MAE WEST's famously buxom figure was the inspiration for another "Mae" - - a personal flotation device.
• • Used during World War II by the Allies, the Type B-4 life preserver (an inflatable lifejacket) was known among military men as a "Mae West."
• • Since November 11th is Veteran's Day, this is an ideal time to reflect on Mae West's relationship with the Navy.
• • During 1917-1918 wartime, Broadway's Casino Theatre used to stage free Sunday concerts for military men. Mae West was often on the bill, performing gratis, fetchingly attired in a middy blouse and a jaunty sailor hat.
• • In March 1926, Mae West's play "Sex" - - whose plot turns on Margy LaMont, a prostitute who has an English naval officer for a boyfriend - - was in rehearsal. Prior to its Broadway run, the play had out-of-town try-outs in Connecticut; the maritime men on shore leave snapped up the tickets and became a most appreciative audience for these previews. "I'll never forget my debt to the Navy," Mae used to say.
• • In 1927, during Mae West's obscenity trial at Jefferson Market Court House in New York, police detectives took the witness stand and described a suggestive dance that Mae West did onstage during her play. The judge asked if the actress's midriff was bare during this "cooch" number in "Sex," and if the audience could see her belly button. This important testimony was cross-examined - - at great length - - by the lawyers. The detective said that he was too far back in Daly's Theatre to swear that it was Mae West's belly button, however, he saw something in her pelvic area that moved to the left and to the right, an admission which caused an uproar among the spectators. Mae West had to stuff a handkerchief in her mouth to keep from laughing out loud, too.
• • Covering the trial for a newspaper, a reporter poked fun at the detective in his article. "Clearly," he concluded, "no navel displays are permitted on Broadway."
• • Illustrations: Mae West • • Tijuana Bible • • during the 20th century • •