Saturday, March 31, 2007

Mae West: Fab Four

MAE WEST didn't think she belonged in a lonely hearts club.
• • New England journalist James Sullivan muses on the events of forty years ago that reunited Mae with her Salvation Army musings, dramatized in "Diamond Lil," and her encounter with Britain's fab foursome in March of 1967.
• • James Sullivan writes: It was 40 years ago . . . today. On the evening of March 30, 1967, four young musicians gathered with a large group of artists and assistants in a London studio to shoot a photograph for an album cover. The album, to be called "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," would, of course, become synonymous with the creative revolution of the 1960s. The cover artwork, a photo-montage of the Beatles posing for photographer Michael Cooper among a gallery of several dozen celebrities ("People We Like," as the crew took to calling them) was itself a radical departure, with its elaborately designed "gatefold" layout, bonus insert, and printed song lyrics -- the latter a first in pop.
• • Behind the real-life Beatles, who were dressed in candy-colored military-band costumes and sported newly cultivated mustaches, the "crowd" was actually made up of wax figures and cardboard cutouts of singers, actors, writers, artists, athletes, and critical thinkers -- some of them (Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan) as familiar as the Beatles themselves, others (Bobby Breen?) now as obsolete as a monaural recording.
• • The cover concept was originally conceived by Paul McCartney and London art dealer Robert Fraser as a tableau for a fictitious Salvation Army-style brass band. But in the hands of its designers, then-husband-and-wife Pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth (who ended up choosing more than half of the faces), it became a droll satire of celebrity and influence. While many of the famous figures in the gallery were heroes to the Beatles, others were chosen out of sheer, Beatlesque audacity. The group's record company, EMI, rejected three of John Lennon's suggestions -- Jesus, Gandhi, and Hitler.
• • Inspired by Victorian-era composite photographs, Dada collage artists, and Pop artist Richard Hamilton's surreal cut-and-paste suburban scenes, the "Sgt. Pepper" cover has become a visual touchstone. Haworth, now living in Utah, still has the Grammy she and her ex-husband shared for the graphic design: "I let the children play with it," she says with a laugh. "The trumpet fell off, and the dog chewed on it. It's been destroyed in an iconoclastic way."
• • • • James Sullivan is a frequent Globe contributor and the author of "Jeans: A Cultural History of an American Icon."
Some of the "People We Like" on the "Sgt. Pepper" cover:
• • 1. Sri Yukteswar Giri: Indian guru, one of four chosen for the cover by George Harrison.
• • 2. Aleister Crowley: Notorious mystic, polymath, and drug user - - chosen, designer Jann Haworth says, by John Lennon.
• • 3. Mae West: "What would I be doing in a lonely hearts club?" she reportedly joked. Ringo Starr appeared in her 1978 film "Sextette."
• • 4. Lenny Bruce: By 1967, the Beatles shared some of the late comic's persecution complex.
• • 5. Karlheinz Stockhausen: Avant-garde composer who (though chosen by McCartney) once credited John Lennon as the crucial link between pop and "serious" music. . . .
- - excerpt - -
• • Source: Boston Globe - www.boston. com -
• • Published: 24 March 2007
• • Byline: James Sullivan
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • Ringo Starr • • 1978

Mae West.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Mae West: Mad Matter

For the record, MAE WEST began making films in 1932 — — not the 1920s.
• • Director Todd Stephens credits the screen queen with being his muse and guidepost. A recent article in the Sydney Star Observer, written by John Burfitt, offers Stephens's comments on his idol.
• • This is an excerpt from an interview by Australian columnist John Burfitt:
• • While filming Another Gay Movie, director Todd Stephens believed the project had an unexpected guardian angel watching over it.
• • For a film depicting a group of young gay men’s desperate efforts to lose their virginity, Stephens believed it is appropriate that guardian angel was the long-dead screen siren, Mae West — — the woman who introduced sex to the movies in the 1920s [sic], and scandalised Hollywood as a result.
• • Todd Stephens is a Mae West fan, and even has some of her old furniture in his apartment. But while he was filming Another Gay Movie, he discovered an even closer connection with West.
• • “She was one of my big idols as I was growing up, and a big influence on me,” Stephens says from his New York home.
• • “When I was living in Hollywood while making this film, I discovered I was living right next door to where Mae lived for 50 years, and that was a total coincidence. I liked that as this is a very sex-positive movie, and certainly Mae was into that.
• • “She never apologised for exploring sexuality on screen, and neither do I with this film. So I felt I had her spirit watching over me the entire time I was making this film.”
• • . . . Another Gay Movie, which played at the recent Mardi Gras Film Festival, will be released on DVD 18 April 2007.
• • Source: Sydney Star Observer — — /www.ssonet.com.au — — Issue 860
• • Published on 29 March 2007
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • defending herself at Criminal Court for writing a gay play • • October 1928

