Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mae West: Love Gene

A former assistant of MAE WEST claims that the Brooklyn blonde remained Gene Austin's "one true love." Mae utilized her Texas friend's musical talents in her films "Belle of the Nineties" [1934]; "Klondike Annie" [1936]; and "My Little Chickadee" [1940].
• • In addition to writing the music and lyrics for "Klondike Annie," Gene Austin also appears as a vocalist and organ player during the church service. As the collection is in progress, Gene Austin and the parishioners sing "It's Better to Give Than to Receive."
• • Seven years younger than Mae, Gene Austin was born in Texas on 24 June 1900 and was heavily influenced by the black blues musicians he enjoyed while growing up.

• • David Christopher, who wound up working as Mae West's assistant after meeting her in Los Angeles, is producing a cabaret series that will honor Austin.
• • A fascinating and revealing interview was skillfully done by Bruce Fessier for The Desert Sun.
• •
Fessier writes: David Christopher's Palm Springs home is a shrine to two icons of the 20th century.
• • Framed posters, album covers and photos of Mae West and Gene Austin dominate the singer's living room. He keeps Austin's last piano in his bedroom, which he calls “My Blue Heaven Room.”
• • Mae West was the greatest female comedy film star of the 1930s, a blonde bombshell who co-starred with Raquel Welch in “Myra Breckinridge” at age 77.
• • Gene Austin was the best-selling recording artist of the 1920s, but he died virtually unknown in Palm Springs at age 71 after walking away from big-time show biz in the 1930s. His last show was at the old Jack London restaurant on North Indian Canyon Drive on New Year's Eve, 1971.
• • Christopher, 63, grew up listening to Austin records collected by his grandmother, a dancer in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1916. He developed a sweet tenor similar to Austin's by singing along to his records on a wind-up Victrola.
• • Christopher wound up working as Mae West's assistant after meeting her after a concert in Los Angeles. When he sang with her longtime guitarist, Otto “Coco” Heimel, West would swoon, “Oh, dear, it sounds just like Gene.”
• • Christopher moved to Palm Springs after West's death in 1980 and got a job with Phil and the late Grace Moody in The Moody Singers cabaret troupe.
• • Phil Moody had been Mae West's music director • •
• • He didn't know Grace Moody had toured with Austin under the guidance of Elvis Presley's future manager, Tom Parker, or that Phil Moody had been Mae West's music director for her Las Vegas “muscle men” act. Grace's late sister, Pony Sherrell, also was married to Austin in the 1940s, and she and Phil wrote musical comedy material for Mae West.
• • Austin lived with the Moodys in Palm Springs from 1971 until his death at Desert Regional Medical Center on Jan. 24, 1972. He wrote his last song at their house on a piano Phil Moody recently gave to Christopher. It was called “I'm All In, I'm Out and I'm Down” — — and it chronicled how he had lost or given away his multimillion-dollar fortune and now, no one seemed to know him.
• • “He made it, he spent it, he gave it away, he enjoyed it and he had no regrets,” TV producer Paul Henning said at his eulogy. “He didn't reminisce about his glorious, affluent past. As he used to say, ‘Gotta be where the action is. Look ahead; don't look back.'”
• • Christopher will sing that song at his tribute to Austin [22 November 2009] at Lyons English Grille in Palm Springs. It's part of a cabaret series he's producing that will run from Jan. 10 through April.
• • It will feature Bobby Furgo, a Snuff Smith-influenced violinist who toured with Eric Burdon; jazz guitarist Hal Brane and pianist Ron Snyder.
• • Christopher performed an Austin salute in 2006 featuring Austin's biggest hits, such as “My Blue Heaven,” the best-selling record of the 1920s and '30s; “Ramona,” the first million-selling movie theme song; and “Bye Bye Blackbird,” named to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1978. He also sang Austin's version of “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” which Parker liked so much, he asked Elvis to record it.
• • This show, titled “I'm In A Mellow Mood: Gene Austin, the Later Years,” holds more national interest because it focuses on a part of his career that foreshadowed Elvis. ...
• • Mae West was Gene Austin's "one true love" • •
• • Gene Austin opened a Los Angeles nightclub in the 1930s and also made some films with Mae West, whom he met in the 1920s.
• • Christopher feels Mae West remained Austin's one true love through his five marriages to other women.
• • “I always thought the love songs he wrote were written with Miss West in mind,” said Christopher. “It was a sad love affair because Miss West was so concentrated on her career, she would not let any one person interfere with her life. She denied herself happiness with any other person because she was so career driven.”
• • Phil Moody, 88, thinks West and Austin were in love even when Austin was married to Moody's sister-in-law, Pony Sherrell.
• • “It's just a thought,” he said. “I never asked about people having an affair, but now I can speak openly about it.” ...
• • Turn to The Desert Sun to savor the rest.
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: "Singer's legacy kept alive through fans, memories"
• • BY: Bruce Fessier
• • Published by: The Desert Sun — — www.mydesert.com
• • Published on: 22 November 2009

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • with Gene Austin and W.C. Fields, 1940 • •
• • Feed — — http://feeds2.feedburner.com/MaeWest
Mae West.

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