Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mae West: Divorce Drama

During a well-documented divorce drama in 1935, Frank Wallace's lawyers claimed that the vaudeville hoofer was living, as man and wife, with MAE WEST from the time of their Milwaukee wedding on 11 April 1911 until 14 March 1914.
• • In late December of 1914, the readers of Variety could not help but notice the ornate half-page advertisement for dashing Guido Deiro — — "The Master of the Piano Accordion, The Incomparable in His Line" (on the left, seated and displaying his accordion) — — and Mae West — — "The Original Brinkley Girl, A Style All Her Own" (on the right, wearing a lovely gown) who were "Engaged Jointly as Headline Features." As Mae-mavens know, Guido and Mae were not merely "engaged jointly" but in fact engaged to be wed by March 1914, and a married couple before Christmas came that year. Without dissolving her first legal union, the Brooklyn bombshell had said "I do!" a second time.
• • Sadly, on 14 July 1920, Mae West filed for a divorce from Guido Deiro [1886 — 1950], charging him with abandonment. Having moved back with her parents in Queens, Mae filed her petition at the local courthouse in Jamaica.
• • When their divorce became final on 9 November 1920, 34-year-old Guido quickly wed his third wife, singer Ruby Lang, 28 years old. Born in May 1892, Ruby was 15 months older than Mae and had a 3-year-old son with a former mate.
• • Suddenly, One Saturday in 1914 . . . • •
• • Saturday, 14 March 1914 — — who knows why Frank Wallace decided to tell the judge that's when Mae left but it was an outright lie. He, too, had wed again, and he really had no idea how many men Mae had been dating after parting in 1911. All he knew was that a marriage license had surfaced, and that she was a wealthy movie star now, whereas he was an unemployed opportunist in need of a windfall. The nerve of that worm!
• • Luckily for Mae, she dodged the public airing of being a bigamist and other dirty laundry. Neither the name of Guido Deiro nor her six years of conjugal bliss with the Italian accordionist surfaced during the 1930s media circus. And the man Frank Wallace threatened to sue on the charges of "alienation of affection" was not the trim, good-looking Guido but instead Mae's overweight manager Jim Timony. Meanwhile, in 1935 Beverly was kept busy answering questions posed by news reporters, to whom she swore that her sister was a spinster who had always been single.
• • And, yes, Mae had many chances to tell tall tales to the tabloids. "I had obligations to my mother," she told a journalist, explaining that marriage was impossible for a girl with obligations to her Mom. "I couldn't let anything interfere with them while she was alive, and I never discussed them. Well, she's gone now."
• • To another gossip columnist, Mae insisted, "I never found anyone I liked well enough [to marry]. I might have, I suppose, if things had been a little different in my set-up. But I didn't."
• • For awhile, Mae protested that she didn't even know this bald, skinny New Yorker whose stage name was Frank Wallace. She denied setting foot in Wisconsin when she toured in vaudeville and also insisted she never performed with him in Milwaukee during 1911. But "A Florida Enchantment" at the Gayety had received good notices and Wisconsin theatrical managers remembered her. And Gayety had preserved their press notices, too.
• • Between the Hollywood censors and a barrage of bad publicity, thanks to greedy Frank Wallace, Mae had a great deal to cope with seventy-six years ago. And she came through.
• • On Sunday, 29 December 1912 • •
• • In the 1890s, Albee and Keith opened the Union Square Theatre in New York City, where Mae West performed on Sunday, 29 December 1912. She was also booked into several other houses controlled by B.F. Keith.
• • During 1912 — 1913, when the Brooklyn comedienne was occasionally promoted as "The Nell Brinkley Girl," or the "scintillating singing comedienne," or "the firefly of Broadway," she was a fresh-faced brunette teenager with a reputation for fast tap dancing and acrobatic feats onstage combined with "character" [novelty] songs. Unlike others who had honed one act to offer the public, Mae was always trying out fresh approaches and buying new material and costumes.
• • In the Sunday morning newspapers on 29 December 1912, readers noticed that B.F. Keith was offering "Dinkelspiel's Christmas" along with "MAY WEST — singing comedienne" [yes, the newspaper spelled it "MAY WEST" in their 29 Dec 1912 ad].
• • The 14th Street theatre is, alas, long gone but we can only imagine how much fun we missed since we were not around to dial STuyvesant 3400 to reserve a ticket.
• • On 29 December 2000 in The N.Y. Times • •
• • Sarah Kershaw wrote an interesting article about a graveyard Galahad in the borough of Queens, where Mae West has her vault
— — "Protector of the Long Departed; Historian Restores Early Burial Plots in Queens" — — in which she introduced Dr. Stanley Cogan: After a decade of digging through old graveyards in Queens, piecing together crumbling tombstones and peering at fieldstones scrawled with faded letters, Stanley Cogan has developed a sense of humor about his obsession with the departed. ''They call me the Head Stone,'' said Dr. Cogan, a retired teacher and assistant principal who is now president of the Queens Historical Society. In a reference to how much time he spends on hallowed ground, he refers to his wife, Lee, as a ''cemetery widow.''
• • Sarah Kershaw continued: Queens is cemetery central: more than five million people -- almost triple the live population — — lie beneath the borough's soil in dozens of cemeteries. Many are buried in vast and visible graveyards that stretch for miles along major roadways, their tombstones rising from the landscape in a sea of marble and stone. Mae West is buried there. So are Jackie Robinson, Robert F. Wagner, and Lucky Luciano. ...
• • Art Auction on 29 December 2002 • •
• • Outer Cape Art Auctions in Provincetown, Mass. posted their results for their December 29th, 2002 auction, which included a drawing of Mae West as she looked in costume as Diamond Lil during the revival of her famous show on Broadway in 1949.
• • Al Hirschfeld: This a-MAE-zing etching was appraised in 2001 for $6,000.00 — — "Mae West" [etching # 51 of 150, 14.5 x 19, SLR] — — UNSOLD.
• • Mae's Inspiration: Civil War Quotes • •
• • Abraham Lincoln said: "And in the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."
• • Mae West said: "It's not the men in my life — — it's the life in my men."
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "I'd rather be looked over than overlooked."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • An article about Roman Catholics mentioned Mae West.
• • Greg Craven writes: Judging by the fulminations in Sydney against World Youth Day, Benedict XVI may soon become the first pontiff in living memory to paraphrase Mae West. "Is that bigotry in your pocket, or are you just not glad to see me?" ...
• • Source: Article: "An Excuse To Bash The Catholic Church" written by Greg Craven, a leading constitutional lawyer and vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, for The Age; posted on Saturday, 12 July 2008
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2160th 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 • • in 1936 • •
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