Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mae West: John Lester Johnson

MAE WEST had a thing for the ring (i.e., the boxing arena) and a few former fighters worked with her in Hollywood.
• • Offered a small part in "Klondike Annie" [1936], John Lester Johnson was briefly seen as a sailor. His sojourn in Tinseltown was brief, consisting of only 37 credits between 1922 — 1942. Perhaps he lacked an ally or the right agent. Maybe it was nothing more than a dearth of meaty roles for strapping black men.
• • Born either in South Carolina or in Suffolk, Virginia during the month of August — — on 13 August 1893/ 1895 — — Johnson left the South, where he had trained early on to be a boxer, and headed to the bright lights of The Big Apple in 1910. Johnson's first pro match was in 1911 against Joe Jeannette in New York City. Described by the inventive sportswriters of his era as a "giant of a man" or as "a hulking ton of coal," he was, in reality, a good-sized light-heavyweight carrying about 175 — 185 lbs of muscle. On 13 July 1916, at the Harlem Sporting Club in New York City, Johnson had the chance to go up against a white opponent, the then unknown Jack Dempsey (who dated Mae West in 1921). Due to technicalities, Johnson was denied his rightfully won championship title.
• • To earn his bread, he tried his hand at the screen trade and did appear, at last, in one starring role, in an "Our Gang" short in 1933 as a harmless "wild man" from Borneo. Menial jobs, such as a night watchman, seemed to be the only steady employment he could secure, unfortunately. Then he was sidelined further after suffering debilitating strokes during the 1950s.
• • At age 74, John Lester Johnson died at the Veterans Administration Hospital in West Los Angeles on 27 March 1968.
• • Mae West & Eugene O'Neill: Off-beat Links • •
• • At a time when melodrama was still popular, a few individuals wrote a stage play in the mystery genre. Mae West wrote "Diamond Lil" [1928]. Eugene O'Neill wrote "Mourning Becomes Electra" [1931].
• • On Sunday afternoon, 14 August 2011 • •
• • "Mae West in Bohemia — — Gin, Sin, Censorship, and Eugene O'Neill"
• • Mae West's birthday is August 17th. Join us at 3:00 pm on Sunday afternoon, 14 August 2011. The title of this illustrated historical theme walk is "Mae West in Bohemia — — Gin, Sin, Censorship, and Eugene O'Neill." Rare vintage illustrations will show you how the buildings and blocks looked as these two theatre people saw them.
• • Rain or Shine! • •
• • Where: This illustrated walking tour begins at 62 West Ninth Street, NYC (near Sixth Avenue). Join us and take a walk on the wild side tomorrow. The tour will go forward, rain or shine. It is a one-time-only event. Final stop will be the Eugene O'Neill exhibition sketched by Al Hirschfeld (a display that will only be there a few more days).
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "You only live once but, if you do it right, once is enough.”
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • "The Astral" by Kate Christensen must be a silly and misinformed work of fiction since the narrative includes dumb statements such as this for effect: "Some claimed that Mae West had been born in this building; I didn't see why that couldn't have been so," Harry relates.
• • Fact: Mae West never ever lived in that building (and, if you are not lazy, you can check it for yourself).
• • Book critic Yvonne Zipp writes: The novel's title comes from the scene of the crime, as it were — — "The Astral" is the name of the fortress-like building where Harry and Luz lived and raised two children in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. "The place was compelling to look at from without, blighted from within.… Some claimed that Mae West had been born in this building; I didn't see why that couldn't have been so," Harry relates. ...
• • Source: Book Review: "Three really good August novels" written by Yvonne Zipp for the Christian Science Monitor; posted on Friday, 12 August 2011
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2021st 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 • • 1936 • •
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