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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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mae West: Hijinks on 6th Avenue

In 1927 Mae West was prosecuted here on Sixth Avenue for obscenity — — particularly because of the homosexual content of her shows. But more recently the nineteenth century landmark was about to be raped by the pencil-pushers who rule The New York Public Library. Fortunately, Greenwich Village residents rallied in the name of justice and won.
• • The Villager recently published this news about the beloved Jefferson Market Courthouse turned library.
• • In his front page feature "Long-overdue library facade repairs finally fully funded," staffwriter Albert Amateau explained the cause for jubilation. He wrote: "Villagers who have long been demanding the renovation of the Jefferson Market Library’s exterior celebrated the announcement on Tuesday [21 August 2007] that new city funding has assured the project.
• • Council Speaker Christine Quinn joined State Senator Tom Duane, New York Public Library President Paul LeClerc and Village leaders in the community room of the landmarked library to announce that the new funding brings the total allocation to more than $7 million for renovating the facade, windows, roof, and tower of the landmarked building erected in 1877 as a courthouse.
• • The beginning of construction is planned for June 2009 and is expected to be completed in two years. A two-month design phase includes review by the Landmarks Preservation Commission because the building is a designated New York City landmark. A final design and development of construction documents will follow and be submitted to contractors for bidding.
• • Several Greenwich Village Block Associations ... renewed the call for preserving the deteriorating exterior of the library. Since 2003, the Sixth Avenue and West 10th Street sides of the library have been obscured by a sidewalk shed erected to protect people from fragments of limestone and brick falling from the facade.
• • “We all know that the Jefferson Market Library is one of the great library buildings in the city,” Quinn said. “In 1880, it was cited as one of the 10 most beautiful buildings in the country. But in the past few years you had to squint to see it because of the scaffold.”
• • Quinn recalled that when Duane was city councilmember for the Village in 1992 — — and she was then on his staff — — he was able to get more than $700,000 allocated for restoring the building. Added to that, Quinn this year allocated $2.7 million in addition to $1.39 million she earmarked in previous years. Also this year, Mayor Bloomberg provided matching funds of $2.2 million for the library restoration.
• • It was uncertain last year whether previous funds appropriated for a redesign of the library’s interior could be reallocated for facade and structural work. But in February 2007, LI/ Salzman Architects completed a report funded by Quinn and Duane that concluded that because of significant deterioration of the sandstone and brickwork, plus open mortar joints and cracked stone, water had penetrated the facade causing the stonework to shift and settle and allowing the building’s iron structure to rust.
• • In addition, it was found that the Sixth Avenue portico has detached slightly from the facade and leans slightly toward the street.
• • All but $184,000 — — spent for interior design work [a design that would have reconfigured the library's reference room into a music lounge for teens] — — of more than $2 million previously funded will be transferred to the exterior project. The work includes shoring up deficiencies that contributed to the deterioration and returning the building to its original splendor.
• • Community Board 2 called the library "the most iconic building in the Village.”
• • Designed by Frederick Clark Withers and Calvert Vaux in 1875 and completed two years later, the courthouse was where Harry K. Thaw was found guilty of murdering the architect Stanford White and where Mae West was prosecuted for the sexual content of her shows.
• • The courthouse was erected on the site of the Jefferson Market, where a 100-foot-tall wooden fire tower kept watch over the Village. The courthouse tower is also 100 feet tall and holds the original fire bell from its wooden precursor.
• • By 1945 the building was no longer used as a courthouse and other agencies had occupied it. A 1958 decision to demolish the building was fought by Village advocates . . .
— — excerpt — —
• • Source: The Villager — —
• • Byline: Albert Amateau
• • Published on: 23 August 2007
• • Unfortunately, this landmark has not preserved the building's cultural history via a plaque nor a permanent exhibition inside, where there's lots of space for it — — and now the funding. MAE WEST and a heap of women's history-makers tramped through these corridors. Maybe. . . .
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Illustration • • Mae West's obscenity trial • • 1927 • •

Mae West.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mae West: Hot in August

