Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mae West: Harry Tickled the Keys

"MAE WEST, author, loses her pianist," noted Variety on 8 September 1922.
• • Born like Mae during the month of August
— — on 10 August 1895 — — Harry Richman was an unknown talent in 1922 when Mae West gave him a break and hired the tall piano man with a pronounced lisp. Featured together on the big-time B.F. Keith vaudeville circuit, they were a good team. Wherever their act was booked, the pair got excellent reviews.
• • 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.
• • Ungrateful for the mega media exposure Mae had afforded him, Harry split with her and joined Texas Guinan's friend, singer Nora Bayes, in her act. However, Mae and Harry did manage to reunite (briefly) when they appeared together in April 1923 at the Colonial Theatre [Broadway and West 62nd Street].
• • Entertainer Harry Richman [10 August 1895
— — 3 November 1972] was an actor, a singer, dancer, comedian, pianist, songwriter, bandleader, and cabaret performer. He was born Harold Reichman in Cincinnati, Ohio.
• • A flamboyant personality, Richman joined the George White's Scandals in the 1920s and appeared in the 1931 Ziegfeld Follies. In 1930, he made a splash in Hollywood with this crowd-pleaser: Puttin' on the Ritz. This film featured the Irving Berlin song of the same title, which gave Richman a phonograph record hit that year. His film career was hampered by his limited acting skills. [Writing about Puttin' on the Ritz, Leonard Maltin remarked: "A songwriter drinks and goes blind
— — after seeing this you'll want to do the same".]
• • Okay. Maybe the silver screen was not his best medium. Nevertheless, Harry Richman remained a popular nightclub host and stage performer.
• • In 1966, his autobiography A Hell of a Life was published. In it he recounts his private and public relationship with Mae West.
• • Harry Richman married three times. All three marriages ended in divorce. He lived it up until age 77 and died in Hollywood, California in 1972.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West's accompanist • • Harry Richman • •
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Mae West.

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