Friday, April 08, 2011

Mae West: Post # 1893

The MAE WEST BLOG is celebrating a special anniversary today — — blog post # 1893. To mark this occasion, a number of Mae-mavens offered their Westian wisdom inspired by the Brooklyn bombshell who was born in the year 1893.
• • • What is Mae West's legacy, in your opinion, and is she still relevant?
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Damon Devine, stylist and make-up artist extraordinaire, Hollywood, California
• • Mae West was a pioneer is so many ways. She was the first female public figure to show that a woman can be in total control of her own destiny. She knew herself better than anyone else and seemed to have known instinctively what was right for her. She believed herself to be the most beautiful, the sexiest, and always a winner. And she made us believe it (and love it!).
• • Unfortunately, she is the most underrated icon of all time. The more shallow society became, the shorter their attention span, the obsession with tragedy and scandal — — the more Mae West's legend appears to have taken a backseat to Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. However, I have faith that Mae West will have a total renaissance again one day and will empower everyone to know and love themselves and focus on success as well as the pleasures life can offer.
• • Damon Devine is involved in the Annual Mae West Birthday Bash in Los Angeles, which takes place in August every year and has a colorful Mae West theme.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Ian Macnicol, collector of Mae memorabilia, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
• • The author of this blog asked me to write a short guest piece setting out my views on Mae West’s “legacy” in celebration of the 1,893rd blog. Quite an achievement, huh? The fact that there is a daily Mae West blog that has devoted such a huge amount of energy during the pat seven years to celebrate the great Mae West is a testament, I think, to Mae’s legacy.
• • Similar energy and love went into the “Mae West Color Website” a few years back by Martin Kappinga and myself. In addition, many other websites, books, TV documentaries, and plays have been written to commemorate and examine her life and career. So Mae West, some 30 years after her death and more than 80 years since her heyday, quite clearly continues to fascinate, excite and inspire current day generations. Her legacy is tangible.
• • The most obvious legacy is, of course, her films. She made only a dozen films but once seen Mae West can never be forgotten — — her personality grabs you, you are hooked by her and want to know more. What is heartening is that she is being rediscovered by successive generations and we must hope and expect that this will continue into the future. The thoroughly delightful Romain Tutak is a prime example of a young man besotted by Mae, a woman who had been dead for nearly a decade when he was born. I also have a friend whose interest was ignited as a child when he saw footage on TV marking her passing. And what is particularly remarkable about Mae West fans is that, once bitten, we remain bit! She appears to engender great loyalty in her fans. I have been very impressed by this and have met many of them. There is also some rivalry between them but mostly that is good-natured and I, personally, have had nothing but kindness and friendship over the years from my fellow fans.
• • So if her films are the shop window that first attracts us, what else do we find has had lasting significance once we pass through the shop doors? Her pushing of the envelope in the 1920s no doubt created a thirst for even more progressive theatre and we are probably still feeling the effects of that today. For example, by shining a light on women’s and black and gay people’s place in society, she moved issues of gender, race and gay equality forward in the general societal consciousness. She was in very near the beginning of these various struggles — — always a difficult place to be — — but she did it all with a light touch and with humour; she almost always got her own way and without a doubt, made a difference to the social and sexual mores of the day. In short, her influence was one of the early building blocks for the more inclusive society we in the western world enjoy today.
• • It was as an older woman that she fought her last battle with societal censorship and she did that simply by defying the then accepted roles for older women and older actresses in particular; no playing mothers or grandmothers for Mae West! She was a sexual woman in real life and she wanted to be celebrated and enjoyed for this in her public persona. So, even in old age, she projected the image of a glamorous and desirable woman. She was ridiculed in some quarters at the time but, with the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that she was remarkably ahead of her time. Today it is fashionable for older people to strive to live full lives and they are actively encouraged and applauded for not letting their age restrict their lifestyles. Mae was a trail-blazer for this.
• • Finally, Mae West pulled off something almost unique (Chaplin being the only other example that springs to mind) when she created the Mae West “character” — — an over-blown blonde with trademark walk, voice, and mannerisms. Over the years, the actress and the woman became one and the same, with Mae reinforcing the character at every opportunity. Eventually, it entered into the social consciousness as an entity, supported by dozens of fabulously funny one-liners. Both the character and her sayings are still immediately recognizable today and are trotted out regularly on radio and TV — — and indeed by all of us, especially at Halloween. In short, she remains one of the most impersonated and quoted women in the world — — which is quite a legacy in itself!
