The showman who asked MAE WEST to come up and see him in The Buckeye State has died.
• • According to Associated Press, John Kenley began acting in New York City in the 1920s — — and once served as an aide to famed producer Lee Shubert. He became a summer theater producer in 1940 in Deer Lake, Pennsylvania, and worked in other eastern cities, including Washington D.C. Kenley produced hundreds of plays and musicals. His Kenley Players, a summer stock circuit that began in Dayton, Ohio, in 1957, featured such stars as Mae West, Arthur Godfrey, Ethel Merman, Burt Reynolds, Billy Crystal, Gypsy Rose Lee, Tommy Tune, William Shatner, and Robert Goulet.
• • According to The New York Times, Mr. Kenley was born John Kremchek in Denver on 20 February 1906. His parents were saloon keepers who later moved the family to Cleveland. In the 1920s he made his way to New York, hoping to break into show business. He performed with Martha Graham as a dancer-acrobat in John Murray Anderson’s Greenwich Village Follies. It was Mr. Anderson who suggested he change his name to Kenley.
• • The New York Times obituary offered this background detail: In 1928 Mr. Kenley began reading plays for the Shuberts. In 1930 he became assistant to one of the Shubert brothers, Levi, who was known as Lee — “Mr. Shubert’s left-hand man,” as Mr. Kenley put it in an interview with Martha Schmoyer LoMonaco for her history “Summer Stock! An American Theatrical Phenomenon” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). ...
• • John Kenley opened Ohio-based theaters in Warren, Columbus and Akron before moving into the Playhouse Square Center in downtown Cleveland in 1984.
• • The vibrant Midwestern impresario was celebrated for his producing clout, casting coups, and a passion for live entertainment that brought pleasure and glamor to hundreds of thousands of hard-working coal miners and Ohio residents.
• • On 23 October 2009 John Kenley died at the Cleveland Clinic from complications of pneumonia. He was 103.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none • •
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