Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mae West: Quint-essentials

Ever hear of a "MAE WEST hold"? Well, it does sound intriguing, bringing to mind that old one-liner: "If I said I loved your body, would you hold it against me?" Baaa-bummm! Nevertheless, it turns out that it's actually one of those tricky maneuvers in the United States Senate.
• • The "Mae West Hold" • •
• • Apparently, during the 1950s, when Lyndon B. Johnson became Senate majority leader, "holds" began to come into play. When L.B.J. resorted to using so-called unanimous consent agreements in order to pass multiple bills with a single vote, his critics attempted to slow or sabotage the process by using "holds," a secretive way to block legislation and nominations — — without identifying oneself or giving a reason.
• • These "holds" have unofficial pet names. Here's a loose definition of the "Mae West hold" — — a desire to cut a deal as a condition to lift the hold. Now who came up with that one? Why not write your senator to find out?
• • Quint's "Loot in the Boot" • •
• • In 1966, the unstoppable Mae West recorded “Put the Loot in the Boot, Santa” along with a long-playing assortment of newbies, a Beatles hit [Lennon/ McCartney’s “With Love from Me to You”], parodies, double entendres, and burlesque songs. "Wild Christmas" even included an instant classic: "Santa, Come Up and See Me Sometime” (which should be sung on December 24th if you are hoping for a whopper in your Xmas stocking). Truly, nobody puts the X in Xmas like Mae West.
• • Has anyone ever asked for the lyrics to the Christmas novelty “Put the Loot in the Boot, Santa”? Honestly, no. However, the octogenarian and World War 2 veteran Quint Benedetti enjoys telling pals that he met Mae West and she was delighted to record his song, which he is "still a seasonal favorite internationally," according to him. Don't argue with the gentleman, especially since his father Quinto Benedetti was born and bred in Lucca, the hometown of composer Giacomo Puccini. Instead please go read about this title published on 16 June 2010: (My Travels with) Agnes Moorehead — — The Lavendar Lady (more Bewitching than Endora) by Quint Benedetti. Good luck, sweetheart.
• • 23 June 1922 "She rises to heights undreamed of for her . . . • •
• • During the month of June — — on 23 June 1922 — — Variety's critics briefly changed their tone, moving from dousing Mae with a bucket of glacial malice to (wow!) a reverential nod.
• • That summer, New York's air was jagged with mosquitoes as shadows stretched across vaudeville, slowly going under, a bare bright emptiness in its future.
• • Shoring up her options, Mae had written "The Ruby Ring" [1921] and "The Hussy" [1922] and she also was preparing to appear in "The Ginger Box Revue," scheduled to open in August 1922 in Greenwich Village.
• • Simultaneously, Mae was writing a new stage act for herself and an accompanist, featuring fast-paced skits and songs. Faced with choosing a pianist, Mae had auditioned two unknowns, Brooklynite Jimmy Durante [10 February 1893 — 29 January 1980] and Harry Richman [10 August 1895 — 3 November 1972], and selected the taller, more dapper fellow. Stagebills soon offered her new show: "Bits of Musical Comedy — — Mae West assisted by Harry Richman."
• • After some good notices, Mae snagged a booking at the Palace.
• • She had structured her turns to include a short version of "The Ruby Ring," a bit in which she was costumed as a Roman empress/ temptress in need of a new gladiator, and a blues segment in which she delivered a gutsy "Frankie and Johnny."
• • Reviewers sat up straight for this one. "She rises to heights undreamed of for her and reveals unexpected depths as a delineator of character songs, a dramatic reader of ability, and a girl with a flair for farce that will some day land her on the legitimate Olympus" [Variety, 23 June 1922].

• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • none • •
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