Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mae West: 25 July 1926

When she was 42 years old, Texas Guinan met Rudolph Valentino [6 May 1895 — 23 August 1926] at her brother's nightspot — — and invited MAE WEST.
• • It was Sunday 25 July 1926 when Texas Guinan introduced Valentino to the guests at Tommy Guinan's speakeasy. Larger than the average ginmill, The Playground was on West 52nd Street (east of Broadway). Its generous square footage made it ideal for events and James R. Quirk, editor-publisher of
Photoplay, hosted a Reception in honor of Valentino's new silent movie "Son of the Sheik" there. When Photoplay first began publication, Quirk's staff had included handsome Julian Johnson, Texas's lover.
• • Wearing their diamonds and glittering gowns, Mae West and Texas Guinan were there to greet the Apulian heartthrob. No doubt Texas fancied Jadaan, a superb Arabian stallion Valentino had ridden in this melodrama. An expert equestrienne herself, the following year Texas would ride an Arabian stallion into the Shubert Theatre at the start of "
Padlocks of 1927."
• • Maybe Mae West was charmed more by the Italian stallion himself — — and piqued by the abrupt end to his life that occurred one month later when the actor was only 31. Something about Rudy impressed Mae, encouraging her to think that he could link her to the unquiet dead up and down Times Square.
• • According to Whitney Bolton, a columnist for the
Philadelphia Inquirer, a week after the Italian-born actor Rudolph Valentino died [1895 1926], Mae West and her friend Texas Guinan arranged for a séance in a Manhattan loft. Suspicious that the 31-year-old heartthrob was secretly poisoned by a rival, Mae summoned an Italian Medium to officiate. At the table sitting opposite Mae were Texas, her brother Tommy Guinan, and the gangster Owney Madden who owned The Cotton Club, a man noted more for violence than his spiritual side.
• • And the rendezvous with Rudolph in 1926 must have been memorable because two years later Mae was still holding séances in the smoking room of the Royale Theatre to communicate again with him. Visiting New York to see “
Diamond Lil” on Broadway, the actor Jean Hersholt was invited backstage and yanked into a darkened room where a Medium was channeling Caruso and Valentino. Hersholt recalled that Rudy called upon Mae and said: “Mae, you have a lot of enemies and don’t trust any of them.”
• • During the 1920s, Texas Guinan continued to host séances in her nightspots — — especially in Club Abbey on West 54th Street. It was easy for Mae West to attend these sessions, too, since she lived right upstairs.
• • Walk in the footsteps of Mae West and Texas Guinan next month. See below.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Join us for a lively afternoon focused on Mae West & Texas Guinan!
• • On 16 August 2009, come up and enjoy an a-MAE-zing experience — — a walking tour of historical sights in the Times Square area. This year the Annual Mae West Birthday Tour also commemorates speakeasy hostess Texas Guinan, the generous friend who backed all of Mae’s Broadway shows during the 1920s.
• • During April 1929, the Feds padlocked the CIub Intime at the Hotel Harding, where Texas Guinan was the principal attraction. On August 16th, attendees will visit this speakeasy, which is doing brisk business these days.
• • Walking Tour: "Gaudy Girls on The Gay White Way: Mae West & Texas Guinan in the Theatre District"
• • When: 4:00 PM on Sunday — — 16 August 2008 — — rain or shine
• • Meet: Shubert Alley, 44th Street, West of Broadway, New York, NY 10036
• • Price: $10 [this walking tour lasts about 90 minutes]
• • Subway: N or R [BMT] train to West 42nd Street; 1 [IRT] train to Times Square
• • Attire: why not wear a Mae West-inspired hat?
• • Info: T. 212-614-9683 — — or post your RSVP or tour question here
• • Online: MaeWest.blogspot.com — — TexasGuinan.blogspot.com
• • Who: Playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo makes the tour educational and entertaining.
• • LindaAnn Loschiavo's history play "Courting Mae West" was onstage in July 2008 at the Fresh Fruit Festival. She is working on a biographical travel guide "Mae West's New York, 1899—1959" and will show some of her unusual theatre memorabilia and vintage photos during the tour and reveal secret addresses tied to Mae West that have not been disclosed before. These rare pictures show the area as it looked during the 1920s when Mae West and Texas Guinan had their name on several marquees.
• • Surprises: Prizes and other nice things are part of the fun
• • Members of the press may attend on August 16th as our guest. RSVP required.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • images from 1926 • •
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