Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mae West: Remembrance

MAE WEST loved music but her choices had little to do with with Mozart, Grieg, Chopin, or salon society. The blues compositions that got Mae moving had more in common with the wooden tables of smoky saloons. Many music-makers have grooved to the Empress of Sex. Hollywood resident Ramfis Diaz — — a handsome 47-year-old musician possessed of charm and deftly adorned by a-Mae-zing tattoos inspired by the Brooklyn bombshell — — is in that group.
• • Having read an article about the screen queen's long-standing relationship with the professional fighter William "Gorilla" Jones, Ramfis Diaz decided to give the journalist a ring — — and here is the aftermath.
• • Mark J. Price, Beacon Journal staff writer, did a follow-up feature, titled "Gorilla Jones story a virtual knockout: Mae West fan pleased to learn about Akron boxer's role in life of actress."
• • Mark J. Price writes: Hollywood musician Ram Diaz, 47, called to say he loved our story about Akron boxer William ''Gorilla'' Jones (1906
1982), a former middleweight champion who was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame this month.
• • Ramfis Diaz is a big fan of screen legend Mae West (1893
1980), who employed Jones as a bodyguard and chauffeur after he retired from the ring. Jones and West were close companions for 40 years and might have been romantically involved.
• • ''I didn't know much about Gorilla Jones because she was so secretive about her men,'' Diaz said. ''Mae West didn't kiss and tell. She might have given you a clue here and there.''
• • He believes such a clue can be found in West's 1932 movie "Night After Night," in which George Raft plays an ex-boxer. It was the same year that Jones won the middleweight title.
• • In one scene, Mae West remarks: ''Hey, Gorilla. Come here.''
• • ''She was given full right to rewrite her scenes in that movie,'' he said. ''So I know for a fact that she put that name in there.''
• • A lifelong collector of memorabilia, Diaz has been enamored with West since he saw My Little Chickadee on TV as a boy in the 1960s. He lives in a building near the late star's Ravenswood apartment complex.
• • ''I can actually see her bedroom window from my bedroom window,'' he said.
• • Since 1988 [when he was 26 years old], Ramfis Diaz has thrown a Hollywood birthday party in Mae West's honor every August 17 on the roof of Gramercy Tower in Hancock Park and in his top-floor apartment. The potluck dinner, which is open to the public, includes some of West's inner circle of friends, including Kevin Thomas, Tim Malachosky, and Chris Basinger.
• • Not all guests are acquainted with Mae West's work, though.
• • ''There's a lot of people that really don't know much about her, but they get educated when they arrive,'' Diaz said.
• • He praised the Beacon Journal article for teaching him something new.
• • ''That's the fascinating thing with Miss West,'' he said. ''There's always something new.''
• • Mark J. Price is a Beacon Journal copy editor. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or send e-mail to mjprice@thebeaconjournal.com.
— — Source: — —
• • Column: "This Place, This Time: Going West"
• • Gorilla Jones story a virtual knockout: Mae West fan pleased to learn about Akron boxer's role in life of actress
• • Byline: Mark J. Price | Beacon Journal copy editor
• • Published in: The Akron Beacon Journal — — http://ohio.com
• • Published on: Monday, 29 June 2009
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • In her hometown, New Yorkers also celebrate Mae West's birthday. One event open to the public is the Annual Mae West Walking Tour, which will be held on Sunday 16 August 2009. This year the walking tour begins at Shubert Alley and proceeds uptown to Mae's WESTside apartment. To get more details, read this blog and/ or post your email. [Your info will not be posted nor available so that miscreants and rascals can access it.]

• • The tour takes a path up and down blocks associated with Mae West's career. For instance, the speak run by the George Raft character in "Night After Night" [1932] was based on Club Napoleon, a speakeasy on the grand scale, once located at 33 West 56th Street on a fancy block of Beaux Arts mansions. Years before it became an illegal ginmill, 33 West 56th had been the childhood home of Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Monday, June 29, 2009

Mae West: Undetectable?

MAE WEST worked hard at being quotable and memorable. Occasionally, however, an individual might attribute a sentence to Mae that seems baffling or is untraceable.
• • For instance, recently Prof. Gina Barreca began an essay like this: When Mae West said “What a tragedy for a man, what an opportunity for a woman,” she summed up one of the ways in which women’s comedy differs from men’s — — in some cases, women can see possibilities for comedy and humor where men can only see failure. . . .
• • Hmmm. No source was given to clarify when Mae West may have said (or written) this statement. We cannot place the quote
— — but if you can, come up and tell us.
• • Gina Barreca is a professor of English and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut. She's published several books including "They Used to Call Me Snow White, But I Drifted" and "Babes in Boyland."
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Column: "Questions Concerning Women and Comedy"
• • Byline: Gina Barreca | A "Brainstorm" blogger
• • Published in: The Chronicle of Higher Education — — http://chronicle.com
• • Published on: 28 June 2009
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mae West: June 1954

