Mae West: Navel Display
• • In March 1926, Mae West's play "Sex" — — whose plot turns on Margy LaMont, a prostitute who has an English naval officer for a boyfriend — — was in rehearsal. Prior to its Broadway run, during the out-of-town try-outs in Bridgeport, Connecticut; the maritime men on shore leave snapped up the tickets and became a most appreciative audience for these previews.
• • "I'll never forget my debt to the Navy," said Mae.
• • Fast forward one year to March 1927.
• • In 1927, during Mae West's obscenity trial at Jefferson Market Court House in New York, police detectives took the witness stand and described a suggestive dance that Mae West did onstage during her play. The judge asked if the actress's midriff was bare during this "cooch" number in "Sex," and if the audience could see her belly button. This important testimony was cross-examined — — at great length — — by the lawyers. The detective said that he was too far back in Daly's Theatre to swear that it was Mae West's belly button, however, he saw something in her pelvic area that moved to the left and to the right, an admission which caused an uproar among the spectators. Mae West had to stuff a handkerchief in her mouth to keep from laughing out loud, too.
• • Covering the trial for a newspaper, a reporter poked fun at the detective in his article. "Clearly," he concluded, "no navel displays are permitted on Broadway."
• • These true events surrounding the prosecution of Mae West, actress and playwright, are dramatized in the full length play "Courting Mae West" [a serious-minded comedy 95 minutes long]. This play has received two Staged Readings in New York, NY that were very well attended.
• • Soon we hope to invite you to come up and see Mae onstage.
Courting Mae West
• • Illustration: Mae West • • circa 1926 • •