Still, the humor never pierced her mystique. As she explained, “They kept saying, ‘There’s so much mystery about her. What is she thinking? And she’s so sexy.’ Oh, God! I wasn’t. I just didn’t like them, really. I said, ‘I’m not gonna let them know what I’m thinking about.’ So I had this kinda grand attitude, which went very well in the nightclubs.”
It certainly impressed her peers. Sammy Davis Jr. sat ringside with a pad and pencil, noting everything Horne did. Martha Graham watched in fascination. “There is not one spontaneous gesture,” the modern-dance pioneer noticed. “It’s as calculated as Kabuki or a Hindu dance.” Stella Adler, the eminent acting coach, told her class that Horne and Judy Garland were the greatest singing actors. To a young man attempting a monologue from Othello, she recommended Horne as an example of fiery but controlled rage.