Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mae West: Punchy

It's quite tempting to memorialize one or two of the famous palookas whose good looks and midnight maneuvers (temporarily) knocked out MAE WEST.
• • There are enough boxing bio-pics onscreen during the flag-draped weekend of May 30th — 31st that, inevitably, thoughts turn to the handsome (former) heavyweight champion of the world Jack "Manassa Mauler" Dempsey [24 June 1895 — 31 May 1983], who died at the end of May and wooed the actress during 1921 when she was performing in "The Mimic World of 1921."
• • However, the blog is in arrears when it comes to posting reviews on books written about Mae West. And so we make way for these jottings from the British critic Phil Bloomfield.
• • Phil Bloomfield writes: Mae West famously invited people to “come up and see me some time.” Well, the author [Charlotte Chandler] of this book did just that — — and took with her a tape recorder to capture the reminiscences of Mae West shortly before her death.
• • This, then, is a collection of those recordings, arranged chronologically and interspersed with brief, non-critical linking passages and summaries of some of her more successful plays and films.
• • Little in the way of thoughtful analysis . . . • •
• • It offers little in the way of thoughtful analysis of Mae West’s contribution, reading more like a ghosted celebrity autobiography than a serious addition to the film studies canon.
• • However, having said that, it does offer insights into the character and history of one of the more colorful characters to emerge from vaudeville into the Hollywood spotlights.
• • The Mae West character was an invention of May West, a spirited daughter of a Brooklyn immigrant family, who changed her name a little and then developed and honed herself on the variety stage, in a similar fashion to the pre-movies Marx Brothers.
• • Mae West’s character creation was a sexy brassy blonde, wisecracking with double entendres, and with a serious love of diamonds. She was the author of many plays featuring this character; some were very successfully produced on Broadway. One of them, Diamond Lil, had a sell-out run in London. Her first play, Sex, was judged to be an immoral theatrical performance, so West was sentenced to either a $500 fine or ten days in prison [sic].
• • She chose the latter, thinking it might provide material for a future play. It did give her huge publicity, which she built on in moving to Hollywood in the 1930s. There she made a dozen movies, of variable quality and success, including My Little Chickadee with W C Fields. She refused to allow anyone else to write her lines in these movies, thus maintaining the illusion of her character. The book gives few clues to Mae West’s real love life behind her blousy creation: she was married once early on, but unlike Monroe did not give it a second try [sic]; she did have two long-time devoted men friends who lived with her, although with separate beds, and who appear to have been gofers and fixers, or possibly bodyguards. And what about her famous collection of diamonds, given as gifts? The book ends with a sad little anecdote suggesting that she didn’t receive them all from admirers, but bought many of them herself.
— — Source: — —
• • Book Review: “She Always Knew How" by Charlotte Chandler (Simon & Schuster, 2009)
• • Byline: Phil Bloomfield, Oxford Times Book Critic
• • Published in: The Oxford Times — — www.oxfordtimes.co.uk
• • Published on: 28 May 2009
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mae West: John Kobal

In many ways, John Kobal's Hollywood career caught fire thanks to MAE WEST.
• • Years ago, one interviewer whipped up this creamy prologue: "Like so many stories about John Kobal, the one about his notable role as a connoisseur, collector, and chronicler of Hollywood photography begins with a movie star. Working as a journalist in 1969, Kobal visited the set of Myra Breckinridge with the goal of interviewing screen legend Mae West. His reporter's credentials granted him access to the set and while awaiting summons from Miss West, Kobal had the opportunity to meet members of the film's crew. ..."
• • In his book "People Will Talk," he offered chatty testimonials from 43 notable Hollywood veterans. This is a snippet: Mae West's refusal to marry is symptomatic of narcissism, then and now: "Every time I look at myself, I become absorbed in myself, and I didn't want to get involved with another person like that. ..."
• • John Kobal [birthname: Ivan Kobaly] was born in Linz, Austria during the month of May — — on 30 May 1940. Clearly, he decided he'd never become the outsider at his own party. The author of over 30 books on film and film photography, he was known for his creative and exuberant personality, as well as his voracious knowledge of the minutiae of film and photography lore. He is credited with essentially 'rediscovering' the great Hollywood Studio photographers — — George Hurrell, Laszlo Willinger, Clarence Sinclair Bull, Ted Allan, et al — — who were employed by the motion picture studios to create the glamorous, iconic portraits of the most famous and intriguing stars of the day that came to spit-shine the Tinseltown myth.
• • "Made In Hollywood" • •
• • The prints in the Kobal Collection, which include many images of Mae West, form the backbone of the "Made In Hollywood" exhibition, which finished its run in Santa Barbara, California [July 12th – October 12th, 2008], and which is now on view at the Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, TN, USA [May 7th – October 27th, 2009].
• • John Kobal, prolific and hard-working, died of AIDS when he was 51 on 28 October 1991 in London, England.

