Concluding our eye-witness coverage of the MAE WEST panel at UCLA on Monday evening, 23 February 2009, here are some fascinating close-ups collected by our West Coast correspondents and also our indefatigable Hollywood-based Mae mavens, who sat up front and took it all in.
• • The brother of the producer of "My Little Chickadee" was in the audience. He was 92.
• • It was made known that a certain fellow — — a devastatingly delicious Angeleno who sports a number of well-placed Mae West tattoos — — was widely photographed at the February 23rd maypole frolics at UCLA. [We wish we had a few those mouth-watering negatives to share.]
• • Our invaluable Hollywood spies have relayed a juicy slice of riveting refreshment.
• • February 23rd panelist Kevin Thomas remarked that Mae West wrote down quips as they came to her on anything nearby and them put them in her purse. He says Paul Novak left him an entire boxful of unused lines. That is fantastic. Kevin Thomas talked at length about Mae fan, collector, and friend, Dolly Dempsey. This was one of the few women Mae West admitted into her inner circle — — a woman for whom she had genuine affection. Kevin Thomas said she was holding Mae's hand when she passed away in 1980. In the 1970s, Dolly Dempsey said to Kevin Thomas: "She loves Paul Novak — — she just doesn't know it."
• • Our West Coast onlooker writes: On February 23rd, panelist Tim Malachosky's recollections were very mundane and trivial. Kevin Thomas said (incorrectly) that Tim was the closest person to Mae West who is still alive. However, I can think of at least three right off the top of my head who were much closer to her. It is fair to say that Tim Malachosky was Paul Novak's helper and little more than that. It would appear that Charlotte Chandler and Tim Malachosky had a kinship of some sort — — something very 'proper old lady-like' that seemed extremely out of place in what was supposed to be a Mae West environment.
• • Our West Coast onlooker adds: One unsettling moment was when Kevin Thomas recalled that whenever he saw Tim Malachosky at Mae West's place, he always offered him a ride back to Santa Monica — — and Tim always refused. Kevin Thomas said someone finally told him: "You don't know why he refuses? It's because Timmy wants to the last person Mae sees." When Thomas called Mae "pleasingly plump," Malachosky looked as though he had been mortally wounded.
• • February 23rd panelist Jonathan Kuntz gave a great slideshow with commentary and high quality images (although several were under incorrect titles and years). He spoke at length about censorship.
• • February 23rd panelist Dan Price was the one fellow who seemed to have known the real Mae West very well — — and so he must have been good looking back then. Dan Price told some very funny stories (that were met with bemused expressions from Thomas and Malachosky). For instance, Dan Price said that Mae West and Paul reminded him of the movie "Sunset Boulevard," in that often Novak would get into full chauffeur gear to drive her somewhere. Price also said he mentioned Mickey Hargitay to her (in the 1970s). According to Dan Price, Mae West said: "Something was wrong with that guy. Why would he want THAT, when he coulda had THIS!" — — and lifted her right breast out with great pride. The audience roared!
• • February 23rd panelist Marvin Paige rehashed all of the usual "Sextette" on-set stories, which are a very, VERY stark contrast to the Mae West who is speaking in Charlotte Chandler's book. I was going to ask about this — — in that they were on the same panel — — but I refrained from causing a very, very awkward moment.
• • All of the February 23rd panelists agreed that Mae West had extremely beautiful skin, the loveliest complexion, amazing hands, and a 'special aura' unlike any other they had ever known. I have heard this before. Even a very, very critical friend of mine (who met Mae West on several occasions) once told me, "She lit up a room. She had a special aura about her."
• • A February 23rd panelist stated that Mae was a night owl, and woke up at noon usually. Considering she was an older lady, I find that really, really cool.
• • Mae West's racier motion picture clips were shown (pre-censorship) and ONCE AGAIN, this audience seemed clueless. They even missed the obviously funny lines. Only when they saw a scene from "Every Day's a Holiday" — — when Mae West's cape turns into her backdrop/ curtain — — did they all bust out laughing. Hmmm. I never even knew that was supposed to BE amusing! Only later, when a not-so-funny Mae quip was repeated [that is, "a long gown covers a multitude of SHINS"] and this audience roared with laughter, did I finally realize these adults must have been regular attendees to any and all free UCLA events.
• • Our West Coast onlooker reveals: NO ONE appeared to have bought or read this book, which I thought was very interesting to note. I was the only one there who had Charlotte Chandler's book with me.
• • I was startled to notice that over one-third of the audience was asleep and happily snoring away. Only when Kevin Thomas or Dan Price said anything amusing, did it seem to revive the place somewhat. Even Charlotte Chandler appeared to be dozing off on occasion!
• • Unfortunately, there were not too many voyagers into Mae West's storied past on February 23rd. UCLA's promotion coordinators put forth a rather low-energy outreach and the auditorium (which can accommodate 278 listeners) was barely half-full for this free event.
• • The Mae West blog is grateful to these stalwart screen-lovers for their patience and their comments. This concludes our front-row coverage of UCLA's somewhat lukewarm toast to the icon of the 20th century — — the Brooklyn bombshell herself.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none • •