Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mae West: Seymour Simons

MAE WEST recorded a popular old standard in her album "The Fabulous Mae West" [for MCA Records, Inc., 100 Universal Plaza, Universal City, California] — — "All of Me" by two Michigan composers Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons. Marks became best known for the song "All of Me," which he co-wrote in 1931 with bandleader Seymour Simons, and which has been recorded more than 1,000 times (including four versions by Frank Sinatra).
• • Born in Detroit, Michigan in the month of January — — on 14 January 1896 — — Seymour Simons was a pianist, composer, radio producer, and an orchestra leader. After completing his military service in World War I, Simons returned to his hometown and built a reputation as a piano player and songwriter, providing material for stage stars Elsie Janis and Nora Bayes. He collaborated with Bayes and others on songs. Simons worked in radio production and booking from 1928 — 1932 and led an orchestra on the radio in the early 1930s. An enduring hit, "All of Me" has been honored with something called the “Towering Song” award given by the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2000.
• • Seymour Simons did not live to see this award. He died in Detroit on 12 February 1949. Simons was 53 years old.
• • On Tuesday, 14 January 1930 • •
• • As the Los Angeles engagement of "Diamond Lil" was winding down, a nerve-wracking telegram arrived. The condition of Matilda West was worsening; the cancer had spread to her liver. Mae West hired a private train. On 14 January 1930 — — after their last performance in California — — Mae and the cast left for Brooklyn, New York.
• • The death of 59-year-old Matilda West in January 1930 "was a staggering blow," admitted Mae, who was inconsolable and devastated by the loss of her beloved mother.
• • On Friday, 14 January 1938 • •
• • In the month of January, "Every Day's a Holiday" debuted in the USA on a weekend
— — Friday, 14 January 1938.
• • It was the first Mae West film that failed to make money, unfortunately, and Paramount Pictures cut ties with her..
• • On Wedneday, 14 January 1959 • •
• • When he was hired in to help Mae West get her memoir together, ghostwriter Stephen Longstreet may have discussed autobiography's conventions — — the expected triumphs won after disappointments, the lessons learned from hard knocks, and the struggles along the way. Their collaboration during 1957 — 1958 produced a manuscript published in hardcover by Prentice-Hall on Wednesday, 14 January 1959. Using a well-worn comeback borrowed from the speakeasy hostess Texas Guinan, Mae titled her life story "Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It."
• • On Saturday, 14 January 1995 • •
• • The article "TNF and Mae West or: death from too much of a good thing" was published in the respected medical journal The Lancet, Volume 345, Issue 8942, Pages 75 — 76, the issue dated for 14 January 1995.
• • Unlike being in the company of Mae, hanging around with TNF is no fun. It means tumor necrosis factor. Yikes. But a medical researcher out there does have a sense of humor and we are applauding by posting the citation in The Lancet.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: “A man can be short, bald, and dumpy — — but if he has fire, women will like him.”
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • A remembrance about Van and Schenck mentioned Jack West and Mae West.
• • Joe Schenck rehearsed with Mae and his musicians in a clubhouse located at 70-12 Cypress Hills, Ridgewood, NY.
• • Born in Brooklyn, New York on 2 June 1891, Joseph Thuma Schenck was a musician, a pianist, and a singer with strong ambitions.
• • Schenck died at age 39 while working in Detroit on 28 June 1930.
• • Joe's partner was Gus Van [12 August 1886 —12 March 1968].
• • Thanks go to the venerable Ridgewood Times for this fascinating account (below).
• • Walter Hutter’s column in the March 24, 1977 issue of the Ridgewood Times contained a letter about the vaudeville stars Gus Van and Joe Schenck, who had been Mae's boyfriend around 1912 when she was 19. They stayed in touch and she attended some of his night club performances.
• • “Dear Sir:
• • “I wonder how many people from Ridgewood remember a famous pair of singers by the name of Gus Van and Joe Schenck? Their first vaudeville engagement as headliners came at the Bushwick Theatre in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.
• • “Later, the two made the Ziegfeld Follies for several years. They made ‘talkies.’ They had a triumphant visit to London and sang at the famous Kit-Kat Club where the Prince of Wales was a frequent visitor.
• • “After the Madison Theatre was built, they were back in their hometown, making an appearance at this theater. What a show they made and how the people enjoyed it. Many were old friends and neighbors, and fellows they’d worked with. What a show! I had the privilege to see them twice that week. Everyone had a wonderful time. The audience enjoyed encore after encore. I wonder how many people from Ridgewood remember?”
• • Walter Hutter commented: “From pre-World War I days to 1930, Van and Schenck were perhaps vaudeville’s greatest singing team. Both were closely associated with our neighborhood — Gus Van from Ridgewood was born about 1888 [birthdate correction: 12 August 1886] and Joe Schenck from Glendale, in 1895 [birthdate correction: 2 June 1891].
• • An introduction by Jack West • •
• • “They discovered each other in a tavern at Knickerbocker and Willoughby Avenues, their meeting coming through an introduction by Jack West, father of Mae West. Mae was another famous personality with a Ridgewood background.
• • “In their early years as a team, Gus Van would sing, while Joe Schenck played the piano. Later on, they sang together.
• • “There was no limit to their fields of public exposure. They ran the whole gamut of nationwide vaudeville, radio, movies and stage, almost without pause. They also toured all of Europe. Vaudeville was at its peak during years together. It’s estimated that in 1928, some two million people were daily attending vaudeville performances.
• • “In 1930, Joe Schenck [born 1891] died suddenly while staying at a Detroit hotel. He was only 35 years old [correction: Joe was 39]. Despondent for six months, Gus Van went back to work and finished his career as a successful solo performer. He was active up to just a few years before his death in 1968.
• • The Van and Schenck Club in Glendale • •
• • “So popular were they in the early part of the century that a local club was formed in their honor. Called the Van and Schenck Club, it was created by the efforts of Glendale and Ridgewood fans who’d known the showmen in their youth.
• • “For a while, the club was located at Bleecker Street and Irving Avenue. Later on, it was at Wyckoff and Irving Avenues and finally in 1927, it moved to 70-12 Cypress Hills Street, a short distance from the old Dietz coalyards. The property was sold to a private party in 1960. The club disbanded some years later.”
• • Old Timer’s note — Van and Schenck were among the first stars to sign for what was regarded as “big money” to appear on radio back in the latter part of the 1920s. They were contracted to do a 15-minute daily show for 13 weeks at $2,000 a week. ...
• • Source: The Old Timer, c/o Times Newsweekly, P.O. Box 860299, Ridgewood, N.Y. 11386-0299 — —
• • Did Jack West really introduce Van to Joe Schenk, his daughter's boyfriend? There is more than one account of how the men met.
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2177th 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 1937 • •
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