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

Mae West: Subversions

Some exceedingly peculiar artists were fascinated by MAE WEST — — including Ray Johnson.
• • During the 1950s, Ray Johnson began using images of Mae 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 opened on 29 April 2009 (and which runs through the end of July 2009) — — illustrates the shared interests and iconography of Ray Johnson, Salvador Dali, and Andy Warhol. This exhibition displays an exciting selection of previously unexhibited collages by Ray Johnson that showcase 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.’
• • Recently, Karen Rosenberg, Art Critic for The New York Times, visited the exhibition, which was organized by an independent curator, Frédérique Joseph-Lowery. She had many things to say about Ray's muses such as Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, the Mona Lisa, and Jackie Kennedy.
• • Karen Rosenberg writes: It’s a scholarly undertaking with a mischievous edge, replete with dissertation-worthy dissections of Johnson’s wordplay and iconography but able to wink at his subversions of gender and other nods to gay subculture. There’s also a frisson of glamour. Songs by the Velvet Underground, Debbie Harry and other Factory scenesters play in the gallery, along with audio excerpts from movies starring Mae West and Marilyn Monroe.
• • Karen Rosenberg observes: Mae West’s famous line becomes “Come Op and See Me Sometime,” a reference to Op Art. Likewise, Meret Oppenheim’s surname is rewritten as “Openheim” and her most famous work — — the fur-lined teacup
— conjured with a patch of plush leopard-print fabric. . . . .
• • If you happen to be in Manhattan (or en route to The Big Apple), the playful, mischievous, and provocative exhibit “Ray Johnson ... Dalí/ Warhol/ and Others” continues through 31 July 2009 at Richard L. Feigen & Company, 34 East 69th Street, New York, NY 10021; T. (212) 628-0700.

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

Mae West: Orangeville

A Canadian columnist mentioned MAE WEST — — along with a haunting, daunting detail: it will be the 100th anniversary soon of the Roaring Twenties. Skidoo!
• • William Bothwell writes: We are heading toward the centenary of the Roaring Twenties, the decade after the 1914—1918 war that was the Jazz Age, the heyday of 'flappers,' of Thoroughly Modern Millie, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and "Life is a cabaret, old chum!" Some called them the years of the Lost Generation.
• • The Typical 20th Century Woman • •
• • Agatha Miller Christie Mallowan [1890—1976], creator of Poirot and Miss Marple, was, in a way, the typical 20th Century woman. There were also, of course, Emily Pankhurst who championed women's right to vote, Mae West who sultrily asked every man she met, "Why don'tya come up and see me sometime," the very capable Agnes Macphail and Cairine Wilson who were, respectively, the first women to sit in the Commons and in the Senate.
• • For over half a century the Queen of Crime pounded out novels to get us through the long evenings when nobody came up to see us and those 3 to 4 a.m. hours when only the persistent optimism of Monsieur Hércule could help us make it through the night.
• • Mrs Christie would be 119 years old come 15 September. . . .
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: "Who's afraid of Agatha Christie?"
• • Byline: By William Bothwell, columnist
• • Published in: The Orangeville Citizen [Orangeville, Ontario, Canada] — — www.citizen.on.ca
• • Published on: 28 May 2009
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

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

It was in May 1927 that MAE WEST returned to the Women's Workhouse on Welfare [currently renamed Roosevelt] Island.
• • This time, however, she was the invited guest of a group of society women who were bent on social reform, and who wanted to inspect the prison and inmates for themselves. The actress gaily led the tour, trailing a string of newsmen and photographers.
• • Mae was even delighted to show these Park Avenue females the paddy wagon that she had ridden in after her arrest on 9 February 1927. In the photos, the women are all smiling but what must they have been thinking?
• • One of Mae's duties in the workhouse was to clean the jail's library. It struck her that there were so few books to read here. When a magazine offered Mae $1,000 to write an article about her experiences as an inmate, the Broadway star donated her check to the women's workhouse to fund the "Mae West Memorial Library."
• • Newsmen chided Warden Harry O. Schleth for granting Mae some privileges and pandering to a celebrity by taking her for evening drives, letting her dine with him in his private quarters, and so on. But how many of those journalists remembered back to October 1913? That was the night when Warden Schleth's 34-year-old wife shot their 4-year-old son and then committed suicide because she could not bear to live inside a bleak New York City prison any longer. Very likely Mae West lifted the warden's spirits more than he cheered her up.
• • Note: The yellowed page you are looking at was part of an article Mae wrote, published in 1927.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mae West: Bristol Stomp

The British actor MAE WEST put on the map in her motion picture classic "She Done Him Wrong" [1933] was encountered at a football match in his hometown 50 years ago.
• • Born in Bristol, England, Archibald Alec Leach [18 January 1904 — 29 November 1986] was better known by his stage name Cary Grant.
• • David Foot described his encounter with the Hollywood leading man at a stadium called Ashton Gate.
• • Sharing his "brush with fame" with readers of the UK newspaper The London Guardian, Foot reminisced at length.
• • David Foot writes: Meeting the Hollywood star at Bristol City was an overwhelming experience. It has always seemed to me that one appealing reason for going to a football match, apart from dutifully watching the play, is that we never quite know who we are going to meet. Half a century ago, yes really that long, I had a fleeting unscheduled half-time encounter at Ashton Gate, home of Bristol City, with Cary Grant. He'd been invited by the club's then chairman Harry Dolman, who had an opportunistic and civilized habit of asking celebrities — — proper ones in those days — — along on a spare Saturday afternoon to view his warriors.
• • Youthful Indiscretions and a Mentally Ill Mum • •
• • Archie Leach's allegiance to Bristol was unquestioned. He had been born in the city, had gone to a local grammar school, from where he had been expelled for a minor and hushed-up felony committed near the girls' toilets, and now continued to return to the West Country from the world of glamorous celluloid to visit his mother, Elsie, who had a history of mental illness.
• • But, in truth, he had no more than a passing schoolboy's cigarette-card regard for football and it could be argued that his home had been nearer to the Rovers ground than City's. When he left school he was more seduced by the backstage smells and bustle at the Hippodrome and Empire, where he joined an acting troupe and did a stint as call-boy, than wanting to kick a ball with his chums on Horfield Common.
• • Here he was now, however, passing me on the cold, uncarpeted steps leading up to the boardroom. His appearance was impossibly elegant. He should have had Grace Kelly on his arm. I felt I should say something at this seminal moment. Cary Grant had always been a distant hero of mine. My old sports editor and mentor on my evening paper in Bristol had once been the lift boy and he was used to taking the famous film star up to the editorial floor for an interview or new picture from the roof of the Northcliffe building. And he would be asked by his handsome charge how City and Rovers were doing, even if no more than a duty-bound inquiry.
• • Now passing him on the steps at Ashton Gate, I noticed how well proportioned he was. City's physio, if only they had one with that title in those days, wouldn't have had to work too strenuously on central defender Grant. In my fledgling days on a paper, which I found bubbling with youthful zest despite declining circulation, we were encouraged to save our employer's money by being versatile.
• • What DO you say to Cary Grant? • •
• • Apart from recording Big John Atyeo's mountainous goal tally, we were asked to be always on the look‑out for contributions to the gossip column. Here, in my consternation as I confronted an idol, was surely the chance to take Bristol City's too often rather dowdy deeds on to another human plain. A snatched supposedly esoteric word from me maybe about Mae West, Mary Pickford, or Jean Harlow? Hints of Dyan Cannon as a future wife No4? Even a mischievous throwaway about Cary's shared company with Randolph Scott?
• • But all I mumbled self-consciously was: "Not a bad game so far, is it?" Hardly a conversational pearl. I've no idea how he responded to such banality. . . .
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: "How Cary Grant Made Me Fluff My Lines at Ashton Gate"
• • Byline: By David Foot
• • Published in: Guardian News & Media 2008 — — in the UK
• • Published on: 25 May 2009
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

