Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mae West: Satin & Latin

It was on 30 April 1956 that Robert W. Dana's felicitous coverage of "The MAE WEST Review" appeared.
• • Dana's popular daily dish "Tips on Tables" was printed in the now defunct New York World-Telegram & Sun.
• • His column "Mae West's Show Grows" [dated April 30th] indicated Dana had seen the routine previously.
• • Robert W. Dana wrote: The old belief that everything should be bigger and better — — a thought most forcefully pronounced by Hollywood trailers — — can be applied with forthright honesty to Mae West, who has returned to the Latin Quarter [in New York City on West 48th Street], where she scored heavily in the fall [sic] of 1954. . . .
• • A native New Yorker, Robert Dana was born in 1907. His lengthy writing career began on the Drama Desk of the New York Herald Tribune. Years later, after penning a column on restaurants and night spots for this daily paper, Dana gathered those reviews into a book published in 1948. So well-known was he among New York's nightlife czars, that he did a stint for awhile as a night club and restaurant press agent. Subsequently, Robert Dana commandeered a regular byline at the New York World-Telegram column. This energetic reporter also hosted a radio show and short-lived TV program offering his opinions on the stars and entertainers during the 1940s—1950s.
• • Staying active and alert to the end, Robert W. Dana lived to be 89 and died in 1996.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mae West: Ray Johnson

During the 1950s, Ray Johnson began using images of MAE WEST in his artwork in a way that anticipated the 1960s works of Pop artists (such as Warhol).
• • Born in Detroit, Michigan, Ray Edward Johnson (1927 — 1995) was a seminal figure of the Pop Art movement. Primarily a collagist, Johnson was also an early performance and conceptual artist. Once called “New York’s most famous unknown artist," he is considered the “Founding Father of Mail Art" and pioneered the incorporation and use of language in the visual arts.
• • Until his death in 1995, Johnson continued his work in collage, sent out volumes of mail art, and staged numerous performances. He became increasingly reclusive, however. As his contemporaries became famous, Johnson cultivated his role as an outsider, parodying celebrity through performances, fake openings, and photocopy-machine art. From 1982 on, he repeatedly refused offers from numerous galleries to exhibit his art, and for the last five years of his life, he refused all public exhibitions of his works. On 13 January 1995, Ray Johnson’s body was found floating in a small cove in Sag Harbor, NY. He was 67 years old.
• • An ambitious posthumous show at the Richard L. Feigen Gallery — — which opens today on Wednesday, 29 April 2009 (and runs through the end of July 2009) — — will reveal the shared interests and iconography of Ray Johnson, Salvador Dali, and Andy Warhol. This exhibition will feature an exciting selection of previously unexhibited collages by Ray Johnson that will show his distinct and incessant layering of re-appropriated imagery from Surrealism, high culture, and Pop Art. The three artists all exploited celebrity — — both their own and others’ — — and constructed powerful personae that were an integral part of their work. While Dali and Warhol sought the limelight in order to promote their art, Johnson was more interested in dodging in and out of it and became famous for being ‘unknown.’
• • Curiously, the lives and the art of Ray Johnson, Dali, and Warhol were intertwined, from the Factory to Studio 54, from the late 1950s through the 1980s. The exhibition will illustrate Johnson’s exploration of themes common to Dali and Warhol — — celebrity, gender ambiguity, and religion. Collages and mail art by Johnson and works by Dali and Warhol share references to Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, the Mona Lisa, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and Jesus Christ. As curator Frédérique Joseph-Lowery discusses in the accompanying catalogue, “For all three artists, the female body became a sort of rendez-vous of experimentation for formal strategies regarding the interaction and ‘relationship’ of painting, collage, photography, stamping, photocopying….”
• • The exhibition is being held at this Manhattan dealer's gallery: Richard L. Feigen — — 34 East 69th Street, New York, NY 10021.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mae West: Ken and Then

Ken Hughes once worked with MAE WEST.
• • Then 56 years old when he was at the helm of "Sextette" in 1978, based on Mae West's play ["Sextet"], the British director died in the month of April and is being remembered. Not unlike reading the work of a very clever Marxist, the script's logic is impeccable, even when the premise — — that an actress in her 80s can portray a 26-year-old sexpot — — is wrong.
• • "Sextette" was the middle-aged director's first American film — — as well as Mae West's final screen appearance.
• • Vincent Canby, then the film critic of The New York Times, pursed his lips and gave the project a sound spanking. Canby wrote: The story, based on a play written some years ago by Miss West, is about a world-famous movie star and her attempts to consummate her sixth marriage to Sir Michael Barrington (Timothy Dalton) despite repeated interruptions by former husbands, lovers, dress designers, secret agents, publicity people and delegates attending an international peace conference just upstairs. It's a plot that Miss West has often favored, and it freely reprises a lot of lines from earlier pictures. The movie was directed by Ken Hughes ("The Small World of Sammy Lee," "Cromwell," and so on), a fellow you might think had better things to do than to prop up the Tower of Pisa. In addition to Mr. Dalton, "Sextette" features a number of other people who, in happier circumstances, are decent actors. These include Tony Curtis, George Hamilton, Ringo Starr, and the incomparable Dom DeLuise. There are some original songs and some old ones, a couple of which sound as if they'd been lip-synched by Miss West to old recordings . . . [N.Y. Times 8 June 1979].
• • On 19 January 1922, Kenneth Graham Hughes was born in Liverpool, England.
• • The Hollywood director developed Alzheimer's disease and died on 28 April 2001 in Los Angeles. Several of his obituaries reminded the public that "Sextette" was a camp disaster and, furthermore, that the writer/ director had had a prolific but "remarkably inconsistent career" with only one hands-down triumph: "The Trials of Oscar Wilde." Hard to believe the same person directed the family musical and moneymaker "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," the James Bond loser "Casino Royale," and "Sextette."

