Frances Elizabeth Taylor Davis, a member of the original Broadway cast of “West Side Story,” who danced with Benny Goodman band and toured Europe with the Katherine Dunham dance company, died on Saturday morning.
A West Hollywood resident, Davis was the first wife of famed jazz trumpeter, bandleader and composer Miles Davis. She also was the first African-American to dance with the Paris Opera ballet. But she was best known in West Hollywood as the hostess of Hamburger Hamlet, the Sunset Boulevard gathering spot for celebrities such as Lucille Ball, Bette Davis, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin that closed in 2011.
Davis “would occasionally burst into song and dance while taking you to your table,” wrote Alison Martino, who has chronicled the history of the Sunset Strip and Los Angeles on Vintage Los Angeles, in a story for Los Angeles Magazine. “I remember Francis and Diahann Carroll discussing chord progressions in the lobby. It was great eavesdropping.”
Frances Taylor met Miles Davis in 1953 while she was dancing at Ciro’s, the celebrity nightclub on the Sunset Strip. In an interview last year with Frances that was published on Hollywood360.com. Sheryl Aronson wrote that a drummer for Davis’s band told him “Man, there’s a little girl in that Dunham company who could dance her ass off! You should check her out.”
“Miles did and immediately fell for Frances,” Aronson wrote. She quoted Frances as saying that other men also were attracted to her. “… Hugh O’Brien, Roy Calhoun was interested in me too. George Slaughter became my Godfather because everyone was hitting on me … At that time, I wasn’t into any of these guys, I was very interested in my craft as a dancer.”
However, on Dec. 21, 1960, Frances Taylor married Miles Davis and entered a relationship marked by domestic violence. “Every time I hit her, I felt bad because a lot of it really wasn’t her fault but had to do with me being temperamental and jealous,” Davis wrote in “Miles: The Autobiography,” (Simon & Schuster; 1990). Another likely reason for his violent behavior was his addiction to cocaine and alcohol abuse. Frances left Miles Davis in 1965 and they divorced in 1968.
Miles Davis did boost Frances Taylor’s popularity by pressuring Columbia Records to feature her on the cover of his album “Someday My Prince Will Come” (1961). Davis argued that the Columbia should show black women on the covers of his albums.
In addition to her work at Hamburger Haven, Davis was the hostess at the famed Roy’s Restaurant, where she became known as “the Diva.” And she was known as the “hostess with the mostess” at Le Dome and Chasen’s.
FRancis was my pal, & neighbor for many years in west hollywood…& always a joy to be around……..RIP…….JACK ENGLISH..ACTOR/SINGER..”WSS”…….WEHO..11/23/2018
Dear and BEST…”MISS FRANCIS”……………….You have touched my Heart and BAWDY Laugh Genes.. so many times, in my L.A. days…all our Dancing Buddies…Came to see YOU at the HAMLET and PARTEEEEE! ( Actually Had my Fare-thee-well CELEBRATION at the H.H., with YOU!)….Rest in Your BEAUTIFUL DANCING POWER!…, and when I ascend..Gotta Dance with You, Claude and Nickie….keep a spot Open for me…. a 5,6,7,8,….BEAUTY!
She was, probably, the “coolest”, most “elegant” and MOST JOYFUL lady that I had ever had the pleasure to have encountered…May God BLESS you, my beautiful Frances…SO MUCH LOVE, Jeff….
FRANCIS DAVIS ! THE D I V A OF ALL DIVA’S R.I.P. !
I HAD THE VERY BLESSED HONOR OF WORKING WITH
HAMBURGER HAMLET’S DIAMOND DIVA IN THE HOUSE,
BACK IN THE 1980’S. WHAT A DEAR, DEAR FRIEND SHE
BECAME. A TRUE STAR, WHO GAVE ME SO MANY LAUGHS
AND SHOWBIZ LESSONS. SHE REALLY WAS A SHINNING
SUPERRSTAR IN MY YOUNG LIFE, BEFORE MY SCREEN
ACTORS GUILDS YEARS. SHE WILL ALWAYS BE MISSED AND
Bless your soul. I had dinner once with you and you were a doll. I used to see you at Trader Joes and you would say hello to everyone! Truly rest in peace. We need more gracious people like you in the world.
I will miss lovely, delightful, Frances Davis…My deepest sympathy to
her family…..First met Frances when she held court at ROYS on the Sunset
A true, kind, funny, beautiful lady….Rest in peace….
I loved Frances! She was loved by many. I’m will miss her dearly but I will see her again and dance in stars. So so sad. Miss her warm and heart filled smile. Until we meet again Miss Diva! Teresa ♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡
Awwww the memories……LOVED HER SO MUCH!!!
Frances was a trailblazer extraordinaire breaking glass ceilings with her lifelong series of firsts. She was in fact “Weho’s True Diva,” and will be missed by all that knew her!
Francis was an Angel here on earth. Now she is in Heaven “carrying on”!
GOD Bless you Sweetheart. Rest In Peace.
She was always a highlight of visiting Hamburger Hamlet! RIP