I only scratched the surface during my first conversation with the girl in the scarf on the cover of Chicken Bone Beach. One of the things that I hoped and believed from including images in the book and sharing them at book-signings and speaking engagements, is the discovery of the unknown people in John W. Mosley's photographs. I allowed Ms. Wilburn to speak freely without posing any questions at first.
Beverly believes that the photo on the book cover was taken in the 1960's, while she was still a teenager. Also shown in the photos are two of her cousins, Patsy and Beverly. Now in her 70's and residing in New York City, she was born in North Philadelphia and the only child of her Austrian-Jewish refugee father and African-American mother. Wilburn recalls her home being the "party house" where she and her diverse group of friends gathered frequently. She considered herself "effortlessly popular." I see already that we have a few things in common.
As she talks about Atlantic City, she tells me that she and her cousins had a lot of freedom growing up in one of the hottest beach towns in American back then. Consistent with many of the stories I've heard, Chicken Bone Beach was the place you hung out until it got dark. That's when the fun really began. It was all about the nightlife as Beverly and her cousins hung out on Kentucky Avenue and as teenagers, found their way into some of the nightclubs. Kentucky Avenue was like Bourbon Street in New Orleans. There was a party on the street, as well as inside establishments and in many places like, Club Harlem, you didn't have to go inside to hear the entertainment. Beverly named names of her friends and the host of celebrities she met in Atlantic City like it was yesterday. She recalls who she hung out with and the girlfriends she had who dated and married entertainers.
Wilburn also was smitten with the entertainment bug and against her father's advice, auditioned to be a showgirl. She thought the showgirls were amazingly beautiful, adorned in beautiful costumes. Beverly had a passion for fashion and made a wonderful career of it. She designed clothes as a child and worked in a fashion boutique in Atlantic City called, The Hut. Her love for fashion took her to New York, where she worked as a buyer for Capezio, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys and eventually opening her own vintage clothing store on Elizabeth Street.
Beverly Wilburn is a renegade, a fashionista, a rule-breaker, a trailblazer, outspoken and a pleasure to speak with. Here I was considering a photo for the cover displaying a long line of beauties, standing in the sand.......when Beverly was destined to be front and center.