Thursday, January 05, 2012

Mae West: Pater Familias

Despite having an ambivalent relationship with her father, MAE WEST took after him and also worked for him when he peddled fruit in Brooklyn and when he helmed a "detective agency" in New Jersey and New York City. Before opening his own operation, West had walked the beat in Coney Island and elsewhere in Brooklyn.
• • Born on Manhattan's Lower East Side in March 1866, John Patrick West [called "Jack"] grew up feisty, impatient, and strong. As a child he boasted that he'd rather fight than eat. He got his Irish up rather quickly, remembered Mae. He was easily angered and "always ready to do physical violence when the urge was on him." In 1969, Mae revealed in an interview that she thought her father was cruel — — but realized "all his fighting was done doing other people's fighting for them."
• • Jack West was 7 years old in 1873 when his family moved to Brooklyn, settling first in Red Hook, and then in Greenpoint.
• • Though he had no inclination to follow his father's vocation as a ship rigger, Jack knew his parents wanted him to learn a trade; they apprenticed him to a boilermaker in 1880 when he was 14.
• • But Jack West was contemplating starting a fire in the arena. At 11 years old, "Battling Jack" had fought in his first boxing match as a featherweight and yearned to become a bare-knuckles champion. These matches were often arranged by local racketeers. His favorite place to hang out was the gymnasium. His closest companions were weightlifters and boxers
— — both black and Caucasian.
• • During the late 1880s, Jack was sidetracked from his vigorous athletic routine after meeting a buxom young lady named Matilda Delker [born in 1870 in Bavaria]. Youthful rebels, Jack and Tillie had much in common. Both defied their parents' expectations, Jack through boxing and Tillie through entertaining the idea of a theatrical career.
• • Initially, the couple forged a passionate bond. Mae explained, "My father had swept her off her feet." But Tillie's youthful transgressive ambitions met an end with Jack West.
• • On 19 January 1889, in Greenpoint, Battling Jack West and Tillie Delker took their wedding vows before a local minister with Jack's sister Julia West acting as maid of honor.
• • On 5 January 1935, "Battling Jack" heard the final countdown; he passed away in Oakland, California of a stroke. The previous November, Mae's father had a severe heart attack and was under the care of a Bay Area heart specialist. A funeral was held in Hollywood within days. Shortly thereafter, the deceased was taken back to Brooklyn to be placed next to his wife in the West's family crypt. Accompanying the body was his son John, his daughter Beverly, and Jim Timony.
• • On this date we remember John Patrick West with love and respect.
• • "It will keep dad home at least once a week" • •
• • Mae West, announcing that she would shortly appear on television, said: "It will keep dad home at least once a week."
• • Source: "People: Speaking Up" published in Time Magazine on 8 May 1950.
• • Since Mae's father [1866 — 1935] was already dead and buried by then, it was a curious statement certainly. Had John West been among the living in 1950, he would have been 84 years old.
• • Nell Craig [1891 — 1965] • •
• • Mae West did not get a chance too often to work with the same actress again. Nell Craig is one of the few who was cast in three motion pictures that starred the controversial screen queen.
• • Born in Princeton, New Jersey on 13 June 1891, Nell Craig was cast as Mrs. Bond in "I'm No Angel" [1933]. Perhaps you recalled her as the society lady in "Goin' to Town" [1935] as well as a missionary in "Klondike Annie" [1936].
• • Best known today for her recurring role as the floor nurse Nosey Parker in MGM's "Dr. Kildare" series, brunette actress Nell Craig had begun her long screen career with Essanay in Chicago as a 22-year-old fresh face in 1913. Talkies, unfortunately, reduced her chances to be anything more than a bit player although she did manage to stay employed in Hollywood for decades. From 1913 — 1948, she was seen (briefly) in 150 motion pictures. A number of times, Nell Craig was cast as a uniform-wearing character such as a maid, customs matron, reformatory matron, and quite often as a nurse. She also played secretaries, salesladies, teachers, bystanders, tourists, and (in a silent film in 1924) Mrs. Abraham Lincoln.
