Monday, May 31, 2010

Mae West: Manassa Mauler

Before bidding adieu to the month of May, it's fitting to memorialize one of the famous palookas whose good looks and midnight maneuvers (temporarily) knocked out MAE WEST.
• • There are enough boxing bio-pics onscreen during the flag-draped weekend of May 30th — 31st that, inevitably, thoughts turn to the handsome (former) heavyweight champion of the world Jack "Manassa Mauler" Dempsey [24 June 1895 — 31 May 1983], who died at the end of May and wooed the actress during 1921 when she was performing in "The Mimic World of 1921."
• • At the tail end of May 1983, the 87-year-old title-holder died of natural causes at age 87. His wife Deanna was at his side when Dempsey assured her: "Don't worry, honey! I'm too mean to die." He was buried in the Southampton Cemetery in Southampton, New York.
• • Jack Dempsey is a member of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame. The street where Madison Square Garden is located is called Jack Dempsey Corner.
• • Jack Dempsey: always in our hearts.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Mae West: Charles Pierce

The photo shows Charles Pierce costumed for his stage work as MAE WEST. He often drew attention to Mae's false teeth in his act and frequently he would don a foolish hat with a silly feather dangling from it, which he'd blow out of his way as if to say, "See what I have to put up with when they dress me as Mae!"
• • Born in Watertown, New York, Charles Pierce [14 July 1926 — 31 May 1999] was a leading female impersonator, particularly noted for his eerily convincing imitations of popular motion pictures actresses. Eschewing the term drag queen, which he found incorrect and demeaning, he billed himself as a male actress.
• • Breaking in by doing small gay clubs in New York City, Pierce watched his fame spread. When he relocated to San Francisco, California, his act became well-known to Hollywood stars. His imitations were even mimicked by other female impersonators. Along with his Mae West impression, his roles included Bette Davis, Tallulah Bankhead, Gloria Swanson, Carol Channing, Katharine Hepburn, and Joan Crawford — — which became the drag queen canon.
• • At the age of 72, Charles Pierce died in North Hollywood, California on the last day in May eleven years ago.

• • "You've Got to See Your Mama Every Night [or You Can't See Your Mama at All]" • •
• • Catch his take on Mae West on YouTube, and notice how often Pierce will punctuate his Westian oooohs and mmmmmms and eye-rolling with a refrain from "You've Got to See Your Mama Every Night [or You Can't See Your Mama at All]."
• • This 1923 hit was a collaboration between two nice Jewish guys from Mae's hometown, New York City: Con Conrad (music) and Billy Rose (lyrics).
• • It is quite curious that Charles Pierce braided this sassy song into his Mae West impersonation when this number has long been linked to Sophie Tucker — — not Mae. The amusing lyrics focus on a suspicious gal who insists her boyfriend include her in his plans or "you can't see your mama at all." One familiar section is: "Monday night you took your bath, Tuesday night you dodged my path. Wednesday night you had a date, and by the looks of everything I guess that I don't rate . . . ." And clearly the sentiment is all wrong for Mae, who would never intimate that she doesn't rate.
• • Con Conrad [birthname: Conrad K. Dober, 1891 — 1938 ] formed a partnership with music publisher Henry Waterson and had his first big chart-topper by 1920.
• • Billy Rose [birthname: William Samuel Rosenberg, 1899 — 1966] was an American impresario, theatrical showman, and lyricist.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mae West: Alabama Variety

When MAE WEST performed in Dixie, those lovely Southern gentleman gave her a good hand — — the kind of applause that makes paint flake from the walls.
• • One of the many playhouses Mae appeared in was the Lyric Theatre.
• • The grandly decorated auditorium opened as the premier entertainment venue in Birmingham during the years 1914 —1926. In addition to boasting of the famous live acts featured here — — such as Mae West, Will Rogers [1879 — 1935], the Marx Brothers — — the playhouse once called the "King of Vaudeville" in Birmingham is very proud of its history. The Lyric is the oldest surviving theater in a city that once offered great variety to entertainment seekers: over sixty theatres, opera houses, nickelodeons, and silent movie houses. This sturdy corner building has withstood many decades of neglect and changes in the downtown community to become a lasting testament to Birmingham architecture and to vaudeville theatre.
• • The Lyric Theater is located at 1800 3rd Avenue North in Birmingham, Alabama. According to Bobby Horton, of Birmingham Landmarks: "It's just our history. It's tied to our history. You know in 1914 when this thing was opened Birmingham was booming. This is a theater where the greatest names came through. This was a major, major stop on the vaudeville circuit . . . ."
• • Restoration efforts are afoot. The plan is to raise funds to renovate the Lyric in time for its 100th anniversary in 2014 — — and we wish them the best of luck.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mae West: Fanny Brice

