Best known for her role as cantankerous Aunt Esther on the sitcom classic Sanford and Son, comedienne LaWanda Page
was born in Cleveland, OH, in 1920. After beginning a professional dancing career at age 15, she later relocated to St. Louis, working as a waitress at Ned Love's Tavern; in time she began stripping, incorporating elements of circus sideshow fire-swallowing into her act and earning the title "The Bronze Goddess of Fire." While in St. Louis, Page
also met local comedian Redd Foxx
, with whom she toured the so-called "chitlin circuit" of black-owned nightspots.
She settled in Los Angeles in 1955 and began performing standup at the local Brass Rail club; eventually Page
joined the comedy team of Skillet, Leroy & Co., and while appearing at the L.A. club the Persian Room, was discovered by producers for the upcoming NBC sitcom Sanford and Son, a vehicle for her old friend and collaborator Foxx
. The series premiered in 1972 and went on to become one of the biggest hits of its era; after Sanford and Son went off the air in 1977, Page
co-starred in the short-lived Detective School, followed by guest shots in a variety of television projects as well as a number of film cameos. Her standup recordings include Mutha Is Half a Word
and Watch It, Sucker.