The MAE WEST Revue would have turned 55 on 27 June 2009.
• • In April 1954, Jim Timony had suffered a fatal heart attack, leaving Mae without a steadfast, faithful manager by her side for the first time since 1917. Despite being hospitalized in 1950 for heart failure, and physically declining during the early 1950s, Timony had been laying the groundwork for a new Las Vegas hotel — casino called "Mae West's Diamond Lil Casino." His death put an end to this desert tribute but the idea of appearing in Nevada's most glamourous venues ignited Mae's daydreams.
• • By the early 1950s, Marlene Dietrich, Frank Sinatra, Danny Thomas, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and other big names had all played Vegas. So why not Diamond Lil? Soon Mae was sashaying through the fanciest casinos. Eventually she signed with the Sahara, who agreed to give her $25,000 a week — — a whopper of a payday. There was only one teeny obstacle: the 60-year-old Brooklyn bombshell had to come up with a concept.
• • After Mae was introduced to the newly crowned Mr. America of 1954 — — supremely gorgeous Richard DuBois — — her fantasies got fired up. Instead of the usual extravantly costumed showgirls, West selected a bevy of bodybuilders to accompany bawdy songs such as "I Want to Do All Day What I Do All Night." George Eiferman, Irvin "Zabo" Koszewski, Dick DuBois, Dominic Juliano, Joe Gold, Armand Tanny, Gordon Mitchell, Mickey Hargitay, and Charles Krauser were among the star bodybuilders in West's chorus for all (or part of) the show's three-year run. The act, which ran a little over half-an-hour, also featured a lusciously decked out Mae being attended by her onstage maid Louise Beavers, and being waltzed around by Steve Rossi.
• • As the young Apollos paraded onstage, Mae would announce: "I've got something for the girls — — boys, boys, boys!" Whereupon the females in the audience would rush up to crowd around the guys, recalled Steve Rossi. "It was sensational, almost a riot. It took 20 minutes for people in the audience to go back to their tables."
• • On 27 June 1954, the Mae West Revue would debut at the Sahara's Congo Room and remain there for almost three weeks.
• • In 1957, the long-running sold-out stage show would close in Las Vegas — — again at the Sahara.

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

Mae West: Buffalo Boost

The first major motion picture starring (and written by) MAE WEST got a fresh look in a Buffalo, New York newspaper.
• • Before turning to that northern exposure, however, it's interesting to note that there are tyros at the typewriter who know little about some of Mae's one-liners. Example: Texas Guinan's snappy comeback "Goodness had nothing to do with it!" was borrowed by her friend Mae to end a scene in "Night After Night" [1932].
• • And when writing her play "The Drag" in 1926, Mae West gave the drag queen Winnie this line: "So glad to have you meet me. Come up sometime and I'll bake you a pan of biscuits." Naturally, that was Mae's intentional echo of the very well-known quip of the late great female impersonator Bert Savoy, who used to say, "Oh, Margie! You must come over!"
• • "The Drag" can be seen onstage this very weekend in Iowa City, Iowa, by the way.
• • Jennifer Garlen — — who may discover more about the Brooklyn bombshell eventually — — inclined her pen WEST-ward in "Classic films in focus: She Done Him Wrong (1933)" and this is how she viewed it.
• • Jennifer Garlen writes: Everyone knows who Mae West is, but it's hard to imagine that very many of those people have actually seen a Mae West film. Her famous hourglass figure and loaded one liners made her a household name, and it's fascinating to watch the lady put those assets into action. She Done Him Wrong is a good Mae West film for an introduction because it shows off some of West's finest lines (both literally and figuratively), gives us a look at a very young Cary Grant, and even garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Picture back in 1934.
• • This is not to say that the film doesn't show its age. The plot is thin and confusing, largely because of the swarm of conspiring criminal admirers who crowd around music hall diva Lady Lou (Mae West). Lady Lou is technically employed as a singer in the music hall, but that's just a euphemistic cover for her real occupation, which is good because West isn't much of a singer. Her best musical performance in the film is "Frankie and Johnny," the old songbook standard whose lines inspired the title of this film. West can be forgiven for her indifferent singing, though, since it is almost a tradition for music hall vamps in the movies, if one thinks of Marlene Dietrich as Frenchie in Destry Rides Again (1939) or the parody of Dietrich offered by Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles (1974). The ending of the film is rather less forgivable; it comes out of the blue without any effort at logic or expectation. It would be a deus ex machina if engagement rings were gods, which, in Mae West's case at least, they probably are.
• • Despite the dated quality of the narrative structure, the film offers real entertainment in the person of West, who also wrote the play from which the picture was developed. She is not beautiful by modern standards, not even conventionally pretty, but she radiates sexuality like the Venus of Willendorf, and every man around her falls helpless at her feet. She has a delightful, wolfish way of looking the men over, rolling her eyes and pursing her lips as she delivers endless zingers and innuendos. You just know she might eat every one of them up, and they would enjoy the experience. She Done Him Wrong is the source
[sic] of the famous West line, "Why don't you come up some time and see me?" The way that she emphasizes the word "see" suggests an awful lot about just how much of her might be on display. Best of all, the character to whom she delivers this quip is none other than Cary Grant.
• • I wouldn't call She Done Him Wrong a film that people absolutely must see, but it's a fun picture, and it offers a very good sense of why West was famous and what she brought to cinema. West constantly pushed the edge of what could be shown or said in Hollywood at that time; you can see why outraged prudes felt the need to form the National Legion of Decency in 1933, at least partly in reaction to West and this film. We can't thank goodness for Mae West; as she herself famously said, "Goodness had nothing to do with it," but we can be thankful that she was there to add a little spice back when Hollywood was young.
• • Note: Jennifer Garlen is an Examiner from Huntsville.
— — Source: — —
• • Column: "Classic films in focus: She Done Him Wrong (1933)"
• • Byline: Jennifer Garlen | Huntsville Classic Movies Examiner
• • Published in: The Examiner [Buffalo] — — www.examiner.com
• • Published on: 26 June 2009
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Friday, June 26, 2009

