There was a lot of love between Lady Day Billie Holiday and her beloved pooch, Mister. She had other dogs in her lifetime– a Standard Poodle, and pet Chihuahas she bottle fed and whisked around in her pocket– but none as close to her heart as Mister. He was widely thought to be a Boxer, but there are some who disagree saying he was perhaps an American Staffordshire Terrier. One thing is clear, he was a loving and protective companion, and trusted by Holiday above all others– humans included. It’s no wonder these touching photos mean so much to Billie Holiday fans and dog lovers alike. He would chaperone her to the clubs where she performed, and stood watch over her in the backstage dressing room. Billie would sing to Mister, and reward him by cooking him juicy steaks. 100 years after her birth, she is still bedeviling our ears with her sweet, sorrowful tunes and haunting us in pictures. RIP Lady Day, and her sweet Mister.
Originally included in a 1949 cover story for Ebony magazine, this photograph shows Holiday at home in her Harlem apartment cooking a steak with her beloved boxer, Mister. The article, titled “I’m Cured for Good,” came after numerous incidents with the law due to Holiday’s ongoing struggle with narcotics. This was the first time Leonard had ever met the singer. “On arriving, I was greeted by a woman in an apron and housedress,” recalled Leonard, “whom I initially mistook for the maid, until I realized she was the great Billie Holiday.” –Photographer Herman Leonard via
Portrait of Billie Holiday and Mister by William Gottlieb at the Downbeat in New York, Feb. 1947