Mae West.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mae West: I, Lovett

When MAE WEST watched Rafaela Ottiano portray the sinister Mrs. Lovett in "Sweeney Todd" during its 1924 Broadway run at the Frazee Theatre, she knew where to find an actress who could ably play a villainess.
• • Born in Venice on 4 March 1888 of Italian parents, Rafaela Ottiano distinguished herself in Europe before relocating to New York City in 1910 when she was 22 years old. By 1912 she was winning critical praise for her performances onstage in Proctor's Fifth Avenue Theatre [31 West 28th Street].
• • By 1920, she was living in a boarding house in the theatre district - - 49 West 37th Street - - where many actresses and artists were in residence. In between bookings, the five-foot-five brunette worked as a sales lady in a department store.
• • For the acclaimed Broadway production of "Diamond Lil" [1928-29] Ottiano created the role of Spanish Rita. She was the only member of the Royale Theatre's cast who was retained for the filmed version, where she reprised her role, renamed Russian Rita by cautious executives at Paramount Pictures who feared that they might alienate Hispanic ticket-buyers.
• • Never married, and guiding her career herself, plucky Ottiano managed to stay employed in Hollywood from 1924-1942 in between theatre work.
• • She died at age 54 of intestinal cancer in mid-August 1942 at the East Boston home of her late parents.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West's co-stars • • "She Done Him Wrong" • • 1933

Mae West.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mae West: Jack Bonavita

MAE WEST could never forget the summer of 1904.
• • In May 1904, Dreamland opened in Coney Island. To the right of the Surf Avenue entrance stood a building that Mae West entered, holding the hand of her father "Battling Jack" West. Almost 11 years old, but looking younger because of her petite frame, little Mae was nearly as transformed by the experience as Alice was when plunging into Wonderland.
• • For years, Mae talked about, and thought about, the impression Bostock's lions left on her. The lead lion tamer was Captain Jack Bonavita. Born in Philadelphia in 1866, his muscular frame and courage - - not to mention his sleek military garb, knee-high boots, and sinister moustache - - made him popular with the ladies. Actress Marie Dressler, then working a concession at Coney Island, caught Bonavita's act as often as she could. And it was an unparalleled performance that the 38-year-old trainer gave with his 26 trained lions.

• •
Mae's fixation on Jack Bonavita and Bostock's lions inspired her to do "I'm No Angel," in which she fulfilled a lifelong dream of being inside the cage with the king of beasts. Born under the sun sign Leo, Mae felt destined for this - - and she insisted on performing her own stunts. The film begins with Mae riding an elephant. How many other 41-year-old actresses are eager to take risks like that?
• • Dreamland burned to the ground on May 1911.
• • Frank Bostock died, after a bout with influenza, in October 1912.
• • From 1913 -1917 Jack Bonavita focused on filmmaking, working as a stunt man, a director, and an actor. His silent films always co-starred wild animals and some of the lion or jaguar tamers he had worked with at Bostock's Circus. A few flickers he starred in were: "Avenged by Lions" [1916] and "The Woman, the Lion, and the Man" [1915].
• • Mae's hero Jack Bonavita died in the month of March from a polar bear attack at age 51 on 19 March 1917 in Los Angeles, California.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • lion lady • • 1934

Mae West.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mae West: Louis Bromfield

MAE WEST and George Raft knew the address well - - well before Louis Bromfield was drinking there one afternoon with his newsman buddy Lucius Beebe, a Herald-Times columnist. Club Napoleon, a speakeasy on the grand scale, was located at 33 West 56th Street, a fancy block of Beaux Arts mansions. Years before it became an illegal ginmill, 33 West 56th had been the childhood home of Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton. The gracious townhouse next door was designed by Bruce Price for a prominent physician.

