MAE WEST got on the wrong side of Gaby Deslys.
• • "Vera Violetta" opened on 20 November 1911 at the Winter Garden Theatre.
• • Offered in repertory with "Undine," the musical remained on Broadway through the Christmas holidays, closing in February on 24 February 1912.
• • Ambitious, bold, and 18 years old, Mae West had been assigned the second number in Act I. Backed by the chorus, Mae [as Mademoiselle Angelique] was to sing "Angelique of the Opera Comique," a song whose lyrics were written by Melville Gideon to music composed by Louis A. Hirsch.
• • During the out-of-town previews, Mae had the brilliant idea of performing this second number — — a few minutes into the show — — wearing an elaborate headpiece. Intentionally, the Brooklyn teenager was mistaken for Gaby Deslys (who played Mme. Adelle de St. Cloche) and the audience applauded wildly. Thus when Gaby Deslys finally did appear onstage for the sixth song, the audience did not realize that "Madame de St. Cloche" was the star.
• • The 30-year-old diva got the teenage upstart fired before opening night in Manhattan.
• • Looking back with regret, Mae said, "I should have waited until the Winter Garden premiere before I tried that maneuver." After the head-on collision with Gaby Deslys, Mae West's part as Miss Angelique from the Opera Comique was awarded to Kathleen Clifford, who also worked with Mae on Broadway in "A Winsome Widow" [April — September 1912].
• • Gaby Deslys [4 November 1881 —11 February 1920] was a dancer, singer, and an actress. Her celebrity rose thanks in part to the overheated tabloid gossip about Portugal King Manuel [1889 — 1932] and his affair with her when the handsome monarch was 20 and she was 28. The young ruler is thought to have given Gaby Deslys a pearl necklace worth $70,000 after first meeting her in July 1909 in Paris. More gifts soon followed. Thus she became notorious and enormously popular during the 1910s, earning $4,000 a week in the United States.
• • Known for her dancing, she was featured doing the Turkey Trot and the much more controversial Grizzly Bear, a dance banned in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Harry Pilcer choreographed the Gaby Glide, which they would perform together in "Vera Violetta."
• • Most unfortunately, Gaby Deslys contracted a severe throat infection caused by influenza in December 1919. She was operated on several times as her doctors tried, in vain, to eradicate the infection, on two occasions without the use of an anesthetic. Surgeons were inhibited by Deslys' demand that they not scar her neck.
• • She died in Paris in the month of February — — on Wednesday, 11 February 1920. She was only 38 years old.
• • Swan Bed • •
• • Have you heard about her swan bed? Gaby's gilded bed, carved in the shape of a gigantic swan, was acquired at auction by the Universal Studios prop department, and was used in the silent film "The Phantom of the Opera" . In 1950 it was featured again in "Sunset Boulevard" as the bed of Norma Desmond.
• • Three years after "Phantom," Diamond Lil was lounging in her swan bed reading The National Police Gazette on the stage of the Royale Theatre in April 1928. Could Mae have gotten the swan bed idea from Gaby?
• • John Edwin West, Jr. [11 February 1900 — 12 October 1964] • •
• • Born in February — — on Sunday, 11 February 1900 — — in Brooklyn, John Edwin West died on 12 October 1964. He was 64. Mae made arrangements for the body of her beloved kid brother to be sent back to Brooklyn to the family crypt.
• • Two weeks later, Mae — — who hated to think about death — — made a Will.
• • Mae West and Hitler!! • •
• • The British tabloid, The Daily Mirror well and truly cornered the market in bizarre accounts and articles meant to amuse rather than to educate, and peculiar human interest stories. One early example was their front page headlines that wondered “What would have happened if Hitler had married Mae West?” — — yes, so incredibly preposterous.
• • On Saturday, 11 February 1933 in The Los Angeles Daily News • •
• • The Los Angeles Daily News ran an article on "She Done Him Wrong" in their weekend edition on Saturday, on 11 February 1933.
• • On Saturday, 11 February 1933 in The N.Y. Times • •
• • Film critic Mordaunt Hall wrote: Mae West is to be seen at the Paramount in a hearty and blustering cinematic cartoon of the devilish '90s. With the haughty strut and the nasal twang which are the principal assets of her repertoire, she filled the screen with gaudy humor. Illustrating the troubled career of Lady Lou, whose heart is bigger than her sense of decorum, she rhymed "amateur" with "connoisseur" in one of her beer-hall ballads and, on the whole, gave a remarkable suspicious impersonation of Diamond Lil. In fact, "She Done Him Wrong," with a few discreet cuts and alterations, is the same "Diamond Lil" without which no bibliography of Miss West's literary works would be complete.
• • Mordaunt Hall continued: Most highly prized of the Bowery belles, Lady Lou is notable both for her beauty, which is ornate, and for her wit, which is not dull. Although her reputation is nightly torn to bits by the pious in the mission next door to the saloon where she holds court, district leaders and other local Napoleons fight for her favors. Despite the title, she did nobody wrong. While her man is doing a "rap" she has to live, and she has chosen a good location. "My career is diamonds," she says, and men fight for the privilege of adding to her collection of jewelry. . . .
• • On Friday, 11 February 1977 in Bookviews • •
• • Mae West said: "Hiring someone to write your autobiography is like hiring someone to take a bath for you." Mae's comment was quoted in Bookviews, on 11 February 1977.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "I'm still looking for the right man. My trouble is, I find so many right ones, it's hard to decide." [quoted in Earl Wilson's column in The N.Y. Post during February 1949]
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • An article in the Cape Gazette discussed Mae West.
• • The Delaware-based Arts & Entertainment Editor wrote: "Everyone has this idea of who Mae West was," says theatre director Dana Peragallo.
• • Source: Cape Gazette [Lewes, Delaware]; posted on 11 February 2011
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2206th 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: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • in a swan bed, 1928 • •
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