Mae West: Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett had a minor role in a motion picture with MAE WEST. The fresh-faced Wella Balsam shampoo model was cast as Mary Ann Pringle in "Myra Breckinridge," released in the USA on 24 June 1970 by 20th Century Fox, a cinematic curiosity inspired by a Gore Vidal novel.
• • Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, Farrah Fawcett [2 February 1947— 25 June 2009] attended the University of Texas at Austin, attracting attention for her beauty and bountiful mane. Then her real education began — — cratered within the heartbreak and hope of Hollywood aspirations.
• • Her big break arrived in 1976 when the 29-year-old actress first appeared as private investigator Jill Munroe in the TV series "Charlie's Angels," quickly capering to international icon status, out-pacing her brunette cast-mates Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith. Dazzled and impressed by creating an overnight sensation, the actress hop-scotched away from Aaron Spelling's jiggle-wiggle series after one season [1976-77] to pursue a movie career, but her fame never again reached the same heights.
• • In 1978, she made her first of several big-screen flops — — "Somebody Killed Her Husband" (often referred to as "Somebody Killed Her Career").
• • Eventually becoming a nominee for laurels such as an Emmy and the Golden Globe, Farrah Fawcett was often seen portraying victims in highly rated television one-offs such as "The Burning Bed," and cast as more complex females in historical melodramas, i.e., "Nazi Hunter: The Beate Klarsfeld Story," "Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story," and a bio-pic on Margaret Bourke-White. Her hairstyle, toothy smile, and bestselling swimsuit poster made her a worldwide sex symbol during the 1970s.
• • Losing her battle with anal cancer, Farrah Fawcett, 62, died Thursday morning at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Ryan O'Neal, the longtime companion who returned to her side when she became ill, was with her.

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

Mae West: Not Greenpoint

There are already quite enough factual errors about MAE WEST nesting in obscure, out-of-print publications. So do we need more mistakes being passed around the Internet, ready for the copy-and-paste set?
• • The Brooklyn Eagle, a newspaper that often inspires affection, let down the home team this week. One of their regular columns is laced with incorrect information.
• • Without checking the information first, columnist David Weiss states: Evidently not finding a lot to say about Greenpoint, the editors of the 1939 WPA Guide to New York City in writing the area’s history came up with the fact it was “the birthplace of Mae West.”
• • Yikes! Perhaps the fuzzy logic is, even if the WPA Guide published a faulty detail, then it's all right to reprint it — — unchallenged and uncorrected. Maybe the Brooklyn eagle-eyed fact-checkers are already on vacation, enjoying the beaches of Suffolk County or some Long Island surf and turf.
• • In times past, the copyediting staff held sway at a publication, touching up small parts of the text in case a stray piffle or two might be in need of righting before it left the house. For the record, Brooklynite Mae West was not born in Greenpoint. It is as annoying as that Kings County hash house with their absurd claims that Mae West was "born upstairs." Sheesh. Hire a copy editor, will ya?
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
— — Source for the error: — —
• • Column: "FROM THE BROOKLYN AERIE: A Weekly Column of Trivia and Observations"
• • Byline: David Ansel Weiss | Email: edit@brooklyneagle.net
• • Published in: The Brooklyn Eagle — — www.brooklyneagle.net
• • Published on: 24 June 2009
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