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Monday, April 27, 2009

Mae West: East River

On 27 April 1927, shortly after daybreak, MAE WEST was released from her jail cell.
• • The week before, one of her hometown papers ran with this headline: "Common Nuisance Mae West Goes to Jail."
• • On 20 April 1927 Mae West had been sentenced to ten days in the Women's Workhouse (then located on Welfare Island) in the middle of the East River.
• • During the trial in March and early April — — presided over by Judge George Donnellan — — Mae West had argued in a written statement that her plays were a work of art. Her lawyers made a case that "Sex" was a morally instructive drama. Mae did not take the stand. At Jefferson Market Court, Justice Donnellan had suggested a guilty verdict would be fitting, before the jurors went off to deliberate. Six hours later, the verdict came in. At her sentencing, Mae West was fined $500 and given 10 days to repent at an off-shore detention center.
• • The warden shortened her sentence by two days for good behavior.
• • The play "Courting Mae West" dramatizes the trial and the melee in court when the verdict comes in.
• • Mae was paid $1,000 to write about her experiences for a women's magazine. Some of her essay appears elsewhere on this blog. [Mae donated the $1,000 to the workhouse to establish a library for female inmates.]
• • Released from the lock-up on April 27th, Mae told the reporters — — who were waiting for her like Stage Door Johnnies — — that she had enough material for several plays now.
Criminal street cred served the playwright well when she sat down to write "Diamond Lil" about a woman with a thing for bling, whose motto is, "My career is diamonds."
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mae West: Tammany Young

In 1932, Tammany Young was in one motion picture with MAE WEST.
• • Born in New York City, Tammany Young [9 September 1886 — 26 April 1936] appeared on Broadway in "The Front Page" [1928] by Ben Hecht and "The New Yorkers" [1930] by Herbert Fields and Cole Porter. He acquired the rep of being a “good luck actor” by Broadway producers. Consequently, he was often cast in bit parts by the likes of the Shubert brothers, Jed Harris, and David Belasco as a way of attracting good luck to their productions. This high regard paid off and Alex Gard drew his likeness for Sardi's restaurant.
• • In Hollywood, Young started out in silent films and then was cast in talkies. Although frequently uncredited, he eventually appeared in over 100 movies with such stars as Mae West, Myrna Loy, Bing Crosby, Shirley Temple, and Judy Garland.
• • In "She Done Him Wrong," Tammany Young portrayed the colorful Chuck Connors, who had been a well-known figure on the Bowery. On Broadway, Mae West had cast Chuck Connors, Jr. in the role of Chuck Connors in "Diamond Lil" for an air of authenticity.
• • But he was known most notably for his role as the stooge (straight man) to W.C. Fields with whom he appeared in seven films: Sally of the Sawdust (1925), Six of a Kind (1934), You're Telling Me! (1934), The Old Fashioned Way (1934), It's a Gift (1934), Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935), and Poppy (1936).
• • Tammany Young also was an infamous gate crasher. By claiming to be an ice man, he worked his way into the 1921 Dempsey — Carpentier prize fight in New Jersey, for instance; in 1932 he found his way into the Los Angeles Olympics. These exploits often popped up in the columns of sportswriters who knew him.
• • During the month of April — — on 26 April 1936 — — Tammany Young died in his sleep in Hollywood at the age of 49. At the news of Young's untimely demise in California, W.C. Fields became severely depressed and stopped eating and sleeping. One wonders: did he also stop drinking while in mourning?
• • Speaking of April 26th, on that sunny date in 1926, "Sex" debuted on Broadway starring Mae West as Margy LaMont at Daly's 63rd Street Theatre.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mae West: My Pharaoh Lady

It sounds a bit like an April Fool's joke but it's a fact that this Sunday a Florida church service will feature MAE WEST.
• • The production is "Tut-Tut or My Pharaoh Lady." Possibly the most unusual, or at least the most entertaining, Sunday church service ever will be tomorrow.
• • St. Pete’s Unitarian Universalist Church presents an original, intergenerational musical comedy in which a pharaoh’s quest for enlightenment brings him into contact with, among others, the “half-back of Notre Dame,” a French pastry chef, the Keystone Cops, and Mae West. On Sunday — — 26 April 2009 — — at 11 a.m., Unitarian Universalist Church of Saint Petersburg, 719 Arlington Avenue N. (on Mirror Lake), St. Petersburg, FL 33701. The public is invited and admission is free. Tel: 797-898-3294.
• • If you attend this comical Christian cavalcade of soulful seekers, drop us a line and tell us more. (We think this could catch on.)

