway company, Marky learned to trust herself and stand tall on her legs of confidence.
Marky does place Hello, Dolly in her top five list of her career. She places that along the revival of Lost In The Stars with Brock Peters at The Imperial Theater. That was the show where she met and is still married to the love of her life, Don
If she could go back with the knowledge she has now, she WOULDN”T WALK IN AND OUT OF PEARL BAILEY’S DRESSING ROOM DOOR SO MANY TIMES!!!!! (Smile) 

A younger Pearl Bailey
In actuality, she wouldn’t do anything differently.  
Being in Hello, Dolly pivoted Marki towards feature films and episodic television. The one thing that she learned with her involvement with doing Dolly that she has carried forward with her since then is confidence.
This production of Hello, Dolly was unique. They were the FIRST all black company of Hello, Dolly! 
Not only did they reach the inquisitive white theater going community, but now the black community became even more engaged. 
Their company consisted of a bouquet of black performers, Pearl Bailey used to refer to this as her flower garden, from the very light in skin color to the very brown. 
They were MARVELOUS!!!!!

Marky’s worst experience with the show happened one performance as the scenery was coming in for Put On Your Sunday Clothes.  The scenery “grabbed” her hat and knocked it off. Her hair was in pin clips and small pink curlers, and she was headed for the downstage front row of the number! She faked a faint before making the turn and they got her off stage so as not to interfere with the number! 
They took her to Pearl Bailey’s dressing room and gave her “poppers” (for her heart!). It was one of her most memorable acting moments! It was not uncommon for Marky to have terrible experiences during a performance of Dolly. Minnie Fay’s Harmonia Gardens hat, for example. 
It was a large pink question mark shaped feather atop the hat. Marky was seated and bent over to put it on during intermission, and the wire at the top of the feather went in the inside of her upper thigh inches away from, well, just use your imagination…She couldn’t get it out, and they had only five minutes before curtain. It was their beloved stage manager, Frank Dudley, who performed the ultimate extraction.  And the show went on…
Marky also saw Carol Channing play Dolly. One would think she could never be replaced. She never was… She really OWNED Dolly. Marky saw her again many years later in Pasadena when lines were forgotten, but if Marky had not been in the show she would never have known…overwhelmingly supported by the audience with rounds of applause initiated by her biggest fan and loving husband, Charles Lowe.

The only “tailoring” that Pearl Bailey made to the script was the eating scene between her and Cab Calloway. It was a priceless piece of comic art, especially with the “sopping of her plate and his.” It brought the house down every performance. It has been written about many times here, Pearl Bailey’s “third act.” 
In hindsight, Marky is sure the cast members would have appreciated it more if they hadn’t  had to stand there for  an additional 20 minutes in those ever so heavy costumes! But they did, and as always, it was a lesson in how to get an audience to love them even more…Pearl Bailey gave them the extra 10% more after giving them the first 100%. It never failed. Even when she had to wear “slippers” (pink) all through one show because of shots in one of her feet she needed. OR, the night she had to have drops put in her eyes and did the entire performance in dark glasses. The famous 3rd Act always went on. 
The only exception was the night Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Fans loved it and came back again and again knowing they would be further entertained after the show was over with Pearl Bailey doing a tap dance around the passarelle with Cab Calloway singing Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey?

Lucia Victor, of course, directed this production and it couldn’t get any better than that. Marky only met Jerry Herman once. He gave her a charm bracelet which she still cherishes to this day. 
The first time she heard the entire score was at the first rehearsal and she was instantly smitten. There is no way that the title number can’t work. It is the entrance of all time…in RED…not to mention music by Herman. There Cornelius Hackl was Jack Crowder who later changed his name to Thalmus Rassulala, He had an incredible voice and stage presence. Thalmus Rasulala (November 15, 1939 – October 9, 1991) was an African American actor who starred in Blaxploitation films. He also was an original cast member of ABC's soap opera One Life to Live from its inception in 1968 until he left the show in 1970. Their Barnaby Tucker was Winston Dewit Hemsley.  He was a fabulous dancer. There were no pep talks needed from Lucia. They were so high energy all the time. She knew at the first rehearsal this was going to be a great Dolly! Marky loved their stage manager, Frank Dudley. At one time, he was married to Lucia Victor prior to Dolly in 1963. They were now divorced but continued to work together.

When they closed on Christmas Eve 1969, they were even more magnificent than when they opened on October 11th, 1967 at The National Theater in Washington, DC.

Marky Bey (now Fenwick) says she can do Hello, Dolly for the rest of her life. This show is such a part of her life’s history as a young adult that she treasures and holds close to her heart…and she can’t imagine any female in any company of Dolly not desiring to grow up and play the role of Dolly Gallagher Levi! Marky Bey has earned the right.
Beginning in 1984 with a MagicCruise to Alaska, Don and Marky Fenwick have been producing "common interest", or themed cruises for over 25 years.   
Utilizing their skills as entertainers and organizers, the Fenwicks produce four or five various cruise/conventions each year, including a StampCruise (with the American Philatelic Society), MiniCruise (for miniaturists), and Murder Mystery.
Marky and Don Fenwick
Don writes all their Murder Mysteries, and Marky utilizes her many talents in creating  the clues used by the detectives of the Mystery Cruises. Check out their website 
Thank you Marky Bey Fenwick for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
I want this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  
 If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!

Do you have any pics to share?

If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
My next blog will be...Catching up with Julie Reyburn!

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

Richard Skipper,                            
This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!

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