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

Mae West: Colorful

Born under the sign of Leo, MAE WEST enjoyed being onstage and on display. Noticing people bunched down, burying the urges, she shimmied to the microphone and spelled a new name for everything.
• • Many individuals took her picture — — or tried to catch the Empress of Sex with a charcoal stick, pencil, chalk, oil paints, or mixed media. Recently, book designer Nancy Vala tried her hand at sketching Mae.
• • Born under the sign of Leo, Nancy Vala spends her working hours focused on designing, illustrating, and writing. In her spare time, she relaxes by enjoying motion pictures and museums and going kayaking,
• • Nancy Vala posts her artwork here — — http://walkingsatellite.blogspot.com — — so come up sometime and admire her colorful creations.
• • The 24th of June was memorable for Mae West and men she knew. Her lover, heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey was born on this date. So was a singer/ songwriter Mae admired and worked with at Paramount: Gene Austin.
• • Mae-mavens already know that the curious motion picture "Myra Breckinridge" was released on 24 June 1970.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • drawn by Nancy Vala • •
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mae West: 23 June 1922

Variety often scolded MAE WEST or found a witty way to sling unkind or unpleasant pronouncements in her direction.
• • During the month of June — — on 23 June 1922 — — Variety's critics briefly changed their tone, moving from glacial malice to a reverential nod.
• • That summer, New York's air was jagged with mosquitoes as shadows stretched across vaudeville, slowly going under, a bare bright emptiness in its future.
• • Shoring up her options, Mae had written "The Ruby Ring" [1921] and "The Hussy" [1922] and she also was preparing to appear in "The Ginger Box Revue," scheduled to open in August 1922 in Greenwich Village.
• • Simultaneously, Mae was writing a new stage act for herself and an accompanist, featuring fast-paced skits and songs. Faced with choosing a pianist, Mae had auditioned two unknowns, Brooklynite Jimmy Durante [10 February 1893 — 29 January 1980] and Harry Richman [10 August 1895 — 3 November 1972], and selected the taller, more dapper fellow. Stagebills soon offered her new show: "Bits of Musical Comedy — — Mae West assisted by Harry Richman."
• • After some good notices, Mae snagged a booking at the Palace.
• • She had structured her turns to include a short version of "The Ruby Ring," a bit in which she was costumed as a Roman empress/ temptress in need of a new gladiator, and a blues segment in which she delivered a gutsy "Frankie and Johnny."
• • Reviewers sat up straight for this one. "She rises to heights undreamed of for her and reveals unexpected depths as a delineator of character songs, a dramatic reader of ability, and a girl with a flair for farce that will some day land her on the legitimate Olympus" [Variety, 23 June 1922].
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Monday, June 22, 2009

Mae West: Wilder

MAE WEST, wrote a New York City film critic, is her own plot. Having spent years grooming and custom-tailoring her public image, Mae West only wanted to play the roles that would magnify that persona, a screen presence that was resourceful, triumphant, alluring, and youthful.
• • Curiously, Billy Wilder wanted Mae West to play Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard," a full-length feature released in August 1950. Billy had always found Mae West's image irresistible, ever since he had seen her early motion pictures for Paramount. In their commissary (and over at Lucey's), Mae and Billy had often chatted and swapped naughty narratives.
• • Billy Wilder was shocked to find Mae West more insulted than flattered at the chance to play a faded, eccentric, reclusive movie star. Shows you how much he knew about women, eh?
• • Born in Sucha, Galicia, Austria-Hungary during the month of June — — on 22 June 1906 — — Billy Wilder entered the film industry in 1929 as a screenwriter, penning numerous scripts for German films until Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Wilder immediately realized his Jewish ancestry would cause problems, so he emigrated to Paris, then the USA.
• • Billy Wilder [22 June 1906 — 27 March 2002] was a journalist, filmmaker, screenwriter, and producer, whose colorful career spanned more than 50 years and 60 films.

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

Mae West: Al Hirschfeld

Many pens, pencils, paintbrushes, and pastels have swirled around the famous face and figure of MAE WEST, especially when she brought her revival of "Diamond Lil" to Broadway and played there from 1949 — 1951.
• • One illustrator who had sketched Mae West in 1940 for The New York Times when she was starring in "My Little Chickadee" also got a second chance to draw her for that newspaper a decade later. Since he was born during the month of June — — on 21 June 1903 — — a few words will be said.
• • Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Al Hirschfeld [21 June 1903 – 20 January 2003] was a Jewish caricaturist best known for his simple black and white satirical portraits of celebrities and Broadway stars. After he relocated to New York City, he took classes at the Art Students League.
• • After his cartoon appeared in the Times, Al Hirschfeld autographed and sold a limited edition of his etching of Mae West; the original sketch was done in pencil and its dimensions were 14 1/2 inches x 19 inches.