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

Mae West: Steve Cochran

Steve Cochran appeared on Broadway with MAE WEST.
• • Born in Eureka, California in the month of May — — on 25 May 1917 — — he moved during the 1920s to Laramie, Wyoming thanks to his lumberjack father. Perhaps used to a lonely landscape where he often saw things tumbling down and falling, his spirit may have yearned to be hemmed in by a fixed construction such as an auditorium. In any case, upon his 1939 commencement from the University of Wyoming, Cochran began working in regional theatre and summer stock. After honing his craft at the Barter Theatre and the Carmel (California) Shakespeare Festival, he worked at Detroit's Federal Theatre, and was co-starred in the touring companies of "Without Love" and "My Sister Eileen" before his Broadway debut in the eight-performance flop "Hickory Stick."
• • During the war, Cochran [physically unfit for combat] directed Army camp shows.
• • In 1945, the Samuel Goldwyn Company had Cochran under contract. His film debut was the Danny Kaye vehicle "Wonder Man" [1945], produced by Goldwyn and released by RKO. For Goldwyn's projects, the handsome six-footer was cast in supporting roles — — often portraying a boxer or a gangster.
• • Steve Cochran said: "The big secret in playing a criminal in movies is to really believe that the character you are playing is doing no wrong."
• • Upon being released from his contract with Goldwyn in 1948, Cochran went back to The Gay White Way. Mae West cast him in the shady, hot-blooded role of Juarez in her "Diamond Lil" revival from February 5—26, 1949 at the Coronet Theatre
on West 49th Street.
• • Then 36, the thrice married lady-killer is reputed to have had a heavy breathing "after-hours" relationship with his 50-something diamond-draped leading lady. [Leading ladies Cochran led to bed included Jayne Mansfield and Merle Oberon.]
• • After performing with Mae West, Cochran signed with Warner Bros. in 1949 and returned to Hollywood.
• • In 1965 Steve Cochran sailed off to Guatemala on his yacht to look for exotic filming locations. The 48-year-old perished onboard of a lung infection during the month of June.

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

Mae West: "The Drag" in June

The Drag — — a play written in 1926 by MAE WEST — — is in rehearsal.
• • Though the roles originally scripted for drag queens (Clem, The Duchess, Winnie, etc.) were meant to be played by real transvestites, Dreamwell Theatre has opened up the casting to females for their June 2009 production.
• • Dreamwell's web site noted: In The Drag, which opened to an “avalanche of condemnation,” as one biographer put it, Mae West argued that homosexuality had no class identification. In The Drag, West drew on the exuberance of the drag queens who had become her friends and “sisters” to challenge society’s strictures on the subject of homosexuality. Chuck Dufano will direct. The production promises to be challenging and rewarding as the entertainment at the drag ball is unscripted. Chuck Dufano, the director, plans to incorporate dance, music and songs of the time as well as any other vaudevillian type of talent that presents itself at auditions.
• • A read-through took place earlier this month and full-on rehearsal is in progress in preparation for a June 19th opening night with a cast of over a dozen actors.
• • The Drag is the story of Rolly Kingsbury’s failing marriage to Clair, his past secret affair with David Caldwall, his growing lust for Allen Grayson, and his affiliation with the very "out" drag community. By giving gay characters a voice, Mae West argued that homosexuality had no class identification and challenged social mores on the subject.
• • Performances will be offered next month on these dates: June 19, 20, 26, 27 at the Unitarian Universalist Society.
• • The Drag can be seen at the Unitarian Universalist Society, 10 S. Gilbert, Iowa City, Iowa 52240.
• • For more details, you can phone: (319) 337-3443 or (319) 541-0140.