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Friday, April 24, 2009

Mae West: Sexperiments

Reverend Jen, who has a new book out, explained that MAE WEST has been one of her heroes and role models.
• • In order of priority, Reverend Jen named the people she admires and listed her major influences: Mae West, Alfred Jarry, Picasso, Keith Moon, Mel Brooks, Gandalf, Spongebob, the Fonz, Pippi Longstocking, Anais Nin, Wonder Woman, Coco Chanel, Cleopatra, and Brad Prowley — — the karaoke guy who busks in this neighborhood.
• • Since the 1990s, Reverend Jen has called the Lower East Side home. She resides south of Houston Street with her chihuahua, Reverend Jen Junior — — a dog-clothes model. Her newest release is Live Nude Elf: The Sexperiments of Reverend Jen [NY: Soft Skull, 2009]. Her publisher described this paperback as “a witty, irreverent, brave, and sometimes portrait of the Reverend Jen Miller, the Patron Saint of the Uncool, examining the challenges of devoting one's personal and professional life of art.”
• • A writer, painter, and performance artist, Jen attended NYC's School of Visual Arts in 1990 “and has since experienced no financial success whatsoever,” she's quick to say. Awwww!

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mae West: Boca Raton

Would MAE WEST have been able to teach Hugh Hefner about sex — — or vice versa?
• • On Friday April 24th, Hefner's new documentary will be screened — — "Why Be Good? Sexuality and Censorship in Early Cinema"
— — in the rat's mouth of Florida.
• • Robert Sims of The Palm Beach Post aired his opinion of it. He writes: Produced by Hefner, written by The Palm Beach Post's Scott Eyman, and narrated in mischievous fashion by Diane Lane, this bubbly documentary confirms what we already knew: Sex sold in 1909 as just as it sells today. While the audiences then didn't expect to walk into a comedy and see male nudity — — thank you, Observe and Report — — they were still treated to some racy stuff. Mae West, Louise Brooks, Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow and other sexpots knew how to flaunt their built-for-sin bodies, while Errol Flynn and Rudolph Valentino had women swooning. Then came a smattering of high-profile sex scandals — — the most infamous involving Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle — — that left the public shocked.
• • "Why Be Good?" offers its most intriguing analysis when addressing the friction-filled relationship between Hollywood and a government unsure how to rein in an industry that refused to keep sex behind closed doors. The government's concern eventually resulted in the establishment of the Production Code, or the Hays Code after its chief enforcer Will H. Hays, which effectively clamped down on what Hollywood could show or depict. Given Hef's fingerprints are all over this documentary, Why Be Good? obviously cast a disapproving eye on government determining what was morally acceptable for audiences from 1930 to 1968. Why Be Good? doesn't go as far as declaring the sexual revolution of the 1960s would have happened decades earlier were it not for the Hays Code. But it makes a case that the government should let the public decide what to see, not some close-minded pencil pusher.
• • Why Be Good? screens at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton, Florida; and also on 5 p.m. Monday at the Lake Worth Playhouse, 709 Lake Ave., Lake Worth in Las Vegas.
— — Source: — —
• • Film Reviews
• • By ROBERT SIMS, Palm Beach Daily News
• • Published in: The Palm Beach Post — — www.palmbeachpost.com
• • Published on: 22 April 2009
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mae West: Royale Success

On 22 April 1928, The New York Times was talking about MAE WEST. On the theatre page was an announcement that "Diamond Lil" was the most prosperous of all the recent stage productions.
• • "Diamond Lil" debuted at the Royale Theatre [242 West 45th Street, NYC]
on 9 April 1928. It was a huge box office success — — as well as a favorite with drama critics.
• • Interestingly, though Mae had worn contemporary styles as Margy LaMont in "Sex," she situated her 1928 script in New York City during the Gay Nineties. Even after the show's run, the character Diamond Lil became the actress's enduring persona.
• • Engaging gowns designed by the British costumer Dolly Tree balanced Mae West's scarlet sisterhood style with a glamorous touch that made her more appealing to a middle-class audience.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mae West: Nils and Smiles

The critics often weighed in on MAE WEST — — and seldom were they indulgent.
• • Back on 21 April 1928, Billboard's resident killjoy was Robert Garland. He had also been reviewing for the New York World—Telegram and was a founding member of the Drama Critics Circle. Perhaps trying to insure she would get good notices from him, one hopeful changed her name from Miss Gumm to "Judy Garland," snagging his surname.
• • Well, on that date eighty-one years ago, Robert Garland actually paid "Diamond Lil" a left-hand compliment.
• • "You'd have thought that a favorite bootlegger had come back from Atlanta," wrote drama critic Robert Garland in the New York Evening Telegram [5 April 1928]. "Mae West makes Miss Ethel Barrymore look like the late lamented Bert Savoy."
• • Wouldn't you know it? We did not notice any books about Robert Garland reviewed today in the London Guardian. However, we did spot a column about the book "Heroes: From Alexander the Great To Mae West" by Paul Johnson [Orion Books]. Which brings to mind this bit of Middle Eastern wisdom: "The dogs bark — — but the caravan moves on."
• • On 21 April 1957, the world received the sad news that Nils T. Granlund had died in a taxi accident in Las Vegas.
• • Born in Sweden but raised in the USA, Nils T. Granlund [29 September 1890 — 21 April 1957] was a Broadway show producer, radio industry pioneer, and also a publicist for Marcus Loew who formed Loews Theatres and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). So well known that he went by his initials N.T.G., this powerhouse was Mae West's publicist and he also attended her wedding when she married Guido Deiro.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Monday, April 20, 2009

