Brooklyn native Gene Barry [birthname: Eugene Klass], who was featured on Broadway with MAE WEST in 1944, died on Wednesday 9 December 2009 in Woodland Hills, California at the age of 90. Before he moved to an assisted-living facility there, he had been a longtime resident of Beverly Hills.
• • The handsome graduate of New Utrecht High School was born on 14 June 1919.
• • Gene Barry began his acting career in stock.
• • He liked to reminisce about his early show business days when he appeared in a Mae West play on Broadway, Catherine Was Great. He recalled 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.”
• • It was the impresario Mike Todd (husband of Elizabeth Taylor) who hired him to play Lt. Bunin opposite Mae West's Empress Catherine. Mr. Barry met his wife, Betty, who acted under the name Julie Carson, during rehearsals.
• • 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 [closed 13 January 1945].
• • The versatile entertainer made his nightclub debut in the Latin Quarter in 1962, the same venue where "The Mae West Revue" had two long engagements during the mid-1950s.
• • After honing his craft onstage before a live audience, Gene Barry headed to Hollywood and worked in films and on TV. In 1984, he earned a Tony nomination. In 1999, the debonair song-and-dance man expanded his appeal when he mixed musical comedy and show-business memories in a show at the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel.
• • Gene Barry [1919 — 2009] will always retain a cherished spot in our hearts. Hail and farewell to a distinguished Brooklynite!
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none • •
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