• •
Though he made his name writing about rural life, Louis Bromfield was intrigued by the downward mobility of West 56th Street, once the preserve of bluebloods but now in the hands of gangsters who ran the speakeasy Mona Lisa [36 West 56th] or Larry Fay, who opened his parlor floors to drinkers.
• • Born Lewis Brumfield in Ohio on 27 December 1896, the 6' 2" inch journalist won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Early Autumn [1926], and then turned to writing fulltime. His short story "Single Night" became the backbone of the Paramount film "Night After Night" [released on 30 October 1932]. Two months after the film was distributed to moviehouses across the country, bootlegger Larry Fay met a spectacularly crimson-soaked death inside 33 West 56th Street on 1 January 1933.
• • Author and farmer Louis Bromfield had a more serene death, at age 60, on 18 March 1956.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • George Raft • • 1932

Mae West.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mae West: Randolph Scott

The pairing of MAE WEST with Cary Grant was so successful that Paramount wanted to continue it for "Go West, Young Man" - - but Grant declined. That is why his intimate buddy Randolph Scott [who died in the month of March] came to be cast opposite the Brooklyn bombshell.

• • "Go West, Young Man" was released on 18 November 1936.
• • The script was based on Lawrence Dudley's play "Personal Appearance." Mae plays a movie star named Mavis Arden who gets stranded at a remote rural inn, while on a personal appearance tour with her press agent Morgan. Fortunately, the tedium is broken when she encounters a handsome fresh-faced mechanic Bud Norton.
• • This bud does not wilt when faced with a mega-watt star, and the two find they have, at least, a few things in common.
• • Born on 23 January 1898 in Virginia, Randolph Scott's acting career began in 1928.
• • A handsome leading man in comedies, dramas, and an occasional adventure role, Scott finally did "Go WEST" and became a screen cowboy. And when he began focusing on westerns in the late 1940s, Randolph Scott reached his greatest stardom. His screen persona altered into that of a stoic, craggy, and uncompromising figure, a tough, hard-bitten man seemingly unconnected to the light comedy lead he had been in the 1930s.
• • He died at age 89 on 2 March 1987 in Beverly Hills.
• • • • Memorable quotes for Go West, Young Man • • • •
• • Morgan: You're a great star and can't take a risk. Your private life has got to be an open book.
• • Mavis Arden: I'm just looking for someone to read it.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • Randolph Scott • • 1936

Mae West.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Mae West: Onstage Today


MAE WEST is part of the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood in the musical revue "Hollywood Revisited" - - playing today Sunday [beginning 2:30 pm] at Steadman Theatre, Mansfield University.
• • A stage show features vocalists from Hollywood and the Twin Tiers singing and dancing to movie-related music and wearing costumes from popular films of the 1930s - 1960s.
• • Audiences can see the actual costumes worn by legendary Tinseltown performers such as MAE WEST, Carole Lombard, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monrie, Gene Kelly, and Bob Hope while enjoying music from those actors' classic films such as "Belle of the Nineties," "The Three Musketeers," etc.
• • Pianist Greg Schreiner, a Los Angeles collector who owns over 300 movie costumes, created the revue and, in addition to providing musical accompaniment for the show, he will share anecdotes about the designers, movies, and scenes for each costume featured in the revue. Schreiner's fashion collection has been displayed at museums around the globe. Future performances of "Hollywood Revisited" that feature Mae West are announced here: www.hollywoodrevisited.com.
• • Today's staging of "Hollywood Revisited" is part of the Wellsboro Community Concert Association Series. Info and tickets: phone 570-724-5225 or 570-724-3481.
• • Though Community Concerts started in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania in 1947, its history as a national organization goes back to the early 1920s. Come up and see Mae - - today - - at Wellsboro!
• • This "Belle of the Nineties" animation was created by Mae West fan Martin [Mae West Color Site: www.maewest.nl/ - a colorful tribute to the Brooklyn bombshell in Holland].
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • "Belle of the 90s" • • 1934

Mae West.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Mae West: Wit

A large photograph of MAE WEST was selected to draw eyes to the column "Femail" printed on 23 March 2007 in a UK newspaper. The essay - - "From Mae West to Woody Allen: Everyone has something witty to say about sex" - - was written by columnist Liz Rowlinson, who is based in London. Rowlinson quoted sayings by Mae West, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Woody Allen, and others.
• • • • Examples • • • •
• • 'Sex is emotion in motion' - - Mae West, actress.
• • 'Love is the answer, but while you're waiting for the answer sex raises some pretty good questions' - - Woody Allen, filmmaker.
• • 'Sex is a bad thing because it rumples the clothes' - - Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, former First Lady.
• • 'Love is just a system for getting someone to call you darling after sex' - - Julian Barnes, novelist.
• • Source: The Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/
• • Published on: 23rd March 2007
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • to come

Mae West.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Mae West: Houdini

MAE WEST appeared on the same bill with Houdini occasionally.

