Friday, December 31, 2004

Mae West: A Personal Recollection

Jonathan Williams Remembers Mae
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. . . I remember in the 1930s, during a family visit to Hendersonville, ending up in the movie palace on Patton Avenue, Asheville.
In the sideshow between movies was a lady named Mae West. How this came to pass I have never found out. Mae West was a phenomenon far beyond the Heaven, Hell, and Earth of my righteous Baptist relatives. I made it a life's work to find more people like Mae West. I've done pretty well.
(One enticing instance: On Christmas Day, 1951, Marlene Dietrich, prepared dinner for just Francine du Plessis and modest, rustic me. It was at the home of Francine's step-father, Alexander Liberman (art director of Condé Nast), in the East Sixties of New York City. The host and hostess were out at a party, and so were the other house guests: Salvador Dali and Francis Poulenc. Marlene took charge: beluga caviar, with Dom Pérignon champagne. . . .

a personal recollection written by:
Jonathan Willliams, Skywinding Farm, Scaly Mountain, North Carolina

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Mae West: Chanteuse & Champagne

"Bubbles don't last in the best of champagne . . ."
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Pardon Me for Loving & Running - sung by Mae West

Yes it was swell, sure it was great
But I just remembered a subsequent date
It isn't that it wasn't perfectly stunning
But pardon me for loving and running
Mmmm, it was grand, that much is plain
But bubbles don't last in the best of champagne
I like your savoire faire, your manners are cunning
But pardon me for loving and running
I really gotta fly,
I got a hat to buy
I got my nails to be shined
I've got a train to catch,
I've got an egg to hatch
Besides, what's the difference? Can't I change my mind?
Thanks for the tea, crumpets, and ball
And did I say thanks for the use of the hall?
And as we say in French, excuse le pun
Pardon me if I love and run
You men are all alike . . . . [excerpt]

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Mae Gave Cary Grant Star Power

Mae West discovered Cary Grant and introduced the handsome young Brit to Hollywood by having him co-star in two of her most successful films:
"She Done Him Wrong" and "I'm No Angel."
One hundred years ago, Cary Grant (or back then "Archibald Leach") was born at home on the 18th January 1904. His home address at the time was: 15 Hughendon Road, Horfield, Bristol, England.

Record-setting Mae West: Personal Best

Setting World Records
Pravda recently published an article about the most outstanding sex records of all times. Here's a very brief excerpt.

The Guinness Book of World Records says . . .

Doctor Vernon Coleman registered the longest sexual intercourse, which lasted for 15 hours. The record was set by movie star Mae West and her lover, known only as "Ted."

The largest sex orgy took place in the year 200 B.C. in Rome when about 7,000 people abandoned themselves to passion.

Natural history of the animal kingdom:
The longest sexual intercourse was performed by a couple of rattlesnakes (Crotalus L.) that were making love for 23 hours and 15 minutes.
The largest penis of a mammal belongs to the African elephant; it is up to two meters long.
Egyptian Sundevall mouse has about a hundred of copulations per hour. . . .
printed in Pravda on Dec 17, 2004

Mae's Thought for Today :-D

"You're Never Too Old to Become Younger!" - - Mae West


Mae West's friend Jerry Orbach Died

"Try to Remember"

Try to remember that time in September
When grass was green
And grain was yellow
Try to remember . . .
When you were a young and callow fellow . . .
(themesong sung by Jerry Orbach in "The Fantasticks")

Try to remember when Mae West's friend Jerry Orbach was alive. . .

- - excerpt from 'L&O's' Orbach personifies New York cop
MULTI TALENTED PERFORMER BROKE in with MAE WEST By David Hiltbrand [Knight Ridder] - -

. . . . "My idols were Brando and Montgomery Clift,'' Jerry Orbach says, sitting in his LAW & ORDER trailer. "Years ago, what I really wanted to do was movies, but they weren't offering them to me.''
Orbach's first troupe mates, in summer stock at the Chevy Chase Playhouse in Wheeling, Ill., were Mae West, Vincent Price and John Ireland.
It was 1952, and he had just graduated from high school.
On October 20, 1935, Orbach was born in the Bronx to a Polish Catholic mother from Pennsylvania and a German Jewish father whose ancestry was Spanish Sephardic. The family often moved when he was a boy, living in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where his grandfather was a coal miner, before settling near Chicago. Orbach studied drama at Northwestern University and with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. His first film was ``Cop Hater'' (1958). "`I was a teenage hoodlum,'' he says. ``Bobby Loggia was the young cop, and Telly Savalas was a police sergeant. . . . This was before he shaved his head.'' Soon afterward, he created the role of El Gallo in "The Fantasticks,'' singing "Try to Remember'' in the off-Broadway play, which ran for 40 years. His singing landed him a string of musicals, including ``42nd Street,'' "Chicago'' and a revival of "Guys and Dolls.'' He won a Tony Award in 1969 for his starring role in "Promises, Promises.'' But he couldn't get traction in Hollywood. . . .

For awhile Orbach worked as a chauffeur for Mae West . . . .

- - excerpt from 'L&O's' Orbach personifies New York cop
MULTI TALENTED PERFORMER BROKE in with MAE WEST By David Hiltbrand [Knight Ridder] - -

How I Got My Equity Card By Jerry Orbach

"I graduated high school at 16. My drama teacher got me on as an apprentice at a summer stock theatre just north of Chicago. My jobs went from hauling gravel, to building scenery, to being Mae West's driver! The following summer I was hired for a year-round stock company in Evanston, Illinois, and transferred to Northwestern University. That's when, while playing a bit part in A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL with Lillian Gish and Kim Stanley, I got my Equity Card. I was 17! That's fifty years ago this summer."

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Mae: the Gay 90s on the Bowery

Mae: The Gay 90s on the Bowery

She Done Him Wrong
(1933), from director Lowell Sherman, is Mae West's star-making, most famous film role as a liberated, racy woman who enjoys her sexuality - as a character named Lady 'Diamond' Lou. The Naughty/Gay Nineties character was a recreation of her 1928 Diamond Lil Broadway stage play (and its bejeweled title character). Credits for its screenplay are given to Harvey Thew, John Bright, and Mae West herself. The box-office smash film for Paramount Pictures was given a different title than Diamond Lil to disassociate itself from the toured, scandalous play during the Roaring 20s. The movie was shot in approximately three weeks (including rehearsal time). Its single Academy Award nomination was for Best Picture, but it lost to Cavalcade. (It was the only Mae West film ever to be nominated.)

The famous film, featuring West's first starring role [she had appeared in a supporting cameo role in Night After Night (1932) with George Raft]), is filled with lots of clever innuendo, witty one-liners, and bold carnality, as she spouts irreverent one-liners (the oft-misquoted 'Why don't you come up sometime 'n see me?'), seduces an unspecified mission worker/undercover cop (Cary Grant), and sings bawdy songs (including Frankie and Johnny, I Like A Guy What Takes His Time, and Easy Rider).

It has been generally claimed that this film and West's other 1933 picture, I'm No Angel (1933), both helped to spur the coming of stricter enforcement by the Hays Production Code one year later, and the development of the Catholic Legion of Decency. The film's criminal subplot about white slavery and counterfeiting was confusing due to the Hays Office's demands to rid the film of references to white slavery, although odd fragments remain. The tagline of one of the film's posters confirmed the film's dangerous sentiment: "Mae West gives a 'HOT TIME' to the Nation."

A title card describes the Gay Nineties and the turn-of-the-century setting of New York City's Bowery:

When they did such things and they said such things on the Bowery. A lusty, brawling, florid decade when there were handlebars on lip and wheel - and legs were confidential!

Bejeweled chanteuse and brash entertainer Lady Lou (Mae West) works in the 1890s Bowery bar-room saloon of her boss and benefactor Gus Jordan (Noah Beery, Sr.), who has given her many diamonds (hence her nickname Diamond Lil). There is a large nude painting of her over the bar.

Unbeknownst to her, Gus trafficks in white slavery (prostitution) and runs a counterfeiting ring (to help finance Lou's expensive diamonds). He also sends young women to San Francisco to be pickpockets. Gus works with two other crooked entertainer-assistants, Russian Rita (Rafaela Ottiano) and Rita's lover, the suave Serge Stanieff (Gilbert Roland).

A city mission (a thinly-disguised Salvation Army) is located next door to the bar. Its young missionary director, Captain Cummings (Cary Grant) is, in reality, an undercover agent working to infiltrate and expose the illegal activities in the bar. Gus is unaware, only worried that Captain Cummings will reform the place and scare away the bar's customers.

Lady Lou first appears riding in her carriage with a parasol, encouraging nasty looks from a group of women. She descends and affectionately pats a child's head. His mother remarks what a fine gal and woman she is. Lou announces herself as " of the finest women who ever walked the streets."

