Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mae West: Bobby Dean Loner

The Clipper often announced that MAE WEST would be bringing a new act to vaudeville and where she would be opening.
• • A laugh-getter who appeared with Mae in "Myra Breckinridge" [released in the USA on 24 June 1970] also had ties to variety. Chicago native Kathleen Freeman made her vaudeville debut at age 2, becoming a part of her parents' act.
• • Born in the month of February — — on 17 February 1919 — — the heavy-set comedienne portrayed Bobby Dean Loner in the screen version of Gore Vidal's bestseller. Kathleen Freeman often chuckled about working with every "tough bitch" in the film industry. After this motion picture had been released, she often recalled the clash between the film's two leading ladies: "Mae West was not an actress; she was not a star; she was the most incredible phenomenon I ever encountered. Place that against the starlet Raquel Welch, who had an enormous ego, and boom — — there were fireworks. And I made darn sure that I wasn't caught up in the cross-fire."
• • The UCLA graduate's first goal had been to shine as a professional pianist but, after thoroughly enjoying her work with several stock productions, she changed gears. Kathleen Freeman once said: "I think comedy is more powerful than drama in the long run. Comedy is more difficult. It's very easy to make people cry."
• • Kathleen Freeman made her first motion picture appearance in 1948 at 29 years old. The reliable character actress was used as a comic foil by Jerry Lewis in several of his films. Her stocky figure, expressive face, energetic laugh, and supple voice-craft served her well, keeping her in demand and busy juggling parts on the silver screen, TV, and also on Broadway.
• • Kathleen Freeman, 82 years old, was cast in a Broadway production when she died in New York City on 23 August 2001 of lung cancer. Engaged on stage until the very end, the octogenarian had given her final Tony nomination performance for her role as the piano player in Broadway's musical hit "The Full Monty" on August 18th, and five days later she was gone.
• • John Garcia, Executive Director/ Producer of "The Column" Awards, created an award in her honor. This prize is given to individuals who overcome personal, physical, or other major problems in their lives and continue to work in theater, whether behind or in front of the curtain. Kathleen Freeman embodied the true spirit of the Broadway gypsy: "The show must go on." Applause!
• • Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre • •
• • Designed by the Rapp Brothers and initially named the New Palace Theatre in 1926 — — a baroque, lavishly appointed vaudeville venue until it became a place to show motion pictures — — for quite a number of years the auditorium attracted major stars such as Mae West, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, and Jack Benny.
• • Now known as the Cadillac Palace Theatre, and still looking splendid with its Italian marble polished and spiffy, this Randolph Street showpiece can be toured every Saturday.
• • For details on the 75-minute walking tour of the Cadillac and one other opulent Loop theater (the Oriental) designed by the same architects, phone 800-775-2000.
• • Tell them you read about it on the Mae West Blog and ask to see the old programs and stagebills featuring her in the archives.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • Buck Loner and Letitia Van Allen on the set, 1970 • •
• • Feed — —
Mae West.

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