Friday, December 30, 2011

Mae West: Rehearsal at Pabst

Bandleader and pianist Vincent Lopez was hired to play music at Pabst, where he used to watch MAE WEST run through her routines with Harry Richman in 1922.
• • Born in Brooklyn at the end of December, and raised by his Portuguese immigrant parents, Vincent Lopez [30 December 1895 — 20 September 1975] would be leading his own band in Manhattan by 1917 and, eventually, having his own radio show. However, like many young musicians, he occasionally lost jobs and faced hardships and uncertainty. One day he'd be wearing a new tux and booked at a luxurious supper club like Minden's, and the next day he'd be pounding the pavement and forced to tickle the ivories at a dive where gangsters partied after hours.
• • Vincent Lopez met Mae West in the basement of Pabst Hotel, a sleazy joint in the Times Square area that catered to career criminals — — "an awful comedown from Mike Minden's," he admitted. Writing about the hoodlum manager of this mobster hang-out, Lopez recalled: "Frank Zagarino was a man you could never forget. Short, swarthy, and heavy-set, he looked like the classical extrovert, but inwardly he craved the approval of others. He sought it by flashing diamonds. The night I started in his employ at Pabst's, he accented his instructions with diamond flashes from his gesturing hands. ..."
• • In need of a steady job to support himself and his wife, Lopez played by Frank Zagarino's rules, not especially pleased with his situation but delighted whenever he could spend time with the other vaudevillians who dropped by such as Jimmy Durante.
• • Vincent Lopez continued: "I think it was because it was so quiet that Mae West and her pianist, Harry Richman, chose the place for their rehearsals. The only piece of music they ever used having the slightest connection with the Charles K. Harris office was a novelty titled 'Everybody Shimmies Now.' Joe Gold (the other pianist in the Harris office and who later worked for me) wrote it. When he mentioned it to Miss West as she was leaving the place one afternoon, she thought it over and said, 'Okay, Joe. Keep it handy. I'll come up to see you some time' . . ."
• • Officer John West, walking the beat . . . • •
• • While working in Coney Island, Vincent Lopez encountered Mae's father in uniform: "I made friends with the cop on the beat who pointed out the historical sights of Coney to me. One of them was Norton's Point, the site of a lighthouse that was to make bigger history." He relayed the story: "There's a wireless station out there now," West told me. "A feller named David Sarnoff started it, and that's where he picked up the news that the Titanic was sinking. They say he's playing around with a new gadget called radio that carries the human voice. Probably just a fad, but you can never tell." "Say, Mr. West," I wondered, "You mentioned that your daughter is in show business. What name does she use?" "What name would she use but her right one, Mae West. Remember it. She'll be famous some day." Officer West was delighted to know I'd already met his daughter and that I agreed with his forecast on her future. ..."
• • Source: "Lopez Speaking: My Life and How I Changed It" a memoir written by Vincent Lopez [N.Y.: Citadel Press, 1960]
• • Mae West, author, loses her pianist," noted Variety on 8 September 1922.
• • In December, Let's Remember Leo Tover [1902 — 1964] • •
• • Mention "I'm No Angel," the classic screen comedy written by and starring Mae West, and many fans will recall the Paramount Pictures team behind the scenes including the director Wesley Ruggles — — but let's not forget Leopold.
• • Born in New Haven, Connecticut in the month of December, Leo Tover, A.S.C. [6 December 1902 — 30 December 1964] was a cinematographer and twice nominated for Academy Awards for his work on "The Heiress" (1949) and "Hold Back the Dawn" (1941). Among his other credits are "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "Payment on Demand," both released in 1951.
• • Leopold Tover started working as a cinematographer in 1928 when he was 26 years old and cinema was a fresh field of endeavor. Perhaps you already know that a cinematographer is the one photographing with a motion picture camera. The title is generally equivalent to director of photography (DP), used to designate a chief over the camera and lighting crews working on a film, responsible for achieving artistic and technical decisions related to the image. In 1933, it was Leo Tover who gave "I'm No Angel" its intriguing visual Art Deco flair.
• • After a long, successful period in Hollywood, Tover died in Los Angeles, California during late December — — on 30 December 1964. Tover was 62.