Mae West: Gregory Ratoff

Gregory Ratoff and MAE WEST did not always see eye to eye.
• • Ratoff was related to Mae thanks to his shifty cousin Vladimir Baikoff, who was the actress's brother-in-law and Beverly's second Russian husband.
• • Born in Samara, Russia in April — — on 20 April 1897 — — the 25-year-old actor first sailed to the USA in 1922. A year later Gregory Ratoff wed actress Eugenie Leontovich. He returned to New York in July 1925 on the SS Mauretania with his Russian-Jewish mother, deciding to settle in.
• • As an accent piece, he was harmless. Gregory Ratoff played Tira's New York City lawyer Benny Pinkowitz in "I'm No Angel" [1933]. And many fans remember the amusing scene in which Mae West and Ratoff are discussing the breach-of-promise suit.
• • In early 1943, when "Catherine Was Great" was being hammered out, Mae got a visit from Ratoff. He wanted her to star in a new film for Columbia Pictures to be called "The Heat's On," which he would direct. To arouse Mae's interest further, he hinted that he might also produce her newest extravaganza rushing to Broadway.
• • After many delays and disruptions, "The Heat's On" was released 9 February 1944 to jeers, sneers, and razzberries.
• • For the record, "Catherine Was Great" had its live mainstage premiere on 2 August 1944. The show closed on the Gay White Way on 13 January 1945.
• • Gregory Ratoff's most famous screen role was his portrayal of the producer Max Fabian who feuds with star Margo Channing (Bette Davis) in "All About Eve" [1950].
• • Director, actor, and producer Gregory Ratoff contracted leukemia and died on 14 December 1960 in Switzerland.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mae West: April 19th

April 19th was a memorable date for MAE WEST.
• • By 19 April 1911, while touring on the vaudeville circuit in Minneapolis, Mae had uttered five obscenities and owed Little Gorman, treasurer of their Curse Club, fifty cents for these infractions. In truth, by cursing and acting up, Mae was showing the troupe how rapidly dissatisfied she had become with "marital bliss" and her limp biscuit of a bridegroom Frank Wallace.
• • On 19 April 1933, bombshell Jayne Mansfield [1933 —1967] was born. Twenty-three years later, the starlet would be making the moves on Mickey Hargitay, then starring in the Mae West Revue. Miss Mansfield married the muscleman in 1957.
• • On 19 April 1962, Curtis Cooksey, who had co-starred with Mae in "Diamond Lil" [1928], and had created the leading man role of the handsome Captain Cummings during the play's maiden voyage on Broadway, committed suicide. Charismatic Curtis Cooksey, who was born on 9 December 1891 in Indiana, had contracted cancer and did away with himself at age 70.
• • • • Sentenced on 19 April 1927 • • • •
• • Most unforgettably, on 19 April 1927, actress Mae West was sentenced for her performance in "Sex," the Broadway play she wrote, cast, and starred in. She was given ten days in prison and the jail time seems to have done her good — — from a publicity standpoint. As she left the courtroom, followed by reporters, friends, fans, and gawkers, Mae predicted, "I expect this will be the making of me!"
• • Though Mae West was sentenced to 10 days, she actually only served 8 days. The actress received "time off for good behavior."
• • Last summer (July 2008), the cast of "Courting Mae West" acted out the chaos inside that Greenwich Village courtroom on 5 April 1927. The scintillating Yvonne Sayers, who portrayed Mae West, was on trial with Eric Eastman, who played her "Sex" co-star and co-defendant, Barry O'Neill. The judge's verdict ended Act I.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • The serious-minded comedy "Courting Mae West" by Greenwich Village playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo, set during 1926 1932, explores Mae West's legal woes surrounding "The Drag" and "Sex." Scenes in Act I dramatize Mae's interactions with her drag queen cast, the police raid on 9 February 1927, and the tense aftermath at Jefferson Market Police Court.
• • Using fictional elements, the text is anchored by true events and has several characters who are based on real people: actress Mae West; Beverly West; Jim Timony; Texas Guinan; a news seller on Sixth Avenue and West 9th Street; and Sara Starr, based on the Greenwich Village flapper Starr Faithfull, whose death inspired John O'Hara's novel "Butterfield 8" and a dozen other books.
• • "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets" has attracted the attention of a theatre owner and Is now seeking a co-producer.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mae West: Mink-Gloved

