It’s pretty commonplace now for entertainers to be very open about their sexuality, but that wasn’t always the case. Nevertheless, at least one singer/songwriter who rose to fame in the 1930s made no secret about being bisexual. In fact, Frances Faye would eventually form a lifelong partnership with her manager, Teri Shepherd, and even worked a little ditty into her club act that went something like this: “Faye, Faye, gay, gay. Is there any other way?”
Born in Brooklyn as Frances Cohen, she would later change her name just like her cousin, comedy star Danny Kaye (born David Daniel Kaminski). She began appearing professionally while still a teenager in the late 1920s, playing piano in local clubs. Within a few years she was doing well while working the Vaudeville circuit as an accompanist, and then began singing too.
By the mid-1930s she was a popular attraction in clubs, with a raucous and sassy style that often included pounding on the keyboard. She was also beginning to make some records, including a few of songs she’d written herself, and one of them – “Well, All Right” – would later be a big hit for the Andrews Sisters. She even managed to land a pretty good movie role, playing Martha Raye’s sister in the 1937 Bing Crosby film, Double Or Nothing. (See video below.)
It all added up to a good start for her career, but as the years passed her star never rose as high as that of most of her contemporaries, many of whom had a softer style. She continued to keep busy making a lot of good records and appearing in clubs, and even did some guest shots on TV, but her acting career fizzled. (Although she did make a memorable appearance in 1978’s Pretty Baby.) She continued to entertain her devoted fans into the early 1980s, and died at age 79 in 1991.