Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mae West: Cherchez LaMae

The very first time MAE WEST had her real age disclosed was in August of 1935. "Yesterday, incidentally, was Miss West's birthday," revealed her former husband Frank Wallace to the news media, "and — — she was 42."
• • Not only did the movie queen deny that she had walked down the aisle. She also emphasized that, as she had always said, she was born in the year 1900. Unfortunately, both were proven to be untrue.
• • According to Henderson, Kentucky based reporter Frank Boyett, this is how a colorful truth unspooled itself.
• • Frank Boyett writes: A Henderson native and her boyfriend found themselves at the center of a national media firestorm back in 1935.
• • The highest-paid actress that year was the sultry Mae West, who earned more than $480,000 in 1935 alone. That was serious money back in the depths of the Great Depression.
• • And she was a seriously powerful sex symbol. Snapping off double entendres like a pistol and flaunting her voluptuous figure, she hotted up the screen with a string of hit movies and bedazzled virtually every man in America.
• • Never telling her age, she made it clear she was single and available. That was part of her box office salability.
• • But then along came Myrtle Lorraine Sands. The young clerk's eyes nearly bulged out when, while helping re-index official records in Milwaukee, Wis., she came across a marriage certificate showing that West had married a man called Frank Wallace on April 11, 1911.
• • West denied it was her, but "the great fact-finding machinery of the U.S. Press began to hum," according to the May 6, 1935, issue of Time magazine. Local reporters in Milwaukee found that Mae West and Frank Wallace had appeared in a vaudeville show called "A Florida Enchantment" about that time in 1911.
• • Reporters in New York City tracked down Wallace, who was staying "in a theatrical hotel with his dancing partner, Trixie LeMae," and he affirmed the marriage was real. "The nerve of a brass monkey," was West's response.
• • And so began a long-running feud.
• • Cherchez LaMae • •
• • Wallace's real name was Frank Szatkus. LeMae was born as Marie Carey at 535 Second St. Usually her stage name was spelled LaMae, but on her death certificate it's spelled LeMae. Most people just knew her as Trixie.
• • She was smelted brassy sexuality poured right from the same mold as Mae West. Frank Wallace took up with her after West had gotten a better opportunity in show business. The exact date is unclear.
• • Back in August 1935 the Mae West marriage revelation was still big enough news that The Gleaner carried a story on 18 August 1935 saying that Wallace and Trixie were visiting her mother, Lena Carey.
• • That story said Wallace and Trixie had become dance partners seven years earlier, which would have been about 1928. "At the time of his marriage to Mae West, Wallace said, they were stage partners and were playing at the Gayety Theater in Milwaukee," The Gleaner reported. He called it a "kid marriage."
• • He then went on to say something that was sure to make West's blood boil: "Yesterday, incidentally, was Miss West's birthday and she was 42, Wallace revealed."
• • Things went quickly downhill after that. Wallace filed a lawsuit a couple of years later in an attempt to get West to acknowledge their marriage, something she had steadfastly refused to do. He quickly earned the name "Mr. Mae West," which was helpful in a show business way, but didn't exactly affirm his manhood. Their divorce wasn't final until 1943.
• • In July 1937, in response to a legal interrogatory, West finally admitted she had been married to Wallace, although she maintained she had been a "kiss-less bride." He and Trixie were again staying at 535 Second St., but this time — — at the advice of his attorneys — — he refused to talk to The Gleaner's reporter.
• • Trixie jabbered away, however. Again she said she and Wallace had joined up seven years ago, which would have moved the date up to 1930. Later on, in a Nov. 24, 1966, article in The Gleaner, she said they had first partnered in 1937 — — which is pure fabrication.
• • One of the few clear dates in Trixie's life is that she returned to Henderson for good in 1952 to operate two different nightclubs, the most widely known being Trixie's Alibi Club, which was located on U.S. 41-North near the entrance to Audubon State Park. Wallace accompanied her, and died here Oct. 15, 1966.
• • "He'll always remain in the wastebasket of my memories," West quipped on learning of Wallace's death.
• • Trixie entered Redbanks in 1988, and livened it up for a decade. She died 2 January 1997, at the age of 104.
— — Source: — —
• • Article: "Miss Trixie: Henderson's own LeMae was poured from Mae West mold"
• • By: Frank Boyett
• • Published in: Evansville Courier & Press [Scripps Interactive Newspapers Group]
• • Published on: 14 August 2010

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