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

Mae West: On with The Drag

Written in 1926, MAE WEST's controversial play "The Drag" will be onstage this weekend and next. If you're not in the Midwest, you can still enjoy a video of this production [link below].
• • Announcing that a "Boundary-pushing play on drag and homosexuality opens," scribe Ellen Harris (reporting from Iowa) gives us a preferential peek into the backstage prepping.
• • Ellen Harris writes: The cast members of Dreamwell Theatre’s The Drag sweated and sang their way through rehearsal in the cramped quarters at the First Baptist Church on June 10, utilizing the borrowed attic to the best of their combined abilities.
• • “It’s a garret for theater,” said first-time director Chuck Dufano about the less-than-ideal practice space.
• • Since the beginning of May, Dufano and his cast and crew have rehearsed The Drag, a 20-century play written by silver-screen star Mae West. This presentation, a Dreamwell Theatre production, will be performed at the Universalist Unitarian Society, 10 S. Gilbert St., at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and June 26-27, 2009.
• • “The play as a whole is very serious,” Dufano said. “But with [the 1920s-era songs] and drag bits in between, it interjects a lightness. It’s a great commentary, really.”
• • The performing arts — particularly theater — are known for its support and acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Unsurprisingly, Mae West felt comfortable using her sex-symbol status to educate the public on matters of a delicate, discreet nature. Her first big play, titled Sex, led to her prosecution in 1927 by New York City officials on charges of questionable morality. Her subsequent eight-day incarceration helped propel West into fame. Her next piece, The Drag (written that same year), never had a Broadway première — the Society for the Suppression of Vice (a Prohibition-era institution dedicated to supervising the morality of the public) promised to banish the play.
• • The Drag, a severely dated presentation on homosexuality and drag culture, follows a few days in the life of Rolly Kingsbury, a wealthy, unhappily married man whose secret life of queers and queens takes a giant toll on his personal and professional lives.
• • Seasoned actor (and UI alum) T.J. Besler plays the tormented and confused Kingsbury, using small mannerisms — such as the touch of a hand upon a shoulder — to illustrate his longing for something other than his wilting flower of a wife, performed by Wartburg College graduate Becca Robinson.
• • Besler, whose résumé is full of various dramas and musicals, cited the diverse cast of The Drag as part of its community appeal.
• • “There are homosexual cast members, there are heterosexual cast members,” he said. “I think it’s great.”
• • Though originally written as three acts of straight dialogue, Dufano and music director Elisabeth Ross decided that some 1920s-era music would lighten the darker nature of the play. Almost every character gets a melodic spotlight, belting famous tunes such as “The Man I Love” and “Making Whoopie.” Ross, a UI graduate teaching elementary music in the area, assisted the actors in preparing to burst into song, as actors are wont to do in musical theater.
• • “There are a lot of really awesome voices here,” Ross said. “I think they make [the song interludes] work.”
• • Dreamwell is observing June’s Gay Pride Month, producing The Drag in conjunction with Pride Fest activities. Various Iowa City establishments, such as Studio 13, 13 S. Linn St., will host gay-community events, such as tonight’s cabaret and Saturday’s drag show. The celebrations in the city are testament to the community’s support of all of its denizens.
• • Robinson, The Drag’s female lead and a member of Dreamwell Theatre’s board, applauds the social and political efforts of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender organizations.
• • “This struggle has been going on [forever],” she said. “In this current time, when we see some advances are really starting to be made, it’s a reminder of how long they’ve taken to get there, how far they’ve come, and how much further they’re going to go.”
• • The essence of that era is evident in the language of The Drag. Terms such as “degenerates” and “moral lepers” are used when describing “victims of moral depravity” — namely, the gay men whose lifestyles are described in a physician’s book, one of the key set properties in the production. There is a scene in which a judge argues for homosexuals to be institutionalized, jailed, or sent to an asylum to deal with their “curse.”
• • Robinson is quick to explain the controversial moment.
• • “I feel like the dated bits are balanced by the fact that there are very ‘out’ homosexual characters who aren’t ashamed of what they are and who are having a really wonderful time,” she said.
• • However far society has come, some arguments that the play presents seem strikingly familiar. Debates about feminine versus masculine behavior and nature versus nurture as it relates to sexual development — these discussions are as recent as Miss California Carrie Prejean’s decrowning and the legalization of same-sex marriage in Iowa.
• • As Iowa has progressed, so has the theater. Though a constant haven for those who feel outcast by societal norms, even the performing arts have held antiquated views on sexual identity — West’s characterizations in The Drag are a prime example. The play may unpleasantly surprise audiences with its terminology, but the innuendo of the delightful drag queens (so honored by the title) draws more than enough laughs from the crowd.
• • “I think the show has something for everyone,” Besler said. “No matter what point of view you’re coming from.”
• • "The Drag" is onstage here: Universalist Unitarian Society — — 10 S. Gilbert Street, Iowa City, Iowa 52240.
• • NOTE: A slide show along with a video that shares song numbers from Mae West's play "The Drag" can be seen online currently — — http://www.dailyiowan.com/2009/06/18/Arts/11739.html
— — Source: — —
• • Article: "Boundary-pushing play on drag and homosexuality opens"
• • Byline: Ellen Harris | Staffwriter
• • Published in: The Daily Iowan — — www.dailyiowan.com
• • Published on: 18 June 2009