MAE WEST was enjoying "Sex" during August in 1926. It was hot: summertime in New York City especially over on the westside when MAE WEST was starring in "Sex" as the unapologetic prostitute Margy LaMont. By the summer of 1926, the show had been booked in Daly's West 63rd Street Theatre for a couple of months but the boxoffice was still sizzling. Onstage Mae was shimmying. All this in the days before air-conditioning, too.
• • As with most writers or actors, Mae West did not want to be ignored. Variety had given her many blistering razz-berries [also known as the humiliating "Bronx cheer"] in print. So had all of New York City's major drama critics. Mae West decided she would produce her own material and she would also take charge of the production. Maybe that would improve things for her career.
• • Even before "Sex" officially opened in Manhattan during April 1926, it attracted strong reactions. Mostly, it received a black eye in print.
• • It was "feeble and disjointed," The New York Times critic said.
• • It was a "disgrace," The New Yorker announced.
• • Walter Winchell called it "a vulgar affair ... amateurish in script and cast."
• • The Daily Mirror, a William Randolph Hearst paper, was less mellow. This was, it said, "a monstrosity plucked from the garbage can, destined for the sewer."
• • Theatre critics had a different perspective on scarlet women back in '26.
• • Mae West's play looked at the social mores of the time, she claimed, but John Q. Public was not so sure. The first attempt to close "Sex" failed; the police department convened a play jury but the officials barely missed getting the required three-fourths vote of a citizens' panel.
• • Moreover, celebrities and certain authors [for example, Robert Benchley and Zora Neale Hurston] had favorable things to say about "Sex." Some newspapers carried second reviews, reversing their first opinion.
• • After making a profit on the show, West was fined $500 and sentenced to 10 days in jail. "This will be the making of me," she predicted.
• • That prediction, however, would take a while. Five years later, and nearing her 40th birthday, Mae West finally made her presence felt in the motion picture world. She often wrote her own lines, oozing sexual references. She died in 1980 at 87, having outlived the era she mocked.
• • David Thompson wrote of Mae West: "The real conclusion of her work is that sex is an idea, an obsession for the human being, and one of the most reliable distractions from the equally potent idea that life is tragic."
• • Stage-manage your weekend and make some time for Mae West on Friday evening 17 August 2007, when a guided tour will explore Manhattan's WEST-side during the "Mae West Side Story" walking tour. The event open to the public is timed to salute Brooklyn's own sexpot on her birthdate. [See the Annual Mae West Gala posting below.]
• • Only 1 more day until Mae's birthday on August 17th!
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:

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• • Photo: Mae West in her play "Sex" • • 1926 • •

Mae West.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Mae West: Annual Gala

The Frisky Factor Increases
Secrets of an Actress Are Exposed in August

New York, NY (PRWEB) July 21, 2007 – – Calling all FRISK-a-teers! The wild WEST side of Mae West will be apparent on August 17, 2007 during the celebration of the Annual Mae West Gala in New York City. Secretive and image-conscious, the Brooklyn bombshell carefully covered up her private life, which included frequent partying at speakeasies, a secret marriage to an Italian accordionist, séances behind curtains, and multi-racial love affairs.
• • Next month, on the actress's birthday [Friday evening on August 17], the Annual Mae West Gala will focus on Manhattan's busy theatre district, where Mae's West Side Story will unfold in over a dozen sites between West 50th Street and West 63rd Street.
• • Participants will come up to see three addresses where the blonde bombshell hung her famous hats along with the former speakeasies where she rendezvoused with Rudolf Valentino, George Raft, and others.
• • Other locations include her dance school, the jewelers who created the "Diamond Lil" sparkle, legitimate theatres, former vaudeville houses, and more. In the past, guests of these yearly Mae West events have included playwright Sam Shepard, actress Jessica Lange, broadcaster Joe Franklin, ballplayers from the New York Yankees, well-known screenwriters, and a diverse group of Mae devotees who travel cross country to The Big Apple during the dog days of summertime.
– – WHO – – WHAT – – WHEN – – WHERE – – HOW MUCH – – SUBWAY INFO – –
• • Festivities kick off on Mae West's birthday August 17, 2007.
• • The public is invited.
• • TIME: "Mae West Side Story" tour begins at 7:00 PM – – ends 8:30 PM.
• • PLACE: Tour begins on Broadway at West 50th Street [NE corner].
• • SUBWAY: BMT to Broadway – – West 49th Street station
• • • • • • COST:
• • VIP tickets: $25 per person – – including tour and reception and giftbag – – and all VIP tickets must be pre-paid by August 15, 2007.
• • TOUR ONLY: $15 per person (CASH only) – – buy tickets on Friday evening August 17 for tour only – – $15 tickets do not include party nor giftbag.
• • Sorry, no exceptions and no refunds. Advance payment via PayPal.
• • Updates and past party pictures are online.
• • URL:
• • Sponsorship/ giftbag inquiries welcome.
– – WHO – – WHAT – – WHEN – – WHERE – – HOW MUCH – – SUBWAY INFO – –
• • Source:
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: Mae West • • 1932 • •

Mae West.

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