Friday, December 31, 2004

Mae West: A Personal Recollection

Jonathan Williams Remembers Mae
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. . . I remember in the 1930s, during a family visit to Hendersonville, ending up in the movie palace on Patton Avenue, Asheville.
In the sideshow between movies was a lady named Mae West. How this came to pass I have never found out. Mae West was a phenomenon far beyond the Heaven, Hell, and Earth of my righteous Baptist relatives. I made it a life's work to find more people like Mae West. I've done pretty well.
(One enticing instance: On Christmas Day, 1951, Marlene Dietrich, prepared dinner for just Francine du Plessis and modest, rustic me. It was at the home of Francine's step-father, Alexander Liberman (art director of Condé Nast), in the East Sixties of New York City. The host and hostess were out at a party, and so were the other house guests: Salvador Dali and Francis Poulenc. Marlene took charge: beluga caviar, with Dom Pérignon champagne. . . .

a personal recollection written by:
Jonathan Willliams, Skywinding Farm, Scaly Mountain, North Carolina

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Mae West: Chanteuse & Champagne

"Bubbles don't last in the best of champagne . . ."
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Pardon Me for Loving & Running - sung by Mae West

Yes it was swell, sure it was great
But I just remembered a subsequent date
It isn't that it wasn't perfectly stunning
But pardon me for loving and running
Mmmm, it was grand, that much is plain
But bubbles don't last in the best of champagne
I like your savoire faire, your manners are cunning
But pardon me for loving and running
I really gotta fly,
I got a hat to buy
I got my nails to be shined
I've got a train to catch,
I've got an egg to hatch
Besides, what's the difference? Can't I change my mind?
Thanks for the tea, crumpets, and ball
And did I say thanks for the use of the hall?
And as we say in French, excuse le pun
Pardon me if I love and run
You men are all alike . . . . [excerpt]

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Mae Gave Cary Grant Star Power

Mae West discovered Cary Grant and introduced the handsome young Brit to Hollywood by having him co-star in two of her most successful films:
"She Done Him Wrong" and "I'm No Angel."
One hundred years ago, Cary Grant (or back then "Archibald Leach") was born at home on the 18th January 1904. His home address at the time was: 15 Hughendon Road, Horfield, Bristol, England.

Record-setting Mae West: Personal Best

Setting World Records
Pravda recently published an article about the most outstanding sex records of all times. Here's a very brief excerpt.

The Guinness Book of World Records says . . .

Doctor Vernon Coleman registered the longest sexual intercourse, which lasted for 15 hours. The record was set by movie star Mae West and her lover, known only as "Ted."

The largest sex orgy took place in the year 200 B.C. in Rome when about 7,000 people abandoned themselves to passion.

Natural history of the animal kingdom:
The longest sexual intercourse was performed by a couple of rattlesnakes (Crotalus L.) that were making love for 23 hours and 15 minutes.
The largest penis of a mammal belongs to the African elephant; it is up to two meters long.
Egyptian Sundevall mouse has about a hundred of copulations per hour. . . .
printed in Pravda on Dec 17, 2004

Mae's Thought for Today :-D

"You're Never Too Old to Become Younger!" - - Mae West


Mae West's friend Jerry Orbach Died

"Try to Remember"

Try to remember that time in September
When grass was green
And grain was yellow
Try to remember . . .
When you were a young and callow fellow . . .
(themesong sung by Jerry Orbach in "The Fantasticks")

Try to remember when Mae West's friend Jerry Orbach was alive. . .

- - excerpt from 'L&O's' Orbach personifies New York cop
MULTI TALENTED PERFORMER BROKE in with MAE WEST By David Hiltbrand [Knight Ridder] - -

. . . . "My idols were Brando and Montgomery Clift,'' Jerry Orbach says, sitting in his LAW & ORDER trailer. "Years ago, what I really wanted to do was movies, but they weren't offering them to me.''
Orbach's first troupe mates, in summer stock at the Chevy Chase Playhouse in Wheeling, Ill., were Mae West, Vincent Price and John Ireland.
It was 1952, and he had just graduated from high school.
On October 20, 1935, Orbach was born in the Bronx to a Polish Catholic mother from Pennsylvania and a German Jewish father whose ancestry was Spanish Sephardic. The family often moved when he was a boy, living in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where his grandfather was a coal miner, before settling near Chicago. Orbach studied drama at Northwestern University and with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. His first film was ``Cop Hater'' (1958). "`I was a teenage hoodlum,'' he says. ``Bobby Loggia was the young cop, and Telly Savalas was a police sergeant. . . . This was before he shaved his head.'' Soon afterward, he created the role of El Gallo in "The Fantasticks,'' singing "Try to Remember'' in the off-Broadway play, which ran for 40 years. His singing landed him a string of musicals, including ``42nd Street,'' "Chicago'' and a revival of "Guys and Dolls.'' He won a Tony Award in 1969 for his starring role in "Promises, Promises.'' But he couldn't get traction in Hollywood. . . .