When introduced to Lady Lou, male admirer Serge kisses her hand gallantly: "I am delighted. I have heard so much about you." She answers: "Yeah, but you can't prove it." She shows the group a recent set of pictures she has had taken with her "rocks." One of them she prefaces by describing: "For the bedroom. A little bit spicy, but not too raw - you know what I mean?"

Upstairs, her black maid Pearl (Louise Beavers) is impressed by her riches: "You're so rich." Lou explains: "Yes. I wasn't always rich. No, there was a time I didn't know where my next husband was coming from." Lady Lou admits she has known harder times: "The wolf at my door? Why, I remember when he came right into my room and had pups!"

One day in the Jordan's barroom, a depressed young girl named Sally Glynn (Rochelle Hudson) enters with torn clothes. In silhouette, she attempts suicide but is prevented, and brought to Lou's upstairs room to recover. Lou perceptively knows it is a romantic problem with a man. Sally wonders how she knows a man is involved. Lou replies:

You know, it takes two to get one in trouble.

Lou asks: "What was he? Married?" Sally replies: "Yes, but I didn't know." Lou offers more advice:

Men's all alike - married or single. It's their game. I happen to be smart enough to play it their way. You'll come to it.

Lou suggests that Sally get some new clothes, and continues to encourage her: "Always remember to smile. You'll never have anything to worry about. Forget about this guy. See that you get a good one the next time." Sally is convinced that no one will ever want her after what she's done ("Who'd want me after what I've done?"). Lou replies, with a famous line:

Listen, when women go wrong, men go right after them.

Lou explains to Gus, Serge and Rita what the commotion was about: "Some guy done her wrong. The story's so old it should have been set to music long ago." Rita is interested in the innocent but wronged girl, thinking she might be useful to them (possibly as part of their corrupt racket as a prostitute on the "Barbary Coast"):

What a sweet, innocent face?...Can you sing and dance, perhaps?...Well, but you'd be willing to learn...Then I think I can find you a very nice position. Have you heard perhaps of the Barbary Coast?

Gus and Rita tell Lou that they will help the girl, but obviously they have their own intentions. As Serge leaves, Lou delivers a suggestive double-entendre line to him:

Lou: Come up again, anytime.

Serge: I shall. And I hope you will be alone.

Lou: So do I. (He graciously kisses her extended hand) Warm, dark, and handsome.

Lou postpones her activities if there are more important things to attend to, mostly male admirers. Pearl announces: "Your bath is ready, Miss Lou." Lady Lou replies: "You take it. I'm indisposed." Pearl and Lou have both noticed the man from the mission, Captain Cummings. Her maid notes that he is different from other admirers: "He ain't like the other men you done made history of."

Lou has forgotten former boyfriend Chick Clark (Owen Moore) who was convicted for robbery and went to prison for trying to steal diamonds for her. She is more attracted to the young handsome, psalm-singing Captain Cummings. Lou meets him and compliments him:

Lou (seductively): I always did like a man in a uniform. That one fits you grand. Why don't you come up sometime 'n see me? I'm home every evening.

Captain: Yeah, but I'm busy every evening.

Lou: Busy? So, what are you tryin' to do, insult me?

Captain: Why no, no, not at all. I'm just busy, that's all...

Lou: You ain't kiddin' me any. You know, I met your kind before. Why don't you come up sometime, huh?

Captain: Well, I...

Lou: Don't be afraid. I won't tell...Come up. I'll tell your fortune...Aw, you can be had. . . . .

- - this excerpt is from an article written by Tim Dirks - see

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Mae West vs "Holy Joe"

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Sex was the Broadway play written by Mae West that was somewhat subordinate to the greater drama surrounding it. A headline-making 1927 obscenity trial closed down the production. As with the Oscar Wilde case, the performance artist Mae West became a cause.
If you're wondering why the trial didn't get going until almost the year after the play opened to enormous attendance, that's because New York Mayor Jimmy Walker was a great fan of Miss West and did not interfere.

But, forty-one weeks into a sellout run, Walker happened to be out of town and the acting Hizzoner, holier-than-thou Joseph V. McKee, decided to send in the cops. Because of "holy Joe" getting her arrested, Mae West wound up convicted of "corrupting the morals of youth." She was sentenced to ten days in the Women's Workhouse on Welfare Island. "I expect it will be the making of me," she told reporters, and it was: it made her a household name. With time off for good behavior, she emerged after eight days, having written a poem about the scratchy blue wool prison underwear and dedicated it to the warden.

Mae West and her friends called their operation the Morals Production Company. Which begs the question: what moral ought we to draw from her travails?
Comments are appreciated.
This text is drawn from comments author Mark Steyn made in his piece for The New Criterion [published in the March 2000 issue].
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Mae West in 1930 Posted by Hello

Mae & St. Nick in 1934

Back In Time 12-24-2004

Dec. 24, 1934: Approximately 1,800 children attended a free picture show and received candy Saturday as guests of the Texas Theater and the Herald-News Publishing Company.

• Sultry blonde actress Mae West is keeping in character on her Christmas cards. She has a drawing of herself sitting on Santa´s lap with this jingle: “If Santa fails to reach your house, just bear it with a grin. I wrote and said, Come up some time, and the dear old guy moved in.”

- From 24 December 1934 The Plainview Daily Herald

Friday, December 17, 2004

Lick Mae

Help get Mae West commemorated on a postage stamp.

Here's a sample letter and here's where you should write:
To: Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee,
c/o Stamp Development; U S Postal Service;
1735 North Lynn St [Rm 5013]; Arlington VA 22209-6432.

Dear Chairman - Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee:

Please issue a US postal stamp commemorating MAE WEST, the former Broadway star and Hollywood icon who died in 1980.

Comedy and entertainment are hallmarks of the popular culture of the United States of America. The U.S. Postal Department has befittingly honored screen legends Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Lucille Ball, James Cagney, Alfred Hitchcock, and Humphrey Bogart by issuing commemorative stamps depicting these adults.

However, none of these individuals wrote their own plays. MAE WEST wrote "Diamond Lil" and many other plays that were staged on Broadway.
None of these individuals wrote their own movie dialogue. MAE WEST wrote all of her own dialogue for most of the nine films she appeared in.
None of these individuals can match MAE WEST when it comes to numerous original quotes. Her witty sayings are often quoted in books and newspaper articles to this day.

Please approve the issuance of a US postal stamp commemorating a legendary American talent MAE WEST (1893 - 1980).

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- The Stamp Selection Process - - - -

Ideas for stamp subjects that meet CSAC criteria may be addressed to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee; Stamp Development; US Postal Service; 1735 North Lynn St Rm 5013; Arlington VA 22209-6432.

The Committee only reads hard-copy letters. No faxes or emails.

Subjects should be submitted at least three years in advance of the proposed date of issue to allow sufficient time for consideration and for design and production, if the subject is approved.

Submit stamp proposals in writing to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee. This allows everyone the same opportunity to suggest a new stamp subject. All proposals are reviewed by theCitizens' StampAdvisory Committee regardless of how they are submitted, i.e., stamped cards, letters or petitions.

After a proposal is determined not to violate criteria set by CSAC, research is done on the proposed stamp subject. Each new proposed subject is listed on the CSAC's agenda for its next meeting. The CSAC considers all new proposals and takes one of two actions: it may reject the new proposal or it may set it aside for consideration for future issuance. If set aside for consideration, the subject remains "under consideration" in a file maintained for the Committee.
An "I Love Lucy" stamp appeared in the Postal Service's "Celebrate the Century" series. A new Lucille Ball stamp [released in 2001] is the seventh in a "Legends of Hollywood" series. Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Cagney, Alfred Hitchcock, and Humphrey Bogart are among other Hollywood icons who have been featured. Actor Karl Malden is a long-time member of the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, which helps choose stamp subjects and designs.
- - - who - why - what - - -
As of March 2001, these are the Committee's Stamp Subject Selection Criteria:

It is a general policy that U.S. postage stamps and stationery primarily will feature American or American-related subjects.

No living person shall be honored by portrayal on U.S. postage.

Commemorative stamps or postal stationery items honoring individuals usually will be issued on or in conjunction with significant anniversaries of their birth, but no postal item will be issued sooner than ten years after the individual's death. The only exception to the ten-year rule is the issuance of stamps honoring deceased U.S. presidents. They may be honored with a memorial stamp on the first birth anniversary following death.

Events of historical significance shall be considered for commemoration only on anniversaries in multiples of 50 years.

Only events and themes of widespread national appeal and significance will be considered for commemoration. Events or themes of local or regional significance maybe recognized by a philatelic or special postal cancellation, which maybe arranged through the local postmaster.

Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor fraternal, political, sectarian, or service/ charitable organizations. Stamps or stationery shall not be issued to promote or advertise commercial enterprises or products. Commercial products or enterprises might be used to illustrate more general concepts related to American culture.

Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor cities, towns, municipalities, counties, primary or secondary schools, hospitals, libraries, or similar institutions. Due to the limitations placed on annual postal programs and the vast number of such locales, organizations and institutions in existence, it would be difficult to single out any one for commemoration.

Requests for observance of statehood anniversaries will be considered for commemorative postagestamps only at intervals of 50 years from the date of the state's firstentry into the Union. Requests for observance of other state-related or regional anniversaries will be considered only as subjects for postal stationery, and again only at intervals of 50 years from the date of the event.

Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor religious institutions or individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings or beliefs.

Stamps or postal stationery items with added values, referred to as "semi-postals," shall be issued every two years in accordance with Public Law 106253. Semi-postals will not be considered as part of the commemorative program and separate criteria will apply.

No stamp shall be considered for issuance if one treating the same subject has been issued in the past 50 years. The only exceptions to this rule are traditional themes such as national symbols and holidays.

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Monday, December 13, 2004

Mae West: The Blonder the Better

Mae West: Bombshell Blonde

In his 1995 book, "Big Hair: A Journey into the Transformation of Self," the Canadian anthropologist Grant McCracken argued for something he calls the "blondness periodic table," in which blondes are divided into six categories: the "bombshell blonde" (Mae West, Marilyn Monroe), the "sunny blonde" (Doris Day, Goldie Hawn), the "brassy blonde" (Candice Bergen), the "dangerous blonde" (Sharon Stone), the "society blonde" (C.Z. Guest), and the "cool blonde" (Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly). L'Oreal's innovation was to carve out a niche for itself in between the sunny blondes -- the "simple, mild, and innocent" blondes -- and the smart, bold, brassy blondes, who, in McCracken's words, "do not mediate their feelings or modulate their voices. . . ."

Mae West cultivated a unique voice and a special brand of sex appeal. Never remote or frosty, her approach was an "equal opportunity" come-on. "I like two kinds of men," Mae West said, "domestic and foreign." A woman can't get any friendlier than that, can she?

Come Up and See Me Sometime - a song by MAE WEST

I believe that everyone in life should have a mission
Making people happy is the height of my ambition
And when I get them happy, well, they stay in that condition

I have a system all my own
I got a lot, a lot of what I got
And what I got's all mine
And I assure you I can cure you
If you're feeling blue
Come up and see me sometime

I got a flat where you can hang your hat
I got a brand new line
Maybe you would like me
To explain it all to you

Come up and see me sometime
Come up tonight
I think the papers said the moon will be bright
They should have had in the columns and all
Letters that call that you'll be falling for me
Cause I'm free and you appeal to me
How could it be a crime
If you don't get my number
Well, my number's in the book
Come up and see me sometime


Here is the key, the room is 503
It's not so far to climb
You know the spider's invitation to the fly
Come up and see me sometime

The sooner, the better

Thursday, December 09, 2004

ARTIST: Michael Di Motta Posted by Hello

January 2005 Is the Month of MAE

Why January 2005 will be the month of MAE . . . .

Mae West once again will be ready for her close-up -- and fans can visit her for free during a month-long-period that begins on Monday January 3, 2005.

Where: NY Public Library [Jefferson Market branch, 2nd floor] on 6th Avenue at West 9th Street in Greenwich Village.

When: during the building's regularly scheduled hours January 3rd-30th, 2005.

What: an illustrated version of the play "Courting Mae West" written by dramatist LindaAnn Loschiavo and depicted in 16 colorful panels by artist Michael Di Motta. This play is based on TRUE EVENTS that took place in Manhattan during 1926-1929 when actress-playwright Mae West suffered a social injustice and endured a lengthy court trial, a jail term, and enormous fines as well as legal fees. Discovering New York City history during the Roaring 20s has never been so entertaining. No "reality TV" show can compare to these episodes in Mae West's life, long-forgotten and about to be placed on view. DiMotta's sketches are based on archival photos.

Why: to commemorate the February 9, 1927 arrest and incarceration of Mae West that took place in this very location when the building was a courthouse and jail and also to announce a staged reading of the play "Courting Mae West" at 8 PM on February 9, 2005 at C.U.N.Y. Graduate Center [365 Fifth Avenue, NYC 10016].

Admission: free and open to the public.

Information: 212-243-4334.

Public transportation: IND E, F, D, A, C trains to West Fourth Street station.
From New Jersey: P.A.T.H. to the 9th Street station. [Library is across the street.]

Media & Sponsors & "Angels" & Invited Guests only:
January 17th Roaring 20s-theme press party with 1920s cocktails and menu by celebrity chef Stephen Lyle in a former Village speakeasy and co-hosted by Mae West.

RSVP: Fax on your publication's letterhead: 212-533-4073.
Confirmed media members and press photographers will get an email with the
speakeasy's secret knock + password by Jan. 16th. Invitation is non-transferable.

Come Up and See Mae - - at the library during the month of January and also at CUNY Graduate Center [365 Fifth Avenue, NYC] at 8:00 PM on Feb. 9th, 2005.
Discovering New York City's 1920s history has never been so entertaining.
- -

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Mae West is escorted to Jefferson Market Jail on Feb. 9, 1927. Sketch by Michael DiMotta. Posted by Hello

Frightened, Mae West is led to jail on February 9, 1927 in New York City. Posted by Hello

Mae West in 1927. Posted by Hello

Mae West: Close Up

Mae West once again will be ready for her close-up -- and fans can visit her for free during a month-long-period that begins on Monday January 3, 2005.

Where: NY Public Library [Jefferson Market branch, 2nd floor] on 6th Avenue at West 9th Street in Greenwich Village.

When: during the building's regularly scheduled hours January 3rd-30th, 2005.

What: an illustrated version of the play "Courting Mae West" written by dramatist LindaAnn Loschiavo and depicted in 16 colorful panels by artist Michael Di Motta. This play is based on TRUE EVENTS that took place in Manhattan during 1926-1929 when actress-playwright Mae West suffered a social injustice and endured a lengthy court trial, a jail term, and enormous fines as well as legal fees. Discovering New York City history during the Roaring 20s has never been so entertaining. No "reality TV" show can compare to these episodes in Mae West's life, long-forgotten and about to be placed on view. DiMotta's sketches are based on archival photos.

Why: to commemorate the February 9, 1927 arrest and incarceration of Mae West that took place in this very location when the building was a courthouse and jail and also to announce a staged reading of the play "Courting Mae West" at 8 PM on February 9, 2005 at C.U.N.Y. Graduate Center [365 Fifth Avenue, NYC 10016].

Admission: free and open to the public.

Information: 212-243-4334.

Public transportation: IND E, F, D, A, C trains to West Fourth Street station.

Come Up and See Mae - - at the library during the month of January and also at CUNY Graduate Center [365 Fifth Avenue, NYC] at 8:00 PM on Feb. 9th, 2005.

Discovering New York City's 1920s history has never been so entertaining.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Mae West in Two Dimensions

In honor of the architect Yoshio Taniguchi's new design, and in honor of the re-opening of the modernized Museum of Modern Art this week [in Manhattan], here's a thought: What would Mae West look like if painted in "modern art" style?
The museum's film library contains the classic 1933 Mae West movie "She Done Him Wrong" - - based on Mae's Broadway play "Diamond Lil" - - even though Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr. expressed dismay when curator Iris Barry programmed it for a film audience at the Museum of Modern Art on West 53rd Street.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Mae West & Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr. expressed dismay when Iris Barry programmed the 1933 Mae West vehicle "She Done Him Wrong" for a film audience at the Museum of Modern Art on West 53rd Street. . . .

All eyes will be fixed on Yoshio Taniguchi's design when the Museum of Modern Art reopens today [in Manhattan], but film lovers should be forgiven if their sights narrow on the escalators leading down to the movie theaters. After two years . . . , the film department returns home this week with three series. . . .

This program is merely an appetizer, however. Starting tomorrow, the film department gets down to serious cinematic business with the first of two massive series, "Premieres" and "112 Years of Cinema." The second, which opens Wednesday, provides an overview of the seventh art from its late 19th-century beginnings to the present. In sheer scope - the museum will screen a film from every year in movie history - the "112 Years of Cinema" program will afford an overview of the medium, however implicit. . . .

. . . . Founded in 1935, the [film] department, the first in the country, aimed to "trace, catalog, assemble, preserve, exhibit and circulate to museums and colleagues single films or programs of all types of films." The initial film curator, Iris Barry, sought out quality movies along with disintegrating prints; she was, for instance, a champion of D. W. Griffith when the great director was in the lonely twilight of his career. . . .

. . . More than anything it was the democratization of taste intrinsic to the movies that made even the idea of a museum film department so heretical. In her history of the department, the chief curator Mary Lea Bandy recounts how Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr. expressed dismay when Iris Barry programmed the 1933 Mae West vehicle "She Done Him Wrong." What Mrs. Rockefeller didn't know was that movies were changing her world and her museum.

