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:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 27 April 1927 • •
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Mae West.

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