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

Mae West: Edward F. Cline

Edward F. Cline directed a motion picture starring MAE WEST — — but he didn't describe it like that. Instead (referring to the turmoil between the bombshell and her booze-loving co-star) he said: "I wasn't directing, I was referee-ing."
• • Born on 4 November 1891 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Edward F. Cline entered the world of cinema as an actor with Keystone in 1913, where he encountered a rotund juggler from Pennsylvania, William Claude Dukenfield.
• • Working on "My Little Chickadee" [1940] for Universal Pictures must have been memorable. That year he also directed the comedy "The Bank Dick" starring W.C. Fields.
• • Edward Francis Cline died during the month of May — — on 22 May 1961 — — at age 69 in Hollywood, California.

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

Mae West: Woodhaven

Each time there is a MAE WEST walking tour in The Big Apple, astonished callers (who phone to RSVP) tell the tour organizer(s): "I didn't know Mae West lived in New York!" This summer an upcoming tour in Manhattan mid-August will wind down Chez Mae on the WESTside (and surely you knew this was coming).
• • An independent city until its consolidation with New York in 1898, Brooklyn is where baby Mae was born in August 1893. She also hung her hat in Manhattan as well as in an area now called Queens — — but then known as Long Island.
• • Woodhaven, Queens, NY • •
• • The West family moved around a lot. For a few years, they called Woodhaven home; during this period Mae began writing plays and registering her copyright with the Library of Congress from her mother and father's Boyd Avenue address.
• • Leonora Lavan knows all there is to know about Woodhaven, where she was born and bred. She is the president of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society [WCHS], which meets regularly, plans events, hires speakers, reprints important historical research and monographs, maintains an archive, and does its share for civic pride.
• • To learn more about the group, and discover the history of one of Mae West's old stomping grounds, read this article: "Marking History A Site At A Time — — Woodhaven Society Continues To Celebrate Area's Past" by Bill Mitchell.
• • Published by The Times News Weekly — — www.timesnewsweekly.com — — Mr. Mitchell's article was a feature story earlier in May 2009.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mae West: In Minneapolis

Edward Steichen's gelatin silver print of MAE WEST, taken in 1933, will be on display in an upcoming museum exhibition.
• • “Unspoken Messages: The Art of the Necklace” is on view at the MIA from June 6 through September 13, 2009. Admission will be free.
• • Mae's portrait will be in good company. The prints featured in this show will also include a sixteenth-century engraving from the Netherlands of Elizabeth, Queen of England by Crispin de Passe the Elder; an oil from 15th-century Italy by Benedetto Ghirlandaio Portrait of a Lady; and many others.
• • Born in Luxembourg, Edward Steichen [27 March 1879 — 25 March 1973] was a photographer, painter, and art gallery and museum curator. In 1881, his family moved to the United States and he became a naturalized citizen in 1900.
• • The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA), home to one of the finest encyclopedic art collections in the country, houses more than 80,000 works of art representing 5,000 years of world history. MIA is located here: 2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404.

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

Mae West: Dirty Blues

Songs made famous by MAE WEST, who loved to shimmy and wiggle to the blues, will be featured in a live show.
• • "Low Down Dirty Blues" is a new musical featuring the blues songs by great artists such as Mae West, Muddy Waters, Ma Rainey, Sophie Tucker, Howlina Wolf, Pearl Bailey, and many others.
• • For decades, Blues artists have captivated audiences with the "Dirty Blues" — — music packed with passion and soul — — along with innuendo, insinuation, and, above all, humor.
• • This rousing, knee-slapping, unrestrained show can be seen at Northlight Theatre [9501 Skokie Boulevard Skokie, IL 60077] starting on 27 May 2010.

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

Mae West: Lee Solters

Word comes that a publicist who worked with MAE WEST has gone to the everlasting "Spin City" in the beyond.
• • Born in Brooklyn like Mae, Lee Solters came into the world on 23 June 1919. A creative person who enjoyed writing, the native New Yorker studied journalism and advertising at New York University. He covered high school basketball for The New York Times before he was drafted. While in the military, he penned pieces for Stars & Stripes. After receiving discharge papers, Solters began his own public relations firm during 1948 with partner James J. O'Rourke: Solters O'Rourke.
• • During the 1940s and 1950s, columnists were regulars at the top nightspots. Solters dropped in at clubs like Toots Shor and learned how to plant items with gossip guru Walter Winchell and finesse favorable mentions with society snitch Hedda Hopper.
• • The New York Times (and others) have made mention of his shrewdness. For example, one trick was devised to aid producer David Merrick to salvage a foundering Broadway show: Lee Solters and Merrick concocted a newspaper advertisement with quotations from men they had found in the phone book with the same names as top theater critics.
• • It has been said that in the late 1970s, Mr. Solters moved to Hollywood, where he helped set the trend for hiring entertainers to sell products and images. Forty years before that, however, Mae West was hired to lend glamour and sex appeal to cigarette brands and even soap in the 1930s.
• • Unlike many theatrical press agents of today — — who charge $7,500 + merely to send out a boring press release by fax — — it seems that Lee Solters had the imagination, personal touch, amicable deceitfulness, and discernment that creates buzz.
• • His client roster of entertainment stars included: Mae West, Benny Goodman, Cher, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, the Muppets, Cary Grant, Led Zeppelin, Dolly Parton, and others. He claimed he knew Dolly when she was still flat-chested.
• • He also worked with more than 300 Broadway productions, musicals, and dramas including "Guys and Dolls," "Funny Girl," "The King & I," "My Fair Lady," "Camelot." as well as works by Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and Neil Simon. In Nevada, he repped Sinatra, Caesars Palace, and (eventually), the City of Las Vegas.
• • Solters' namesake public relations firm says the New York native died at age 89 at his West Hollywood, California home on Monday morning.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Monday, May 18, 2009