• • On Monday, 30 December 1912 in Union Square • •
• • Despite all of the good books written about Mae West — — many quoting the reviews she received in Variety, The New York Dramatic Mirror, etc. — — a few paragraphs of praise have escaped notice. That's one reason it's important to blog (and blither and blather) about the ever-fascinatin' Brooklyn bombshell.
• • On Monday evening, 30 December 1912 the singing comedienne was giving a double performance at 7:30 PM and at 11:00 PM at B.F. Keith's Union Square Theatre on Fourteenth Street. Featured on the bill, along with the 19-year-old hopeful, was a great deal of variety. Britain's Laddie Cliff offered new songs and eccentric dances; Phina and company entertained; Alfredo (wandering wizard of the violin) played; Asaki presented his juggling act, so popular in Japan; and gymnasts Lydia and Albino did . . . something.
• • According to an article — — "SUFFRAGE ACT IN VAUDEVILLE; With Singing Judge and Attorneys and a Jury Chorus All Feminine" — — published the next day on 31 December 1912 in The New York Times, the man on the aisle wrote this: Suffrage is having its day at Keith's Union Square Theatre this week in a musical feature which brings Gilbert and Sullivan's "Trial by Jury" within the limits of a vaudeville act and makes it a trial wholly feminine. Singing girl attorneys prosecute the defendant for breach of promise and plead on his behalf, a contralto Judge charges the jury, and the lady jury itself is the chorus. "Court by Girls" the skit is called. It was received with great approval . . .
• • The Times critic added: Mae West, who last appeared in "The Winsome Widow," made her debut [sic] as a vaudeville singer in songs and impersonations which won the applause of a crowded house.
• • Always observing other vaudevillians to see what she could learn, Mae probably kept her eye on "England's Clever Boy Comedian" whose stage name was Laddie Cliff. Born in the UK on 3 September 1891, the trouper was 21 when he met Miss West. His career, unfortunately, was cut short. Laddie Cliff died at age 46 during December 1937. If you know what he died of, take a moment to write in.
• • On Saturday, 30 December 1933 in Picturegoer • •
• • Picturegoer, a British publication sold in movie houses, ran a three part series: "Making Love to Mae West." The first installment ran on 10 December 1933, it continued on 30 December 1993, and the final portion appeared on 6 January 1934.
• • And the byline? Cary Grant either wrote it or (perhaps) merely signed it, likely the latter. Her handsome co-star informed the public: "I have never worked with anyone who has as much 'she' as Mae West." Though he emphasized that neither one was in love with the other, Mae was "extremely helpful" during the seductive or romantic moments the plot called for. English fans may have been surprised to know that parts of their love scenes were shot separately, with Mae making eyes, actually, at the cameraman instead of her leading man. Or Cary delivering his affectionate remarks to a script girl as he was filmed alone. They were only filmed together when the script called for them to embrace and touch. "Mae West has taught all these other actresses in Hollywood how to act," noted Cary Grant, who was paired with her in two box office successes.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "I'm not good at riddles. I ought to know if I was ever married or not."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • An article about Route 66 mentioned Mae West.
• • One Englishman was delighted to discover Mae had bedded down in New Mexico.
• • "Route 66," rhapsodizes the British journalist Owen Adams, "just like the song says, winds from Chicago to LA, more than 2,000 miles all the way. And you can still find classic rock ’n’ roll blasting from Wurlitzer jukeboxes in neon-lit diners, drive-ins and roadhouses."
• • Shortly after reaching Route 66’s mid-point, Mr. Adams watched as his American tour bus crossed from Texas to New Mexico — — and encountered a double dose of WEST.
• • According to Owen Adams, "Soon we reached Gallup, location for countless old Western movies. The Hotel El Rancho is where everyone from Mae West and Doris Day to Errol Flynn and Burt Lancaster stayed, and it has been lovingly restored with signed photographs of the stars lining the walls. The Cosmos tour makes an irresistible diversion from the old Route 66 to take in the Grand Canyon in Arizona — — just as spectacular as it appears in all the photographs and films. ..."
• • The Hotel El Rancho is located here: 1000 E Highway 66, Gallup, NM 87301. They claim to remember which room was Mae's so ask the front desk clerk.
• • Source: Article: "Getting my kicks down on Route 66" written by Owen Adams for Western Daily Press [Bristol, UK]; published on 17 November 2007; reprinted in the UK's Sunday Mirror on 30 December 2007
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2161st 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 1932 • •
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