In a talk he gave at the Modern around the same time and which was published in 1934, the art critic Erwin Panofsky argued: "Whether we like it or not, it is the movies that mold, more than any other force, the opinions, the taste, the language, the dress, the behavior and even the physical appearance of a public comprising more than 60 percent of the population of the earth."

The movies, Panofsky wrote, had "re-established that dynamic contact between art production and art consumption" absent in the other arts. If all the poets put down their pens and all the artists laid down their easels, he coolly added, only a small fraction of the general public would notice and even fewer would care. Decades later, the bitter truth of these words seems to have been borne out. The movies did more than revitalize the relationship between art producers and art consumers; they radically changed the other arts, which have increasingly bent to the logic of entertainment. It's a logic to which museums ceded long ago, evident in blockbuster shows and all those bells and whistles designed to keep the paying public from getting too bored by the art. . . .

Against the backdrop of the really big show that has become the Modern's reopening there is something almost a touch subversive about the film department . . .

- - - - this was an excerpt from - - - -

Putting the Movies Back Into the Modern
The New York Times - - Published: November 20, 2004

Forever Mae West

Mae West was born in Brooklyn, New York on a cool night during a hot month: August 17, 1893. After many adventures, Mae West closed her eyes in Hollywood, California on November 22, 1980.

As long as someone remembers and celebrates you, you are not dead.
MAE WEST is being commemorated in New York City during January and February 2005 at several events and also in the exciting new play "Courting Mae West."
For info: ComeUpSeeMae [at]

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Mae West: Dead or Alive?

Mae West, at age 87, suffered a series of strokes which finally resulted in her death on November 22,1980 in Hollywood, California.
The actress passed away quietly in her Hollywood apartment (Ravenswood). Private services [conducted by Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie and attended by about 100 close friends and family] were held in the Old North Church at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills.
Her eulogy, written by Kevin Thomas and delivered by producer Ross Hunter, concluded: “Mae West always said that no one was ever to feel sorry for her, and she would not want anyone to start now. Mae West figured that in one way or another she would live forever. And she probably will.”

Entombment was in the West family mausoleum at Cypress Hills Abbey in Brooklyn, New York.

Cause of death: Complications from stroke

Burial: Cypress Hills Cemetery
Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, USA
- - -
But if you miss her, come up and see Mae on Wednesday evening February 9th, 2005 in New York, NY. Mae West will be onstage in a theatre at 365 Fifth Avenue, NYC 10016.
Need info?
ComeUpSeeMae (at)

Friday, November 19, 2004

Mae West: Under the Sign of Leo

Watch Mae sashay.
Isn't she the cat's meow, though?

Memorable Quotations from Famous People Born Under the Sign of Leo
"He who hesitates is last." -- Mae West (born August 17th, 1893)

The Sun rules Leo, making these sun-stroked souls just a little bit extra special.
Most astrologers agree on this: you can always tell a Leo -- you just can't tell them too much.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Mae West’s beauty tip

Charlotte Chandler: Tinsel Town's other blonde
• • The Californian-born author of several bestsellers about Hollywood, Charlotte Chandler won the show business scoop of last century when she interviewed Mae West before the iconic movie star died. "I never see women interviewers," West snarled. Nevertheless, the blonde bombshell spent six hours primping and preening for their first meeting. Charlotte Chandler was invited to stroke West’s porcelain complexion. "I did so very nervously," she recalls.
• • Mae West’s beauty tip? "Warm baby oil - - applied daily by a man."
• • Mae West told her the secret of perfect skin. Federico Fellini cooked pots of pasta for her and Tony Curtis revealed all about his affair with Marilyn Monroe. Name any Hollywood star and the likelihood is that Charlotte Chandler will have interviewed them - - from the siren of the silent screen, Gloria Swanson, to Pierce Brosnan.
• • Mae West stared in disbelief at the unmarried Chandler’s ringless fingers. "You have no diamonds!" she exclaimed. "You must find a man to buy you some." But later she confided to Chandler that she had bought her own king’s ransom of jewels herself.
• • As the New York-based author listened to the tape - - the interview was chosen for the Penguin anthology of Great Interviews of the Twentieth Century - - she was puzzled by a soft susurration in the background. "It was as if a butterfly was beating its wings, then I realised that it was the sound of Mae’s false eyelashes flapping," says Chandler, whose latest book, Nobody’s Perfect, is a personal biography of the great director Billy Wilder.
• • Chandler is adept at getting big-name interviews, although in the case of Mae West blonde undoubtedly responded unto blonde. For Chandler also has a luxuriant mane of pale golden hair, untouched by peroxide. Photographs of her - - whether she is lunching with Fellini, about whom she wrote an international bestseller, or sharing a joke with Wilder - - always feature her smiling glamorously beneath her crowning glory. Indeed, Groucho Marx used to say of her fabulous follicles: "You’ve got your own beret."
• • She jests that her fine head of hair helped her to persuade stars such as Gloria Swanson, Barbara Stanwyck, Ginger Rogers, Kirk Douglas, James Stewart, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis (who admitted that he had slept with Marilyn Monroe before she was famous) to be interviewed for the Wilder book. ("Superb name-dropping!" exclaims Chandler.) I suspect it has much more to do with her undoubted skills as an interviewer and writer.
• • Mae West, Henry Fonda, Alfred Hitchcock, Bette Davis, and Tennessee Williams stalked freely to her for her second book, The Ultimate Seduction, about people who are seduced by their creative work.
• • Dressed in a smart navy-blue trouser suit, Chandler is a well-preserved woman of uncertain age - - she politely refuses to tell how old she is. She has a gracious manner and wears her famous hair piled on top of her head. . . .
• • Come up and see Mae online:
Add to Google

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Come Up to See Mae Here!

"Courting Mae West" - a New MAE Play in NYC
"Courting Mae West" is a new play based on true events in the life of Mae West [1926 - 1929].
• • WHERE: C.U.N.Y. Graduate Center (365 Fifth Avenue, NYC 10016)
• • WHEN: Wednesday February 9, 2005 at 8:00 PM
• • INFO:
• • Come up and see Mae online:
Add to Google

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Mae West: Timothy Dalton

MAE WEST co-starred with some handsome leading men such as Timothy Dalton.
• • Timothy Dalton was born in Colwyn Bay, Wales on 21 March 1944. Though Welsh-born, he is of British, Italian, and Irish ancestry. His mother is from the Bronx (New York). He grew up in Manchester, England with a background in show-biz, since both of his grandfathers were vaudevillians. After leaving school, he joined the National Youth Theatre for 3 summers, and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for 2 years. He joined the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1966, where he played many leading roles.
• • Timothy Dalton first flew to Hollywood in 1977, to become the leading man of the aging movie queen Mae West [1893-1980] in her last film. In Sextette (1978), with a cast that included Tony Curtis, Ringo Starr, George Hamilton, Walter Pidgeon, and George Raft, Timothy even ended up marrying the cinema legend whose sexual suggestiveness was as amorously artful as it was essentially innocent. He will never ever forget the experience.
• • "I'll never forget meeting her for the first time. We went in to see Mae West in a room where everything was white with gold trim on it. It was quite small, I thought, for somebody as fabulously rich as she was. It was only later that I realized that she owned the entire apartment block, though I doubt that she ever spent a penny on herself in her life; everybody was too busy buying her presents and asking her out.
• • "Then Mae West came in. She was wearing a white suit and a large bouffant hairstyle and these long nails ... there was a great lady. I was very curious, very fascinated by her. Not to put too fine a point on it, we were all wondering, knowing how old she was, if we were going to be able to work with her.
• • "As it happened, she was delightful. I think the most extraordinary thing about knowing Mae West was the realization that she was a brilliant lady. When somebody is that famous, you're never quite sure whether her fame stems largely from the publicity hokum, but she could always come up with a line that was funnier than anybody else's. . . ."
• • "Of course," adds Timothy with a smile that conceals more than reveals, "she was a bit of a flirt. But she tried it only once with me! She had a nice twinkle in her eye, a nice sparkle. Oh, it was definitely an experience I wouldn't have missed for the world."
• • Come up and see Mae online:
Add to Google

Monday, October 04, 2004

Mae West on Willoughby Street

Loew's Royal Theatre
in Brooklyn, NY
Pearl & Willoughby Streets, Brooklyn, NY [closed/ demolished]

The Royal was the very first Loew's theatre in Brooklyn and one of the circuit's earliest anywhere. It started life around 1901-02 as Watson's Cozy Corner, which included a vaudeville theatre and a downstairs drinking saloon. It rapidly deteriorated into a notorious burlesque house and place for gents to meet hookers.

