Josephine Baker

1906 (St Louis, Mo.) – 1975 (Paris)

If Baker is a minor footnote in culture, she is an interestingly complex one. Having worked aged thirteen as Smith’s dresser, her first big break came from Blake and Sissle. Bechet sailed to France with her, fellow members of La Revue Nègre. Le Corbusier is rumoured to have been a lover: Simenon certainly was. Poiret dressed and sued her, Reinhardt watched her frolic, and Balanchine, knocking on her door, found her wearing only three flowers. Ellington said there was nothing she didn’t know about stagecraft. She was a respected colleague of King’s, the only female speaker on the March to Washington.

Josephine Baker knew…

Dave Eggers

1970 (Boston) –

Eggers is a sort of furious one-man-band of contemporary literature, with a lively list of collaborator-friends. Among these, he works regularly with Spiegelman, has interviewed, been interviewed by, or appeared in discussion with Wallace, Zadie Smith and Patti Smith, goes cycling with Byrne, and encouraged Hornby to import his childrens’ writing centres to the UK.  Sendak, whose book had scared him as a kid, phoned him to ask if he’d make a novel out of it. Mendes persuaded him to allow a film to be made from his script. Zadie Smith, asked what they had in common, replied “difficult hair.”

Dave Eggers knew…