Mae West: Bridgette Andersen

In 1982, she portrayed MAE WEST as a bouncy child.
• • Born in California on 11 July 1975, Bridgette Andersen embarked upon an acting career in her youth — — not unlike Mae.
• • By her 7th birthday, Bridgette was buzzing and busy. First she was cast in the TV movie "Washington Mistress" [1982]. Later that year, Bridgette Andersen appeared in her most memorable role as the title character in "Savannah Smiles," followed by roles in "Family Ties," "Remington Steele," and as a young Mae West in the TV bio-pic of the actress' life.
• • In 1983, she appeared in a horror flick and a few short-lived sit-coms and was nominated twice for a Young Artist Award.
• • Though she worked steadily throughout the mid-1980s in feature films and on the small screen, by 1987 the 12-year-old was much less in demand.
• • Unlike Mae West, Miss Andersen was not close to her family. As a teen, she became addicted to heroin and that put more distance between her career aspirations and contact with loved ones. Reportedly, she was trying to clean up and get back on track by 1997 when she was employed by Erewhon Health Food Store in Los Angeles, California.
• • In the month of May — — on 18 May 1997 — — her stardusted dreams ended with a fatal overdose of alcohol and drugs. Bridgette Andersen was 21 years old.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mae West: Slick Wiley

Raise your hand if you remember MAE WEST's Slick Wiley.
• • Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the month of May — — on 17 May 1899 — — Ralf H. Wigger wiggled his name to Ralf Harolde and headed for the Hollywood Hills. Often cast in bit parts, Ralf Harolde racked up nearly 100 motion picture credits between 1920 and 1963.
• • In "I'm No Angel," the slinky five-foot-eleven Easterner played Tira's jealous boyfriend, Slick, who tails her to the hotel where she is romancing a big spender from Dallas. When Slick knocks him unconscious and robs him, he puts Tira in a compromising position.
• • Hal Erickson describes the screen veteran briefly in his excellent All Movie Guide: The best way to physically describe actor Ralf Harolde is to note his striking resemblance to Zeppo Marx. However, Harolde projected a far more sinister image than Marx, beginning with his film debut as the "gentlemanly" villain in Bebe Daniels' "Dixiana" (1930). Often cast as a low-life crook, he played an escaped convict who hid behind his wife and children in "Picture Snatcher" (1933) and the erstwhile kidnapper of little Shirley Temple in "Baby Take a Bow" (1934). He also showed up in such minor roles as a Tribunal prosecutor in "Tale of Two Cities" (1935) and a tuxedoed society gangster in Laurel and Hardy's "Our Relations" (1936).
• • Hal Erickson adds: Ralf Harolde's film career came to a screeching halt when, in 1937, he was involved in a traffic accident that resulted in the death of fellow actor Monroe Owsley. When Ralf re-emerged on screen in 1941, it was clear that the tragedy had taken its toll: Harolde's facial features had taken on a gaunt, haunted look, and his hair had turned completely white. Remaining active until the mid-1950s, Ralf Harolde still had a few good screen characterizations left in him — — most notably the sleazy sanitarium doctor in "Murder My Sweet" (1944).
• • Born in 1901, Monroe Owsley was featured in the Mae West vehicle "Goin' to Town" [1935]; often cast as a debauched young playboy, he played Cleo Borden's "husband-by-convenience" Fletcher Colton. Monroe died on 7 June 1937 from a heart attack suffered during a car accident. He was 36 years old.
• • On 1 November 1974, Ralf Harolde died of pneumonia in Santa Monica, California at age 75.

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

Mae West: Des Moines

This snatch of dialogue from a MAE WEST comedy will introduce a bit of news.
• • The Chump: I don't suppose you believe in marriage, do you?
• • Tira: Only as a last resort... What do you do for a livin'?
• • The Chump: Oh, uh, sort of a politician.
• • Tira: I don't like work either.
• • Surely, some elected officials work harder than others, however, eleven Oval Office residents have slept soundly at the famed Hotel Fort Des Moines, which is becoming a Hilton. The hotel has hosted both presidents and presidential candidates — — including Calvin Coolidge, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon.
• • Owner Jeff Miller said the renovations will take at least a year, which might inconvenience some political candidates since his rooms have been a popular stopping place for those with large entourages who need to be in Iowa. Over the years, notable guests have included the likes of Mae West, Nikita Krushchev, William Jennings Bryan, Charles Lindbergh, Liz Taylor, and others.
• • In fact, the web site shows Mae's photo and states: If our lobby could talk, it would tell you how a cast of characters including Hollywood film diva Mae West came up and saw us sometime in the 1930s.
• • If our lobby could talk, it would tell us how Richard Nixon tromped though on his way to a landslide victory in 1972, only to resign two years later. . . .
• • Opened in 1919, the hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
• • It cost $1.3 million to construct back in 1919. According to general manager Paul Rottenberg, "It was built as a 'super' hotel. Every room had its own bath; there was circulating ice water to every room; and the water passed through ultraviolet light to be purified."
• • Happy 90th Birthday to the Hotel Fort Des Moines [1000 Walnut Street | Des Moines, IA 50309].