MAE WEST appeared at the same Big Apple fundraiser with a comedienne who died at the end of May.
• • Born on New York's Lower East Side, Fanny Brice [29 October 1891 — 29 May 1951] was a popular and influential American illustrated song "model," comedienne, singer, theatre and film actress, who made many stage, radio and film appearances but is best remembered as the creator and star of the top-rated radio comedy series: The Baby Snooks Show. Thirteen years after her death, she was portrayed on the Broadway stage by Barbra Streisand in the musical "Funny Girl" and its 1968 film adaption.
• • On 25 June 1926, Mae West appeared with Houdini on the same stage for the last time. The star of "Sex" was performing with the magician and other bold-faced named entertainers (such as Fanny Brice, George M. Cohan, the Marx Brothers, Al Jolson, Ann Pennington, Hazel Dawn, Eddie Foy, etc.) — — where? — — at the Polo Grounds on West 155th Street in Manhattan's Washington Heights area [zipcode 10032].
• • The fundraiser, organized for the benefit of the United Jewish Campaign, was staged by Mae's old dancing teacher Ned Wayburn.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Friday, May 28, 2010

Mae West: Huddle Up in 1912

In early 1912, while still in her teens, MAE WEST was searching for material and an innovative vaudeville act that would define her. She selected a few of the latest releases to be performed with the "Girard Brothers" [— — two tall, handsome Irish dancers, Bobby O'Neill and Harry Laughlin, she became friends with during the short run of "A la Broadway"].
• • "Cuddle Up and Cling to Me," with lyrics by a 36-year-old Dubliner named Stanley Murphy [1875 — 1919] and music by Henry I. Marshall was being newly distributed in 1912 by Charles K. Harris. The celebrated composer and music publisher from Chicago was now running his Manhattan operation from the Columbia Theatre Building [707 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10036], a new presence on West 47th Street. Murphy and Marshall, who had a few hits that emphasized the phrase "cuddle up," seemed to have stitched those two lucky words into other compositions.
• • Though the lyrics are pretty lame, Mae made the most of 'em, performing the song with sin-promising wriggles as well as a scripted wardrobe malfunction that made sure one strap on her gown always seemed to come loose. Ooooops!
• • "Cuddle Up and Cling to Me" — — Lyrics — — Excerpt • •
• • • Boy and girl, day in June,
• • • Dreaming of their honeymoon,
• • • Skies above are bright and clear,
• • • Soon the threatening clouds appear,
• • • Lightning flashes in the sky
• • • Thunder clouds now burst on high!
• • • Girlies [sic] heart is filled with fear
• • • He sings — — as she draws near.
• • • REFRAIN — — Slowly
• • • Huddle up and cuddle up and cling to me
• • • Put your little lovin' hands in mine
• • • Just imagine, honey, I'm a big oak tree
• • • And you're a tender, little clinging vine, entwining.
• • • Pretty soon the sun is goin' to shine again
• • • Gladness follows sadness, Hon, you see
• • • So, Honey Mine, just like the vine, cuddle up and cling to me. . . .
• • The New Haven Morning Journal Courier hailed the threesome's stage-worthiness as clever and novel, and added that "the audience took more than kindly to them and gave them a unanimous stamp of approval at the end of the act."
• • Other critics reacted favorably, too, and this act (shored up by good notices) helped Mae and the fellows secure a contract with Frank Bohm, one of variety's top agents who booked for the Loew Circuit. It was the well-connected Bohm who arranged for the trio to appear on the cover of this sheet music.
• • Though the song sheet shows Starmer's artwork in muted autumn colors and the trio appears in sepia, Mae West is wearing a festive gold tunic with pink satin "trouserettes" and pink slippers. A red satin cummerbund was wound around her waist and finished off with a flat Japanese style bow in back.
• • The men are in patent leather dancing pumps edged with flat black bows, well-suited to their black evening attire.
• • And notice the slenderness of Mae's petite figure.
• • An outstanding portrait — — fitted into a winsome graphic design by Starmer.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mae West: Hard to Handle

