Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mae West: A-MAE-Zing Inheritance

In the summer of 1926, MAE WEST performed at a charity benefit at New York City's Polo Grounds and on the bill was 35-year-old Hazel Dawn, a member of the original Ziegfeld Follies in 1907.
• • Born in Ogden, Utah, to a Mormon family, pretty Hazel Dawn [23 March 1891 — 28 August 1988] was a stage, film, and TV actress.
• • Hazel Dawn made her screen debut as Kate Shipley in "One of Our Girls" (1914). Her association with Famous Players — Lasky film company dated from this motion picture. Dawn followed this role with others in "Niobe" (1915), "Clarissa" (1915), "The Masqueraders" (1915), etc.
• • Hazel Dawn was once the mascot of both the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy at one of their annual football games. At one point, West Point cadets tossed their hats onto the stage, one cap belonging to future U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
• • In 1927 she married Montana mining engineer, Charles Gruwell — — reputedly one of the richest men in the western United States.
• • At the age of 97, Hazel Dawn died in Manhattan at the home of her daughter in the month of August — — on 28 August 1988. Born two years before Mae West, her path in life was so different.
• • Probability, like time, is its own dimension. Perhaps there was an irresistible urge in certain ladies to cultivate a million admirers. A different woman would be spending her time trying to marry a millionaire. Yet another female is determined to be that millionaire. How many chances are there in one life to rewrite the acceptable version of the public self?
• • Proust said that truth is only a point of view about things. Rick, a discerning collector of Westiana, who had inherited a million memories and a trove of Mae West souvenirs from his mother, cherishes these experiences and shares his story with our readers.
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• • In commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of Mae's burial, Baltimore-based admirer Richard S. Baynes writes about Mae West and the way he became the designated guardian of his mother's beloved keepsakes.
• • • Rick remembers: I am very happy to share my thoughts about Mae West. I happen to have a nice collection of Mae memorabilia left to me by my mother.
• • • My mother adored many of the strong women actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood. She often mentioned actresses like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Barbara Stanwyck — — but Mae was her favorite because she had a personal connection.
• • • My mother met Mae in 1949 when she was appearing in Baltimore, Maryland as “Diamond Lil” at the Town Theatre (which was vacant and in disrepair for years, but is being renovated this year to house a local theater company). At the time, Mae would often stop in the historic Lexington Market downtown to buy fresh fruit. I’ve read that she was actually hospitalized during her stay in Baltimore, but overruled her doctor’s objections and checked out early. I also read that her long time companion Paul Novak was from Baltimore.
• • • • • • One Man's a-MAE-zing Collection • • • • • •

• • • Ricks adds: I have two signed Playbills, a couple of posters, LPs from the 1960s, movie fan magazines with articles about Mae, old cigarette cards, and song sheets with Mae’s picture on them. Over the years I’ve added to the collection (through EBAY) items such as the Mae West “Royal Doulton” figurine, the “Esco” statue, the “Effanbee” doll, a check signed in 1940, and a picture printed from a unique negative. I have also collected various mugs, cups and plates with her likeness. I particularly value a ticket from the premiere of “Sextette” held in San Francisco in 1978. I have one room that has been turned into a Mae West museum.
• • • I remember taking a trip with my mother in the late 1970s to Hollywood. While there, we just had to visit the Ravenswood Apartment Building. No, we never caught a glimpse of Mae — — but I do remember her name and phone number were listed in the Los Angeles phone book!
• • • Initially I learned about Mae from my mother, but over the years I became more and more fascinated by her life story. To me, Mae seemed bigger than life. She epitomized the true meaning of “a movie star.” She was her own creation and stayed faithful to her image until the day she died. I would love to have met her!
• • • • • • Mae West Still Matters • • • • • •
• • • Mae still matters because she is irreplaceable — — there will never be anyone like her. Celebrities today come and go, but her star is eternal. One hundred years from now, people will know the name “Mae West” and it will bring an instant smile to their face.
• • • She may not have an organized fan club but, as all the true Mae-mavens know, there is an annual Mae West Birthday Blast in New York City and another one in Hollywood. This yearly tribute on the East Coast and the West Coast means that the Empress of Sex still has fans of all ages and races. Her movies have brought immense pleasure to my life, and I’m grateful to her for that. (By the way, I take my hat off to the MAE WEST BLOG, a daily dose of the Brooklyn bombshell that does so much to keep her memory alive and helps new fans to discover her.)
• • • Take care and God bless.
Written by: Richard S. Baynes, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1949 • •
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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:35 PM

    Your information on William McElfatrick, the architect, is incorrect. He was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1854; he died in Brooklyn in 1922.