Tangerine Yum Yum
9" x 11" (framed)
Vintage (1969) strip club advertisement for featuring local celebrity Tangerine Sublett in Kansas City, Missouri
From the KC Times, March 7, 1972
By Ira B. McCarty:
It has been a long and often rocky journey from the cotton fields of Virginia to a role in a nationally televised show but 47-year-old Tangerine Sublett, the stand-up comedienne at the Yum-Yum Lounge, 3223 Troost, has made it.
She appeared February 25 in the Sanford and Son show. She played the part of a widow trying to trap into marriage the show’s star, Redd Foxx. The show was taped so Tangerine was able to return to Kansas City to be with her friends here when the show went on the air.
A television firm lent a large color set to the Yum Yum Lounge for viewing of the show. Other sets were scattered about. The place was decorated with flowers and balloons. More than 200 persons crowded in to be with tangerine for the occasion. Other clubs along the Troost Strip put in television sets so their patrons, too, could watch the show. There was even a set in action at the Milgram Food Store in the area.
Everyone was rooting for Tangerine and expressing the hope that her one-time role would lead her into the Big Time of show business. That, of course, remains to be seen.
Tangerine (her real name was Dolly Hopson) was born to a very poor family in Freeman Virginia. She had 5 brothers. She walked a round trip of 8 miles each day to attend school. When she was 13 years old a busload of travelling musicians gave her a lift on her school journey. She was immediately hooked on show business. A year later she ran away from home and joined the carnival as a dancer.
“When you ran away from home in those days no one went looking for you. It just meant there was one less mouth to feed,” Tangerine explained. “The carnival job was better than picking cotton, which was the only thing I had to look forward to.”
The carnival travelled in Canada and the United States. Tangerine and the other girls made 21 appearances each day. She was dropped from the show when it played St. Louis. Sympathetic policemen there paid her way back to Virginia.
Soon she joined a group known as the Brown Skin Models.
“I just barely qualified for the show,” Tangerine said. “Black wasn’t beautiful back then.”
There followed years of appearances in clubs in Pennsylvania, California and several happy appearances in Denver clubs. Her specialty was a jungle dance.
“I integrated Philadelphia in 1949,” Tangerine said. “I was the only black girl at the Black Cat club. The white girls refused to dance on the same bill. The boss told them I danced or they didn’t. The white girls backed down.”
The dances at the Black Cat were really wild. The girls were arrested every week for indecent exposure. The notoriety boosted her salary from $65 to $125 a week.
It was during these years of travel that Tangerine met Redd Foxx and Slappy White. They formed firm friendships that have lasted through the years.
It was Slappy White who was responsible for tangerine’s turning from dancing to the field of comedy. About 9 years ago the two were playing the same club. Tangerine had put on some weight. Slappy kidded her about it. This made her angry. She retaliated by grabbing the microphone and reeling off Slappy’s routine. The audience loved it. From that day on Tangerine was a comedienne. Slappy and Redd frequently contributed to the “blue” material that was part of her new act.
Doing the Sanford and Son show was a reunion for the three. Slappy is a writer for the show. Tangerine cooked up a batch of ham hocks and turnip greens. Some of the food was actually eaten on camera.
Tangerine says she enjoyed doing the “clean” dialogue of the show. She has noticed since her appearance that patrons of the Kansas City club laugh more readily at her jokes.