Her wiggles cost MAE WEST her job at the Palace Theatre in New Haven — — but the Connecticut manager never forgot how impressed he was by her pep, vigor, and dainty little figure. Besides Lew Garvey was only following orders when Mr. Poli had demanded the dismissal of the saucy vaudevillian in the satin harem trousers accompanied by the Girard Brothers, after the trio had ignored several warnings to tone it down in front of the frenzied audience of heavy-breathing Yale students.
• • "I get a reputation for being hard to handle . . ." • •
• • Their paths crossed again when the Brooklyn bombshell brought "Diamond Lil" to one of Poli's theatres in the Nutmeg State. And Mae told Lew Garvey: "Sometimes I grow weary of fighting to keep faith with the public. They liked me as Diamond Lil. I know they want me to continue in that type of characterization. But certain well-meaning executives believe I should do something different. Naturally, I disagree. Then I get a reputation for being obstinate, hard to handle. Well, I've always had to battle for my rights . . . ."
• • "Hard to Handle" is a song originally recorded by soul singer Otis Redding [9 September 1941 — 10 December 1967] and written by Redding, Al Bell, and Allen Jones. It was released posthumously after Redding's sudden death on the LP "The Immortal Otis Redding," a tribute album.
• • It has been covered by numerous artists including The Black Crowes, Stefan Roland, Tom Jones, DJ Andy Smith, Rustix, Band from TV, and The Grateful Dead — — and performed onscreen by Mae West in the film "Myra Breckinridge" [released: 24 June 1970]
• • "Hard to Handle" — — Lyrics — — Excerpt • •
• • • Hey there, here I am
• • • I'm the man on the scene
• • • I can give you what you want
• • • But you got to come home with me
• • • I forgot some good old lovin'
• • • And I got me some more in store
• • • When I get to throw it on you
• • • You got to come back for more
• • • Toys and things that come by the dozen
• • • That ain't nothin' but drug store lovin'
• • • Pretty little thing, let me light your candle
• • • 'Cause mama I'm sure hard to handle, now, gets around
• • • Action speaks louder than words
• • • And I'm a man of great experience
• • • I know you got another man
• • • But I can love you better than him
• • • Take my hand, don't be afraid
• • • I'm wanna prove every word I say
• • • I'm advertisin' love for free
• • • So, you can place your ad with me . . .

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mae West: American Roof

MAE WEST always said, "The best way to behave is to misbehave." And she meant it.
• • One of the many playhouses Mae West appeared in, with her seductive showmanship of comedy mixed with the blues and ragtime music by trendy black composers, was the American Music Hall (located at 260 West 42nd Street, New York, NY). Built to seat over 2,000 ticket-holders, this was one of the first theatres to open in the "new" theatre district on 42nd Street. Various managers, including William Morris (founder of the talent agency, an outfit that represented Mae during the 1940s and 1950s), tried to make a success of an auditorium handicapped by its "remote" Eighth Avenue location.
• • When this hopeful haven for the perfoming arts opened in the month of May — — on 22 May 1893 — — it was known as the American Theatre. Eventually, it added a popular top floor feature, an additional room known as the American Roof.
• • March 1912 was Mae's first performance at the American Roof.
• • When the 21-year-old trouper returned to the American Roof Theatre in January 1915, she was the headliner even though Guido Deiro was in the line-up. In Mae West, An Icon in Black and White, biographer Jill Watts writes: For this appearance, in addition to her trademark "I've Got a Style All My Own," she performed several characterizations and Shelton Brooks's [sic] "Balling the Jack." The New York Clipper rated it Mae's best number, noting it "won her the desired applause." Sime remained unconverted. He felt that Deiro, also on the bill, should have occupied the featured spot, noting that Mae had "repressed her exuberance somewhat, but could stand a trifle more repression" [Variety, 9 January 1915].
• • • • Note: The term "balling the jack" was originally a conductor's way of saying a train was moving at top speed; in black slang, the locomotive carrying the load was the jack[ass]. However, due to the popularity of the song "Balling the Jack," one of the hits from the Ziegfeld Follies in 1913, by the 1920s, this expression had come to mean any wild, rapid, or all-out effort. And though Jill Watts is a very careful researcher, it was actually the African-American team of composer Chris Brown [1879
1949] and lyricist James Burris who deserve credit for the song "Balling the Jack," which cleverly offers step-by-step dance instructions in the lyrics.
• • A few years before Mae performed here, Sophie Tucker was engaged as the headliner by the management of 260 West 42nd Street. And her exuberance and magnetism was not appreciated by the critics who reviewed her January 1910 show. Was Sophie misbehaving or simply putting on a good show?
• • REVIEW: Sophie Tucker at the American Music Hall, New York, January 1910
• • 'Sophie Tucker made her usual pronounced hit and sang seven songs in all. These included, "If You Want a Little Bit of Love Just Send for Me," "Don't Waltz So Fast, Honey," "That Yiddisha Rag," "Cubanola Glide" and "Wild Cherry Rag." Miss Tucker at one time had a big chance of becoming a musical comedy artiste of real note, but she missed it. Her present method — — though it wins great outbursts of applause from a certain class of vaudeville goers — — is too rough and "loud" to be classed as artistic. The magnetism is there and the ability to sing "coon" numbers exuberantly. But the method is too broad and at times is almost offensively vulgar in its apparent double entendre of rendition of certain phrases and songs.'
• • Review published in The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York [on Saturday, 18 January 1910, p. 18d]

