Friday, April 15, 2011

Mae West: David Ray Johnson

Several university scholars have written about MAE WEST. For instance, Richard Helfer did his doctoral dissertation on her for CUNY. Years before, David Ray Johnson had prepared his Masters thesis on the screen queen. Born in Illinois on 8 February 1948, David Ray Johnson was only 28 when he died in Santa Monica, California during the middle of April — — on 15 April 1976. His poignant story has not been revealed in public before. A person who had followed these unusual developments for some time, prepared this summary exclusively for the Mae West Blog.
• • Mae-maven and researcher R. Mark Desjardins assembled this fascinating information from his own files in Canada. Desjardins explained: David Ray Johnson wrote “An Historical and Interpretive Analysis of the Development and Perpetuation of the Mae West Phenomenon on Stage and Screen 1900 — 1970” as a partial requirement for his Masters of Arts Degree from Bowling Green State University in 1971. He sent Mae West a copy of his thesis, and she was so flattered that he was invited to visit her as a guest at the beach house. Johnson arrived in Los Angeles in 1973, and West asked the young men in her entourage to look after David and show him around Los Angeles. Eventually, Johnson found work at Universal Studio as a tour guide and continued to live at the beach house.
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Desjardins continued: One foggy evening on 15 April 1976, David Johnson went out to the Bar Sinister in Santa Monica, a popular gay cruising spot. As he came out of the bar, he was struck down by a vehicle and a witness stated “a cream coloured van sped away in the fog.” Johnson was run down by this driver and died at the Santa Monica Hospital an hour later. The death certificate listed the cause of death as “auto versus pedestrian” and an autopsy was performed by Thomas Noguchi, who had determined the cause of Marilyn Monroe’s death in 1962. The next day, the Evening Outlook reported the hit and run accident, listing Johnson’s age as 28 years old and giving his address as 514 Pacific Coast Highway.
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Desjardins confided: The Santa Monica Police contacted Paul Novak, who gave a statement under the name Chuck Krauser to keep Mae West’s name out of the investigation.
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Desjardins added: David Ray Johnson’s parents flew in from Chicago to pick up his body and Mae West paid to have his remains flown back. The driver of the van was never apprehended and the case remains unsolved.
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Desjardins is quoting from David's academic work here: In the summary of his Masters thesis, Johnson had stated: “There is an element of sadness in her return to film roles, for she has become almost a parody of herself. To those who knew little about her background and significance, she appears to be an anachronistic antique from another era. Not all are impressed with her talents and influences. The more that people are exposed to her wicked career, the larger the legion of her supporters becomes and her detractors are forced to take cover. The saga of Mae West will continue, perhaps like that other phenomenon, Halley’s Comet, a Mae West will appear on the horizon every 80 or so odd years. Our Mae West’s comet is slowly departing, but not before making her influences felt. Honouring Mae West as Queen of the Century is surely justified. What can we expect in 2001?
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Desjardins concluded: Whatever West’s private thoughts may have been regarding Johnson, she was impressed enough with his thesis that she included a portion of it in the appendix of her own book Mae West on Sex, Health, and ESP. Johnson's section is entitled a “Biographical Study of Mae West.”
• • Do not copy and do not re-post Mr. Desjardins's writing without permission. Be nice. Thank you.
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • Studio Job has designed a Mae West lamp series expressly for Venini. J.S. Marcus writes: In conjunction with Lensvelt, the Dutch office furniture company, Studio Job has launched a usable stripped-down cabinet, which comes with an enormous bronze key, and a number of lamps from Venini — — part of a series the duo calls "Mae West." This series also includes a wall lamp conspicuously shaped like a woman's breast. "We were at Venini," says Mr. Job Smeets, recalling time spent with Venetian glassblowers, "and you see all those macho guys, with walls hanging with pinups." They designed the breast lamp, he says, for them. ...
• • Source: Article: "Out of the Gallery and Into the Home" written by J.S. Marcus for The Wall Street Journal; posted on 15 April 2011
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004.
You are reading the 1900th blog post. Unlike many blogs, which draw upon reprinted content from a newspaper or a magazine and/ or summaries, links, or photos, the mainstay of this blog is its fresh material focused on the life and career of Mae West, herself an American original.
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