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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Location: New York, New York, United States

native New Yorker

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mae West: Nathan Burkan

In February 1927, the first police raid of Mae West's play "Sex" led to an expensive trial, box office losses, and jail time for the actress and others. After the second police raid in October 1928, Mae West knew she was really in trouble. A top-notch dragon-slayer was required.
• • Attorney Nathan Burkan was hired for the "
Pleasure Man" court case.
• • Politically well-connected, Nathan Burkan was born in New York City on 6 November 1878 and educated at the City University of New York and New York University's Law School. He became known as a specialist in theatrical matters. Many of his clients were composers and lyricists, members of ASCAP
like the light opera composer Victor Herbert who relied on his expertise regarding copyright disputes.
• • Nathan Burkan was a savvy cross-examiner. Celebrities who counted on his legal muscle included Charlie Chaplin, Al Jolson, Mrs. Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, etc. He represented the United Artists (then a new motion picture outfit), The New York Morning Telegraph, and other companies.
• • A frequent presence in Jefferson Market Court House on Sixth Avenue, where he did his best for the Mayor of New York Jimmy Walker as well as the embattled estate of gangster Arnold Rothstein, Nathan Burkan was 51 years old when the "
Pleasure Man" case was brought to trial. He won acquittal for his client Mae West.
• • His legal fees bankrupted Mae West, already devastated after a $200,000 loss of advance ticket sales for her play.
• • He died rather suddenly
after a few days of illness on 7 June 1936. He was 57.
• • Nathan Burkan is being remembered on his birthday: November 8th.

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• • Photo: Nathan Burkan defended Mae West, after her play was raided • • 1930 • •

Mae West.

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