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • You are invited to the Annual Mae West Birthday Tribute to hear the songs of Shelton Brooks (and others) performed live.
• • WHEN: 10:00 PM on Saturday, 14 August 2010 — — one night only
• • WHERE: ACTORS TEMPLE, 339 West 47th Street, New York, NY 10036 [where SOPHIE TUCKER became one of their first vaudeville members in 1923]
• • WHO: MAE WEST [Anne Marie Finnie] and SOPHIE TUCKER [Maggie Worsdale], presented and introduced by playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo
• • WHAT ELSE: Shimmy lessons, raffle prizes, goodies, and a chance to win deluxe European scarves featuring MAE WEST’s quotes.
• • SUBWAYS: IND: C, E to West 50th Street station; BMT: N, R, W to West 49th Street station — — exit on the West 47th Street side
• • VIP service available. Please inquire.
• • CONTACT: Miss Sophie Email: worsdale (at) aol.com URL: www.thegaudygirls.com
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mae West: Easy Riding Gals

MAE WEST adored ragtime. She performed a rag that she especially loved onstage in "Diamond Lil" and its Hollywood counterpart "She Done Him Wrong." The lyricist and composer of this song — — "I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone" — — was Shelton Brooks [4 May 1886 6 September 1975], who published it in 1913.
• • Born in Canada, Shelton Brooks moved to Detroit in 1901 with his family; his parents were Native American and Black. His father was a preacher and Shelton and his brother would play the organ during services.
• • Surrounded by music, Shelton was 24 years old when he wrote his first big hit in 1910 — — "Some of These Days" — — using his own lyrics. He had already debuted the song in his own variety act when Sophie Tucker's maid introduced both him and the tune to Sophie, then touring through The Windy City. The vaudevillian, who would eventually style herself as "the Last of the Red Hot Mamas," made this 1910 composition her very own theme song.
• • Let's move three years forward to 1913.
• • "I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone" — — lyrics • •
• • Published by Will Rossiter in Chicago in 1913, the song combined horse racing and romance with a blues touch. Though Mae West's rendition [which can be seen on YouTube and endlessly replayed] has given people the idea that she was the first to sexualize the lyrics, that is simply untrue. In fact it was Sophie Tucker, who first introduced this number in vaudeville, who performed it with well-timed sly winks and a veneer of naughty innuendo — — especially when she would sing a suggestive line such as "To be on any horse that jockey's on ...." Here's an excerpt.
• • The lyrics tell of a Susie Johnson who bets on a horse race using a tip from Jockey Lee, who subsequently runs off with her money.
• • First verse:
• • Miss Susie Johnson is a crazy as can be
• • About that easy riding kid they call Jockey Lee.
• • Now don't you think it's funny, only bets her money
• • In the race friend jockey's goin' to be.
• • There was a race down at the track the other day,
• • And Susie got an inside tip right away
• • She bet a "hundred to one" that her little "Hon"
• • Would bring home all the "mon"!
• • When she found out "Jockey" was not there,
• • Miss Susie cried out in despair
• Chorus:
• • I wonder where my easy rider's gone today
• • He never told me he was goin' away.
• • If he was here he'd win the race
• • If not first he'd get a "place"
• • Cash in our winnings, on a "joy-ride" we'd go, right away
• • I'm losing my money that's why I am blue.
• • To win a race, Lee knows just what to do.
• • I'd put all my junk in pawn,
• • To be on any horse that jockey's on.
• • Oh, I wonder where my easy rider's gone ....
• • From 1910 onward, Shelton Brooks watched his fortunes rise along with Sophie's. His 1916 instrumental tune "Walkin' The Dog" [which inspired a dance that first swept dancehall-crazed New York City, and then the rest of the country] was performed by Mae West in male drag during the shows she did with her sister Beverly in 1916.
• • In 1917, Brooks had another hit with "The Darktown Strutter's Ball," for which he wrote both the words and music.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • You are invited to the Annual Mae West Birthday Tribute to hear the songs of Shelton Brooks (and others) performed live.
• • WHEN: 10:00 PM on Saturday, 14 August 2010 — — one night only
• • WHERE: ACTORS TEMPLE, 339 West 47th Street, New York, NY 10036 [where SOPHIE TUCKER became one of their first vaudeville members in 1923]
• • WHO: MAE WEST [Anne Marie Finnie] and SOPHIE TUCKER [Maggie Worsdale], presented and introduced by playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo
• • WHAT ELSE: Shimmy lessons, raffle prizes, goodies, and a chance to win deluxe European scarves featuring MAE WEST’s quotes.
• • SUBWAYS: IND: C, E to West 50th Street station; BMT: N, R, W to West 49th Street station — — exit on the West 47th Street side
• • VIP service available. Please inquire.
• • CONTACT: Miss Sophie Email: worsdale (at) aol.com URL: www.thegaudygirls.com
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Monday, May 24, 2010

