Friday, August 06, 2010

Mae West: August at The Corner

It was 1912 when MAE WEST got her first major vaudeville break: a spot on the bill at Hammerstein's Victoria in mid-May. At last the scintillating singing comedienne could demonstrate that she was in a league with top-tiered headliners such as Eva Tanguay, Sophie Tucker, Fanny Brice, and Nora Bayes.
• • Later that year, close to her 19th birthday, Mae had been invited back to "The Corner" for a weeklong booking that began on 6 August 1912. She shared the stagebill with several acts — — including Fields and Carroll.
• • Half of the team was Arthur Fields [1888 — 1953] who was born as Abe Finkelstein in Philadelphia in the month of August — — on 6 August 1888 — — and who toured for years with Harry Carroll. Fields was just 11 years old when he turned pro, accepting singing engagements in Utica, New York and then branching out to Coney Island. Around 1908 the ambitious baritone toured with Guy Brother's Minstrel Show, and helped assemble a vaudeville novelty "Weston, Fields, and Carroll." Four years later, the partnership had been paired down to Fields and Carroll. Arthur Fields had his first hit as a songwriter with "On the Mississippi" (1912); he had composed this ragtime music with Harry Carroll, but Ballard MacDonald supplied the lyrics.
• • Mae West heard Fields and Carroll perform their jaunty rag "On the Mississippi" — — 98 years ago today on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street. Then "Mae West and Her Boys" sang a few rags and played the bones, minstrel style. Variety slammed their routine, suggesting she return to burlesque since she lacked the refinement necessary for top-drawer vaudeville. Instead Mae once again became a solo act, purchased new material, and kept on trouping.
• • "It's better to be looked over than overlooked," Mae would often say, refusing to hear the nay-saying, and steeling herself to press ever onward. Bravo.
• • Proust said that truth is only a point of view about things. Romain, who is a fairly new toastmaster at the Mae West banquet table, shares his personal tastes with our readers.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • In commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of Mae's burial, French follower Romain Tutak shares his journey into the heartland of Mae West country.
• • Part 2 • •
• • Romain writes: Since the Internet helped me acquire Mae West books and keepsakes, I was often trolling online for more Westiana.
• • The Mae West Color Site • •
• • Since I enjoyed the Color Site so much, I left a guestbook comment back in April 2007. Not long after, a response arrived from the webmaster Martin. He explained that he had developed the web site in collaboration with Ian, another fan, and he'd be happy to answer any questions.
• • Well, the conversation has not yet ended. I am often asking Martin's advice about items to buy. Martin told me about his experiences — — his meeting at Ian’s place filled with mountains of Mae-morablia. He clued me into other motion picture classics such as "Sunset Boulevard" and acquainted me with actresses like Bankhead, or Gloria Swanson. And, playfully, Martin called me a freak because I am so young but have old-fashioned tastes.
• • In 2007, I decided to leave Paris for Toulouse (Southern France) to study Fashion Design in a more affordable school.
• • SURPRISINGLY, this was where I stumbled across many fascinaing Mae West collectibles. No longer did I need to buy online when there were the most curious little shops — — unfortunately, some have since closed — — where I found her LPs and posters. One proprietor, a very kind man in his forties, sold me records at a discount. He'd say, "Because you seem to really like her, and that’s my only chance to sell it…!"
• • It seems to me that my modest collection is not impressive at all. I do not own anything that was hers, for instance. It's quite funny that, even when I was in Toulouse, burdened with tuition and living expenses, I always managed to have some euros to spend on Miss West, for a book, or another LP or a DVD.
• • • • The Lack of a Mae West Fan Club • • • •
• • I think it’s too bad there is no one who cares to maintain an official Mae West Fan Club or even an on-going forum on the Internet dedicated to her. A newcomer such as myself always needs a guide to check things out about Mae West. Despite the Internet, it is still difficult to get RELIABLE information. Internet information isn’t really trustworthy nor are some of the books.
• • Recently, I bought a new Mae West biography, only to discover it was filled with stupid errors; the writer made many careless mistakes, saying she died in 1978 and was buried in California, for example, and he furnished mostly the wrong dates for her films, songs, and shows. With disappointing biographies like this floating around, it becomes even more valuable to be able to check details with longtime fans, people who can answer my questions or verify details — — such as which perfume did Mae wear. Without an official fan club, where reliable information might come from, Mae's fan base is the only source. And I really want to thank these Mae experts. They know who they are and I feel blessed to "know" them.
• • Lack of Legacy Management • •
• • But it is a shame that there is no formal fan club for other reasons, too. These days my main concern is what her legal claimants are doing to keep her legacy, her memory, and her work alive. It does seem like she’s still very vivid as a character in people’s mind in the USA. With the right legacy management, Mae West could be like Marilyn Monroe or James Dean or Audrey Hepburn … though, of course, this was not half of what Miss West was!!! A fan club could help attract new FANS!!! I just don’t understand why they don’t try harder to make that happen.
• • There are plenty of things to do, to spread the word about Mae West, which would bring them loads of money. Let me ask these questions! Where are the unpublished plays?! Where is the Complete Collection of Miss West Movies? LPs? Writtings? Where is the tour operator who could design the ultimate Miss West Hollywood/ New York trip? The Mae West Official Youtube Channel, Facebook page, website (which is not a joke), forum, myspace…?!
• • Despite my being a tyro who still does not know much about her, Miss West has become part of my life. And she will stay a part of it for a long time, and I hope more people of my generation will be attracted to her… so that we’ll keep her work, her image, and her message of tolerance, acceptance, and humor still alive!! Though she is dead, this is not over. Her fascination and her impact will continue. I know this.
Written by: Romain Tutak, Paris, France

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
Add to Google
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1933 • •
• • Feed — —
Mae West.


  1. Romain4:00 PM


    When I say "A WEBSITE WICH IS NOT A JOKE" i don't speak about Ian & Martin's Color Site which i think is amazing, but i speak about "the MAE WEST OFFICIAL WEB SITE"...

    And something else, it may be just because of my poor english that i didn"t get the sentence right, but I said Audrey, Marilyn and James weren't half What Miss West was... which is a Successful actress, writter & play writter, stage actress etc.......
    So SHE MUST HAVE a fan club!!!!
    They owe her One!!!


    I'M DIGGING myself a small place in the world of Miss West fans... and i must say thank you all for the warm welcome!!!


    And Come up sometimes and see me on FB for exemple... I'll tell you fortune.
    Or Just to speak about the DIVINE!

  2. Anonymous11:23 PM

    Yes. It is very disappointing there is not a fan club for her. If one starts up, please post the info. Thanks... a Mae West fan

  3. We hope there will be a Mae West Fan Club again one day and, yes, we would (of course) post any fan club details.