• • Upon retiring in 1948 from the screen trade, Nell Craig spent her final years as a resident of the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. She died there in early January — — on 5 January 1965. She was 73 years old.
• • Mae West and Amelia Earhart • •
• • Kansas native Amelia Earhart [24 July 1897 — missing 2 July 1937, declared deceased on 5 January 1939] was a noted aviation pioneer, author, and women's rights.
• • Susan Wels has published a fascinating biography of the late aviatrix. Her article "Amelia’s Psychic Adventures with Mae West" was printed on 18 December 2009. Here is a snippet.
• • Susan Wels wrote: Amelia Earhart's drive to push limits and break barriers in every way even led to her to experiment with ESP and psychic phenomena. ... Hollywood movie star Mae West was one witness to her psychic powers. In the early 1930s, when Mae was vacationing at La Cinta, a posh resort favored by Paramount executives, she had an amazing experience with Amelia Earhart that she wrote about in her memoir Mae West on Sex, Health and ESP.
• • One day, Wels wrote, Mae recalled, “I answered a knock on my door and found myself face to face with a major executive... ’Amelia would like us all to get together for a seance,’ my visitor said, ‘and I was wondering if we could come by later.’... Mae West continued: “The courageous aviatrix and I had met, and we admired each other. My bungalow often became La Cinta's most popular meeting-place, and of course I agreed to let her hold the seance there. ..."
• • Mae West explained: “There was a large table in one room of my bungalow, and Amelia Earhart asked us all to sit around it with our hands placed lightly on it. Nobody was to move the table in any way, but Amelia said that as the Psychic Forces were summoned, they would make their presence known by tipping the table so that it rapped on the floor in front of whomever the Forces wanted to contact."
• • Mae West went on: “Suddenly the table began to tip in my direction, and it went on for some time. The message, it turned out, was from my late father, and he spoke about several things which nobody in the group could have known. He told me that one of the men I was seeing at the time — — the man who was present at the seance, in fact — — was okay, and that I should continue to see him if I wanted to. ..."
• • Your father, Mae, always called you "my kid" . . . • •
• • Susan Wels added, referring to what Mae West had recollected: “But I had another admirer whom my father advised me to stay away from. When I read the transcriptions of my father's message, one thing made me a bit skeptical. In referring to me, he had said ‘my kid’ — — and that was an expression I had never heard him use during his lifetime. When I told my friends about this discrepancy, I got a very surprising answer."
• • Susan Wels continued this: “‘Maybe you never heard him say ‘my kid,’ Mae,’ an executive who had known my father well told me, 'but I did! He used to tell us about the things you did as a child, and whenever he told us those wonderful stories, he always called you 'my kid’ ... .
• • Source: Article: "Amelia’s Psychic Adventures with Mae West" written by Susan Wels, the biographer of Amelia Earhart.
• • On Thursday, 5 January 1961 • •
• • "Mister Ed" was an American television situation comedy that first aired as a syndicated program on 5 January 1961. In 1964, Mae West guest-starred and her appearance on "Mr. Ed" won unusually high ratings for this episode as thousands of Mae-mavens tuned in.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "If I have overstressed, as some may think, the physical, I will now relate my first adventure into the occult.”
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • A brief bit on notable individuals in Tulsa mentioned Mae West.
• • John Cruncleton, A.D., Nightingale Theater — — Striding boldly into unknown territory several times a year, Cruncleton's Midwestern Theatre Troupe (housed in The Nightingale Theater) is the very last place you'll find conventional theater
— — or conventional anything else, for that matter. Putting up original works, experimental shows, and most recently a piece by Mae West, there's something being said over there on 4th Street. . . .
• • Source: Article: "Hot 100: Touch 'Em; Maybe some of their stuff might rub off" written by the staff of Urban Tulsa Weekly; posted on 4 January 2012
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2167th 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 • • her father in 1934 • •
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