Slappy White – “Vice President”
Slappy White‘s official biography reported that he “ran away to join the circus” as a child. White was best known in later years for the Friars’ Club roasts, where he routinely appeared along with other comedians, including Milton Berle, Jackie Vernon, Pat Buttram and Dick Shawn. White was born in Baltimore, Maryland, September 27, 1921. He began his career as a dancer and did not turn to comedy until 1940 when he joined with a fellow hoofer and labeled his act the “Two Zephyrs”. The “Two Zephyrs” made the circuits together for over four years appearing with such notables as Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and many others. With his team “Slappy” was first introduced to Californians, making his West Coast debut in Los Angeles at the Orpheum Theatre along with Louis Armstrong. After “Two Zephyrs” came “Lewis and White” his second successful comedy team. “Lewis and White” traveled together for several years and appeared with such greats as Johnny Otis, The Ink Spots, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton. The team with which he is best known is “Redd Foxx and ‘Slappy’ White”. Foxx and White toured from coast to coast with the Billy Eckstine Orchestra for over four years. “Slappy’s” solo career started in 1951 when Dinah Washington requested him to introduce her act at the “Black Hawk” in San Francisco. “Slappy” was such a hit with the patrons, she kept him on as her opening act. He was once also married to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and blues belter, LaVern Baker (1929-1997). Later in life, he performed under his given name on his friend Redd Foxx’s TV show Sanford and Son. In contrast to the off-color humor of the Friars’ roasts, White also wrote and performed a more conservative comedy routine using one black and one white glove while reciting his poem about equality between men. White performed the routine many times during the civil rights movement in America, and he said that President John F. Kennedy once gave it a standing ovation. White enjoyed a minor renaissance after his death owing to bootleg recordings of Friars’ Club roasts that became available through comedy record outlets.