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • 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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Friday, June 19, 2009

Mae West: Drag Net

MAE WEST's controversial play "The Drag" will be onstage not far from the cornfields of the Midwest this weekend. Don't miss it.
• • Deanna Howard's feature in The Iowa City Press-Citizen gives some background.
• • Deanna Howard writes: The second play of Dreamwell Theatre's season of "inciting theatre" is none other than Mae West's play, "The Drag." Organizers chose "The Drag" to coincide with local Gay Pride festivities.
• • "It's a chance for today's LGBT population to see how far we've come in the way of the social mindset, as how familiar some of the struggles are to our own today," said director Chuck Dufano.
• • "Things might get a little bizarre ... which is all in keeping with any good gay pride festival."
• • Dreamwell presents "The Drag" at 7:30 p.m. this Friday and Saturday and June 26
27, 2009 at the Universalist Unitarian Society. ...
• • Mae West wrote the play in the mid-1920s.
• • "For its time, it was a daring script," Dufano said. "She allowed gay men to speak in their own voice."
• • It's an interesting play because while it was cutting-edge then, by today's standards it's rather backwards, Dufano said.
• • "The Drag" centers on Rolly Kingsbury, a judge's son, who is set to inherit the family's ironworks business.
• • Kingsbury's marriage crumbles when the secret of a past affair with a man comes to light, as well as an affiliation with the local drag community.
• • Iowa City resident Gary Tyrrell plays one of the drag queens, Clem, in the production.
• • Growing up, Tyrrell was often encouraged to suppress his feminine side, to be ashamed of it.
• • Being in "The Drag" has allowed Tyrrell to come to grips with his childhood. He's enjoying the opportunity to show off his feminine side on stage. "It's been a lot of fun," Tyrrell said. "It's a good story. It has a lot of fun music from the Roaring 1920s."
• • WHERE: Universalist Unitarian Society — — 10 S. Gilbert Street, Iowa City, Iowa 52240.
— — Source: — —
• • Article: "Dreamwell presents 'The Drag'"
• • Play part of local Gay Pride events
• • Byline: Deanna Howard | Staffwriter
• • Published in: The Iowa City Press-Citizen — — www.press-citizen.com/
• • Published on: 18 June 2009
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • 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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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mae West: More Barrymore

It's doubtful that MAE WEST would have had much to discuss with Ethel Barrymore. But she kept tabs on her career.
• • When Mae brought "Diamond Lil" to California, she was interviewed by Edgar Waite of the San Francisco Examiner. She spoke of the box-office uplift that followed her out West during the cash-crunched winter of 1929.
• • Mae West assured Waite: "Last Monday at the Curran, we took in $300 more than Ethel Barrymore on her opening night last summer. . . ."
• • The year before, critic Robert Garland compared the Brooklyn bombshell and the stately dramatic actress.
• • "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."
• • Born on 15 August 1879, Ethel Barrymore died during the month of June — — on 18 June 1959. Praised for her work on the stage, Ethel was an Academy Award-winning screen actress and a member of the famous Barrymore family.

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

Mae West: By the Numbers

MAE WEST had many memorable moments that have made history.
• • Today an arithmetic challenged celebrity web site commemorated one of her life-changing passages during the month of June. The item makes no sense. But should we keep it to ourselves?
• • On 16 June 2009, Hollywood Outbreak [www.hollywoodoutbreak.com] wrote: On this day in 1938, controversial stage actress Mae West leaves New York for California to make her first film, Night After Night [1932]. West had become a hit stage actress, famous for her racy roles in controversial productions. In 1927, . . . .
• • How long did it take you to spot Hollywood Outbreak's error? Since there are other mistakes in their brief Mae mention, too, an ellipsis is more merciful in this case.

