Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mae West: A Commemoration

MAE WEST: some call her a Hollywood icon, others consider her vulgar, and many are awed by the controversial trailblazer. Has it really been thirty years since the movie queen left us? Considering the fact that she still inspires fashion designers to do a spread on her (such as in the current issue of Harper's Bazaar); that her name pops up in the news almost daily; that a variety of people across the world quote her; and that she is regularly being reinterpreted by dramatists, biographers, actresses, and vocalists; it's fair to say that Mae West is still in the building.
• • There is a queer island of time pooling on North Rossmore. For some, this singular destination has been a blessed habitat where the brain displaces oddments of former lives. Images from Mae's two-bedroom suite, apartment 611, can gleam with rare decorum, suddenly, lifting you out of ordinary time. A door opens to reveal a veritable banquet of a human being. Mysteries are breathing in and breathing out.
• • Proust said that truth is only a point of view about things. Mark, a devoted Mae-maven, who has a most intriguing viewpoint about Mae West, shares his thoughts with you.
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• • In commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of Mae's burial, Canadian R. Mark Desjardins writes about "the most interesting woman I never met."
• • Mark recalls: When I was 17, I obtained a paperback copy of "The Wit and Wisdom of Mae West" and it was one of the few items I brought with me when I left home to go to college.
• • In 1979, when I graduated, I decided to visit Los Angeles for six months, rather than go to Europe, which was the trend at the time. Ironically, I used to hang out within three blocks of Mae's Ravenswood Apartment, her California residence since 1932
— — not knowing she was alive and well there at the time. Before returning to Canada, I saw a double bill movie in San Francisco featuring "Sextette" and I was surprised at how much the audience howled at the in jokes.
• • • • One a-MAE-zing Dream • • • •
• • Fast forward to the early summer of 1992. I had finished the teaching year and was able to stay up late to catch the midnight CBC Television broadcasts of the only two Mae West movies they had rights to, "Goin'' To Town" and "Klondike Annie."
• • Most fans can say that they came to be interested in Mae West
— — but I believe Mae West came to me. Shortly after viewing those two films, I had a very vivid dream whereby I went back in time to when I was in Los Angeles. In this apparition, I was invited to a quiet dinner party by an older man who had been an actor in the mid 1950s. When I arrived at the soiree, an older lady, quite well dressed and dignified was already seating at the dining table. After the meal, some of the men left the room to smoke. As I didn't smoke, I stayed behind. Someone asked me If I would like to be introduced to Mae West. Of course, I said yes! I went up to her and she looked me up and down coyly and asked me to sit down beside her. We talked about her films I had seen and my impressions of Los Angeles. She seemed very sharp witted and very furious about life.
• • What came next was a shock. She stated I should research the facts of her career. "You might find it interestin'," she insinuated with a throaty laugh. I was dumbfounded at her request, but spontaneously accepted the invitation.
• • Reflecting back on this dream, I've asked myself many times what tweak of imagination this must have been. Perhaps what is even more remarkable — — is that I listened to this dream and immediately sought out any Mae West biographies the local Vancouver used bookshops offered.
• • In short order, I learned that Mae West had an early Broadway career, wrote plays, books and screenplays. I soon exhausted local resources and headed towards Seattle in hopes of finding more out of print books by her. Little did I realize that I would soon be drawn into an incredible journey of not only learning more about Mae West, but also fulfill a buried desire within me — — to become a researcher and writer.
• • Perhaps the spirit of Mae West came to me because of this unresolved desire within me. Whatever the case, once I caught the fever there was no turning back. From friendships I made in Seattle, I learned of a secret horde of Mae West furnishings hidden in storage there. I decided to travel to New York City on the 100th anniversary of Mae's birth in 1993 and that opened doors that eventually lead me to travel of Los Angeles and met Tim Malachosky, Mae's last secretary, and many of the "inner circle" of young men that comprised the mafia with whom she held court in her Ravenswood lair.
• • • • Mae's Hometown: New York City! • • • •
• • I decided to travel to NYC for the 100th anniversary of Mae West's birth [17 August 1993] with the idea that I could visit her grave site and retrace some of her footsteps in order to get a better idea of her Broadway career. . . . [to be continued]
Written by: R. Mark Desjardins of Vancouver, B.C. Canada

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• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1933 • •
• • Feed — — http://feeds2.feedburner.com/MaeWest
Mae West.

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