Mae West: Hollywood at Hillwood

Al fresco film fests in Washington, DC are popular — — and the Divas Outdoors are coming out strong with MAE WEST onscreen.
• • Take note, those of you residing near The White House and the Lincoln memorial. Divas Outdoors are going Hollywood at the Hillwood Museum — — when The Hillwood Museum (4155 Linnean Avenue NW) returns with another year of classic films that celebrate the LGBT community. Though this movie fest is not free, the entry fee will also allow ticket-buyers entrance to other special exhibitions at the mansion. On 25 June 2010 you can enjoy "My Little Chickadee" starring Mae West and W.C. Fields. This classic comedy will screen from 6:30 to 10:00 PM.
• • Tell them you heard about it on the MAE WEST BLOG.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mae West: Coffee, Tea, or Mae?

Imagine taking off from MAE WEST International.
• • "Why not Mae West or Marilyn Monroe or Margaret Thatcher airports? OK, that last one scares me already," jokes Canadian columnist Ian Haysom.
• • Writing for the Times Colonist [on 22 May 2010], Ian Haysom recalls some of the many men who have been honored: "And they have Ronald Reagan Airport, which still feels a little Hollywood. California has John Wayne Airport and Oklahoma has Will Rogers. Liverpool has John Lennon Airport (groovy, baby) and Paris has De Gaulle, which feels imperious and arrogant, shouting at everyone to behave and get a haircut. Not many women's names there, you may have noticed. ..."
• • What's your opinion? Would you like to fly into Mae?

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mae West: Curry Flavor

It seems that nothing is lost in translation when it comes to MAE WEST.
• • Warming up his Indian readership for an essay on the American humorist Samuel Clemens, a New Delhi-based scribe first named nine notables who were able to marry wit and wisdom.
• • Writing for the Business Standard [on 22 May 2010], Rrishi Raote leads off with this opening paragraph: An enviable immortality is available to those few who can fuse wit and wisdom to greatest effect. Look through your inbox for collections of ‘funny’ and ‘thought-provoking’ quotes your friends have forwarded you, and very likely you will see these names: Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Disraeli, Socrates, Eleanor Roosevelt, Billy Crystal, Mae West (“I didn’t discover curves; I only uncovered them”) — — and Mark Twain. ...
• • Notice, please, that only Mae West also gets a full quote shoehorned into that foot-long sentence. It's tempting to say that Indian writers are prone to CURRY favor — — but let's not and say we did.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Friday, May 21, 2010

