Monday, May 31, 2010

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:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West impersonator • • Charles Pierce • •
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