In 1907, Marcus Loew wanted to expand into Brooklyn and found the Cozy Corner's downtown location ideal for his purposes. He purchased it cheaply, renovated the interior, increased the seating capcity to about 2,000 seats, and re-named it the Royal. Because of the site's bad reputation, Loew feared that "nice people" might stay away, so he first leased the theatre to an Italian opera company for a short season. It opened in October, 1907, as Teatro Italiano Royal, featuring a company of 25 under the management of Antonio Maiori. In those three months, the theatre became regarded as classy and respectable.

In January, 1908, it emerged as Loew's Royal, with so-called "family vaudeville" and movies at a ten-cent admission. In its first year, the Royal earned $60,000 in profits and helped Marcus Loew to expand rapidly in Brooklyn.
Is this the Royal Theatre where the young Mae West once performed? It probably was since it had presented vaudeville and it opened in 1908.
According to Emily Wortis Leider in "Becoming Mae West" (Farrar Straus Giroux,1997), "Baby Mae" made her debut at the age of seven (1900) at "The Royal, on Willoughby Street, near Fulton" (p. 32). Leider goes on to describe it: "The theater ... was no great shakes, though large. It seated about seven hundred people. One vaudevillian characterized it as a 'dingy spot,' but Mae upgraded it in her fond recollection to a well-appointed house with two balconies, boxes, and its own twelve-piece orchestra" (pp. 32-33).

Leider's source is John E. Di Meglio, "Vaudeville USA" (Bowling Green Univ Press, 1973), p. 132.

By around 1920, however, Loew's Royal had out-lived its usefulness and was closed forever, eventually to be demolished.
- - Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Mae West Takes a Back Seat

A Movie Queen & Her Cadillacs

. . . OLD-TIME MOVIE FANS can "come up and see" the 1934 V-12 Cadillac Town Cabriolet once owned by movie queen Mae West. The antique luxury Cadillac will star in the All-Car Shootout Show Sunday at the Long Island Arena, Veterans Memorial Highway, Commack.
Now owned by Joseph Amodei of the Long Island Dream Cars Club, the famous Hollywood car recently had a role in the film, "Batman Forever." Mae West had donated it to a convent in Sacramento, Calif. The vehicle was bought by Amodei in 1993.

The show is open to all makes and models, including trucks and vans. . . .
- - excerpt from an article written by Lynn Petry, Newsday [06-23-1995]
1934 V-12 Fleetwood Town Cabriolet was owned by Mae West.
Mae West had a 1938 Cadillac Fleetwood V-16 Limousine. [Model 9033F was purchased new by the actress.]
Writing about MAE WEST, author Charles A. Johnson revealed this diva-detail:
For the 1949 play season, the Central City Opera House Association had chosen DIAMOND LIL starring Mae West. Miss West was an aging sex goddess whose charm and hourglass figure belonged more to the Gay Nineties that the mid-twentieth century. Nevertheless, she still exuded the magnetism that had attracted men . . .

During her stay in Central City, Miss West boasted to the press, "I brought sex out of the back room. I gave it a shove with personality. I can order a cup of coffee on the stage, and the censors will be on my neck!"

Miss West made sure her arrival in Central City was noticed. She demanded that two white Cadillac limousines be placed at her disposal courtesy of the Association. She gave a birthday party for herself and invited only men, including Colorado’s governor. (He attended.) [Reportedly,] Mae put mirrors on the ceiling of Penrose #3 where she was staying during the festival.
- - from "Opera in the Rockies: A History of the Central City Opera House Association" by Charles A. Johnson
Ah, yes, once upon a time MAE WEST flirted with the idea of acquiring a Bohman & Schwartz Duesenberg Town Car in silver, with an open chauffeur, and with a "Pierce Silver Arrow" aero look. Though that Duesenberg had been designed for Mae West,she never bought it. Instead, the Town Car went to the heiress of the "Mars" candy bar fortune.
Reported in the New York Daily News by Mitchell Fink: As a young actor trying to make it in Hollywood, Jerry Orbach (Law & Order, Dirty Dancing, F/X) was Mae West's chauffeur.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Mae West: 1930 Interview

Mae West [1893 - 1980] Met the Press in 1930

(Article was originally written and published in 1930.)

Mae West was born in Brooklyn, New York on August 17, 1900, according to her life insurance policy and the record on the police blotter at Blackwell's Island. Several acquaintances claim to have known her for seven or eight years before that date.
She has a younger brother and a younger sister. Her father was a prize fighter. Later he was a bouncer at Fox's Folly Theater.
Besides English, Mae West can speak German, French, and Jewish.
She always wears a pendant in the shape of a champagne bottle.
She uses a floral perfume in the morning. In the evening she changes to a heavy Oriental perfume.
As a kid she was dressed in Little Lord Fauntleroy clothing.
Her favorite dish is kippered herring.
In vaudeville she also worked in an acrobatic act. She can lift a 500-pound weight. She can support three men each weighing 150 pounds.
Years ago she played the Palace in "Songs, Dances and Witty Sayings." She is the originator of the shimmy. Discarded it before Gilda Gray and Bee Palmer took up the sway.
All her leading men have been six footers. She prefers the "he-man" type.
Doesn't smoke. The cigarettes she smokes on the stage are denicotinized.
Her conversation bubbles with slang. Mae West will often invent certain phrases and expressions all her own. Also will render an original pronunciation of a word. When talking she covers a world of territory by continually saying: "Know what I mean."
Her ears are really beautiful.
Her first big role was with Ed Wynn in Some-time. Later she appeared in Ziegfeld and Shubert revues. In one of these she was Cleopatra and shimmied in a number called "Shakespeare's Garden of Love."
She has the same mannerisms offstage as on. When acting, however, her voice is three times lower than usual.
In writing a play she needs only an idea. After making a few rough notes, she calls a rehearsal. A script is not essential. She writes the dialogue and works out the situations during rehearsals to fit the cast she has hired. Will often ask the actors if they like a certain line. If they don't she will change it. Reading a part, she believes, makes an actor self-conscious. Before she wrote plays for herself she learned her roles by having them read to her.
She likes everything massive. Her furniture, bed, even her car is larger than the average. The swan bed used in Diamond Lil was taken from her home. Formerly it belonged to Diamond Jim Brady.
She has never tried to reduce.
Seldom reads. When a public event like the Ruth Snyder case interests her, she has it read to her. When she does read, it is an ancient history book.
Is of the opinion that Sex will become a classic. That in time it will be revived like Ghosts or Hamlet.
She sleeps in a black lace nightgown. Lying flat on her back with her right arm over her eyes.
Some day she hopes to own a leopard for a pet.
Her ambition is to write a Pulitzer Prize Play.
She receives at least four proposals of marriage a week. And from some of the town's best blue blood.
When dressing she first puts on her shoes and stockings. Then combs her hair and puts on her hat. Then she puts on her dress. All her dresses are made to order with special slits to enable her to do this. They are all cut very low about the neck.
She kisses on the stage with all the fervor that she does off. During an intense love scene in the play her pulse will jump twenty-eight beats.
Her pet aversion is a man who wears white socks.
She has a colored maid who is a dead ringer for her. She will hand-color her own photograph to show a visitor the likeness.
She believes virtue always triumphs over vice.
(Author unknown. This article was originally written and published in 1930.)

Mae West & boxer Max Baer

Mae West: Max Baer Bet
. . . One day during the 1930s, boxer Max Baer called Mae West from the street outside her apartment in Los Angeles. West invited him to come up and see her sometime - - sometime soon. Sure enough, the couple ended up in bed. When they had finished, Baer rose and went to the window. Then, pulling up the shade, he began to wave - standing, still completely naked - to someone down in the street.
It was Baer's agent - who had just lost a $500 bet that Baer could bed West on the spot.
[This was one of West's favorite stories. Among her classic lines? "I used to be Snow White, but I drifted," "I've been on more laps than a table napkin," and "I feel like a million tonight - but one at a time, please."]
[Trivia: Famed designer Edith Head once put paid torumors about West's sexuality. "No hermaphrodite," she explained, "could have bosoms . . . like two large melons."]

