Courting Mae West

The play "COURTING MAE WEST: Sex, Censorship & Secrets" is based on true events during the 1920s when actress MAE WEST was arrested and jailed in New York City for trying to stage two gay plays on Broadway. Maybe she broke the law - - but the LAW couldn't break HER!

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mae West as "Jane Mast"

It was 80 years ago when Mary-Jane West [1893-1980] - stage name Mae West - reinvented herself in Greenwich Village as the playwright Jane Mast.
• • Billed as the "baby vamp" in Brooklyn when she launched her career at age 6 in 1899, the singing comedienne did not enjoy a steady ascent upwards a la Texas Guinan. Instead she performed on the vaudeville circuit, and in main-stem revues and musicals for twenty-seven years without making career headway.

• • Shortly after Mae turned 30, she hit bottom: during 1923, 1924, and 1925 legit theatres were refusing to book her - and she had to resort to taking bit parts in burlesque under the name MAY West. Her mother encouraged her to produce her own material, so Mae began writing under the penname Jane Mast.
• • For inspiration, Mae West and Jim Timony visited Paul & Joe's [62 West 9th Street]; an Italian-French restaurant by day, after dark it became the most popular gay cabaret in Greenwich Village. Mae recruited 50 drag queens there, and invited them to audition for her next play: The Drag: A Homosexual Comedy in Three Acts. To scare Mae from bringing The Drag to Broadway, the police arrested her and the cast of Sex on February 9, 1927, and locked her up in Jefferson Market Jail.
• • • Greenwich Village addresses linked to Mae West • • •
* * * Jefferson Market Jail - Mae spent the night of Feb. 9, 1927 in a cell with no seating and wall-to-wall prostitutes, thieves, and drug addicts
* * * Jefferson Market Court - Mae was on trial here 1927-1930
* * * Paul & Joe's [62 West 9th Street] - Mae wrote The Drag based on the scene
* * * Greenwich Village Theatre [7th Avenue and Christopher St.] - Mae rehearsed The Ginger Box Revue there
* * * Cinderella Club [82 West 3rd Street] - Mae saw gay revues there and discovered performers whose careers she helped launch.

• • More Mae West - - and Texas Guinan - - locations will be covered on the tour Sunday August 20, 2006. Reserve at Village Restaurant.
• • WHEN * WHERE * WHAT: Sunday August 20, 2006 at 12 noon, "Mae West and Texas Guinan in Greenwich Village during a Lawless Decade," a tour of the Washington Square area with an emphasis on locations linked to the transgressive careers of Mae West and Texas Guinan during the Roaring 20s. Meet at Village Restaurant, 62 West 9th Street [near Sixth Avenue], where a free exhibition of rare archival images of MAE WEST and TEXAS GUINAN can also be viewed from August 17th until August 31st during restaurant hours.
• • Fee includes BRUNCH at Village + gin cocktails right after tour: $25.
• • Rain or shine.
• • Reservations: (212) 505-3355.
• • Subway: IND to West Fourth Street station; PATH Train to 9th Street

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• • Photo • Greenwich Village Theatre [Sheridan Square]

Mae West.


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