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
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• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1932 • •
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Mae West.

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