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

Mae West: Fashion Icon

"MAE WEST in the fashion pages?" you ask — — and why not?
• • What designers desire most is to enter the high blue door of interpretation. It's merely cut cloth that sewing machines piece together, after all. To give fashion context, there must be retrospectives, muses, icons, and that happy tag-along element: flair.
• • Last month, British tabloids ran photographs of Kate Moss as she was busy purchasing a £12 T-shirt from the Camden branch of Snappy Snaps. A reporter noted that Kate Moss chose one featuring a print of Mae West — — with the logo "Mae the spirit be with you!" written across the front.
• • Buttocks clenched, the UK Style Desk went into overdrive, shrieking: She's always had an eye for a trend, but even Kate Moss's most devoted fans may be surprised by the supermodel's latest fashion foray. For eschewing her usual haute couture haunts last week, Moss was to be seen shopping at budget camera shop Snappy Snaps, hardly known for its stylish credentials. Dressed down and hiding behind a pair of Prada sunglasses, she was spotted in the store's Camden branch buying a £12 T-shirt from its Demented Divas range, which includes images of Mae West, Cher, Shirley Bassey, and Madonna.
• • About her a-MAE-zing T-selection, designer Al Pillay exclaimed: 'I'm thrilled that Kate Moss has one. They've become very sought-after images. Amy Winehouse has one [from UK's The Daily Mail, 27 April 2009, page 35]." Soon all the capons will be sporting them (once they discover the coke-heads are snapping 'em up)! If you see the shirt being worn in your area, especially by any bow-legged jezebels, do phone in.
• • Al Pillay originally did these amusing sketches for his personal greeting card line. What do you think of his version of Mae West?
• • Also in the United Kingdom, the trendy femme brand Hellz Bellz channelled Mae for their Christmas Holiday catalogue last year — — Hellz 2008 Holiday ‘Born Bad’ Collection. Toasting the Brooklyn bombshell, and what she meant to them, the designers called the line "Born Bad." Their press release explained: “Our Holiday 2008 collection represents for the “Born Bad” femme fatale. With Mae West’s racy quotes which sprang, tough-dame style from the side of her mouth, she’s been firmly stamped as the personification of Hellz through her story of survival, persistence, independence, and unshakable self-esteem. In her life which ended in 1980, at the age of 87, she became both an icon and pioneer for both men and women everywhere.”
• • Two fashion tributes to the Empress of Sex, a durable diva, from King Arthur's country. Right-oh!

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mae West: Toronto

A new exhibition in Canada will feature artwork inspired by MAE WEST.
• • "The Surrealists were the sly, decadent, mocking enemies of everything in modern culture that encouraged simplicity," writes Robert Fulford — — unintentionally (perhaps) conjuring up the Empress of Sex who was a sly, mocking pooh-pooher of everything in American culture that encouraged old-fashioned simplicity for women.
• • Until the end of August 2009, Mae and artistic mayhem are on display at the show "Surreal Things" — — Art Gallery of Ontario [Musée des beaux-arts de l’Ontario], 317 Dundas Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5T 1G4. Toll free: 1-877-225-4246.
• • Fulford's article in Canada's National Post comes billboarded with a large, luscious photograph of the Mae West Lips Sofa. Here's a bite-size portion of his frisky essay.
• • Robert Fulford writes: It's a surprise to glimpse the worried faces of Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck flickering across a wall in the midst of an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario. But Surreal Things (to August 30) is a surprising show. It's an engrossing, revealing essay in what we can call Applied Surrealism, the process by which avant-garde European artists started out as revolutionaries and ended up as fashion designers, advertising artists, and all-purpose idea mongers.
• • An enemy of Surrealism could say that this far-ranging collection of outlandish objects proves that the Surrealists became handmaidens of consumerism by turning art into a comic turn. An admirer, on the other hand, could argue that they simply made themselves useful according to the standards of their (and our) time. Either way, they stretched their influence far beyond the Parisian art world where their ideas were first cobbled together.
• • In Spellbound — — Alfred Hitchcock's 1945 thriller — — Bergman and Peck play a psychiatrist and her amnesia-victim patient. Scenes from that film appear at the AGO because Hitchcock hired Salvador Dalí to design the Peck character's dreams. Dalí of course turned out Dalí-esque nightmares that Bergman decoded, saving her patient and solving a murder.
• • Dalí was the man for that job. He loved to blur the borders of art and show business and loved to play with Freud-inflected images. He emerges as the undoubted star of Surreal Things — — and deserves to, no matter what we think of his art. A large constituency has always restrained its enthusiasm for his painting. Even in his best days, each Dalí picture would begin as a sensation, develop into a curiosity, and then calcify into a bore.
• • His pictures are slick, superficial and forgettable
— — less interesting by far than Max Ernst's paintings, less memorable than René Magritte's, less piquant than Man Ray's.
• • Even so, Dalí emerges as a titan in any account of how the Surrealists infiltrated the fashionable imagination. When artists rushed to the marketplace like 21st-century geeks auctioning their great ideas for computer games, Dalí led the pack. In the mid-1920s he was a newly-minted Spanish Surrealist, alive with what looked like inflammatory desires. By the mid-1930s, in New York, he was designing windows for Bonwit Teller, a high-end dress shop on Fifth Avenue. Using Surrealism as a marketing tool, he titled his first window, "She was a Surrealist Woman. She was like a Figure in a Dream."
• • Mae West's Lips • •
• • The most numerous and memorable of the things in Surreal Things are Dalí products, like the loveseat that reproduces Mae West's lips, the telephone with its receiver shaped like a lobster, and a brooch in the shape of a mouth with lips of ruby, teeth of pearls. Dalí illustrates the thesis of Ghislaine Wood, the curator who put the show together for the Victoria and Alberta Museum in London two years ago: The very themes of Surrealism lent themselves to commercialization. (The AGO gift shop gets right into the spirit by offering "Parfums Salvador Dalí.")
• • Ghislaine Wood took the show to Rotterdam and Bilbao with great success and presents it here in a somewhat altered version, with some 40 pieces from the AGO's own collection and several other North American museums, most notably the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Conn., which became, in the 1930s, the first North American museum to take Surrealism seriously.
• • "Surréalisme," coined by Guillaume Apollinaire in 1917 to describe his own writing, was later confiscated by André Breton for his plans to free humanity from the twin curses of capitalism and sexual repression. Ideally, Surrealism would create a culture of unfettered dreams. Humanity, granted this intellectual and spiritual liberation, would build a revolutionary society. . . .
• • Article continues at the National Post site — — and go see the Mae West Lips photo.
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: "You’ll want to dilly Dalí"
• • Byline: By Robert Fulford
• • Published in: Canada's National Post — — www.nationalpost.com
• • Published on: 11 May 2009

