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reading tiger

"Her smile was an invitation, and also a tool, and if necessary, a weapon in her defense. But that was all invisible to her manager, who reckoned she -- we -- couldn't smile and be wild. Playing the savage beast card had become part of Betty [Davis]'s M.O. by now; though really, she hadn't been all that animal or even outrageously wild. She just sang, vibrantly, what came naturally, her lust for life unrestrained by the girdle of anyone's expectations.

But there it was, her passion for being had to be characterized as angry and wild. She had to be l'enfant sauvage. Or she wasn't allowed to be free. Was her stirring of deep psychosexual fantasies less effective if she was smiling, not snarling?"

-- Vivien Goldman, "Blues for Betty Davis's Smile," in Rip It Up: The Black Experience in Rock 'n' Roll, ed. Kandia Crazy Horse.

(I hear an echo of the discussion I had at an On Our Backs issue postmortem about whether smiling women could be sexy. It just now occurred to me that the two women in the pictorial, like Betty Davis (and Grace Jones, mentioned in a telling anecdote elsewhere in this essay) were black.)