For awhile Orbach worked as a chauffeur for Mae West . . . .

- - excerpt from 'L&O's' Orbach personifies New York cop
MULTI TALENTED PERFORMER BROKE in with MAE WEST By David Hiltbrand [Knight Ridder] - -

How I Got My Equity Card By Jerry Orbach

"I graduated high school at 16. My drama teacher got me on as an apprentice at a summer stock theatre just north of Chicago. My jobs went from hauling gravel, to building scenery, to being Mae West's driver! The following summer I was hired for a year-round stock company in Evanston, Illinois, and transferred to Northwestern University. That's when, while playing a bit part in A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL with Lillian Gish and Kim Stanley, I got my Equity Card. I was 17! That's fifty years ago this summer."

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Mae: the Gay 90s on the Bowery

Mae: The Gay 90s on the Bowery

She Done Him Wrong
(1933), from director Lowell Sherman, is Mae West's star-making, most famous film role as a liberated, racy woman who enjoys her sexuality - as a character named Lady 'Diamond' Lou. The Naughty/Gay Nineties character was a recreation of her 1928 Diamond Lil Broadway stage play (and its bejeweled title character). Credits for its screenplay are given to Harvey Thew, John Bright, and Mae West herself. The box-office smash film for Paramount Pictures was given a different title than Diamond Lil to disassociate itself from the toured, scandalous play during the Roaring 20s. The movie was shot in approximately three weeks (including rehearsal time). Its single Academy Award nomination was for Best Picture, but it lost to Cavalcade. (It was the only Mae West film ever to be nominated.)

The famous film, featuring West's first starring role [she had appeared in a supporting cameo role in Night After Night (1932) with George Raft]), is filled with lots of clever innuendo, witty one-liners, and bold carnality, as she spouts irreverent one-liners (the oft-misquoted 'Why don't you come up sometime 'n see me?'), seduces an unspecified mission worker/undercover cop (Cary Grant), and sings bawdy songs (including Frankie and Johnny, I Like A Guy What Takes His Time, and Easy Rider).

It has been generally claimed that this film and West's other 1933 picture, I'm No Angel (1933), both helped to spur the coming of stricter enforcement by the Hays Production Code one year later, and the development of the Catholic Legion of Decency. The film's criminal subplot about white slavery and counterfeiting was confusing due to the Hays Office's demands to rid the film of references to white slavery, although odd fragments remain. The tagline of one of the film's posters confirmed the film's dangerous sentiment: "Mae West gives a 'HOT TIME' to the Nation."

A title card describes the Gay Nineties and the turn-of-the-century setting of New York City's Bowery:

When they did such things and they said such things on the Bowery. A lusty, brawling, florid decade when there were handlebars on lip and wheel - and legs were confidential!

Bejeweled chanteuse and brash entertainer Lady Lou (Mae West) works in the 1890s Bowery bar-room saloon of her boss and benefactor Gus Jordan (Noah Beery, Sr.), who has given her many diamonds (hence her nickname Diamond Lil). There is a large nude painting of her over the bar.

Unbeknownst to her, Gus trafficks in white slavery (prostitution) and runs a counterfeiting ring (to help finance Lou's expensive diamonds). He also sends young women to San Francisco to be pickpockets. Gus works with two other crooked entertainer-assistants, Russian Rita (Rafaela Ottiano) and Rita's lover, the suave Serge Stanieff (Gilbert Roland).

A city mission (a thinly-disguised Salvation Army) is located next door to the bar. Its young missionary director, Captain Cummings (Cary Grant) is, in reality, an undercover agent working to infiltrate and expose the illegal activities in the bar. Gus is unaware, only worried that Captain Cummings will reform the place and scare away the bar's customers.

Lady Lou first appears riding in her carriage with a parasol, encouraging nasty looks from a group of women. She descends and affectionately pats a child's head. His mother remarks what a fine gal and woman she is. Lou announces herself as " of the finest women who ever walked the streets."

When introduced to Lady Lou, male admirer Serge kisses her hand gallantly: "I am delighted. I have heard so much about you." She answers: "Yeah, but you can't prove it." She shows the group a recent set of pictures she has had taken with her "rocks." One of them she prefaces by describing: "For the bedroom. A little bit spicy, but not too raw - you know what I mean?"