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Mae West & the Jazz Age in The Big Apple

On August 15, 1921, Mae West opened in New York at the New Century Roof, as a solo star act. On the opening night, Jack Dempsey, then World Heavyweight Champion, and his manager, Jack Kearns, attended the performance and visited Mae backstage afterwards.
Mae West did a screen test with Dempsey that week with Pathe Studios on 168th Street; it was called "Daredevil Jack." It never made it as a picture.
If you'd like to learn more about The Big Apple during the 1920s-1930s, pick up this book:
Gangsters and Gold Diggers: Old New York, the Jazz Age, and the Birth of Broadway by Jerome Charyn [Publisher: Four Walls Eight Windows]
From Publishers Weekly
Charyn's paean to Jazz Age New York stars the multifarious characters who graced the stages, speakeasies, and diners around Broadway in the 1920s and '30s. Never, he says, was New York "New Yorkier" than in this "lawless, unbridled mecca where everybody could meet - hoodlums, heiresses, jazz singers, funny girls, dentists from Des Moines (so long as they had a little money) ...." Around Broadway, Al Jolson rubbed shoulders with Ellin Mackay, "the richest girl in America," and George Gershwin would run into Mae West.
In the words of nightclub owner Texas Guinan, "Better a square foot of New York than all the rest of the world in a lump."
The author, who has written more than 30 books of fiction, memoir and cultural studies, presents a huge array of characters . . . . ., Those who already know the major and minor stars of this era will glean some colorful anecdotes, taken from disparate sources. Al Capone, for example, "liked to drink whisky out of a teacup" and Zelda Fitzgerald, before her breakdowns, was prone to dive into the fountain at Union Square. The force of the running prose, reminiscent of the high-kicking Follies girls, might carry interested readers through the disorganized narrative. . . .
One reader gave this off-the-cuff opinion: Author Jerome Charyn provides the reader with a cast of colorful characters such as Arnold Rothstein who used to enjoy wasting his time in Lindy's Restaurant, Al Jolson who was very difficult to live with and a self promoter, Legs Diamond [detective Johnny Broderick once stuffed this gangster into a garbage can], Flo Ziegfeld, who glamorized the American girl, former singing waiter Irving Berlin who sang at Nigger Mike's and then went on to become the writer of over one thousand songs. Author Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald and wife Zelda, gangster Owney Madden, Fannie Brice and her husband Billy Rose who was 5' 3 1/2" in his elevator shoes "who walked with the bounce of an over-wound toy." Bert Gordon, W.C. Fields, Ruby Keeler, boxers Jack Dempsey and Johnson, and, of course, The Bambino himself, George Herman Ruth.
The book is filled with anecdotes of these and other famous and infamous characters who made The Great White Way the historic place it is today. If you like social history you will enjoy this book. . . .

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Mae West Cocktail & Celebrities on Ice

Mae West reigned on Broadway during Prohibition.
• • Though never a serious drinker, Mae West was often associated with champagne.
It seems that one brandy distiller was hoping that a MAE WEST cocktail would catch on.
Did it?
• • Mae West Cocktail • •
Yolk of 1 egg
1 tsp. Powdered Sugar
1 ounce Brandy
Shake well and strain into a medium sized glass. Top with a dash of cayenne pepper.
Cocktail named for the star of "Blue Angel" herself:
• • Marlene Dietrich Cocktail
3/4 wineglass Rye or Canadian Whisky
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
2 Dashes Curacao
Shake well and strain into a wineglass. Squeeze orange. Add lemon peel on top.
Cocktail named for "America's Sweetheart"
— — and wife of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.:
• • Mary Pickford Cocktail
1/2 Bacardi Rum
1/2 Pineapple Juice
1 tsp. Grenadine
6 Drops Maraschino
Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.
Vincent Sardi's establishment is a Broadway hang-out:
• • Sardi's Delight Cocktail
1/4 ounce Passionfruit Syrup
1/8 ounce Lime Juice
Dash of Grenadine & Absinthe
1 shotglass of Gin
Shake well.
A non-alcoholic favorite:
• • Shirley Temple
Ginger Ale
Dash of Grenadine
• • A Jimmy Durante delight:
Schnozzla Durante Cocktail
(6 People)
In a shaker filled with cracked ice, place a spoonful of Curacao, 2 glasses of Gin, 2 glasses of Sherry, 2 glasses of French Vermout. Stir thoroughly with a spoon, shake strain and serve. Add an olive and two dashes of Absinthe to each glass.
Positively Presidential:
• • President Roosevelt Cocktail
2 Dashes Grenadine
1 shotglass of Bacardi Rum
Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.
• • What's YOUR pleasure . . .?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Mae West Slept Here

The Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills
9400 W Olympic Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Phone: (310) 277-5221

Claim to fame: Marilyn Monroe and Mae West lived here in the '50s when it was the Beverly Carlton. The glamour parade subsequently slowed, but it started up again in the late '90s when interior design "it girl" Kelly Wearstler transformed the space into the sublime Avalon Hotel. Designer Randolph Duke has stayed during Oscar season, as have Rupert Everett and model Shalom Harlow.

~ O Q ~ O Q ~ O Q ~ CoMe Up & See Mae ~ O Q ~ O Q ~ O Q ~

Knickerbocker Hotel

1714 North Ivar Avenue,
Hollywood, CA. / (323) 962-8898 (All-StarCafe)

Just looking at this aging, unassuming hotel on Ivar Avenue, you probably wouldn't guess that it had much of a Hollywood history. But you'd be dead wrong.

Today it may be just an apartment house for senior citizens, but back in the 1920's, the Knickerbocker Hotel was at the heart of Hollywood - and it played a key role in Tinseltown history for decades. The Renaissance Revival/ Beaux Arts style structure began life as a luxury apartment building, before becoming a hotel later in its history.
Rudolph Valentino hung out at the hotel bar, and reportedly liked to tango dance here. Other stars who lived at the Knickerbocker include Mae West, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Stanwyck, Lana Turner, Larry Fine of the Three Stooges, and Cecil B. DeMille.
The hotel lobby features a large crystal chandelier, which cost $120,000 in the 1920's - which would be over $1 million today's dollars. It is under this very chandelier that epic film director D.W. Griffith ("Birth of a Nation," "Intolerance") died of a stroke on July 21, 1948.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Mae Plays

Three Plays By Mae West
Lillian Schlissel, editor

This volume brings an underexplored part of Mae West's career to the fore by offering, for the first time in book form, three of the plays West wrote in the 1920s: Sex, set in a Montreal brothel; The Drag, which used the theatricality of the drag "queens" who had become her friends; and Pleasure Man, a revenge fantasy. 8 illustrations.
About the Author
Lillian Schlissel is Director of the American Studies Program, Brooklyn College.
Book Description
Mae West, wise-cracking vaudeville performer, was one of the most controversial figures of her era. Rarely, however, do people think of Mae West as a writer. In Three Plays By Mae West, Lillian Schlissel brings this under explored part of West's career to the fore by offering for the first time in book form, three of the plays West wrote in the1920s -- Sex (1926), The Drag (1927) and Pleasure Man (1928). With an insightful introduction by Schlissel, this book offers a unique look into to the life and early career of this legendary stage and screen actress.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Book about Mae West's "come-hither" appeal

Becoming Mae West is a great read.

Editorial Reviews

A dazzling biography of one of our most flamboyant stars and "a truly mighty woman"
- Boston Globe
Emily Wortis Leider combines newly uncovered archival material, fine writing, and a rich appreciation of Mae West's unique blend of comedy and "come-hither" appeal to shape this enormously engrossing biography and portrait of an era. She gives us not just Mae West the bawdy icon, but also the driven performer who honed her act on the vaudeville circuit, wrote her own material to get a decent part, and never stopped battling the censors -- who provided some of her best publicity but who eventually struck a blow for prudery from which her career would never recover.
She was the Madonna of her time, parlaying a modest talent into international celebrity with a carefully cultivated, outsized personality and an unerring instinct for just how outrageous to be without alienating her audience. Mae West (1893-1980) crafted the persona that made her the biggest movie star of the early 1930s during her vaudeville and Broadway apprenticeship. Those formative years are the subject of this absorbing cultural biography, which closes in 1938 when Paramount dropped her contract. A generous sampling of West one-liners adds sparkle to the text.
"Emily Wortis Leider meticulously re-creates the world that created Mae West, a world she bent to her own ambitions.... Mae's sashay across the screen will henceforth seem as much an achievement as it has always seemed a delicious inevitability."
- Steven Bach, author of Marlene Dietrich

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Mae West's German ancestry leads to P.J. Clarke's

Some think MAE WEST has a connection to P.J. Clarke's. But it is a fantasy, at best.
• •
A recently renovated, 19th-century tavern, P.J. Clarke's is on East 55th Street and Third Avenue (915 Third Avenue, at 55th Street 212-759-1650) , where Frank Sinatra reigns on the juke box.
• •
Joseph Doelger had a brewery across the street from Clarke's. (Doelger, a Bavarian immigrant, made a towering family contributions to New York — — he and his sons made one of the first, true New York lager beers, making the family extremely wealthy. Also he had a sister Matilda, whose wedding was covered in the society pages.)
• • Jacob Delker's daughter Matilda • •
• • Except this is definitely not the same Matilda Delker who married "Battling" Jack West and gave birth to Mae West in August 1893. Matilda Delker came from a family without wealth or prominence. Her father Jacob Delker was a Bavarian immigrant, however, he became a sugar and coffee broker, not a brewmaster. Jacob Delker's family was so poor when Matilda was growing up that they used to rent rooms located directly behind a Brooklyn oven.
• • P.J. Clarke's is a hold out: a squat, brick building that dates from 1868 now on a block of skyscrapers. Clarke's was a neighborhood staple in the days when Third Avenue was packed with tenements and elevated trains rumbled at interval overhead.
• •
Louis Armstrong, who worked with Mae, once played the trumpet in Clarke's back room. Jackie O was a visitor. Johnny Mercer supposedly wrote the song "One for My Baby" on a napkin at Clarke's long, wooden bar. Sinatra also used to frequent Clarke's. Sinatra admired the massive men's room urinals (that still exist), proclaiming that you could stand New York City Mayor Abe Beame inside one of them.
• • If you visit Clarke's today you will benefit from a significantly quieted scene and some excellent decor, menu and service improvements that have come from a re-building of the area. Across the street, for instance, is the massive FDR Post Office, put up in 1967 during a surge of construction activity.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
Add to Google
• • Photo: • • Mae West none • •
• • Feed — —
Mae West.