As the long-term film critic of The Los Angeles Times, Kevin Thomas had ample opportunities to chat with MAE WEST and come up and see her. Only Kevin knows how much the screen legend revealed about her parents' carefully cultivated underworld connections.
• • Both Matilda and Jack West had on-gong dealings with gangsters, fixers, con men, murderers, bootleggers, thugs, and ward heelers
— — shady associates who could also be helpful in furthering "Baby Mae's" vaudeville career. In 1907, when Hal Clarendon accepted Mae into his Brooklyn stock company [incorporated by 15 April 1907 when Mae was 13 years old], it was because he "respected Mae's connections" to a handsome mobster who was gunned down by a crime boss five years later.
• • Did Mae West's recollections roam over the names of racketeers and other rough spots when she and Kevin Thomas were taking tea on North Rossmore? Did the actress reveal how much of her Bowery drama "Diamond Lil" [filmed as "She Done Him Wrong"] was inspired by the jailbirds and career criminals her Dad clubbed around with? The blue-eyed writer-actress was already comfortable with convicts when she moved into shoot-out central, the mob-controlled hotel on West 54th Street where she wrote the play in 1927. But let's move on.
• • On Monday evening, 23 February 2009, both Kevin Thomas and Charlotte Chandler were panelists at UCLA, and now his mink-gloved summation of her biography has been printed. His gentle-handed and sufficiently tactful assessment appears below.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Kevin Thomas writes: Charlotte Chandler's gift at getting legendary show business figures to open up about themselves is unique. For "She Always Knew How," Chandler not only got the last major interview with Mae West — — not long before her death in 1980 at 87 — — but also what is almost certainly the most extensive interview West ever gave.
• • It's not that "She Always Knew How" is full of surprises, but that its depth and breadth brings West to life as thoughtful, caring, and reflective, a woman of resilient character, self-knowledge and shrewdness in regard to human nature and in sustaining a career over eight decades.
• • As is well known, West had an extraordinarily close and loving relationship with her Bavarian-born mother Matilda, whose parents forbade her to go on the stage. As a result, she encouraged her daughter. Here, West talks at length about her mother's unstinting confidence in her; Matilda saw her daughter triumph on Broadway with the iconic "Diamond Lil" in 1928, but she died [in January 1930] before West went on to conquer Hollywood.
• • West is candid about how her mother's focus on her exacted a price on both her younger sister, Beverly, who also had theatrical dreams, and, to a lesser extent, on her younger brother, John. Born in 1893, West began performing in lodge halls in her native Brooklyn at the age of 5 and in time became the key support for her entire family, which she remained for the rest of her life.
• • She made no bones about being less close to her father John West, who acquired some renown as the prizefighter Battlin' Jack. Yet in talking to Chandler, West discovers that she had more feelings for him than she realized, crediting him for being a loving and attentive father. Surely, it's significant that West was always attracted to rugged men like her father
— — especially boxers and wrestlers. She emphasizes the comfort in which she and her siblings were raised; apparently, Matilda got some financial assistance from relatives because John West was no great shakes as a breadwinner.
• • • • Underworld Contacts • • • •
• • Chandler leaves it to other biographers to reveal that Matilda ultimately ran a roadhouse; she's more interested in West's sense of self. But there's no question that the underworld contacts Matilda developed would prove crucial to her daughter's success.
• • To friends, West could be very open about her relationship with the notorious gangster Owney Madden, a key backer in her original "Diamond Lil" production. Through him, she came to know George Raft — — then one of Madden's drivers — — and Raft was instrumental in getting Paramount to bring her to Hollywood to appear in his picture "Night After Night" (1932).
• • West has often been credited with saving Paramount in the depths of the Depression with her pre-Production Code classics "She Done Him Wrong" and "I'm No Angel," which, in turn, made Cary Grant, her leading man in both films, a major star. By 1935, she had become the highest-salaried woman in the nation.
• • The enforcement of the code in 1934 gradually undermined her screen career, but West soldiered on, returning to Broadway in 1944 with the play "Catherine Was Great." [She also revived "Diamond Lil" on Broadway in 1949.] In the 1950s, she conquered the nightclub circuit performing with a chorus line of bodybuilders, wrote her memoirs and never really retired.
• • West often spoke positively about Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley but never in such detail as she does to Chandler. These remarks are among the most poignant in the book. She recognized that both Monroe and Presley were sex personalities — — she adroitly called herself "a sex personality" rather than a sex symbol — — and she lamented that they allowed others to have power over their lives and careers. Early on, she sought Presley out to give him encouragement, but came to believe that he was too insecure to enjoy his success. She could have costarred with him in the circus picture "Roustabout" but was amazed and disappointed that he didn't have the power to guarantee that she could write her part for herself.
• • West was always her own creation, writing or adapting all her own material. "From the time I was a little girl I loved every minute of the success," she says here, "and it felt more wonderful than I could have imagined."
• • Kevin Thomas reviews movies for The L.A. Times.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
— — Source: — —
• • Book Review: 'She Always Knew How' by Charlotte Chandler
A thoughtful biography of Mae West that benefits from a detailed interview the author had with West not long before she died.
• • Byline: By Kevin Thomas [longtime film critic for The Times]
• • Published in: The Los Angeles Times — — www.latimes.com
• • Published on: 16 April 2009

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Mae-mavens will recall what happened on 18 April 1969 — — Mae and one of her black monkeys appeared on the cover of Life Magazine, an arresting bedroom image for sure.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Friday, April 17, 2009

