Monday, August 05, 2013

Mae West: Chuck Connors

For authenticity, MAE WEST cast Chuck Connors, Jr. to play his late father in the original Broadway cast of "Diamond Lil" in 1928.
• • When we stage "Diamond Lil" on August 17th and 18th in Manhattan, the role of Chuck Connors will be played by actor Jim Gallagher.
• • George Washington Connors  [c.1852 — 10 May 1913] • •
 • • Born in Rhode Island in 1852, George Washington O'Connor came to New York City and settled in Chinatown. He claimed he was born on Mott Street. Though that was not the truth, from hanging around in the Asian quarter for years, he taught himself to get by in Mandarin, earning him the unofficial honorific "The White Mayor of Chinatown."
• • As a child in New York City he worked odd jobs, for instance, as a clog dancer in the Gaiety Museum. As he matured, Chuck O'Connor altered his Irish surname to Connors and hired himself out as a bouncer to owners of the local hang-outs and dive bars.
• • Savvy at publicizing himself, and happy to speak to reporters even on objectionable topics, he has been credited with inventing several phrases such as “oh, forget it,” “the real thing,” “oh, good night,” and “under the table.”  In 1904, Chuck Connors put forth his autobiography "Bowery Life," a book ghostwritten by Richard K. Fox, editor of The Police Gazette.
• • He also invented the "slumming party" and "the vice tour."  For a fee, Connors would escort celebrities, authors, politicians, silk-stocking types, and visiting royalty to opium dens, gambling parlors, brothels, black and tans, joss houses, and joints like Suicide Hall.
• • For these personally conducted tours, he would attire himself in a style known as "the Connors look" — — bell bottomed trousers, a blue-striped shirt, a bright silk scarf, a pea coat, and big pearl buttons.
• • In the photo I have of him, he isn't wearing his famous outfit, however. This very amusing portrait, snapped on the Bowery, will be shown during the "Diamond Lil" event at 4 pm on August 12th at Hudson Square Library. The presentation will also feature a rare picture of his residence at 6 Doyers Street as it looked in 1891.
• • Chuck Connors died in Manhattan at the House of Relief on Hudson Street on 10 May 1913. The N.Y. Times gave the cause of death as pneumonia but many of his neighbors spread rumors that a rival had slipped him a Mickey Finn.
• • On Tuesday, 5 August 1913 in Manhattan • •
• • A review of Mae West's performance at Hammerstein's Victoria appeared in a NYC newspaper on Tuesday, 5 August 1913. The critic noted that she was appealing to the audience "by singing a repertory of 'I Don't Care' type of songs and appearing in a dazzling series of low-and-behold gowns." However, it was clear she was trying to steal the thunder from the main act, Evelyn Nesbit, and having a hard time of it.
• • Even Variety's columnist Joshua Lowe [whose critique was published on Friday, 8 August 1913] noticed how hard she was working. "Mae West sang loud enough to be distinctly heard in the rear," wrote Joshua Lowe.
• • Save the Dates: August 12th and August 17th and 18th • • 
• • What: three events timed to celebrate the 120th birthday of Mae West, born in Brooklyn, NY on August 17, 1893
• • On Monday, 12 August 2013 at the Hudson Sq Library • • 
• • One afternoon only! • •
• • When: Monday, August 12, 2013 from 4:00pm — 5:45pm [Seating from 3:45pm]
• • Where: Hudson Branch Library, 66 Leroy St., New York, NY 10014; NOT accessible to wheelchairs 
• • Who + What: "Diamond Lil" by Mae West as a Reader's Theatre Experience with words and period songs and live music — a unique, unforgettable presentation
• • Cast: Costumed in 1890s Bowery style, actress Darlene Violette and actor Sidney Myer present the 1932 novel "Diamond Lil" written by Mae West in Mae's words — enhanced with period songs and live music by Brian McInnis.  At intervals, historian and playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo leads an "Armchair Tour" through the boisterous Bowery and Chinatown of the 1890s with rare vintage images you have never seen before. 
• • What else: The ever-popular Mae West Raffle. 
• • August 12th Admission and Raffle Tickets: FREE. 
• • RSVP:  Email  MaeWestDiamondLil (at) gmail  (dot) com
• • Closest MTA subway stations: Christopher St. or West Fourth St.; or the M7 bus. 
• • Closest PATH station: Christopher St. 
• • The public is invited (suitable for age 18 and over)
• • The library has a spacious auditorium so tell your fun-loving friends about this!
• • All of the sex and none of the censorship . . . • • 
• • The novel "Diamond Lil" closely follows the 3-hour production Mae performed onstage from 1928 — 1951, and it is much more exciting than the family-friendly screen version. Playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo massaged Mae's 1928 Bowery melodrama in three acts into a pared-down 85-minute adaptation featuring all of the sex and none of the censorship. No intermission. 
• • There will be two stagings of "Diamond Lil" on Saturday, August 17th and on Sunday, August 18th in Manhattan, both in midtown. Tickets will go fast. Don't miss out.
• • Find out more details (both addresses, performance times, ticket prices, cast) here: 
• • Updates:
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "There was the robber, waving his gun in my face, and asking me to turn over my jewels to him. I said. 'Listen, big boy, you can have the jewels, but do you mind lowering that gun a bit? I can always get more jewels, but I've got to have my face to do it with!'"
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • Motion Picture mentioned Mae West.
• • "Mae Keeps Them Guessing!" • •
• • Motion Picture wrote: Mae West is smart; there is no getting around that. She insisted, against studio advice, on making "She Done Him Wrong" as her first starring picture — — and it made $3,000,000 for the studio. Then, sensing that the public wanted to be shown that she could be amusing in modern dress, too, she next made "I'm No Angel." After which she realized that audiences preferred her in the Naughty Nineties sort of thing — — so she made "It Ain't No Sin." And now, before anyone has a chance to tire of her comedy style, she is going in for some straight drama of the daring kind in "The Queen of Sheba." Keeping up public interest, in other words.  ...
• • Source: News Item in Motion Picture Daily; published in the August 1934 issue
• • By the Numbers • • 
• • The Mae West Blog was started nine years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2708th 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.

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