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Margarita Mendez Diaz Scrapbook and Photographs

 Collection
Identifier: SPC-2020-027

Scope and Contents

The Margarita Mendez Diaz Scrapbook and Photographs collection (1929-1977, undated; bulk 1945-1955) contains one scrapbook as well as approximately 370 photographs and postcards; nine contracts; one American Guild of Variety Artists membership application; one broadside; and other documents regarding Margarita Mendez Diaz- a Mexican American performer who was known for her dancing and burlesque shows. The scrapbook, with the name "Carmen" on the front cover includes press clippings mostly associated with performances in Mexico, Alaska, California, Spain, and France ; advertisements and press briefs for shows in Barbary Coast, Club La Conga, El Rancho Club, Spanish Village, and other stages; Christmas cards; postcards from Alaska; telegrams; a benefit concert program; and portraits taken during Diaz's days as a burlesque performer. Many of the photographs are either headshots, or images of Diaz in various costumes she wore during her performances. There is also an image in this scrapbook of Trio Garnica Ascencio y Attracciones Campillo, with whom Diaz performed with in 1929. Diaz performed under the names "Viola Mendez" and "Carmencita Mendez" so many of the clippings reference those stage names.

Also included in this collection are approximately 371 photographs and postcards that includes candid photographs presumably of friends and family, dogs, dressing rooms, Hearst Castle, Athens Greece, and other locations; as well as portraits and autographed headshots of flamenco dancers Mercedes and Albano de Zuniga; singers Gloria Gil-Rey and Savannah Churchill; bullfighter Jose Ortiz Echague; ventriloquist Bob King; burlesque performers Shawna St. Clair and Tornado Tonja; and other performers such as Roger Westley; "Sweetie" Mitchell; Elaine Miller; Gary Marvin; and others. Some of the other images include a photograph of Club Lido with "Carmencita" on the marque; an image from the F. Velez Ponce Studio, a Latino production company at 108 S. Main Street in Los Angeles; and postcards featuring Diaz.

Finally, this collection also includes a few show set lists and notes; an undated broadside featuring Diaz in a poncho and sombrero for a Cinco de Mayo fundraiser at Knott's Berry Farm; a membership application for the American Guild of Variety Artists; booking contracts; a memo regarding a contract for two weeks at the Tropics opening November 13, 1945; and nine contracts as follows:

American Guild of Variety Artists agreement between Sinaloa, San Francisco, CA and Viola Mendez as a "Spanish Dancer" act, six days over the period of one week from June 1-June 7, 1945 for $75 per week. Issued by Walton Goldman Agency, May 24, 1945. Signed by Margarita Diaz Calico.

American Guild of Variety Artists agreement between Nut Club, (Richmond CA.) and Viola Mendez as a "dancer" act, for three performances on six days for a period of one week April 26, 1945-May 1, 1945 for $85 per week. April 24, 1945.

American Guild of Variety Artists agreement between Casablanca, (Vallejo CA.) and Viola Mendez as a "dancer" act, six days a week for one week between May 25-May 31, 1945 for $100 per week. May 21, 1945.

American Guild of Variety Artists agreement between Frumenti's (Pittsburg CA.) and Carmen Mendez as a "dancer" act, three days of the work week for three days December 2-4, 1947 for $50 for three days. December 1, 1947.

Lane Productions agreement between Lawrence's Outside Inn (San Jose CA.) and Viola Mendez, one week with option commencing on the 14th of December 1944 with compensation of $110 less 10% commission.December 12, 1944.

Lane Productions agreement between La Fiesta (Reno NV.) and Viola Mendez, two weeks with option commencing on the November 10, 1944, compensation $100 less commission 10%. November 2, 1944.

Lane Prodictions agreement between Mary's Venetian Villa (San Francisco CA.) and Viola Mendez one week with option commencing on January 18, 1945, compensation $75 less 10% commission. January 18, 1945.

Land Productions agreement between Matteoni's Stockton and Viola Mendez, one week with option commencing on the 30th of November 1944, compensation $100 less commission 10%. November 21, 1944.

Lane Productions agreement between Don's Driftwood (Oakland CA.) and Viola Mendez, one week with option commencing of the 21st of December 1944, compensation $75 less commission 10%. December 21, 1944.

Dates

  • 1929-1977; undated
  • Majority of material found within 1945-1955

Conditions Governing Access

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Archives and Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical materials and not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Biographical / Historical

Born in Pima, Arizona in 1908 to Gabriel F. Diaz and Maria Francisca Mendez who emigrated from Mexico in 1890 and 1898 respectively; Margarita Mendez Diaz was a performer most known for her style of Spanish interpretive dancing. Purportedly a direct decendant of "Forfirio [Porfirio] Diaz" on her father's side, Diaz was raised in Tucson and Goodyear, Arizona, and had a sister named, Nattie Diaz-Jaso, as well as five other siblings. Margarita began performing as a teenager in the American Southwest and Mexico before moving with her family to Barcelona, Spain. Diaz lived in cities in Europe such as London, Paris, Berlin, and Lisbon for ten years before returning to the United States in April 1944 as a refugee of the Spanish Civil War. Diaz lived in Barcelona for four years with her husband during which she endured hardships such as daily rationing and at some point sustained shrapnel wounds in her legs, before successfully crossing the border into Portugal and living in Lisbon as dancer at a cafe until returning to the United States. During her time as a dancer, Margarita performed under the stage names, "Viola Mendez" and "Carmencita Mendez". Diaz was known for her act as a "Spanish dancer" where she was known to "play castanets and dance". She was also knownn for her extensive wardobe which was once valued at $50,000. (Los Angeles Examiner, September 12, 1952)

Eventually settling in Los Angeles; Margarita performed in U.S.O. shows as well as a headliner for a West Coast burlesque act.

Sources: All sources are located within Margarita Mendez Diaz Scrapbook and Photographs Collection, SPC.2020.027. "Spanish Refugee Dances in Town", The Downtowner Vol II, No. 40; "About Town" by Gene De Forrest; "Hunger and Fear in Europe Described by Refugees", Philadelphia Inquirer, April 3, 1944; Los Angeles Examiner, September 12, 1952; "Application for membership" American Guild of Variety Artists".

Extent

2 boxes (1 scrapbook; approximately 370 photographs and postcards; nine contracts; one broadside; and other documents)

Language of Materials

English

Overview

This collection contains one scrapbook as well as approximately 370 photographs and postcards; nine contracts; one American Guild of Variety Artists membership application; one broadside; and other documents regarding Margarita Mendez Diaz- a Mexican American performer who was known for her dancing and burlesque shows. The scrapbook includes press clippings, advertisements, and press briefs associated with Diaz's performances in Mexico, Alaska, California, Spain, and France. Also included in this collection are photographs and postcards that include headshots and images of Diaz in various costumes she wore during her performances; candid photographs presumably of Diaz's friends and family and locations where she performed; and portraits and autographed headshots of other dancers and performers. Finally, this collection also includes a few show set lists and notes; booking contracts; and other documents.
Title
Inventory of the Margarita Mendez Diaz Scrapbook and Photographs
Status
Completed
Author
Karen Clemons
Date
2020-12
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the California State University Dominguez Hills, Gerth Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
University Library South -5039 (Fifth Floor)
1000 E. Victoria St.
Carson CA 90747
310-243-3895