Friday, April 20, 2012

Mae West: Women's Workhouse

It was April 20th and MAE WEST was on everybody's breakfast table with the morning papers.
• • If you subscribed to The Scranton Times, delivered to good citizens in Scranton, Pennsylvania, for instance, then you saw this on page 2 (of the 34-page edition) on Wednesday morning, 20 April 1927. The headlines announced: "Mae West Starts on Jail Term" and the sub-head was "Found Prison Inmates 'Very Interesting' On First Night."
• • The Scranton Times wrote: Mae West, star and coauthor of "Sex," with two negresses and three white women as fellow passengers, left Jefferson Market women's prison today in a prison van for the workhouse on Welfare Island, where she will serve nine days of the ten-day sentence imposed yesterday for giving an obscene play. ...
• • The Scranton Times wrote: Shortly before the prison van arrived, Miss West sent an answer by a keeper to the written questions of reporters who inquired how she felt and how she had enjoyed her first (sic) night in prison. "Not so bad," wrote the actress. "The inmates were very interesting. Will have enough material for ten shows. I didn't think so much of the bed." ...
• • Women's House of Detention [1931 — 1974] • •
• • An error the folks at the NYPL often make is referring to the Women's House of Detention [1931 — 1974] in Greenwich Village as the place where Mae was incarcerated twice for overnight stays during 1927.
• • In 1927, Mae was locked up, along with prostitutes and pick-pockets, at Jefferson Jail, a two-story red-brick structure with a basement. Two years later this old prison would be demolished to make way for a taller Art Deco structure that would be opened in 1931.
• • Think about it. Mae could not be behind bars during 1927 in a correctional facility that was not opened until 1931. Okay, please go tell the confused librarians at NYPL to revise their info.
• • Monte Landis born on 20 April 1933 • •
• • Thursday, 20 April 1933 is the birthdate of Monte Landis, an American character actor whose specialty is comedy and who had worked with Mae West when he played the role of Vince in "Myra Breckinridge" [1970].
• • Between 1959 — 1992, Monte Landis was featured in 58 projects for the movies or as a guest star on TV sit-coms. He is most recognized for his work as the comic foil in multiple episodes of "The Monkees," most notably as the Devil in "The Devil and Peter Tork" [1968].
• • We wish the funnyman a Happy Birthday! He is 79 years old.
• • Gregory Ratoff [20 April 1897 — 14 December 1960] • •
• • Gregory Ratoff was related to Mae thanks to his shifty cousin Vladimir Baikoff, who was the actress's brother-in-law and Beverly's second Russian husband.
• • Born in Samara, Russia in April — — on 20 April 1897 — — the 25-year-old actor first sailed to the USA in 1922. A year later Gregory Ratoff wed actress Eugenie Leontovich. He returned to New York in July 1925 on the SS Mauretania with his Russian-Jewish mother, deciding to settle in.
• • As an accent piece, he was harmless. Gregory Ratoff played Tira's New York City lawyer Benny Pinkowitz in "I'm No Angel" [1933]. And many fans remember the amusing scene in which Mae West and Ratoff are discussing the breach-of-promise suit.
• • In early 1943, when "Catherine Was Great" was being hammered out, Mae got a visit from Ratoff. He wanted her to star in a new film for Columbia Pictures to be called "The Heat's On," which he would direct. To arouse Mae's interest further, he hinted that he might also produce her newest extravaganza rushing to Broadway.
• • After many delays and disruptions, "The Heat's On" was released 9 February 1944 to jeers, sneers, and razzberries.
• • Director, actor, and producer Gregory Ratoff contracted leukemia and died in Switzerland on 14 December 1960.
• • On Wednesday, 20 April 1927 • •
• • The New York Herald Tribune ran with this headline — — Mae West And Two Men In Jail For Play Sex — — on Wednesday, 20 April 1927. Think of all the different ways a reader might have interpreted that headline.
• • On Wednesday, 20 April 1927 • •
• • Bruce Gould's article "'Sex' on Trial" was printed in New Republic on Wednesday, 20 April 1927 on pages 246 — 248.
• • On 20 April 1999 in the UK • •
• • The musical comedy "A Saint She Ain't," with Mae West featured prominently on the poster, opened at The King's Head Theatre, Islington, in association with Patricia MacNaughton, on 20 April 1999.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: “My play 'Sex' was a work of art.”
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • An article in The Orlando Sentinel mentioned Mae West.
• • Allen Rose of The Sentinel Staff wrote: Dick Gordon of Indialantic still gets a laugh recalling the day he met Mae West, late star of stage, screen and radio, as they used to say, and self-proclaimed ''last of the red-hot mamas.'' . . . Let's just say that Mae resembled Dolly Parton physically. Blonde wigs, fancy gowns and all that went with them.
• • Allen Rose wrote: She was a bit like Cher, too. Outspoken. Only more so. Sultry voice. Her image was that of a lady who liked men. A lot. As in by the dozen. Her trademark line: ''Come up and see me sometime, big boy.''
• • Allen Rose wrote: It was 1944, at the height of World War II. Stevens Hotel in Chicago. Mae was starring in "Catherine Was Great," a comedy about Catherine the Great of Russia, who also found men to be the perfect pastime during a humdrum 18th century marriage to Grand Duke Peter.
• • Allen Rose wrote: ''I met her Mae West, not Catherine very briefly,'' Dick Gordon said. ''It was on the 17th floor of the hotel. I was stationed at a B-29 training base in Nebraska. A friend and I were in Chicago for the weekend and saw her in the show. She was headed for her suite at the end of the hall as I came out of my room. ''I told her something about how great she was in Catherine was Great. And she was. Of course, she was going to bed with everybody in the court. Especially the big guards.''
• • Allen Rose wrote: Her response was right in character. Poking an index finger into Dick Gordon's shoulder, she said: ''You bet I was, buster.'' And went on her way. Alone, for once. . . .
• • Source: Article: "In Days Before Dolly, There Was Mae West" written by Allen Rose for Orlando Sentinel; published on 20 April 1988

• •
By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2276th 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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• • Mae West 1927 • •• • Feed — —
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