Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mae West: 47th Street

There's so much MAE WEST history on certain blocks in her hometown that there ought to be a signpost or two.
• • What is it, for instance, about West 47th Street? Not only does this block have numerous sites with an intriguing back-story, it is also notable for its links to Mae West and Sophie Tucker. In honor of Mae’s upcoming birthday, here is a self-guided tour of West 47th in midtown Manhattan.
• • 412 West 47th: Harold Ross and his wife Jane Grant launched The New Yorker here in 1925, a weekly that often reviewed the shows Mae West and Sophie Tucker were in.
• • 345 West 47th: The New York City Police Department's 16th Precinct sent a Black Maria to haul in Mae West after undercover officers raided her play "Sex" in February 1927. This scene was repeated after the cops raided Mae's gay play "Pleasure Man" in October 1928. Mae West had to arrange bail from West 47th Street.
• • 339 West 47th: Actors Temple [Congregation Ezrath Israel] was founded in 1917 and became a spiritual home for Jews working on Broadway such as Sophie Tucker, Jack Benny, Edgar G. Robinson, Red Buttons, Shelley Winters, The Three Stooges, and other vaudevillians who were also colleagues of Mae West.
• • 261 — 265 West 47th: The Biltmore Theatre was raided when Mae's gay play "Pleasure Man" had its opening night here in October 1928.
• • 1580 Broadway at West 47th: In the 1920s it was the Palais Royale, with the Moulin Rouge in the basement. Then from 1936 to 1940 it was the Cotton Club's post-Harlem home, featuring stars like Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, all of whom worked with Mae West. From 1942 to 1969, it was the Latin Quarter nightclub (run by Lou Walters, Barbara Walters' father). During the 1950s, both Sophie Tucker and Mae West were booked here.
• • 1568 Broadway at West 47th: Doubletree Guest Suites Times Square Hotel, built in 1991 as the Embassy Suites to a Fox & Fowle design, envelopes the old Palace Theater, built in 1913 by Kirchoff & Rose. During its heyday it was every vaudevillian's dream to play The Palace. Among those who made it were Sophie Tucker, W.C. Fields, Fanny Brice, Will Rogers, Eddie Cantor, Bob Hope, the Marx Brothers, and Mae West (accompanied by pianist Harry Richman), who starred here in 1922.
• • 707 Seventh Avenue at West 47th: "Introduced with great success by Mae West" announced the song sheet for "Cuddle Up and Cling to Me," with lyrics by Stanley Murphy [1875 — 1919] and music by Henry I. Marshall, which was 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 at 707 Seventh Avenue.
• • West 47th Street's Diamond District: This block ranks with Antwerp, Belgium, and Ramat Gan, Israel, as one of world’s major diamond trading centers. Sophie Tucker's success as an entertainment headliner financed a personal treasure chest of gems at a time when performers wore their own jewelry onstage. Mae West's love of sparklers inspired her most successful stage play "Diamond Lil." Pick any scene in the 1933 motion picture "She Done Him Wrong" (based on the play) and watch those solitaires and brilliants flash onscreen.
• • • • West 47th Street on 14 August 2010 • • • •
• • And the live entertainment will flash and sparkle also on Saturday August 14, 2010 when two swell broads head back to Broadway — — Sophie Tucker along with Mae West.
• • Continuing her custom of commemorating the birthday of Mae West, playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo has a most exciting late-night treat in store this year: The Gaudy Girls, two talented beauties who perform the best-loved songs made famous by Sophie Tucker and Mae West. As part of their repertoire, the ladies will spotlight a tribute to the NYC-based composers and lyricists who created popular numbers such as "My Yiddishe Momme," "Red Hot Mama," "Everybody Shimmies Now," "My Old Flame," "Baby, It's Cold Outside," and more.
• • It's one night only so plan to come up and see Mae — — and Sophie. Details below.
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• • WHERE: ACTORS TEMPLE, 339 West 47th Street, New York, NY 10036 [where SOPHIE TUCKER was one of their first vaudeville members in 1923]
• • WHO: MAE WEST [Anne Marie Finnie], 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.
• • GENERAL ADMISSION: $15. VIP service and Group Sales available.
• • URL:

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• • Tell them you heard about it on the MAE WEST BLOG.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1928 news, 1950 at the Latin Quarter • •
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