• • Born Erik Weisz in the month of March, the Hungarian-American magician took the stage name of Harry Houdini.
• • Harry Houdini [24 March 1874 – 31 October 1926], the popular escape artist and stunt performer (as well as a debunker of sham spiritualists and an amateur aviator) is in the news this month. A recent book about his life raised the suspicion that the physically fit vaudevillian was murdered, perhaps by poison. His body, buried in November 1926 in Queens, New York, is being exhumed.
• • On 25 June 1926, Mae West appeared with Houdini on the same stage for the last time. The star of "Sex" was performing with the magician and other entertainers (such as George M. Cohan, Fannie Brice, the Marx Brothers, Al Jolson, Ann Pennington, Hazel Dawn, Eddie Foy, etc.) at the Polo Grounds on West 155th Street in Manhattan's Washington Heights area [zipcode 10032].
• • The fundraiser, organized for the benefit of the United Jewish Campaign, was staged by Mae's old dancing teacher Ned Wayburn.
• • Happy Birthday, Houdini, born on March 24th.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Polo Grounds • • where Mae performed in 1926 • •

Mae West.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mae West: March 1927


During the infamous "Sex" trial in March-April 1927, MAE WEST was living in Manhattan at an apartment hotel near Daly's 63rd Street Theatre.
• • Built in 1927 by Emery Roth, the Mayflower Hotel [15 Central Park West at W. 61st Street] overlooked Central Park on one side and Broadway on the other. Rising to a height of 195 feet, the 15-story hotel offered spectacular views of Columbus Circle and beyond.
• • Other actors had followed Mae West into the lobby. Before Robert DeNiro moved to Tribeca, he lived at the Mayflower Hotel. DeNiro's buddy Joe Pesci also called the Mayflower home once. And when he starred in the Broadway production of "Sugar Babies," Mickey Rooney stayed there for a while - - before moving to a livelier hostelry.
• • Since 1987, the "modernized" building - - stripped of its original terracotta ornamentation - - had squatted on an entire city block [zipcode 10023] bounded by Central Park West and Broadway between West 61st and West 62nd, a red flag tempting bullish developers and the bulldozers they live for.
• • In 2005, the hotel on Central Park West was demolished leaving a hefty 1.3-acre parcel open to speculation.
• • Now word comes that Denzel Washington and Sting have bought apartments at the new building being constructed at 15 Central Park West.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West's former home • • circa 1938 • •

Mae West.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Mae West: Angelique Comique

It was 1911 when 18-year-old MAE WEST was cast in a new musical slotted for the Winter Garden on Broadway: "Vera Violetta" (starring Gaby Deslys and Al Jolson).
• • Most of the music was prepared by composer Edmund Eysler who was born during March in Vienna [12 March 1874]. The lyricist for "Vera" - - a show set in Paris, France - - was Harold Atteridge.
• • Mae West was assigned the second number in Act I. Backed by the chorus, Mae [as Mademoiselle Angelique] was to sing "Angelique of the Opera Comique," a song whose lyrics were written by Melville Gideon to music composed by Louis A. Hirsch.
• • During the out-of-town previews, Mae had the brilliant idea of performing this second number . . . a few minutes into the show . . . wearing an elaborate headpiece. Intentionally, the Brooklyn teenager was mistaken for Gaby Deslys (who played Mme. Adelle de St. Cloche) and the audience applauded wildly. Thus when Gaby Deslys finally did appear onstage for the sixth song, the audience did not realize that "Madame de St. Cloche" was the French-born star.
• • Gaby Deslys got Mae West fired before opening night in Manhattan.

• • Looking back with regret, Mae said, "I should have waited until the Winter Garden premiere before I tried that maneuver."
• • Despite introducing the Gaby Glide, a new dance choreographed for her by Ned Wayburn, Gaby Deslys was not as successful in this show as crowd-pleaser Al Jolson.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none • •

Mae West.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mae West: Newsweek cover

The March 2007 issue of American Journalism Review nicely remined readers that in 1934 actress MAE WEST was featured on the cover of NEWSWEEK for an article titled "The Churches Protest," which called the Brooklyn bombshell the "personification of Hollywood's sins." Wow! Satan in satin, our very own Mae.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • to come • •

Mae West.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Mae West: B.F. Keith

