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:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1954 • •
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