Mae West: Kenneth Jay Lane

During her career, diamond diva MAE WEST loved to pile on the glitter — — thereby inspiring one man's career and personal outlook.
• • The famed costume jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane, now 77 years old, launched his career as a shoe designer.
• • However, as a little boy in Detroit, he said, he liked to draw and he had never planned to be a jewelry designer. And when he saw Mae West, wearing "lots and lots" of jewelry in a movie, he began to draw sketches of her. "I once drew a picture of my mother," he told a reporter. "She came out looking like Mae West."
• • Now enjoying a retrospective showing of his "Fabulous Fakes" collection in Long Island [at Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay], Kenneth Jay Lane is yukking it up with news men and dropping names to polish up his anecdotes.
• • Young Kenny from Michigan, totally fascinated by Diamond Lil, eventually found his stairway to success. And bling went the strings of some hearts.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mae West: V-12

During her career, gutsy MAE WEST never took a back seat — — except when she was being driven by her chauffeur.
• • Here's what Mae was doing seventy-five years ago on 16 April 1934, during the height of the Depression: the Paramount Pictures star had ordered and signed for a 1934 V-12 Cadillac Town Cabriolet. The specifications indicated: a black chassis; wire wheels; the top (or roof) in Landau black leather; upholstery in black leather.
• • In the summer of 1995, that well-preserved luxury Cadillac starred in the All-Car Shootout Show Sunday at the Long Island Arena, Veterans Memorial Highway, Commack. In 1995, Newsday reporter Lynn Petry announced that the vintage vehicle was then owned by Joseph Amodei of the Long Island Dream Cars Club, who had purchased it two years before.
• • The newspaper noted that the famous Hollywood car recently had a role in the film, "Batman Forever."
• • After owning it for four years, Mae West donated it to a convent in Sacramento, California.
• • She replaced the 1934 Cadillac Town Cabriolet model with a 1938 Cadillac Fleetwood V-16 Limousine. [Ownership papers for Model 9033F noted this vehicle was also purchased new by the actress.]

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mae West: She Said

Too often the vanilla-flavored Huffington Post is not worth sampling — — but now and then a writer flavors up with MAE WEST.
• • Desperate for a cash cure, and pondering how to secure "some of that Huffington Post Investigative Fund money," unpaid freelancer Jason Notte fills up a lot of space while looking for a few quotable females. Surely there had to be one "she" who said at least some of these things, scribbles Jason Notte. Suddenly, after sifting through a sea of "long" and "hard" wordplay and other juvenalia, an old, grainy image hit me in the face like dual-side airbags: Mae West.
• • Yes, she's been dead since 1980, but Mae West was most certainly the "she" behind much of what she said, realizes Jason Notte. This was a woman working at a time when Donna Reed was considered a vixen and Two and a Half Men would have been tantamount to pornography. With the Hays Code (the movie biz's version of the Patriot Act): in effect, West basically invented the "That's What She Said" approach to double entendre out of necessity. Even under heavy scrutiny, West was able to slip these past the suits at the studios:
• • • • "I do all my writing in bed; everybody knows I do my best work there."
• • • • "A hard man is good to find."
• • • • "When I'm good, I'm very good, but when I'm bad I'm better."
• • and, in what may have been a precursor to the falafel culture at a certain news network:
• • • • "I'm the kinda girl who works for Paramount by day, and Fox all night."
• • Nearly every comedian since has made made West's quips look like Bible verse, but thanks to Mae you can't so much as Twitter under the table without eliciting a slight chuckle. This investigation ended at Mae's family plot in Brooklyn's Cypress Hills Cemetery (and my mailbox, where I'll be expecting that check from HuffPo any day now), but West's take on her sassy stand against the censors still resonates at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company and in dirty minds everywhere:
• • • • "I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it."
• • That's what she said.
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: “Long, Hard Probe Finds 'She' Behind 'That's What She Said'"
• • Byline: By Jason Notte, [underpaid] Editor-turned-freelance writer
• • Published in: The Huffington Post — — huffpost.com [not the right URL but who cares since they are unfair to writers]
• • Published on: 14 April 2009
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mae West: Hollywood Heyday

Hollywood did not bang the drum for MAE WEST — — but on 14 April 1973, the Masquers changed that.
• • It was an SRO celebration when the Masquers Club honored the Empress of Sex with a "Mae Day" tribute. Unlike previous honorees, Mae had insisted on performing a shimmy and singing "Frankie and Johnny." The ceremony was attended by
Sidney Skolsky and many other notables.
• • For instance, Mae's "Myra Breckinridge" cast mate Jim Backus attended the Masquers Club's salute as one of her "Gentlemen in Waiting" (along with George Raft, Jack Larue, Steve Allen, Lloyd Nolan, etc.).
• • When the 1973 event was reborn in an audio format as "Mae Day: The Masquers Club Salutes Mae West CD" [1998], Mae-mavens could hear Jim Backus offering an amusing 4-minute tribute [exactly 4 minutes and 16 seconds long, if you want to get technical] to the buxom blonde guest of honor.

