U STREET, ALL THE BLACK ENTERTAINERS WANTED TO BE there. See, the audiences in Washington were some of the best, maybe the best. Very intellectual, dressed sharp. You know what Washington was then to black people all over the country? It was the town with the black college graduates. Black folks in Washington were doing good or better than most -- doctors and lawyers and people who had those good government jobs.
I always worked the black clubs. There was no such thing as integration in the clubs for me. There were a few black entertainers who were in the white clubs, but I wasn't going to put up with a whole lot, like dressing outside and not eating in the place. When I first came to Las Vegas, they had Nat King Cole dressing in a camper in the parking lot.
See, I had a reputation, too. I told it like it was -- and this was back in the '40s. I'd talk about race, sex. There were no restrictions on me. I'd tell them, "I'm too old to start saying doo-doo." See, I'm the father of all that stuff. I was doing it before Lenny Bruce and George Carlin.
You know what I remember? Coming out backstage at night, I used to smell the bread baking at the bakery. Another smell I remember was Tim and Grace's hot dog stand at Seventh and T, right next to the pool hall. That pool hall was jumping. Cecelia's was a nightclub right around there. I spent a lot of time in there. Cecelia's had some great soul food.
I lived right behind the Howard, in a first-floor place. A friend of mine, the singer Jim Jam Smith, his mother lived in that house and she let me have a room. Washington was very hip, a very hip place. I hear some people say it was a southern town. But black folks were having a good time with each other.
Now, there was prejudice. One time I was living near the D.C. and Virginia border. I used to go over to Virginia to go to the drugstore. So I bought a ticket for the Christmas pudding drawing or something. And I won. The prize was $300 in Christmas presents. When I walked in that drugstore with the winning ticket, they went silent. They gave me the presents, and then they said, "You better get on the other side, over in D.C." I didn't go back. But you see, it didn't bother me none. Black people paid me just as much or more to work in the black clubs, and I had peace of mind. I could tell black folks I had mixed parents, and they laughed when I said I didn't know who to hate.