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Libby Holman
(May 23, 1904 - June 18, 1971) U.S.A.

Libby Holman

Actress, entertainer


Libby Holman has been called "A musical and sexual revolutionary." This Jewish woman, a bisexual, was a torch singer in the 1920s and 30s. She introduced many classic torch songs including Body and Soul. And she invented the strapless evening dress as well. Holman had had a hit song in 1929 Moanin' Low and gone on to top billing on Broadway.

Libby Holman met Smith Reynolds, the heir to the Reynolds tobacco fortune, in Hong Kong and they married. Back in Winston-Salem, the two were known for the parties they threw. After one party at Reynolda House on July 5, 1932 one of the few remaining guests heard a shot. Libby came out and screamed, "Smith's killed himself."

Later, Libby was indicted for murder. The district attorney later dropped the charges, citing lack of evidence. So it has never been clear whether Reynolds' death was suicide, murder or an accident.

Libby contributed to the civil rights movement by helping to finance Martin Luther King Jr.'s visit to India to meet Mahatma Ghandi. She also fought against racism by combining race, sound, and sexuality to confuse the distinctions between black and white singers and thus "destabilize culturally fixated notions of black and white".

In the '40s and '50s Libby Holman threw fabulous parties with such guests as Elizabeth Taylor, Mike Todd, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Roddy McDowell, Imogene Coca, and Martha Raye.

In 1971 Libby committed suicide in the garage of her Treetops mansion. She fended off development by buying lots adjoining her estate as they came on the market. She thought she could keep the bulldozers away, by willing Treetops to Boston University, but about five years later, the school gave it back to her estate, citing the expense of maintaining the property.


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