• • The archives of the Masquers preserved the full program (16 pages) from 1973 Mae West Testimonial Dinner, autographed by Mae herself.
• • And it was 75 years ago — — on 13 April 1934 when Mae went shopping in Tinseltown — — for a bulletproof car. Having received death threats, Mae hired bodyguards. Mae-mavens will recollect that the movie queen had been the complaining witness in a 1934 jewel heist.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Mae West: Diamond Life

MAE WEST, whose Broadway blockbuster was "Diamond Lil," was fascinated by characters and the actress-loving gift dispenser Diamond Jim Brady was one of them. Since the very generous gent died in mid-April, it's time for a toast.
• • James Buchanan Brady, also known as Diamond Jim Brady [12 August 1856 – 13 April 1917], was an American businessman, a financier, and a philanthropist.
• • Known for his penchant for jewels, especially diamonds, he collected precious gems and favored his idol Lillian Russell with dazzling doo-dads such as a bicycle encrusted with mother-of-pearl inlaid and other imaginative tributes.
• • For another actress, Diamond Jim commissioned a hand-carved gilded swan bed [shown here].
• • After Brady died on 13 April 1917, Mae West managed to buy the swan bed from his estate. It was used onstage as part of the bedroom suite of "Diamond Lil" [1928] and Mae also finessed the vintage prop into the filmed version "She Done Him Wrong" [1933].
• • Where lies the gilded swan bed today? Who knows?
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Mae West: Armand Tanny

How many of MAE WEST's bodybuilder buddies are still around?
• • Handsome hunk Armand Tanny, a former Muscle Beach mainstay, died in early April.
• • Born on 5 March 1919 in Rochester, New York, Armand was the younger brother of gym-fitness pioneer Vic Tanny — — and began posing in Strength & Health Magazine at 14 years old.
• • As many musclemen did back then, Armand entered the beefcake business as a weightlifter. Still a teenager, he began competing. Eventually, he placed second in the 1941 Junior nationals in Ohio. Reportedly, the 22-year-old champ was able to clean a 300-pound barbell one-handed.
• • When World War II summoned hardy Americans to the front, Armand joined the Coast Guard.
• • After his military service ended, Armand Tanny was a regular at his brother's Santa Monica gym and he wed Shirley Luvin, a Muscle Beach groupie. In 1950, they had a daughter. Disciplined and dedicated, he won the national titles Pro Mr. America [1949] and Mr. USA [1950] doing it the most difficult way — — by daily training and good nutrition and, yes, without steroids. He was an early advocate of raw foods.
• • Jon Thurber, who penned Armand Tanny's obituary for The Los Angeles Times, writes: During the 1950s, he was one of the original nine bodybuilders from Muscle Beach who were part of Mae West's traveling nightclub act. According to the book "Remembering Muscle Beach" by Harold Zinkin with Bonnie Hearn-Hill (Angel City Press, 1999), the nine were known as Mae's Muscle Beach Men. They included such prominent bodybuilders as Joe Gold, George Eiferman, Richard DuBois — — whom Zinkin and Hearn-Hill called "the star" of the group — — Harry Schwartz, Dom Juliano, Lester "Shifty" Schaefer, Irvin "Zabo" Koszewski, Chuck Krauser, and Tanny. According to Hearn-Hill, Armand Tanny organized a strike with Joe Gold when Mae West cut their $250-a-week salaries in half to boost the take at a New York club [i.e., the Latin Quarter]. "Armand and Joe were ready to board the plane," Hearn-Hill told The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. "Mae quickly caved in and they got their full salaries."
• • After touring coast to coast with the Mae West Revue, Tanny, who had a quiet, bookish side, earned a living by writing about physical fitness and bodybuilding for the publication empire helmed by his buddy Joe Weider: Muscle Power, Muscle & Fitness, etc.
• • His daughter Mandy Tanny released a statement about her vivacious father, who was fairly active and still driving his car at age 89. Armand Tanny died of natural causes last Saturday (a month after his 90th birthday), on 4 April 2009, at a nursing facility in Westlake Village, California.
• • In addition to his daughter, Mandy, who is also a bodybuilder and writer, Tanny is survived by his grandson, Mario, a bodybuilder.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mae West: Kent Taylor

How many of MAE WEST's on-screen romancers were memorable?
• • Debonair Kent Taylor portrayed the well-heeled playboy Kirk Lawrence, who pursues Tira tirelessly in "I'm No Angel" [1933]. Can't picture him at all, can you?
• • Born on an Iowa farm on 11 May 1907 [birthname Louis William Weiss], Kent Taylor was tall [six feet], dark, and handsome enough for the movies — — but lacked the requisite magnetism and charisma for stardom. A modestly popular B-list player during the 1930s and 1940s, he evolved into a character actor who took part in over 100 films until the mid-1970s.
• • Though the character Jack Clayton does not appear until halfway though "I'm No Angel," Cary Grant [1904 — 1986] immediately gets a close-up and a solo, since we see Jack alone in his office on the phone, offering the viewer a certain va-va-voom vibe that is denied to Kirk Lawrence.
• • During the early 1950s, with both his rugged good looks and film offers on the decline, Kent Taylor turned more often to TV's temptations, becoming the medium's "Boston Blackie" (1951) for a couple of seasons, a role that had him following in the popular footsteps of film's Chester Morris as the urbane master thief-cum-detective.
• • Though 14-karat career kismet eluded Kirk Lawrence, he was rich in marital felicity. In 1930, the 23-year-old was still working for his father's awning company in Los Angeles when he hooked up with Augusta Kulek, who was probably overjoyed to shed a maiden name bookended by two Ks. They had three children and were happily hitched until his death at age 79 in April — — on 11 April 1987 — — following a series of heart operations.
• • Since it's April 11th, maybe you thought we were going to blog about Mae's marital mistep when she exchanged vows with Frank Wallace in 1911. But we're not.
• • One year later on 11 April 1912 the musical "Winsome Widow" opened on Broadway and Mae West was cast as La Petite Daffy. And there we leave you until April 12th.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Friday, April 10, 2009

