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:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1944 • •
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