Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mae West: Deep in the Heart

It was March 1924 and MAE WEST was deep in the heart of a Texan.
• • It's also true that she was 30 years old and watching her star-dusted dreams slowly dimming. When she did snag a booking, it was on a low-level variety circuit. Though a few years before she had negotiated an appearance fee of $500, in 1924 she was accepting gigs for only $125 a week. During this frustrating interval, she was hiring and firing her accompanists.
• • Imagine Mae's state of mind as she trouped during the month of March in 1924 through the southwest, where she had accepted a four-week contract to perform on the Interstate Vaudeville Circuit. Covering Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas, this was one of variety's least desirable routes and a far cry from Broadway.
• • In Houston, Texas, the Brooklyn bombshell turned the head of a publicity flack for a nearby playhouse.
• • Eventually, the Associated Press discovered a marriage license [dated 22 March 1924] obtained — — but never used — — by Mae West and a local theatre press agent named R.A. "Bud" Burmeister.
• • Was it a touch of Cupid or career capitulation that made Mae entertain the idea of settling down? Maybe Mae was overcome by the heat of hormones — — or did she have a pregnancy scare? And how long could she have known Mr. R.A. "Bud" Burmeister, a 34-year-old resident of Harris County, Texas anyway? Hmmmmmm.
• • Before any orange blossoms were ordered for the bride, Mae took off (as scheduled) on March 23rd for San Antonio, where she played through March 24th.
• • Perhaps this was the time when Mae registered at the famous Menger Hotel. Located in downtown San Antonio, Texas, this landmark was built in 1859 (23 years after the fall of the adjacent Alamo) by William Menger, a German immigrant. In 1898, Teddy Roosevelt had used the bar to recruit Rough Riders which fought in Cuba in the Spanish-American War.
• • The Menger was San Antonio's most popular hotel in the 19th Century. Mae West along with O. Henry, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Babe Ruth, Oscar Wilde, and others were known to frequent the bar and hotel, which was periodically enlarged and remodelled to accommodate more guests. The Menger Hotel is located here: 204 Alamo Plaza, San Antonio, TX 78205.
• • After such a rough ride with romance, Mae headed for the footlights in a Fort Worth theatre, and then saddled up for an engagement in Detroit before returning to the East Coast — — and a long hitch of unemployment.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Mae West.


  1. You have to hand it to Miss West. She certainly loved men, but one at a time, always the true lady. Your reference to a marriage license taken out in 1924 is an interesting discovery in light of the fact that Guido Deiro and West were married and ample proof lies deposited in Envelope 7, Miscellaneous Letters, and Legal Documents in the collection at the Center for the Study of Free-Reed instruments at the City University of New York, Graduate Center. Years earlier, In 1911, West married Frank Wallace without obtaining a divorce. No mention is ever made in any Mae West biography of her being a bigamist.

  2. • • The a-MAE-zing Miss West was, obviously, a bigamist.
    • • Having wed Frank Wallace on 11 April 1911, and not having shed her first husband before swapping marital vows with Guido Deiro in 1914, were painful secrets Mae hid from her mother along with her ticket-buying public.
    • • Then on 14 July 1920, Mae West filed for a divorce from Guido Deiro, charging him with abandonment. Having moved back to her parents' house in Queens County, Mae filed her petition at the courthouse in Jamaica, Queens.
    • • When their divorce became final in November 1920, Guido Deiro quickly wed his third [and much younger] wife.
    • • Mae West was so daunted by this illegal marriage and the bigamy (not to mention how much Guido affected her equilibrium), that she did not dare to mention the Italian's name in her autobiography, coyly referring to him only as "Mr. D."
    • • The marriage with Frank Wallace was a serious legal problem that both Jim Timony and Beverly tried to help Mae solve except Mr. Wallace was uncooperative until the 1930s, when he resurfaced and went after the movie star's fortune.
    • • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/