Mae West: Go Backstage

Wendy Goodman knows who MAE WEST is but Jeremy Irons doesn't — — though the actor is now ensconced in her former dressing room.
• • Who is this guy who doesn't know much about Mae? Born in Great Britain on 19 September 1948, actor Jeremy Irons is in his second play on Broadway currently.
• • Thanks to her entertaining column "Vulture Visits . . .," the spunky photo-journalist went to West 45th to see what else has changed since the Brooklyn bombshell was hanging out backstage at the Royale [rechristened the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre], and even hosting seances there mid-afternoon. You can see pictures of Mae West's dressing room in the latest issue of New York Magazine. Now on with the interview.
• • Wendy Goodman: Last week, the legendary Jeremy Irons invited us into his dressing room at Broadway's Schoenfeld Theatre, where he's currently starring in Impressionism with Joan Allen. His current backstage alcove is the exact same one he had in 1984 when he starred with Glenn Close in The Real Thing, for which he won a Tony. He spoke with us about the room's paint job (tomato red) and its other previous occupants.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Wendy: What's the most important thing about a dressing room for you?
• • Jeremy: What I love is that I can open that door and everybody going up to their dressing rooms, or coming down, I can talk to, I see on the stairs, so I am not cut off. I am really in the middle of things, I love that. I have a window, I can see the street. I like that. It is not too big. It is just big enough, because I like boat-sized things, and it is a good size in that way. And I have a shower and a loo, which is all you need. I have a window that opens so that I can keep it cool. It just has a nice feel and it also has a memory. Amazing people have been here. One of the original occupants of this dressing room, someone was telling me the other day, a producer who had worked with her ... not Bette Davis ... Who was it who said, "Is that a gun in your pocket or are you excited to see me?"
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Wendy: Mae West!
• • Jeremy: Mae West! Mae West had this dressing room! Which was fantastic, and a lot of great people had this dressing room. There is a great spirit in here, and I love that sort of feeling of continuity.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Wendy: Can you tell us about your history with this dressing room?
• • Jeremy: Well, this is the room I had 25 years ago with The Real Thing, and that is the door that I met, I mean everybody. The door would open and there would be Paul Newman, or Bette Davis. My autograph book [takes it out and shows it to us] has all their signatures. There we are — Rosemary Harris, Louis Malle, Candice Bergen, January 5, 1984. There we are.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Wendy: How was the room when you had it in 1984?
• • Jeremy: It wasn’t this color. This is the color [tomato red] I asked them to paint it this time, because when I came back it had been turned into an office. And I said, "Do you need that office?" And they said they didn’t need it, and I said, "Well, could I have it back as my dressing room?" So they took all the cupboards and the shelves out, put it back as it was, and painted it this color, which I think is a nice warm color, and gave me a couch that I can sleep on, and a table. ...
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: “Vulture Visits Jeremy Irons’s Impressionism Dressing Room"
• • Byline: By Wendy Goodman
• • Published in: New York Magazine — — nymag.com/
• • Published on: 8 April 2009
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • The Royale/ Schoenfeld Theatre is here: 242 West 45th Street, NYC 10036.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Mae West: Castro's Chickadee

MAE WEST is featured in an archival photo with W.C. Fields in the San Francisco Calendar today.
• • Hiya Swanhuyser's brief text — — so bracing and vivacious — — anounces the second coming of Mae. Hear ye, hear ye!
• • Here's what Hiya Swanhuyser wrote: Young people! It is understandable that you assume black and white movies are boring. Youth equals stupidity, after all. No, seriously: If you have not seen My Little Chickadee, you're stupid. It's like if you thought cake was boring, or sexual intercourse.
• • If you have not seen several Mae West movies, you are holding yourself apart from one of the really genuinely nice things that can happen to a live human adult, unless you don't like dialogue such as: He: "Aren't you forgetting that you're married?" She: "I'm doin' my best." Plus, it's time to scrap the whole idea that black and white movies are boring, because that is for children.
• • At Five Buck Tuesdays, well, you can probably figure out what happens with that, no matter how young you are.
• • WHERE: Castro Theatre — — 429 Castro Street, San Francisco, CA 94114; T. (415) 621-6120
• • WHEN: this coming Tuesday, on 14 April 2009 — — at 6:15pm and 8:30 pm.
— — Source: — —
• • Article: “Grow the Hell Up"
• • Byline: By Hiya Swanhuyser
• • Published in: San Francisco Weekly — — www.sfweekly.com
• • Published on: 8 April 2009

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Tell the gang at the Castro that the Mae West blog told you to come up!
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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