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

Mae West: In England

A new show in England about the history of cinema will feature MAE WEST.
• • In Great Britain, actor Robert Powell has assembled an "affectionate and nostalgic romp through the first 113 years of cinema," according to the Express and Star.
• • Interviewed by reporter Mark Andrews, Powell promised not to be boring: “It’s a little of entertainment, a bit of film, a bit of history, and a bit of fun.”
• • The production begins with cinema pioneers the Lumiere Brothers in Paris in 1895 — — and finishes with Bond 22 being filmed at Pinewood Studios in 2008.
• • The audience is introduced to Mae West, Charlie Chaplin, Mickey Mouse, and Humphrey Bogart along the way, with appearances by Clark Gable, Groucho Marx, Marilyn Monroe, and Jack Lemmon.
• • Also appearing in the production are Christine Croshaw and Clive Conway.
• • The journey will be sweetened with musical interludes from Scott Joplin, George Gershwin through to John Barry’s “James Bond” theme.
• • "Robert Powell’s Silver Screen" is on at Lichfield Garrick Theatre on 30 May 2009, starting at 7:30 pm. Telephone the box office for details: 01543 412121 [UK].
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: "Affectionate look at history of cinema"
• • Byline: By Mark Andrews
• • Published in: UK's Express and Star — — www.expressandstar.com
• • Published on: 12 May 2009
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mae West: Blame Bridgeport

MAE WEST might have put the blame on Bridgeport — — but did she go back to bedevil a playhouse?
• • During the early 1920s, impresario Sylvestre Poli brought the Poli Palace to the Nutmeg State.
• • Designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb and eventually renamed Loew's Palace Theater [1325 Main Street, Bridgeport, CT 06604], this landmark was the biggest movie theater ever erected in Connecticut — — and the largest among Bridgeport's 20-plus theaters. Poli's was actually one of two theaters built inside a single building (the other being the Majestic).
• • Despite the public's curiosity about the controversial vaudevillian Mae West, and her latest play "The Drag," Jim Timony could only manage to secure half a week at Poli's Park, which was then in use as a burlesque house in Bridgeport. It was a dreary and wintery Monday on 31 January 1927 when the Morals Production Company hoisted a banner over the trolley cars criss-crossing Main Street. Pedestrians were intrigued by this saucy announcement: "The Drag" by the author of SEX — — more sensational than Rain or The Captive!"

• • While they were lodging at the Arcade Hotel, Beverly West and Edward Elsner (Mae's sister and director) were arrested at 5 AM on 2 February 1927. Both the play and the arrest were the talk of Bridgeport.
• • Ghost-busting and career-boosting • •
• • Currently researching a local squad of spirit-chasing cops, whose haunts are the historic Bridgeport theaters, John Burgeson has alerted readers of The Connecticut Post to the intersection of ghost-busting and career-boosting aims currently afoot on Main Street.
• • Writing from Bridgeport, John Burgeson asks the famous question: When the ghosts that haunt Bridgeport's old Poli Palace theater get out of line, who you gonna call?
• • Why the cops, of course — — or, more specifically, the East Coast Paranormal Police.
• • Now, the newly formed ECPP might have a shot at fame. On Monday, a TV producer was in town to shoot footage of the ghost-hunting cops in action inside the Poli Palace and Majestic theaters downtown on Main Street, two long-abandoned, historic showplaces that score high on the creepiness scale.
• • "Today, we're doing a pitch tape for a new show we have in mind," said Rob Johnson, a production coordinator for Pangolin Pictures. "We understand that the Poli Palace might be haunted and Jim Myers suspects that there might be a poltergeist here."
• • Jim Myers, a 12-year veteran with the Bridgeport Police Department, is the man behind the ECPP, which has been getting help from one of the heavy hitters in the ghost-hunting business, famed psychic and Monroe resident Lorraine Warren.
• • Pangolin Pictures, which has three Emmy Awards to its credit, is primarily a producer of nature films for cable networks. These include "Tarantulas: King of Spiders" and "Jaws and Claws."
• • Johnson notes that while there are other ghost-hunter shows, Pangolin likes the fact that Myers uses "police training" to investigate strange occurrences.
• • "We think that's an interesting angle that will be new to paranormal shows," he said. "In 'Ghost Hunters,' they're plumbers by trade. Jim's group all have had police training."
• • On Monday, Johnson and his assistant, Gina Fitch, were busy shooting footage of Myers and his 11-person team as they explored the dusty innards of the Poli Palace and two attached buildings, the Majestic theater and the Savoy Hotel.
• • In 2007, the direct-to-video cop action flick starring Steven Seagal shot in downtown Bridgeport included scenes filmed at the Poli and Majestic theaters. The showcases continued screening movies sporadically into the early 1970s, long past their glory days as venues for elaborate live entertainment, and later for first-run Hollywood movies. Through the early 1950s, it wasn't unusual for movie stars to turn out on opening night to boost attendance.
• • While plans have been floated over the years to restore the theaters, nothing has ever become of them. Johnson hopes that the pitch tape, which will be about five minutes long, will be pedaled to the various cable channels, such as Discovery, National Geographic Channel, TLC, the History Channel and so forth. He said that it may take six months or longer for the channels to decide whether to proceed with the idea.
• • "It's just a quick piece to show Jim and his team, and what they can do," Johnson said, "and to show the network what it would look like as a series."
• • If a network picks up the idea, the ECPP would be central to the show, which would follow the team as it checks out various reports of paranormal activity up and down the East Coast, Johnson said.
• • Bridgeport City Historian Mary Witkowski, also interviewed Monday by Johnson, said there's no shortage of reasons why there might be strange goings-on inside the theaters.
• • Mae West: Is that you? • •
• • "First it could be the Golden Hill Paugusset [Indian] tribe, whose graves may have been disturbed when they built there. It could be Dutch Schultz, the rum-runner who was murdered in New Jersey — — he did a lot of business in Bridgeport back in the 1930s. Or, it even could be Mae West ---- she had performed here, got into trouble and spent the night in jail," Witkowski said. "Maybe she wants to get back at us."
• • Myers said he has 16 to 18 members in the ECPP, and all are trained in police work. "I actually come in here on a weekly basis because the city gave me the key, so I can keep an eye on the place," Myers said. "I've seen a couple of photos that were taken here that were pretty strange."
— — Source: — —
• • Article: "Ghost-hunting cops haunt historic Bridgeport theaters"
• • Byline: By John Burgeson
• • Published in: The Connecticut Post — — www.connpost.com
• • Published on: 11 May 2009
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

