Queer Places:
Rockland Palace Ballroom, 280 W 155th St, New York, NY 10039

Phil Black (1902-1975) was the promoter of the 'Fancy Dress' Balls at the end of the Harlem Renaissance era; and pioneer Promoter of the 'Funmaker' Ball (from 1944-1975), which continued for several years after his death (in his honor).

Phil Black was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania circa 1902. Details of his early life before he emerged on the nightlife scene remain a mystery.

In 1924, dressed as female (adopting the stage name 'Cora'), Phil Black went to 'Cakewalks' Club with a buddy; and they won first prize as the best couple. Friends told him that he was as good as the professional female impersonators; and the star that would become the infamous Phil "Cora" Black was born. Black started with bookings in the Pittsburgh area; and then joined a touring group, 'Shufflin Sam.' For six years (1927-1933) he played in and around Atlantic City, often as the only African-American member of the troupe.

In 1934, Phil Black was based in New York City; appearing in Greenwich Village and Harlem. The following year, it is believed that Black took the reins as the primary promoter for the infamous 'Hamilton Lodge' Fancy Dress Ball, held in Harlem's 'Rockland Palace Ballroom', the same 'Rockland Palace' that would house Phil Black's famous 'Funmaker's' Ball.

In 1944, Black played Montréal for four months; and, later, in 1948 he is credited with promoting boat rides on the Hudson River. He created the 'Funmaker' Drag Balls (circa 1944). The 'Funmaker' Balls were produced by Black until his death in 1975; popular affairs that were profiled by 'Jet Magazine' in the mid 1950s. His events became the standard for the Voguing Balls; that emerged - in Harlem - around 1972.


Phil Black was a Bartender, as well as a "Showgirl." His show was both a song and a dance routine. Black also made all of his own gowns. His talent and abilities were seemingly limitless.

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