Upstairs, her black maid Pearl (Louise Beavers) is impressed by her riches: "You're so rich." Lou explains: "Yes. I wasn't always rich. No, there was a time I didn't know where my next husband was coming from." Lady Lou admits she has known harder times: "The wolf at my door? Why, I remember when he came right into my room and had pups!"

One day in the Jordan's barroom, a depressed young girl named Sally Glynn (Rochelle Hudson) enters with torn clothes. In silhouette, she attempts suicide but is prevented, and brought to Lou's upstairs room to recover. Lou perceptively knows it is a romantic problem with a man. Sally wonders how she knows a man is involved. Lou replies:

You know, it takes two to get one in trouble.

Lou asks: "What was he? Married?" Sally replies: "Yes, but I didn't know." Lou offers more advice:

Men's all alike - married or single. It's their game. I happen to be smart enough to play it their way. You'll come to it.

Lou suggests that Sally get some new clothes, and continues to encourage her: "Always remember to smile. You'll never have anything to worry about. Forget about this guy. See that you get a good one the next time." Sally is convinced that no one will ever want her after what she's done ("Who'd want me after what I've done?"). Lou replies, with a famous line:

Listen, when women go wrong, men go right after them.

Lou explains to Gus, Serge and Rita what the commotion was about: "Some guy done her wrong. The story's so old it should have been set to music long ago." Rita is interested in the innocent but wronged girl, thinking she might be useful to them (possibly as part of their corrupt racket as a prostitute on the "Barbary Coast"):

What a sweet, innocent face?...Can you sing and dance, perhaps?...Well, but you'd be willing to learn...Then I think I can find you a very nice position. Have you heard perhaps of the Barbary Coast?

Gus and Rita tell Lou that they will help the girl, but obviously they have their own intentions. As Serge leaves, Lou delivers a suggestive double-entendre line to him:

Lou: Come up again, anytime.

Serge: I shall. And I hope you will be alone.

Lou: So do I. (He graciously kisses her extended hand) Warm, dark, and handsome.

Lou postpones her activities if there are more important things to attend to, mostly male admirers. Pearl announces: "Your bath is ready, Miss Lou." Lady Lou replies: "You take it. I'm indisposed." Pearl and Lou have both noticed the man from the mission, Captain Cummings. Her maid notes that he is different from other admirers: "He ain't like the other men you done made history of."

Lou has forgotten former boyfriend Chick Clark (Owen Moore) who was convicted for robbery and went to prison for trying to steal diamonds for her. She is more attracted to the young handsome, psalm-singing Captain Cummings. Lou meets him and compliments him:

Lou (seductively): I always did like a man in a uniform. That one fits you grand. Why don't you come up sometime 'n see me? I'm home every evening.

Captain: Yeah, but I'm busy every evening.

Lou: Busy? So, what are you tryin' to do, insult me?

Captain: Why no, no, not at all. I'm just busy, that's all...

Lou: You ain't kiddin' me any. You know, I met your kind before. Why don't you come up sometime, huh?

Captain: Well, I...

Lou: Don't be afraid. I won't tell...Come up. I'll tell your fortune...Aw, you can be had. . . . .

- - this excerpt is from an article written by Tim Dirks - see

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Mae West vs "Holy Joe"

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Sex was the Broadway play written by Mae West that was somewhat subordinate to the greater drama surrounding it. A headline-making 1927 obscenity trial closed down the production. As with the Oscar Wilde case, the performance artist Mae West became a cause.
If you're wondering why the trial didn't get going until almost the year after the play opened to enormous attendance, that's because New York Mayor Jimmy Walker was a great fan of Miss West and did not interfere.

But, forty-one weeks into a sellout run, Walker happened to be out of town and the acting Hizzoner, holier-than-thou Joseph V. McKee, decided to send in the cops. Because of "holy Joe" getting her arrested, Mae West wound up convicted of "corrupting the morals of youth." She was sentenced to ten days in the Women's Workhouse on Welfare Island. "I expect it will be the making of me," she told reporters, and it was: it made her a household name. With time off for good behavior, she emerged after eight days, having written a poem about the scratchy blue wool prison underwear and dedicated it to the warden.

Mae West and her friends called their operation the Morals Production Company. Which begs the question: what moral ought we to draw from her travails?
Comments are appreciated.
This text is drawn from comments author Mark Steyn made in his piece for The New Criterion [published in the March 2000 issue].
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Mae West in 1930 Posted by Hello

Mae & St. Nick in 1934

Back In Time 12-24-2004

Dec. 24, 1934: Approximately 1,800 children attended a free picture show and received candy Saturday as guests of the Texas Theater and the Herald-News Publishing Company.