• • The arrest at the Arcade Hotel after "The Drag" is dramatized in the play "Courting Mae West." Beverly's drunken antics and Mae's strategies are featured in Act I, Scene 2. You can watch a portion of this surprising scene on YouTube.
• • The "scene of the crime" is still in business: Arcade Hotel 1001 Main St, Bridgeport, CT 06604; Tel (203) 333-9376.

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

Mae West: Vegas to 47th

MAE WEST gave Steve Rossi his punchy stage name. He was born 76 years ago in the roughneck section of Manhattan then known as "Italian Harlem" and was raised on the West Coast when his musician father was hired by NBC. Mostly known as a Las Vegas resident and night club entertainer, Steve Rossi was cast in "Senior Class," a light-hearted song-laden trip down memory lane, a few years ago. The show featured six golden agers: Steve Rossi, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Ronnie Schell, Ruta Lee, Gary Collins, Marcia Rodd. New producers dieted the ensemble down to a quartet — — and refocused the material before preparing it for The Big Apple.
• • Loyally, The Las Vegas Sun (Steve's hometown paper) did a little puffing. Jerry Fink's article appears below.
• • Jerry Fink writes: After more than half a century of entertaining, Las Vegas singer, comedian, and actor Steve Rossi is set to make his debut in an off-Broadway production. “Don’t Leave It All to Your Children!” begins previews this week at the Actors Temple Theatre and is scheduled to run through June 28, 2009.
• • The 90-minute musical revue is an adaptation of “Senior Class,” both written and directed by Saul Ilson.
• • The 76-year-old Rossi is part of an ensemble cast of four that includes Barbara Minkus (“Picon Pie”), Marcia Rodd (“The Last of the Red Hot Lovers”), and Ronnie Schell (“Gomer Pyle”). Rossi and Schell have done “Senior Class” at the Annenberg Theater in Palm Springs, Calif., for the past four years.
• • “The producers saw ‘Senior Class’ and liked it but they didn’t know if it was strong enough for Broadway,” Rossi says. “Now with the new theme and new material, it looks pretty strong.” The revue is about Baby Boomers becoming seniors. “There are a series of vignettes about getting older and about life,” Rossi explains.
• • Rossi, a native New Yorker who grew up in Southern California, has performed in every medium but a Broadway play. “Don’t Leave It All to Your Children!” gets him close. At 339 West 47th St., the Actors Temple is about a block off the Great White Way.
• • Best known as the straight man of a comedy team with Marty Allen, Rossi says he has always been too busy to pursue the New York stage.
• • “When Marty and I were hot we could have been on Broadway any time we wanted, but we didn’t take advantage of it,” he says. “For some reason our management never thought it was a good career move.”
• • Allen & Rossi, who were brought together by Nat King Cole in 1957, made more than 700 appearances on television (44 on “The Ed Sullivan Show”), made 16 comedy albums and appeared in the spy spoof film “The Last of the Secret Agents” before they split in 1969. They reunited briefly twice. ...
• • Rossi was discovered by Mae West in 1953.
• • He was a 20-year-old student playing the lead in “The Student Prince” at the Civic Light Opera Company in Los Angeles. Mae West caught the performance and hired him for her show, which ended up at the Sahara in Las Vegas.
• • After graduating from Loyola University, he entered the Air Force. While stationed near San Francisco, he became friends with legendary radio announcer Don Sherwood and frequently appeared on his radio and television shows. Rossi, who never seems to slow down, says if the show catches on and he’s in New York for a while, he will produce a burlesque show and probably perform some stand-up comedy.
• • “I don’t feel any older than I did 20 years ago,” he says. “A lot of women take me for like 50 and 55 — — although last night a girl took me for a hundred.”
— — Excerpt: — —
• • THEATER — — Straight man of Allen & Rossi cracks wise just off Broadway
• • Byline: Jerry Fink
• • Published in: The Las Vegas Sun — — www.lasvegassun.com
• • Published on: 6 May 2009
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

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