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

Mae West: Penis Talk

At a recent auction, a photo of MAE WEST was expected to fetch US $12,000 — $18,000. Lot ID 8478 is now in the possession of a bidder who paid only US $8,200 for it. The sale would not have amused the screen queen, who had tried to sue Show Magazine over this portrait. Show published it anyway [January 1965 issue].
• • ''Mae West hated the pictures,'' Allan Arbus recalled about the shoot done by his late wife. ''Because they were truthful.''
• • The image might come up another time — — since there are 75 prints of this limited edition of Mae West in a Chair at Home, Santa Monica, California, 1965.
• • In 1964, Diane Arbus [14 March 1923 — 26 July 1971] flew to Los Angeles. Her buddy Robert Brown chauffeured her to Mae West's beach house on two successive days. By the 1960s, the New York City photo-journalist had adopted the Rolleiflex medium format twin-lens reflex. This format provided a square aspect ratio, higher image resolution, and a waist-level viewfinder that allowed Arbus to connect with her subjects in ways that a standard eye-level viewfinder did not. She was also experimenting with the use of flashes in daylight, allowing her to highlight and separate her subjects from the background.
• • For all of her technical savvy, Diane Arbus had enough smarts to know when to keep the camera bag out of sight. So it unfolded that, when Robert Brown came to drive his friend home on that first evening, she admitted she had not shot one frame yet. Instead she and the Brooklyn bombshell spent the time chatting.
• • Penis Pals • •
• • ''Do you know what we did most of the time?'' Diane enthusiastically told Robert. ''She's got a locked room with models in plaster of all the men she's had sex with — — of their erections.''
• • Regaling the East Coast guest with tales about her former lovers, Mae West had said: ''Each one is different: the way they sigh, the way they moan, the way they move; even the feel of them, their flesh is just a little different. . . . There's a man for every mood.''
• • Naturally, Diane Arbus wrote all of this down for the cover story she would write for Show's publisher Huntington Hartford. Then the next day, when her subject was relaxed and at ease, Diane shot several rolls. She was satisfied that she had done a good job capturing the septuagenarian sexpot — — in a negligee, backlighted by the merciless Southern California sun.
• • In her article, the 41-year-old phtographer would describe the 71-year-old screen legend as "imperious, adorable, magnanimous, genteel and girlish, almost simultaneously." She added, "There is even, forgive me, a kind of innocence about her."
• • After the session, Mae handed Diane a C-note, saying, "Thanks, honey." This was a habit dating back to the 1930s when the Paramount Pictures star would tip still photographers who snapped her on the set. [Diane returned the $100 with a gracious note.]
• • When the sharply focused black and white portraits appeared in print, however, Mae found them harsh, ugly, pitiless and directed her attorneys to sue the publisher. Her lawyers fired off a letter, calling the Mae layout "unflattering, cruel, and not at all glamourous."
• • Diane Arbus admitted there was a certain manipulativeness felt by those who click a shutter. A camera gave her access and power — — but what Diane trainer herself to notice especially was "the flaw."
• • Flaws did not interest Mae West. Not unlike Blanche DuBois, she did not want realism. She preferred magic, Hollywood's favorite home-grown product.
• • Diane Arbus: Mae West in a Chair at Home, Santa Monica, California, 1965 [Gelatin Silver Print, 20 inches X 16 inches, signed by Arbus].

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

Mae West: Shubert and Herts

In June 1919 MAE WEST was wrapping up a successful long-running engagement in "Sometime," a musical comedy.
• • It was on Saturday 4 October 1918 that "Sometime," the "musical comedy of commerce" designed to showcase the talents of laughmeister Ed Wynn, had opened at the Shubert Theatre (establishing a nice healthy wartime run that continued for eight months at the Shubert brothers' flagship: 225 West 44th Street).
• • At 25 years old, Mae West was still much more accustomed to appearing in vaudeville than in the legit. In "Sometime," it was Mae's character Mayme Dean who appeared onstage first. At that point in her career, Mae had often been cast as an Irish maid — — although Mayme Dean is a frisky flapper who cannot land a man.
• • The red velvet curtain came down during June 1919, after the show had done big box office for 283 performances.
• • Even though the blockbuster hit closed, fortunately, the stately playhouse lives on.
• • Henry Beaumont Herts • •
• • Engineered by Henry Beaumont Herts [23 January 1871 — 27 March 1933], an architect, painter, sculptor, and craftsman — — who was a student when he won the prestigious design competition for the graceful triumphal arch that once graced West 59th Street by Columbus Circle — — the Shubert Theatre was opened in September 1913. In 1911 Herts had ended his partnership with Hugh Tallent and teamed up with Herbert J. Krapp, who had been their assistant. Together they produced the Booth, its companion the Shubert, and the Longacre Theaters. A native New Yorker who studied architecture and fine art abroad as well as in his hometown, Henry Beaumont Herts's first huge success on Broadway came during the early years of the new century. In his New Amsterdam Theater, completed in 1902, a cantilever balcony was used for the first time.
• • Ninety years ago today, a lithe and lovely Mae West (not yet buxom nor "cantilevered") was packing away her Mayme Dean dreams in a scrapbook. Did she suspect that she would return to this theatre for future successes as both an author and the marquee name?
• • This August the Mae West walking tour will meet in front of Shubert Alley and offer deeper dish — — amid a dazzling display of Mae-memorabilia.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mae West: Lieutenant Bunin