MAE WEST was occasionally booked on the prestigious Keith circuit by Benjamin Franklin Keith [26 January 1846 26 March 1914], a vaudeville theatre owner.
• • Before Mae worked for B.F. Keith, she fell in love with live entertainment by watching variety acts with her mother on several Brooklyn stages. And what pleasure palaces Mae and Matilda West waltzed into.
• • When Mae was 18 years old, not far from the elevated train's Gates Avenue station (at Broadway in Bushwick) a superb playhouse debuted: a Beaux Arts confection with Egyptian goddesses positioned on white-glazed terracotta oculi that are, simultaneously, embraced by gigantic cupids. Taken over by B.F. Keith a year later (and eventually renamed the RKO Bushwick Theatre), this was situated on a corner lot where Broadway met Monroe and Howard.
• • The Bushwick was built by showman Percy Williams — — using the popular theatre designer William McElfatrick as his architect — — and first opened on 11 September 1911 as a vaudeville house. Architect William McElfatrick was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1854.
• • In 1912, Percy Williams sold it to B.F. Keith.
• • On March 26, 1914, the little loved founder of the Keith circuit died in Florida, his 28-year-old bride nearby — — perhaps already planning for her well-cushioned widowhood.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West's neighborhood playhouse • • 1911 • •

Mae West.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mae West: Pinch an Inch

An amusing site Film School Rejects discusses the movie industry — — and a recent column noted the height of MAE WEST and others. Here is an excerpt from "The Height of Celebrity" by columnist Maggie Van Ostrand.
• • Van Ostrand writes: When we say we want the truth about celebrities, we don’t mean it. We don’t care if their breasts are natural or silicone, we want ‘em big. We don’t care if fashion magazines air-brush the models’ bodies or not, we want ‘em skinny. And we don’t care if our favorite stars wear lifts or not, we want ‘em tall.
• • When we watch television, we’re smart enough to know the actors are not as small as they appear. Who could possibly be only an inch tall? Nevertheless, some celebrities are pretty little. . . . Like the former-planet Pluto, some stars need to be downsized. Here is help from the Height Detective.
• • When casting films and TV shows, casting directors must consider two important characteristics: voice and height. You’ll never hear actors in the same scene with similar-sounding voices, nor will you often see a short actor paired with a love interest who’s considerably taller.
• • Back in the 1940s, the public wanted to see five-foot-six Alan Ladd, their favorite film noir actor (”This Gun For Hire,” “The Glass Key”) star opposite Veronica Lake, who was four-foot-eleven. When shooting love scenes with taller actresses, males were filmed from the waist up to conceal the ditch the actress was standing in, an illusion that made Alan Ladd appear taller. Imagine how deep that ditch would have to be today, were Ladd to star opposite Nicole Kidman (who is almost six-foot)? . . .
• • • • Petite: Queen Victoria, Dolly Parton, and Mae West have something in common: they’re each just five feet tall. Two of them could manage that same number lying down. ...
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • to come • •

Mae West.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Mae West: Irish

On her father's side, Mae West had Irish ancestry - - and a good time to mention this is on St. Patrick's Day.
• • Mae was named for her paternal grandmother Mary Jane Copley, who was born in Ireland. And her familiarity with Irish dialects gave Mae a tremendous advantage in vaudeville, where she was often cast as an Irish maid and sang Irish novelties such as Tommy Gray's comical song "They Are Irish," to which Mae added a few more choruses, each in a different accent.
• • But the music Mae West was most attracted to was either written by black composers or about black subjects. The cover Mae West is most associated with - - and who doesn't know this? - - is "Frankie and Johnny," which she sang in her Broadway hit "Diamond Lil" [1928] and continued singing and recording until the 1970s.
• • Mae West sings "Frankie and Johnny" in a new play "COURTING MAE WEST," heading to an off-Broadway theatre in New York City.
• • An old standard in the public domain, "Frankie and Johnny" is not credited to a composer.
• • However, the true tale about Frankie, a gutsy black female who confronts Johnny, her cheating lover, on his barroom date with another hottie, appealed to Mae's sensibility. She always felt that black women were especially strong, resilient, and admirable.
• • Returning to an Irish theme on St. Patrick's Day, the most famous illustration of Frankie's saloon showdown with Johnny was painted by the Scotch-Irish artist Thomas Hart Benton [15 April 1889 - 19 January 1975] during the early 1930s - - and here it is.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Artwork: • • Mae West's theme song • • "Frankie & Johnny" by Benton • • 1930s • •

Mae West.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Mae West: March 16

Mae West's "Pleasure Man" trial began on 16 March 1930.
• • The courtroom proceedings had a certain entertainment value. Cast member Chuck Connors II sang the controversial "She's the Queen of the Beaches" for Judge Amedeo Bertini and the jury. Though somber, bereaved, and wearing mourning for her late mother, Mae West had to stuff a black handkerchief in her mouth to keep from laughing at this performance.
• • Actor Alan Brooks [1888-1936] - - who played the title role in "Pleasure Man"- - swore on the witness stand that he was astonished to discover that his character had died from being castrated. The debonair 42-year-old leading man testified in smart-looking spats and a gorgeous suit.