Mae West: Biographical Challenge

How much of Mae West's life did you know about already?
Actress, writer. Born Mary Jane West on August 17, 1893, in Brooklyn, New York.
Her father, John Patrick West, held various jobs as a livery stableman, a detective, a salesman, and a prizefighter. Her mother, Matilda, was a model and dressmaker.
By the age of seven, West was singing and dancing in amateur performances and winning local talent shows. She soon left behind formal education and joined a professional stock company headed by Hal Clarendon, where she played the character of "Little Nell" in a long-running melodrama. In her early teens, West joined a vaudeville company, where she met Frank Wallace, who soon became her song-and-dance partner. Unknown to the public for more than 30 years, she and Wallace married in 1911 when West was only 16. Both the relationship and the stage partnership soon ended, but West and Wallace did not divorce until 1942.
While still a teen-ager, West became a star on the vaudeville stage. Her first Broadway appearances were in 1911, in the revues A la Broadway and Hello Paris. The following year she appeared in A Winsome Widow, produced by Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. In 1918, West took a role in the musical comedy Sometime, in which she introduced a dance known as the "Shining Shawabble." She soon became a hit on the New York vaudeville stage, becoming known for her flashy and tight-fitting clothing as well as her provocative comments, delivered in dialects or a throaty voice. Her costumes would typically include an assortment of rhinestones, leopard skins, and huge plumed hats, all worn on her five-foot-tall body.
West was unique in being one of the few women who performed solo in vaudeville, and even at her young age, she commanded a salary of several hundred dollars per week. In 1926, West wrote a play that was co-produced on Broadway by Jim Timony, a lawyer who was reportedly also her lover.
The aptly named Sex became both a popular success and the target of censorship groups such as the Society for the Suppression of Vice.
As described in Becoming Mae West, the play included "prostitutes caught in arousing embraces, guns, knock-out drinks, a jewelry heist, cops, an offstage suicide, bribery, and the threat of a shootout." In the 41st week of its run, police arrested the cast and West was found guilty of corrupting the morals of youth. She was sentenced to ten days in a New York City prison but was released two days early for good behavior.
West's second play, The Drag in 1926, sympathetically tackled a subject that was not discussed onstage at the time --- homosexuality. After a two-week run in New Jersey, West was persuaded not to bring it to Broadway. Her third play . . . .
Mae West biography is continued here . . .

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Quotable Mae West -- and other wits

On Wednesday February 9, 1927, Broadway actress Mae West was a victim of false arrest and false imprisonment in New York, the city where she was born and where Mae West launched her career in vaudeville when she was a child (6 years old) in 1899.
These quotations show the viewpoints of some notable personalities about JUSTICE and the LAW in the United States.
JUDGE: Are you trying to show contempt for this court?

MAE WEST: I was doin' my best to hide it.

A jury consists
of twelve persons
chosen to decide
who has the better lawyer.

Criminal lawyer.
Or is that redundant?

Under a government which
imprisons any unjustly,
the true place for a just man
is also a prison . . .
the only house in a slave State
in which a free man
can abide with honor.


Government is like fire.
If it is kept within bounds and
under the control of the people,
it contributes to the welfare of all.
But if it gets out of place,
if it gets too big and out of control,
it destroys the happiness
and even the lives of the people.

They call it
the Halls of Justice
because the only place
you get justice is
in the halls.

Mae West: Fans in Australia [Law Institute of Victoria]

Law Institute Journal Index

Contempt of court: Mae West has the last word

Source : LIJ (1984) 58 , April, page 411-412 [list articles in this issue]
Author : Lewis, Gordon
Subject(s) : Contempt of Court

Monday, September 13, 2004

Dolly Tree: Mae West's costume designer in 1928

Dolly Tree: costumer for "Diamond Lil" and "The Pleasure Man"

According to author Gary Chapman, Dolly Tree arrived in New York on board the Leviathan in the Autumn of 1926 on an exploratory trip to investigate the likelihood of obtaining work.
"Go to America, that's where the money is," Major E.O. Leadlay, the manager at the Piccadilly Hotel in London told her. She had regularly met, socialised and worked with a host of American performers. who must have also urged her to at least visit New York and see if she could utilise her talents on Broadway. Shortly after her arrival,
Billboard announced: "Dolly Tree well known as a freelance designer abroad and who has made sketches for many of the big musical shows in London and Paris is paying her first visit to New York and is considering several offers if she decides to remain in this country."
"England's leading stage designer" - -

Dolly Tree quickly learned that the costume designing scene in New York was not an easy one for an outsider to infiltrate being monopolised by such names as Charles LeMaire, Mabel Johnson, Kiviette, Ernest Schrapps, William Henry Mathews, John Harkrider and James Reynolds. Yet despite the dominance of these designers and a worsening economic situation she swiftly obtained some interesting contracts and then manoeuvred herself into a secure position of relative prominence and success by working with Charles LeMaire, at Brooks the most prestigious costume house on the East Coast. . . .
Despite the fact that Dolly Tree worked for the most prestigious costume house in New York she received few printed confirmations of credit although there are numerous tantalising indications that she worked on a vast array of projects for which for some unknown reason she was denied credit.
By far the most interesting productions that Dolly Tree worked on in New York from a historical perspective were the two Mae West shows staged in 1928: Diamond Lil and
The Pleasure Man.
A shrewd and opportunistic performer Mae West settled on the nostalgic allure of the "gay 90's" look made famous in the stage show
Diamond Lil as her enduring persona. The carefully designed gowns by Dolly Tree, based on fashion ideas derived from the 1890's cleverly balanced Mae West's naturally sleazy style with a glamorous and nostalgic image making her more palatable to a middle class audience. The gowns which featured the hour glass waist, revealing decolletage, frills and flounces, feather boas and corsets have become firmly entrenched in our mind as part of the icon that has become Mae West. Dolly Tree should be given the full credit for creating this image which was later immortalised on the screen by Paramount. Mae West's The Pleasure Man featured a range of exotic gowns designed by Dolly Tree for the cast which included several female impersonators. The play itself illustrated West's continued preoccupation with New York's gay subculture and generated as much controversy as her earlier production The Drag.
One of the consistent credits that Dolly Tree is known to have enjoyed in New York was creating the costumes for many of the weekly stage presentation shows or units as they were called, that played on the Publix/ Loew theatre circuits . . . .
Alas, when the 1920s were up, Hollywood beckoned as the next best thing.
- - this excerpt was written by
Gary Chapman - -

Gary Chapman's book,
A Dream of Beauty, Dolly Tree and the Golden Age of Stage and Screen, is currently being considered for publication with a UK publisher. The book does not just focus on the work of Dolly Tree. Its scope is much broader, and describes the environment in which this designer had worked. As a result, it provides an overview of the role of the costume designer, specifically for the stage in the pivotal cities of entertainment culture - - namely, London, Paris, and New York.
Gary Chapman has a degree in Prehistory and Archaeology. He wanted to be an Egyptologist but instead worked for a variety of book publishing companies in marketing and PR for many years. Besides Dolly Tree, his other passion [and latest career] is creating elaborate cakes.
Learn more about Dolly Tree:

- - this excerpt was written by Gary Chapman - -

"Courting Mae West" - a New MAE Play in NYC

"Courting Mae West" is a new play about Mae West.
WHERE: C.U.N.Y. Graduate Center (365 Fifth Avenue, NYC 10016)
WHEN: Wednesday February 9, 1927 at 8:00 PM

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Forward: Focus on MAE WEST

FEBRUARY 6, 2004 | current issue | back issues | subscribe |

Playwright Examines Mae West's Legal Dramas


She was the queen of innuendo. With her slinky walk, hourglass figure and sassy turn of phrase, Mae West was once Broadway's and Hollywood's grandest sex icon. She was also among the most persecuted. The New York police department raided the platinum blonde's shows, threw her in jail and leveled tremendous fines against her. Why? According to one New York playwright, it might have had something to do with the fact that West was half-Jewish.

"It was so patently unfair," said Linda Ann Loschiavo, author of the new play "Courting Mae West: A Comedy About Sex, Censorship and Secrets." The show will have a reading on February 7 at the Jefferson Market Library in Greenwich Village — the same location where West was booked for obscenity 77 years earlier when the building was a courthouse.