• Sultry blonde actress Mae West is keeping in character on her Christmas cards. She has a drawing of herself sitting on Santa´s lap with this jingle: “If Santa fails to reach your house, just bear it with a grin. I wrote and said, Come up some time, and the dear old guy moved in.”

- From 24 December 1934 The Plainview Daily Herald

Friday, December 17, 2004

Lick Mae

Help get Mae West commemorated on a postage stamp.

Here's a sample letter and here's where you should write:
To: Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee,
c/o Stamp Development; U S Postal Service;
1735 North Lynn St [Rm 5013]; Arlington VA 22209-6432.

Dear Chairman - Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee:

Please issue a US postal stamp commemorating MAE WEST, the former Broadway star and Hollywood icon who died in 1980.

Comedy and entertainment are hallmarks of the popular culture of the United States of America. The U.S. Postal Department has befittingly honored screen legends Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Lucille Ball, James Cagney, Alfred Hitchcock, and Humphrey Bogart by issuing commemorative stamps depicting these adults.

However, none of these individuals wrote their own plays. MAE WEST wrote "Diamond Lil" and many other plays that were staged on Broadway.
None of these individuals wrote their own movie dialogue. MAE WEST wrote all of her own dialogue for most of the nine films she appeared in.
None of these individuals can match MAE WEST when it comes to numerous original quotes. Her witty sayings are often quoted in books and newspaper articles to this day.

Please approve the issuance of a US postal stamp commemorating a legendary American talent MAE WEST (1893 - 1980).

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- The Stamp Selection Process - - - -

Ideas for stamp subjects that meet CSAC criteria may be addressed to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee; Stamp Development; US Postal Service; 1735 North Lynn St Rm 5013; Arlington VA 22209-6432.

The Committee only reads hard-copy letters. No faxes or emails.

Subjects should be submitted at least three years in advance of the proposed date of issue to allow sufficient time for consideration and for design and production, if the subject is approved.

Submit stamp proposals in writing to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee. This allows everyone the same opportunity to suggest a new stamp subject. All proposals are reviewed by theCitizens' StampAdvisory Committee regardless of how they are submitted, i.e., stamped cards, letters or petitions.

After a proposal is determined not to violate criteria set by CSAC, research is done on the proposed stamp subject. Each new proposed subject is listed on the CSAC's agenda for its next meeting. The CSAC considers all new proposals and takes one of two actions: it may reject the new proposal or it may set it aside for consideration for future issuance. If set aside for consideration, the subject remains "under consideration" in a file maintained for the Committee.
An "I Love Lucy" stamp appeared in the Postal Service's "Celebrate the Century" series. A new Lucille Ball stamp [released in 2001] is the seventh in a "Legends of Hollywood" series. Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Cagney, Alfred Hitchcock, and Humphrey Bogart are among other Hollywood icons who have been featured. Actor Karl Malden is a long-time member of the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee, which helps choose stamp subjects and designs.
- - - who - why - what - - -
As of March 2001, these are the Committee's Stamp Subject Selection Criteria:

It is a general policy that U.S. postage stamps and stationery primarily will feature American or American-related subjects.

No living person shall be honored by portrayal on U.S. postage.

Commemorative stamps or postal stationery items honoring individuals usually will be issued on or in conjunction with significant anniversaries of their birth, but no postal item will be issued sooner than ten years after the individual's death. The only exception to the ten-year rule is the issuance of stamps honoring deceased U.S. presidents. They may be honored with a memorial stamp on the first birth anniversary following death.

Events of historical significance shall be considered for commemoration only on anniversaries in multiples of 50 years.

Only events and themes of widespread national appeal and significance will be considered for commemoration. Events or themes of local or regional significance maybe recognized by a philatelic or special postal cancellation, which maybe arranged through the local postmaster.

Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor fraternal, political, sectarian, or service/ charitable organizations. Stamps or stationery shall not be issued to promote or advertise commercial enterprises or products. Commercial products or enterprises might be used to illustrate more general concepts related to American culture.

Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor cities, towns, municipalities, counties, primary or secondary schools, hospitals, libraries, or similar institutions. Due to the limitations placed on annual postal programs and the vast number of such locales, organizations and institutions in existence, it would be difficult to single out any one for commemoration.

Requests for observance of statehood anniversaries will be considered for commemorative postagestamps only at intervals of 50 years from the date of the state's firstentry into the Union. Requests for observance of other state-related or regional anniversaries will be considered only as subjects for postal stationery, and again only at intervals of 50 years from the date of the event.