• • So what lessons from her life are still relevant today? Mae West was a tough cookie, relatively uneducated, who was born at the end of the 19th century. However, she had a very clear vision of what she wanted for herself and how she wanted to live her life regardless of the blueprint society had mapped out for her. Most of us conform to this and we make but a ripple on the shore in our lifetimes. Mae West decided not to conform and in so doing she created a tidal wave. The effect was enormous in the 20s and 30s and I have argued that we are still feeling its after-effect today. For all of us, I believe that the main lesson to be learned from the life of Mae West is — — decide on your goal, don’t listen to your detractors, and then go for it big-time!
• • Visit the Mae West Color Site — —
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Romain Tutak, French fashion designer, Paris, France
• • Oh my... Mae West!!! Her life, her character, her career, her diamonds — — everything about Mae West was bigger than life. She was not destined to become The Ultimate Hollywood Sex Goddess, and the Very First Bombshell. She was not the most beautiful girl, nor the best actress, yet she succeeded in becoming a legend.
• • Born in 1893, at a time when a woman was not supposed to have any opinion of her own, Mae grew up to become a very driven little girl who knew what she wanted, and what she wanted was to become a star. And She Became Way More than that, she became an Institution (even if she wasn't ready for an institution).
• • From a very young age she had played the Vamp kind of woman, and when she didn't find a play to satisfy her, she wrote one, and what a play it was. “Sex
— — and she found the money to bring it to Broadway. Then a Huge Hit, a Huge Scandal, a Trip in Prison, and a Star was Born!!! The rest is History!!! Mae West "climbed the ladder of success wrong by wrong.”
• • What is still relevant in Mae West's Career & Life is that If you work hard enough, if you devote your life to this goal, then you can achieve whatever you want. But there is more than that. Mae West was the Most powerful woman in the entertainment business for almost a decade. And, as far as I can remember, she is the ONLY Woman who played this sexual, campy, strong woman who ruled over the male (both onstage and in reality). She is the Only Sex Symbol to do so. All the other actresses were either sweethearts, dumb blonds, or campy
— — but in an innocent way.
• • If you take all the Sex Goddesses of Hollywood, and put them in a “whorehouse,” Mae West would have been the One who would have ruled it, make it become the Best, the most Outrageous, the Most Beautiful, the Most Refined, the Most entertaining and Renowned Whorehouse in the world, and she would have made a Fortune on it. And what I like the most in that Idea (which could make a GREAT play, if you want my opinion) is that I think Mae would have loved that.
• • To conclude and to sum up what I want to say: Mae West is, in my opinion, everything a woman should be! Very wise, campy, a bit daring, self-confident, and (of course) UNIQUE!!!
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • More guest commentators to follow tomorrow!
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • Darryl Bauer writes: My experience with the event started last year, when I was asked to portray Gus Sun, who worked here in Springfield, Ohio and was the booking agent for big names like Mae West, Lillian Gish, The Marx Brothers, Bob Hope, Eddie Cantor, W.C. Fields, and Burns and Allen. He built the Regent Theatre in downtown Springfield, and when he had his office there, it was one of the busiest Western Union telegram sites in the country. ...
• • Source: Article: "‘Night at the Museum’ unlocks local history" written by Darryl Bauer, WHIO Radio; posted on 6 April 2011
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 1893rd 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.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
Add to Google
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • keepers of the eternal flame • •
• • Feed — —
Mae West.


  1. What a fantastic post! It is so nice to hear what a variety of people think about this wonderful icon. Congrats on the milestone post.

  2. I really really love mae. I love that she was herself in the movies and at home in real life. I love that she had great race relations in times where it was not good to be seen hanging and having a good time with blacks. I love that she loved jazz and the blues. I also love that mae west taught me one greatest lesson, to have patience and when I get the chance to fuckin rock it!

    She was 40 when she first got on the silver screen and I would have never thought she was anything near 40. I love that she still was not afraid to be not just a woman, but a powerful woman in control of the cards she held in her hands!

    For this, I am not afraid of not accomplishing tings in time because Im only 22 and mae taught me that I've got as much time as I need. OLD is a state of mind. Mae really proved that youth has no limits. Society teaches us that anything over age 15 is over the hill....Well mae showed them!

    I also sing A NEW WAY TO GO TO TOWN almost every day. I really love her work and her. \\

    Just wanted to add my 2 cents in.