Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Mae West: Lion Amid Sex Circuses

To those who follow the career of MAE WEST, memories linked to the sixth of July will be overshadowed by the passing of two men she admired, gifted black musicians who died of heart attacks on that day.
• • Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Louis Armstrong [4 August 1901 — 6 July 1971] was a versatile and innovative singer and jazz trumpeter nicknamed Satchmo. At the age of 69, Louis Armstrong died shortly after a heart attack in New York City.
• • It was during the Prohibition Era, at Owney Madden's Cotton Club in Harlem that Mae West first encountered this talented musician, then in his twenties.
• • Since the New Orleans native impressed Mae, she asked him to participate in "Every Day's a Holiday" [1937].
• • The movie's musical numbers include "Jubilee" (written by Stanley Adams and Hoagy Carmichael and sung by Louis Armstrong). Seen very briefly as a street cleaner, Louis Armstrong introduces the song "Jubilee" while parading down the street along with other street sweepers during an election rally.
• • Currently, the house where Louis Armstrong lived for close to 28 years (declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977) is a museum. The Louis Armstrong House Museum — — at 34-56 107th Street (between 34th and 37th Avenues) in Corona, Queens, New York — — presents concerts and educational programs, operates as a historic house museum, and makes its archival materials and memorabilia available to the public for research. The museum is operated by the City University of New York's Queens College, following the dictates of Lucille Armstrong's will.
• • Born in Washington, DC, Van McCoy [6 January 1940 — 6 July 1979] was an accomplished musician, music producer as well as an arranger, orchestra conductor, and lyricist. He is best known for his massive 1975 international hit "The Hustle" — — a tune still played on dance floors and radio today nearly 30 years after his death. He has around 700 song copyrights to his credit. At the age of 39, Van McCoy was in Englewood, New Jersey when he was forever silenced by a fatal heart attack.
• • Better known for doing The Shimmy than hustling on the dance floor, Mae West, who starred and wrote the screenplay for "Sextette," had asked Van McCoy to write the theme song, and to make a cameo appearance in her motion picture.
• • "Sextette" was released on 3 March 1978.
• • Two mournful coincidences, two broken hearts on July 6th.
• • Where It Happened • •
• • In her private life, Mae West truly grooved to the music of black performers, for instance, talented Willie "The Lion" Smith [1893 — 1973], who played piano at Pod & Jerry's in the early 1930s and also at The Cinderella Club, a frisky spot in Greenwich Village during the late 1940s and early 1950s.
• • Speaking about Pod & Jerry's [The Catagonia Club] on West 135th Street in upper Manhattan, a Harlem night spot Mae West frequented, David Levering Lewis writes: With a little persistence, contacts, and money, the likes of Phil Harris, Mae West, and Carl Van Vechten could gain entry to the transvestite floor shows, sex circuses, and marijuana parlors along West 140th Street. ...
• • Source: "WEB DuBois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963" by David Levering Lewis [NY: Macmillan, 2001].
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: “A woman in love can't be reasonable — — or she probably wouldn't be in love. ”
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • Jerry Newcombe ponders this question: So why has marriage hit such hard times in our society? “Marriage is a wonderful institution,” said Mae West famously. “But who wants to live in an institution?” ...
• • Source: Article: "A Happy Marriage in a Post-Marital Society" written by Jerry Newcombe for The Christian Post; posted on 5 July 2011
• • 17 July 2004 17 July 2011 • •
• • In mid-July the Mae West Blog will celebrate its seventh anniversary. Thank you to all those Mae-mavens who come up and see Mae every day.
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 1983rd 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:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1937 • •
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