Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mae West: Brooklyn Eagle Boo-Boo

On 17 August 1893 MAE WEST was born in her parents' bedroom — — in Bushwick. The young Mom-to-be [born December 1870] and Dad-to-be [born March 1866], wed on 19 January 1889, had gone to a hospital for the birth of their firstborn child Katie, who entered their world in August 1891 but who, most unfortunately, died in infancy. Perhaps this is why the couple opted for a midwife and a home delivery when little Mary Jane West was due.
• • Since several solid biographies have been written about her, many Mae-mavens know this already. Therefore, it is unsettling when a Kings County newspaper manages to get basic facts wrong.
• • For example, how many mistakes can a Brooklyn Eagle columnist make in one bio-note? Ah, brave new world that has such people in it.
• • The Brooklyn Eagle's bylined columnist Vernon Parker [Email:] offered this claptrap to his readership in a long-running section, "On This Day in History: AUGUST 17" — —
• • Vernon Parker slides into his first paragraph like this: Mae West was born in Brooklyn on August 17, 1893. That she was born in Brooklyn, there is no doubt — — but exactly where is a subject of controversy. Even in her biography, she simply said “I was born on a respectable street in Brooklyn.” It is almost a certainty that she was born in the Greenpoint section at 184 Franklin Avenue, which would be the Astral Apartments. Another controversial question is when. Mae always claimed the year as 1893 — — but there are those who have calculated the year to be more like 1888. ...
• • Let's look more closely at that suspicious phrase "more like 1888."
• • In his final paragraph, Vernon Parker misstates Matilda's birthyear as 1875 (instead of 1870), indicating he is challenged by simple arithmetic. Following Vernon Parker's logic, if Matilda had been born in 1875, and if Mae had been born in 1888, then Tillie would have given birth to Mae at age 13, and her firstborn would have come along when she was 11, and she would have wed Jack West as a nine-year-old. Of course, none of this is so, Vernon.
• • Examine his first paragraph again. It is, in fact, a certainty that Mae was not born on Franklin Street nor anywhere else in Greenpoint.
• • Two minutes of primary research at the venerable Brooklyn Historical Society or the Brooklyn Public Library would give Vernon Parker the exact street address. So would a peek into a good full-length biography on Mae West.
• • Why are columnists so careless? And why do newspapers print misinformation?
• • The Brooklyn Eagle welcomes letters • •
• • Feel free to contact the Brooklyn Eagle at 30 Henry Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201; email:,; Tel 718-422-7400.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
Add to Google
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1918 • •
• • Feed — —
Mae West.

No comments:

Post a Comment