West, the daughter of a German-Jewish mother and an Anglo-Irish father, was a relatively unknown burlesque performer before she plunged into the murky waters of suggestive but "legitimate" theater. She had been scrupulous about submitting to the censors the plays she wrote and starred in, Loschiavo told the Forward. "At the time, there were play juries," Loschiavo said. "You had to put your manuscript before the play juries and they would say, 'This is all right,' or 'You have to make these changes,'" before giving plays a theatrical license.

West's plays were approved by these juries — and there was no shortage of much more lewd and lascivious theater around the city — but that didn't stop vice squads from raiding her shows and charging her with obscenity.

"Was it because she was an ambitious Jewish-American female on the rise?" Loschiavo asked in an e-mail she sent to the Forward. That's Loschiavo's theory, anyway.

"Courting Mae West" grew out of Loschiavo's fascination with the courthouse on Sixth Avenue, in the building that now houses the Jefferson Market Library. Back then it was the only night court in New York, and hundreds of famous and infamous figures passed through, including Harry K. Thaw, Star Faithful and Ethel Rosenberg.

West was brought in during a run of her play "Sex" in 1927. She was sentenced to 10 days at the Women's Workhouse on Welfare Island (now Roosevelt Island). Her experiences meeting prostitutes, robbers and various unsavory types gave birth to her next play, "Pleasure Man," which was also closed down; West was fined $20,000 because "Pleasure Man" used the word "homosexual" and featured two men dancing together on stage.

"This was in the days when the average teacher's salary was $950 a year," Loschiavo noted. "They weren't even fining bootleggers that much. No other actress got locked up. What's at the bottom of that?"

Loschiavo sees the West case as a microcosm of something larger. "My play really is a history play about what happened in New York City in 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1929 — West was a great conduit," Loschiavo said. West's arrest, she added, sparked a media frenzy. "There were 15 daily newspapers back then, and everyone was competing for headlines." It was, Loschiavo said, "the Michael Jackson [story]" of its time.

published in: The Forward, Friday February 6, 2004, New York, NY

Jerry Tallmer talks about Mae West

Vol 73, No. 39 | January 28 - February 03, 2004

9th St. drama: Mae West’s night in Jefferson Court


Mae West, left, and Barry O’Neill, her co-star in the Broadway burlesque show “Sex,” on trial for obscenity at Jefferson Market Courthouse in 1927.

West Ninth Street, Manhattan, is only one block long, from Fifth Avenue at one end to Sixth Avenue at the other, east to west. It was at the west end, between Ninth and 10th Streets, where another West, a lady named Mae, spent one night in jail in 1927 in what is now the historic old Jefferson Market Library but was then the Jefferson Market Courthouse.

Yuxtry! Yuxtry! Read all about it!

Better yet, you can go see the play “Courting Mae West,” by LindaAnn Loschiavo — well, sit in on a reading of that play — at 2 p.m. on Saturday, February 7, in the Jefferson Library’s Willa Cather Auditorium, once the very courtroom where at a late hour on February 7, 1927, Mae West, author and star of “Sex,” a big hit up on Broadway, was booked for obscenity and hustled away into an interim cell before being packed off in the morning to 10 days at the Women’s Workhouse on Welfare Island.

“Miss West,” a recent piece in the New York Law Journal reminds us, the presiding judge had inquired, “are you trying to show contempt for this court?”

“On the contrary, your Honor,” Mae sweetly responded. “I was doin’ my best to conceal it.”

The Jefferson Market Courthouse, circa early 1900s, today known as Jefferson Market Library.

West Ninth Street, in the opinion of LindaAnn Loschiavo, whose apartment building debouches onto it, is in every respect “one of the most fascinating blocks in New York City, even though nobody knows anything about it except that Marianne Moore [the poet] lived on it. So did Henry J. Raymond, founder of the New York Times, and Justice Augustus Hand, brother of the famous Learned Hand.

“In fact,” says Ms. Loschiavo, who is also at work on a history of the block, “when the society people all moved away from Ninth Street in the mid-1800s, the jurists and prominent lawyers stayed right here.

“Many things,” she says, “happened on West Ninth Street that affected people’s existence not only in New York but all over the country. For instance the terrible fire at 52 West Ninth Street that killed a woman who was married to a nephew of J.P. Morgan, along with her three daughters. One of the daughters tried to save her mother, tripped, fell into the bathtub, broke her neck and died.

“I get the chills just thinking about it,” says Ms. Loschiavo, running her hands up her sleeves and shivering. “This was in the days, you see, when there were no alarm boxes and no 911. You had to call Central to get an operator to call the Fire Department, and that took forever.

“Augustus Hand, who with his wife lived at 48 West Ninth Street, later led a suit against the phone company, which was a monopoly, and this in turn led to emergency telephone systems and alarm boxes all around that city. That’s just one example of how this street led the nation.”

The full title of Ms. Loschiavo’s drama is “Courting Mae West: A Comedy About Sex, Censorship, and Secrets in Three Acts,” and the three based-on-real-life characters in it are the pre-Hollywood Mae West; gorgeous, doomed Starr Faithfull, a Greenwich Village good-time girl — the Gloria Wandrous of John O’Hara’s blazing “Butterfield 8” — whose corpse rattled many of the rich and powerful when it washed up on a Long Island beach; and a news dealer named Mr. Isidore who was the last person in Manhattan, from his stand under the El at Sixth Avenue and Ninth Street, to see Starr Faithfull alive as she disappeared into the PATH station on her way to the L.I.R.R.

There are also a number of fictional characters, notably Eliza Rourke, a repressed, glamour-worshipping, working-class Irish-American girl who slaves without pay in her parents’ boarding house, and Mario “Shortie” DeAngelis, a young, overeager New York newspaper reporter who dashes frantically between such headline events as the jailing of Mae West and the discovery of Starr Faithfull’s body on Long Island (which actually happened in 1931). Eliza is sweet on him; her mother is not. In a sense, Shortie DeAngelis speaks for LindaAnn Loschiavo herself.

Says the playwright: “I’ve tried to reflect the Greenwich Village of the time by having Irish, Italian and Jewish people in this piece. I write plays like a journalist” — and does a ton of preparatory research, unearthing, for instance, such details as the mob funneling beer into the Jefferson Market Jail Courthouse through a manhole leading to a pipeline.

Indeed, Ms. Loschiavo gets more than a little animated as she makes it known that “I resent the way movies and plays have bleached texts of all historical reference. You go to ‘Master and Commander’ and you learn nothing, nothing! Nothing of Napoleon, or why that ship is out there!”

Her “Courting Mae West” is full of historical reference, including the fact that the beautiful old Jefferson Market structure started life (circa 1873-’75) as a fire tower; that it subsequently became the 3rd Judicial Court (or, to the press, the West Side Court); that its official address was 10 Greenwich Lane (now 10th Street), where the paddy wagons delivered their cargo; and that in Mae West’s time it was actually a night court.

“Other courts in the city kept bankers’ hours,” she explains. “If you got booked after 6 p.m., tough on you. But at Jefferson Market, if you could post bail before 1 a.m., you didn’t have to spend the night in jail, so most of the arrests at theaters, where the shows let out at 10 p.m. or so, ended up at Jefferson Market.

“But when they brought Mae in, it was with a cast of 54 — actors, musicians, everybody. Bail came to $20,000 [which couldn’t be raised in the middle of the night], so she had to spend that one night there in jail.

“They made her change her underwear!” says researcher Loschiano. “From her elegant silk lingerie into horrible itchy blue coarse stuff called linsey-woolsey.”

LindaAnn Loschiano never saw Claudia Shear’s “Dirty Blonde,” also about Mae West, but she knows about it. A onetime Brooklyn girl herself, she feels a kind of kinship with Mae West, born Mary Jane West in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn — whose mother, our researcher (and her play) tells us, was a Jewish woman named Matilda Decker Doelger, an immigrant from Munich, Germany. The sex queen’s father, Jack West, was Anglo-Irish, a featherweight prizefighter called “Battling Jack” West and later a stable master. Mae always considered herself half Jewish.

Among Ms. Loschiano’s many other writings is a prizewinning and quite moving poem, “Agnus Dei,” about a child being run over and killed by an oil truck in Brooklyn. LindaAnn was a child of 8 or 9 herself when she saw it happen. “I never told my mother because I thought I’d get blamed for it. Instead I wrote the poem” — many years later. “All my work deals in time and place.”

Mae West’s years were 1893 (or thereabouts) to 1980. When she died the present writer spent all day putting together an obit for the newspaper he then worked for. It ended with a sentence that a young Chinese paste-up guy lopped off for want of space. Here it is: “God said: ‘Come up and see me sometime,’ so she went.”

Hi, Mae. LindaAnn Loschiavo and Greenwich Village are holding down the fort for you.


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