Mae West: Angel in New Britain

Spend your lunch hour with MAE WEST and Cary Grant — — and you will smile for the rest of the day.
• • The classic comedy "I'm No Angel" — — inspired by Mae's little girl dreams of being a lion tamer at Bostock's Circus in Coney Island — — will be shown for free at 12 noon on Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at a public library near Hartford.
• • Despite nearing her 40th birthday, Mae did not shy away from baring her legs or donning a white skintight suit for the segment when Tira enters the Big Top astride an elephant and then slides down its trunk. And she really did enter the lion cage with a whip to film those scenes with the king of beasts — — without a stunt double — — controling the big cats as confidently as she controls her men. Yes, Mae West had moxie and then some.
• • WHERE: New Britain Public Library: 20 High Street, New Britain, CT 06051
• • Tell them you heard about it on the MAE WEST BLOG.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mae West: Doin' the Grizzly Bear

MAE WEST sang "Doin' the Grizzly Bear" in vaudeville and finally got to record it in 1973 — — on a rock and roll album, no less.
• • At a time when animal dances [the bunny hop, the chicken scratch, the turkey trot, etc.] were in vogue, the "Bear Dance" came into its own in San Francisco and gradually moved east. By the early 1900s, these lumbering "Hug up close to your baby" moves were being done on Staten Island ferries. The fad spread through cafe society all the way to The Great White Way.
• • "The Grizzly Bear" made its Broadway debut in the musical "Over the River" [1910] via the song "Everybody's Doin' it Now," which repeated a catchy phrase: "It's a Bear!"
• • Supposedly, in 1910, Sophie Tucker was arrested for her performance of the Grizzly Bear and also for singing the suggestive song "The Angle Worm Wiggle."
• • The Ziegfeld Follies of 1911 featured the Bear Dance performed by Fannie Brice.
• • Cashing in on the craze, several composers put together their own variation of it — — including Irving Berlin [11 May 1888 — 22 September 1989], who wrote the lyrics for "The Dance of the Grizzly Bear," partnering with George Botsford, who published the music in 1912. Since Sophie Tucker appeared on their song sheet, naturally she introduced their version to her vast vaudeville audience.
• • Deliberately rough and clumsy, the dance imitated the motions of a trained bear. Imagine taking a very heavy step to the side, like a grizzly might, while executing a decided bending of the upper part of the body from one side to the other, hilariously ungraceful and undignified.
• • Though we're not sure how many variations Mae West sang and performed onstage, a backlash by the Dance Police only served to keep The Bear quite popular.
• • For example, written in a dance card from the Exposition Park dancing pavilion in Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania on 22 July 1913 was a warning that the Bear Dance and Turkey Trot would not be tolerated. Which made doing this "forbidden dance" even more fun.
• • According to Peter Blecha in his 2004 book Taboo Tunes: A History of Banned Bands & Censored Songs: "Around 1913 a number of New York City–based dance instructors — — who had been quite successfully promoting old-school waltzes and schottisches — — felt their livelihood was being threatened enough to come together and call for bans on new dances (as well as the halting of further publication of ragtime sheet music). And in time the censors enjoyed a few successes: A number of new dances — — including the faddish “animal dances” (like the bunny hug, the turkey trot, the kangaroo hop, the camel walk, the lame duck, the chicken scratch, the raccoon, and the grizzly bear) and even the exotic tango — — were formally outlawed by municipal morality codes enacted in various American cities." [Source: Chapter 2, “BEAT CRAZY,” pp.18 — 22.]
• • No, Mae West was not dissuaded by the shame-on-you crowd, and neither was Sophie Tucker, whose version is below.
• • • • "The Dance of the Grizzly Bear" [an excerpt] • • • •
• • Lyrics: Irving Berlin; Music: George Botsford
• • • • Out in San Francisco where the weather’s fair, They have a dance out there
• • • • They call the “Grizzly Bear,” All your other lovin’ dances don’t compare
• • • • Not so coony, But a little more than spoony
• • • • Talk about yo’ bears that Teddy Roosevelt shot, They couldn’t class with what
• • • • Old San Francisco’s got, Listen my honey, do
• • • • And I will show to you, The dance of the grizzly Bear
• • • • [chorus:]
• • • • Hug up close to your baby, Throw your shoulders t’ward the ceilin’
• • • • Lawdy, lawdy, what a feelin’, Snug up close to your lady
• • • • Close your eyes and do some nappin’, Something nice is gwine to happen
• • • • Hug up close to your baby, Sway me everywhere
• • • • Show your darlin’ beau just how you go to Buffalo, Doin’ the grizzly bear . . . .
• • All we have to say is: "It's a Bear!"

