Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mae West: Joe Schenck

In 1912, MAE WEST, already proficient at the piano keyboard, learned how to play drums. Her boyfriend Joe Schenck, who had his own band, taught her. Then 19 years old, Mae was living in the Ridgewood section of New York City.
• • Joe Schenck rehearsed with Mae and his musicians in a clubhouse located at 70-12 Cypress Hills, Ridgewood, NY.
• • Born in Brooklyn, New York on 2 June 1891, Joseph Thuma Schenck was a musician, a pianist, and a singer with strong ambitions. During the day, Schenck held a conductor's job on a trolleycar line in Canarsie. In 1912, the five-foot-nine hopeful began chatting with his motorman August Von Glahn, a genial baritone five years his senior. In their spare time, they put together a variety act featuring Joe Schenck on piano providing lively accompaniment as the duo sang and did comedy routines. Before long, Von Glahn assumed his stage name "Gus Van" and thus they became Van and Schenck, a vaudeville team and the best known of all the two-men singing combinations. Before long, the clean-cut Brooklynites became vaudeville stars and made appearances in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1918, 1919, 1920, and 1921. Additionally, they cut numerous phonograph records for the Victor, Emerson, and Columbia record companies.
• • By 1923, Joe Schenck had married his first wife but he and Mae kept in touch. When Van and Schenck opened The Silver Slipper, a new night spot on Broadway, Mae was in the audience. When they weren't in the Follies, they were booked across the country in every major vaudeville theater and seen on song sheets that promised the buyer that the number was "successfully introduced by Van and Schenck." Schenck soon hooked up with his second wife Lillian Broderick [1895 — 1946], although he remained childless. Then he and Gus starred in a motion picture with sexy Bessie Love "They Learned About Women" [1930]. Despite the professional heights they hit for 18 years, there was one unfortunate circumstance. Joe had developed heart disease.
• • Schenck died at age 39 while working in Detroit in the month of June — — on 28 June 1930. Heartbroken, Lillian never remarried. She bought a family plot and buried her young husband in The Evergreens Cemetery, 1629 Bushwick Avenue, Brooklyn, where they share a headstone.
• • Floyd Dell, Eugene O'Neill, and "The Drag" • •
• • During the 1920s, Mae West and Jim Timony spent time at the most popular gay nightspot — — Paul and Joe's on West Ninth Street — — famous for its drag cabaret. In coded language, Paul and Joe's (run by two Italian family men who lived in New Jersey) was careful to drop hints about being a place that welcomed pansies. These skillfully worded pansy ads appeared in The New York Times and elsewhere.
• • Floyd Dell's book "Love in Greenwich Village" (1926) described this former speakeasy on West Ninth Street, raising people's awareness about the drag performers there. This is the night spot that inspired Mae's first gay play "The Drag."
• • Born in Barry, Illinois in the month of June — — on 28 June 1887 — — Floyd Dell was a radical journalist and novelist whose fiction examined the changing mores in sex and politics among American bohemians before and after World War I.
• • From 1910 until 1920 Floyd Dell was a major force in American literature. In Greenwich Village, with his buddy George Cram Cook, Dell was at the center of the Provincetown Players who fostered the career of Eugene O'Neill and invented the modern American drama. Floyd Dell died on 23 July 1969 in Bethesda, Maryland.
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • On 27 June 1954, "The Mae West Review" made its debut in Las Vegas at the Sahara Hotel.
• • Variety's man-on-the-aisle was in the room and reported on the scene: “In the same Congo Room that saw the Vegas debut of Marlene Dietrich 10 months ago, and the sensation caused by her ‘topless’ gown, Diamond Lil . . . swayed her ball-bearing hips on a nightclub floor for the first time in her career. Unlike Miss Dietrich, she bares nothing — — yet reveals everything. . . .”
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 1975th 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: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1954 • •
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Mae West.

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