Stamps or stationery items shall not be issued to honor religious institutions or individuals whose principal achievements are associated with religious undertakings or beliefs.

Stamps or postal stationery items with added values, referred to as "semi-postals," shall be issued every two years in accordance with Public Law 106253. Semi-postals will not be considered as part of the commemorative program and separate criteria will apply.

No stamp shall be considered for issuance if one treating the same subject has been issued in the past 50 years. The only exceptions to this rule are traditional themes such as national symbols and holidays.

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Monday, December 13, 2004

Mae West: The Blonder the Better

Mae West: Bombshell Blonde

In his 1995 book, "Big Hair: A Journey into the Transformation of Self," the Canadian anthropologist Grant McCracken argued for something he calls the "blondness periodic table," in which blondes are divided into six categories: the "bombshell blonde" (Mae West, Marilyn Monroe), the "sunny blonde" (Doris Day, Goldie Hawn), the "brassy blonde" (Candice Bergen), the "dangerous blonde" (Sharon Stone), the "society blonde" (C.Z. Guest), and the "cool blonde" (Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly). L'Oreal's innovation was to carve out a niche for itself in between the sunny blondes -- the "simple, mild, and innocent" blondes -- and the smart, bold, brassy blondes, who, in McCracken's words, "do not mediate their feelings or modulate their voices. . . ."

Mae West cultivated a unique voice and a special brand of sex appeal. Never remote or frosty, her approach was an "equal opportunity" come-on. "I like two kinds of men," Mae West said, "domestic and foreign." A woman can't get any friendlier than that, can she?

Come Up and See Me Sometime - a song by MAE WEST

I believe that everyone in life should have a mission
Making people happy is the height of my ambition
And when I get them happy, well, they stay in that condition

I have a system all my own
I got a lot, a lot of what I got
And what I got's all mine
And I assure you I can cure you
If you're feeling blue
Come up and see me sometime

I got a flat where you can hang your hat
I got a brand new line
Maybe you would like me
To explain it all to you

Come up and see me sometime
Come up tonight
I think the papers said the moon will be bright
They should have had in the columns and all
Letters that call that you'll be falling for me
Cause I'm free and you appeal to me
How could it be a crime
If you don't get my number
Well, my number's in the book
Come up and see me sometime


Here is the key, the room is 503
It's not so far to climb
You know the spider's invitation to the fly
Come up and see me sometime

The sooner, the better

Thursday, December 09, 2004

ARTIST: Michael Di Motta Posted by Hello

January 2005 Is the Month of MAE

Why January 2005 will be the month of MAE . . . .

Mae West once again will be ready for her close-up -- and fans can visit her for free during a month-long-period that begins on Monday January 3, 2005.

Where: NY Public Library [Jefferson Market branch, 2nd floor] on 6th Avenue at West 9th Street in Greenwich Village.

When: during the building's regularly scheduled hours January 3rd-30th, 2005.

What: an illustrated version of the play "Courting Mae West" written by dramatist LindaAnn Loschiavo and depicted in 16 colorful panels by artist Michael Di Motta. This play is based on TRUE EVENTS that took place in Manhattan during 1926-1929 when actress-playwright Mae West suffered a social injustice and endured a lengthy court trial, a jail term, and enormous fines as well as legal fees. Discovering New York City history during the Roaring 20s has never been so entertaining. No "reality TV" show can compare to these episodes in Mae West's life, long-forgotten and about to be placed on view. DiMotta's sketches are based on archival photos.

Why: to commemorate the February 9, 1927 arrest and incarceration of Mae West that took place in this very location when the building was a courthouse and jail and also to announce a staged reading of the play "Courting Mae West" at 8 PM on February 9, 2005 at C.U.N.Y. Graduate Center [365 Fifth Avenue, NYC 10016].

Admission: free and open to the public.

Information: 212-243-4334.

Public transportation: IND E, F, D, A, C trains to West Fourth Street station.
From New Jersey: P.A.T.H. to the 9th Street station. [Library is across the street.]

Media & Sponsors & "Angels" & Invited Guests only:
January 17th Roaring 20s-theme press party with 1920s cocktails and menu by celebrity chef Stephen Lyle in a former Village speakeasy and co-hosted by Mae West.

RSVP: Fax on your publication's letterhead: 212-533-4073.
Confirmed media members and press photographers will get an email with the
speakeasy's secret knock + password by Jan. 16th. Invitation is non-transferable.

Come Up and See Mae - - at the library during the month of January and also at CUNY Graduate Center [365 Fifth Avenue, NYC] at 8:00 PM on Feb. 9th, 2005.
Discovering New York City's 1920s history has never been so entertaining.
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