Brooklyn native Gene Barry [birthname: Eugene Klass], who was featured on Broadway with MAE WEST in 1944, was born on 14 June 1919.
• • The handsome graduate of New Utrecht High School is still performing.
• • Gene Barry (who borrowed the "Barry" from his idol John Barrymore) began his acting career in stock.
• • He likes to reminisce about his early show business days when he appeared as Lieutenant Bunin in a Mae West play on Broadway, Catherine Was Great. He recalls the famous curtain speech Mae West gave: “I’m glad you like my Catherine. I like her, too. She ruled 30 million people and had 3,000 lovers. I do the best I can in two hours.”
• • Though reports indicated that Mae was short-tempered with Mike Todd, her cigar-chomping producer, Gene Barry recalled that she had been cordial and coquettish with him. When they were rehearsing, for instance, the mighty Empress of all the Russias asked Lieutenant Bunin not to call her "Mae West." Eager to please but unsure how to address his leading lady, Gene asked her what he ought to say. "Mmmm, just call me honey!" was Mae's suggestion.
• • Written by Mae West, the play premiered at the Shubert Theatre on 2 August 1944 and ran until 30 September 1944. On 2 October 1944, the show transferred to Mae's lucky spot — — the Royale Theatre — — where it remained until after the Christmas holidays [when it closed 13 January 1945].
• • After honing his craft onstage, Gene Barry headed to Hollywood and worked in films and on TV.
• • For his contribution to live theater, Gene Barry has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
— — 6555 Hollywood Boulevard.
• • Brooklynites Mae West and Gene Barry have both been honored by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on their Celebrity Path, where stepping stones are inscribed with names of famous Brooklynites past and present. Each paver also contains a bronze medallion of the Brooklyn Bridge, encircled by the phrase, "The Greatness of Brooklyn Is Its People." (By the way, new names are added to Celebrity Path during the month of June on the borough's annual Welcome Back to Brooklyn Day. )
• • The Mae West Blog wishes dapper Gene Barry a very happy 90th birthday today!
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mae West: Womanly

MAE WEST popped up in a discussion about what types of gals today's guys really go for. Strictly speaking, we're not sure that sex-kitten Bardot is aging "gracefully" over in France. And Monroe, who died at age 36, could not possibly have hiccuped in the direction of the word "matron." But on with the excerpt!
• • Teed off columnist Ryan McKee concluded his weekly screed with this parting harrumph: As we approach 2010, the 1990s dumb-girl look has reached critical mass. Cuties like Meg Ryan have become plastic surgery nightmares.
• • We need to return to the days of Marilyn Monroe [1926 — 1962] and Brigitte Bardot [b. 1934], when women wore their curves and did their best to grow old gracefully. The days where Mae West and Betty Grable didn’t need Stoli Blueberry and a frat boy to feel good. Guys, let’s stop rewarding women for acting like little girls because, as good as the immediate gratification is, the long-term consequences of synthetic mess-faces and artificial conversation won’t be worth it.
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Column: "We Want Women, Not Little Girls"
• • Byline: Ryan McKee | Social Commentator
• • Published in: AskMen.com
• • Published on: 12 June 2009
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Friday, June 12, 2009

Mae West: Minnesota

Handsome men in Minnesota are still calling your name, MAE WEST.
• • Veteran lit-critic Dave Wood is feeling a might cranky, though. And he hasn't even noticed the totally hideous Photo-shopped book jacket with the goony mackerel lips. [Or has he?]
• • Dave Wood writes: Do we really need another biography of Mae West? Apparently Simon and Schuster thought so, because they’re just out with “She Always Knew How: Mae West, a Personal Biography” by Charlotte Chandler [March 2009].
• • I’d call it “A Personal Hagiography” because Chandler finds Mae West to be absolutely flawless, loyal, loving, generous to a fault. Even more irritating, Chandler is one of those biographers with a memory that’s flawless.
• • She quotes the actress endlessly, long, long quotes that are perfectly constructed and obviously never came out of Chandler’s tape recorder.
• • Can’t these pop biographers figure out some other way to enliven their dull subjects in some way other than highlighting interviews with quotations that probably weren’t ever uttered?
• • I’ve ranted long enough. But if you want to know more of what I think about biographies of long dead film stars, come up and see me some time.
• • Dave Wood is a past vice president of the National Book Critics Circle and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Phone him at (715) 426-9554.
— — Source: — —
• • Column: "Dave Wood's Book Report, June 10, 2009"
• • Byline: Dave Wood | Critic
• • Published in: The Red Wing Republican Eagle [in Red Wing, Minnesota 55066] — — www.republican-eagle.com
• • Published on: 10 June 2009
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

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