Friday, September 01, 2006
Subversive Influences on Mae
September 1, 2006 edition of
The New York Sun FEATURES >Section: Arts and Letters
Come Up and See Them Sometime
By GARY SHAPIRO
Laws didn't mean much to colorful ladies like Mae West and Texas Guinan. And that's the idea behind an exhibition at Village Restaurant [62 West Ninth Street] called "Onstage Outlaws: Mae West and Texas Guinan in a Lawless Era," which runs through mid-September.
• • Among their most notorious actions, West turned down Billy Wilder's request that she play Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard," feeling it was insulting to play a role about a has-been, and Guinan ran Prohibition-era nightclubs that were raided by federal agents.
• • Among those paying homage to these figures was Louise Berliner, who traveled from Massachusetts to New York to view the exhibit Tuesday. Ms. Berliner, who is the author of "Texas Guinan: Queen of the Night Clubs" (University of Texas Press), has a personal connection to the show. Her grandfather, Maxwell Lopin, was Guinan's lawyer, who defended Guinan in 1929 at her "public nuisance" trial for operating a speakeasy. Ms. Berliner's book was the basis of a screenplay "Hello, Suckers," which Madonna is considering working on.
• • The show features a photo of Guinan in jodhpurs and another of her wearing a large Indian headdress at a Beaux Arts ball. There is also a rare song sheet from "Padlocks of 1927," a musical review featuring Guinan along with George Raft, Barbara Stanwyck, and Clare Booth. Nearby is a photo of the Hippodrome, the large Midtown indoor amphitheater where the review had its debut.
• • A woman of restless energy, Guinan was born in 1884 in Waco, Texas. She moved to New York in 1907, where she rented a room for $2 a week at 72 Washington Square South, and later moved to 17 West 8th St., where she lived in an antique-filled duplex.
• • In the exhibition, there is a photo of the Fifth Avenue Theatre on West 28th Street where Guinan met the producer John Slocum, who helped launch her theater career. Slocum had wanted to find a wild West act for a play he was working on. Guinan was billed as a "Lone Star Novelty," and Slocum thought the show would be a cowboy act. But he was disappointed when it turned out to be Guinan singing songs while suspended above the audience in an airship. As he got up to leave, she embarrassed him by shining a flashlight on him and saying, "If you're going out, bring one back for me!" He sat back down and waited for Guinan to turn the light off. She did not, and continued to sing and tease him.
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• • In addition to furs, ropes of pearls, and other jewelry, she wore bracelets on each wrist with 567 diamonds each. She was driven around in an armored car that once belonged to the king of Belgium.
• • In her book, Ms. Berliner tells the story about the time that Prince Edward of Wales was at Guinan's nightclub when Prohibition agents raided the place. Guinan ushered the Prince to the kitchen, put him in a chef's outfit, and "handed him a carton of eggs, a frying pan, and a spatula, and told him to fry eggs until she returned." She put his escort, Lord Mountbatten, behind a drum and told him to play music.
• • After the agents had left, she heard a cry from the kitchen, "Texas, for Heaven's sake, do something about these eggs!" She hurried in to find fried eggs stacked two inches high.
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• • firstname.lastname@example.org 1 September 2006
• • Source:The_New_York_Sun [105 Chambers Street, NY 10007]
• • © 2006 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC. All rights reserved.
• • Photo: dramatist LindaAnn Loschiavo with biographer Louise Berliner
• • Source: Village Restaurant • •
• • Photo: Louise Berliner, biographer of Texas Guinan, displays her book at the exhibition "Onstage Outlaws: Mae West and Texas Guinan in a Lawless Era" at Village Restaurant • • Mae West birthday gala coverage 31 August 2006 • • ANNUAL MAE WEST BIRTHDAY GALA • •