• • Performer, director, and writer Alan Brooks was born in New York City on 25 January 1888 as Irving Hayward.
• • Alan Brooks made his Broadway debut - - on his 21st birthday - - playing a tutor in the musical "Stubborn Cinderella" (which ran from 25 January 1909 - 10 April 1909).
• • On 1 October 1928, Alan Brooks played the role of Rodney Terrill in Mae West's "Pleasure Man," which was raided during its premiere at the Biltmore Theatre. The play was completely shut down after its second performance.
• • His last Broadway show was "The Metropolitan Players" (December 1932) and, ironically, he played the Counsel's Opinion.
• • At age 48 Alan Brooks died 29 September 1936, Saranac Lake, NY.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • Alan Brooks [wearing spats] during the trial • • 1930 • •

Mae West.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mae West: Abstract Expression


Many artists and illustrators drew MAE WEST. Perhaps the least admired painting of Mae was done by de Kooning, who died a decade ago in March 1997.
• • Born in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), Willem de Kooning [24 April 1904 – 19 March 1997] became known as an abstract expressionist. In 1964 he executed quite a peculiar item that was his version of MAE WEST. The 24" by 18" work was created with oil and charcoal on resin-coated paper.
• • Who would purchase such an oddity? In 1966, art collector Joseph H. Hirshhorn [1899-1981] bought it from de Kooning. Eventually, Hirshhorn donated "Mae West" - - along with other pieces - - to the Smithsonian Institution, where it now resides in the Hirshhorn building. That means you can come and see Mae in D.C.
• • After a life of alcoholism and various mental problems, in the 1980s de Kooning was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and a court declared him unfit to manage his estate, which was turned over to conservators. He died on 19 March 1997 a month before his 93rd birthday.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • Willem de Kooning • • 1964 • •

Mae West.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mae West: Self-Reliance


In March 2000, an article on MAE WEST was printed in The New Criterion. Canadian essayist Mark Steyn discussed Mae as author in his piece "Mae Days." This is a brief excerpt from his enjoyable piece. Mae West was the embodiment of Emersonian self-reliance - - unlike "bigtime NEA trough-feeders" [such as Karen Finley].
• • ... The defining attribute of Mae West is not that she’s against censorship but that, in every respect, she stands for self-reliance. She’s a trouper in the truest sense: She climbed the ladder of success wrong by wrong, as she later said, but, by God, she climbed it herself. She began writing material because the lame lines the pros wrote for her vaudeville skits didn’t work. She became a playwright because the star vehicle she needed never turned up. She became a producer because the Main Stem boys ran scared. If you were to construct the exact negative of today’s bigtime NEA trough-feeders, it would look exactly like Mae West.
• • The point is reinforced by the play itself. Sex, the first of West’s plays to make it to the stage, is a crude, raucous, vulgar melo-comedy about Margy LaMont, a Montreal hooker who climbs her way up to a Connecticut mansion. As The New Criterion’s resident Quebecker, I confess I’m not entirely persuaded by the idea that Montreal-to-Connecticut represents upward mobility, but let that pass: all Montreal hookers (about 68 percent of the population, I’d estimate) will take a quiet pride in West’s characterization of Margy. For one reason, all the other characters are forgettable cutouts. But that doesn’t matter because West made Margy one of those chippy, brash, tough-as-nails purpose gals whose lines crackle across the footlights. As she tells the snooty socialite Clara, “the only difference between us is that you could afford to give it away.”
• • The only contemporary relevance to all this is its irrelevance: the difference between Margy and Karen Finley is that Karen expects the taxpayer to give it away to her. Indeed, Margy shares with every Mae West character an overwhelming revulsion against dependence. A few years later, when Paramount attempted to change the title of She Done Him Wrong to He Done Her Wrong, West put her foot down, disdaining the clich├ęs of victim drama....
• • Source: "Mae Days" by Mark Steyn [published in The New Criterion, March 2000]
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • Lyons Wickland • • 1927 • •

Mae West.