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mae West: Cigarette Cards

MAE WEST appeared on several brands of cigarette cards during the 1930s. Hollywood stars, sports figures, musicians, pedigreed dogs, lighthouses, railways, and other categories would inspire an entire series — — a "collect them all!" mania — — issued by several companies in the USA and Europe. Then one day these eye-catching keepsakes ceased production and a handsome knot of tradition untied, invisibly, like a shoelace. If you own a few trading cards and have wondered about the origin of the species, here's a brief history.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • According to the experts at Creamofcards Cigarette Cards (who sell these limited edition collectibles on EBAY): The first cigarette packets were very fragile and so a thick card was inserted to stiffen them. During a period considered by many to be one of the most innovative in the history of mankind, an enterprising US businessman decided to print a colourful advert on the "stiffener" card. The tireless evolution of the cigarette card was driven by the highly competitive and creative tobacco markets. Soon cards were issued on subjects appealing to smokers, such as glamorous actresses, sport, warships, etc. Firms soon realised that they could strengthen customer loyalty by issuing sets of beautifully illustrated and informative cards, playing on man's instinctive desire to collect and for order and completeness.
• • Creamofcards explains: At a time when the average person could not afford books, and newspapers contained no photographs, the attractive and encyclopaedic cigarette cards were very popular. At the beginning of the 20th century, more cards were issued with cigarette brands than for any other product and this is probably why trading cards are often referred to as "cigarette cards" even though there is no connection with cigarettes.
• • Creamofcards concludes: The cigarette card era came to a sudden end at the beginning of WWII, due to severe paper rationing. ...
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • How many Mae West cards are in your collection?
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mae West: Sex-Typed Kim

It's interesting that so many people feel they "know" MAE WEST — — even those who have never met her.
• • Speaking about her co-star, 53-year-old Kim Cattrall, "Sex and the City" actress Kristin Davis explained this to a reporter: "Kim is very different from Samantha. I'm not sure if people get that. I think she knows her fans enjoy the bawdiness, so she'll do a little bit more of that for them. But in real life, she's shy. She reads and loves theatre. She's not Mae West off-screen!"
• • So so so so so so good to know.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Mae West: Metropolitan

Illustrated with a large and lovely photo of MAE WEST — — dripping with diamonds — — is an intriguing article about a new exhibit on view at a major Fifth Avenue museum located in the movie queen's hometown, New York City.
• • According to fashion maven Lori Ettlinger Gross: The new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute, “American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity,” examines the evolution of style in this country and the appreciation of the breeze-easy female. Replacing the cosseted woman with a spirited American paradigm trumpeted more than the exchange of a corset for a shift dress, however. It sparked an upheaval in social etiquette: Women of independent means began buying their own jewelry. Fashion may have rattled the cage for change, yet it was gems and precious metals that broke the chains of Europe.
• • Lori Ettlinger Gross adds: The years covered by the exhibition, 1890 to 1940, were arguably the most innovative in jewelry design. Venerable houses and ambitious designers vied for the necks of socialites and celebrities. Success and the wealth that follows create their own self-determination. Take Mae West, for example, who bought a casket’s worth of Beaux-Art jewels and transformed herself into Diamond Lil. ...
• • Lori Ettlinger Gross emphasizes: As the movies became the style blueprint for the American woman, the costume designers Adrian and Edith Head created fashion iconography. . . . But whether on camera or off, the jewels were often the stars’ own. ...
• • To continue reading her article, or to learn more about the exhibition, check the link below.
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: "The Bling Factor | ‘American Woman’ at the Met"
• • By: LORI ETTLINGER GROSS
• • Published by: The New York Times Magazine — — tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com
• • Published on: 11 May 2010

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West with Noah Beery • • 1932 • •
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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mae West: Expectancy

