Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mae West: Al Jolson

MAE WEST worked with a versatile performer whose death in October caused The Gay White Way to go black as a final tribute.
• • In 1911 both Mae West and Al Jolson accepted an offer to perform in the play "Vera Violetta." The show opened on 20 November 1911 and it was a phenomenal success. In this musical Jolson portrayed Claude, a blackface singer. He managed to become so popular that his usual weekly salary of $500 was increased to $750. Staged at the Winter Garden Theatre, the production finally closed on 24 February 1912.
• • It was on 25 June 1926 that Mae West appeared with Al Jolson — — as well as Houdini and other entertainers (such as George M. Cohan, Fanny Brice, the Marx Brothers, Ann Pennington, Hazel Dawn, Eddie Foy, etc.) — — at the Polo Grounds on West 155th Street in Manhattan's Washington Heights area [zipcode 10032].
• • The fundraiser, organized for the benefit of the United Jewish Campaign, was staged by Mae's old dancing teacher Ned Wayburn.
• • As most Mae-mavens know, Mae West rarely appeared on radio. When she did, the sole purpose was to promote one of her films. West had guest-starred on The Shell Chateau with Al Jolson in 1936. The Shell Chateau was a musical variety series that began on 29 June 1935, with Al Jolson serving as its host. Howeever, Jolson left this show permanently in April 1936 due to other commitments.
• • Al Jolson died in the month of October — — on 23 October 1950 — — in San Francisco, California at the age of 64, evidently of a heart attack. The high-profile entertainer was interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California. On the day he died, the bright lights of Broadway were turned off for 10 minutes in his honor.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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