MAE WEST [1893 — 1980], often called "a cougar," lived to celebrate her 87th birthday — — at a time when the life expectancy of a Caucasian born in the United States during the 1890s would have been about 47 — 50 years old.
• • During the 1700s, the life expectancy in Western Europe had been about 47 years old.
• • Taking that into account, Catherine II [2 May 1729 — 17 November 1796], the empress who ruled Russia (reigning for 34 years from 1762 — 1796), enjoyed an extraordinary life for 67 years.
• • In the middle of the 1500s, at the start of the first available continuous series of national mortality estimates, life expectancy in Great Britain was still only in the mid-30s.
• • Taking that into account, Queen Elizabeth I [1533 — 1603] would have certainly outlived many Englishwomen born during the 1530s when the monarch died at 69 years old.
• • This pithy prologue aims to prepare you for the asinine raving below. Ready now?
• • According to British nitwit William Langley: The rules of engagement are getting tougher for the Cougars — — those women of a certain age who prowl the urban habitat, sinking their varnished claws into conspicuously younger men. A scientific study, published last week, warned that such females face a lower life expectancy, although the big surprise is that any research was necessary. Take Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great, and Mae West. All were notorious for their taste in toyboys. And here's the clincher: they're all dead! ...
• • Obviously, The Telegraph cannot afford to pay real journalists any longer. Pity.
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: "The cougar's taste for toyboys could be her undoing"
• • By: William Langley
• • Published by: The Telegraph [UK] — — www.Telegraph.co.UK
• • Published on: 15 May 2010

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mae West: Gekko-ed

MAE WEST, all unaware, contributed a line of dialogue to a major motion picture release — — unpaid and UNCREDITED. Unnoticed by the audience? Hope not.
• • According to the insightful film critic Liam Lacey, in his review of Oliver Stone’s "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps": Some of the aphoristic dialogue works. (“You’re the Ninja generation — — no income, no jobs, no assets.”). But too often, the dialogue is glib and derivative, and not in the financial sense of the word. We know Gordon Gekko is a thief, but it’s strange to hear the character’s best bon mots have been previously used more or less verbatim. Uncredited sources include Adlai Stevenson (“If you promise to stop telling lies about me, I’ll stop telling the truth about you”), Mae West (“Whenever I have to choose between two evils, I always like to try the one I haven’t tried before”), and Rita Mae Brown (“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”). ...
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: "Derivative, and not in the Wall Street sense"
• • By: Liam Lacey
• • Published by: The Globe and Mail — — www.theglobeandmail.com
• • Published on: 15 May 2010

• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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Friday, May 14, 2010

Mae West: Bay Ridge Error

How do you feel when you read something about MAE WEST — — published by a newspaper in her hometown (Brooklyn, NY), no less — — that makes no sense whatsoever? First a little background information on a Bay Ridge intersection: Third Avenue and 72nd Street.
• • Bay Ridge Theatre [7120 Third Avenue, Brooklyn, NY] • •
• • Built with seating for 1,796 ticket-holders in 1915 — — when Mae West was 22 years old — — this playhouse was designed as a vaudeville venue, judging by its generous protruding stage and rather low proscenium. Eventually, this independent became part of the Loew's chain. Closed in the late 1950s, it was repurposed as an arena for professional wrestling, then a bingo hall. It's now a gym.
• • Clearly, John M. Heffernan does not know that Mae West, born in 1893, was a grown-up by 1915 — — and rather well past the days when she competed to win $5 prizes in an amateur contest. According to his Brooklyn Daily Eagle article: Two blocks was away was the Bay Ridge Theatre on 72nd Street, now the home of McDonalds (and once the location of Bentleys.) This grand theater opened in the early twenties and was owned by Samuel Fox and seated 1,796 people, doubling as a live vaudevillian theater where it is told that a young girl named Mae West won a talent contest in the mid-1920s [sic]. This Bay Ridge landmark closed in the 1960s. . . . .
• • Hmmmm. Should someone tell Mr. Heffernan that by "the mid-1920s", Mae was starring on Broadway in "Sex"?
• • Brooklyn Daily Eagle: 30 Henry Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201; Tel 718-422-7400
• • Brooklyn Daily Eagle — — Email edit@BrooklynEagle.net
— — Excerpt: — —
• • Article: "Heff’s Corner: Veteran Bay Ridgeite Recalls Days of Yore"
• • By: John M. Heffernan
• • Published by: Brooklyn Daily Eagle — — www.brooklyneagle.com
• • Published on: 13 May 2010

• • Tell them you read about it on the MAE WEST BLOG.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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