Mae West: A Sneaky Preview
• • Jerry Tallmer continued: The full title of this serious-minded comedy is “Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets,” and the based-on-real-life characters in it include the pre-Hollywood Mae West; Mae's sister Beverly; Mae's lawyer-manager Jim Timony; night club queen Texas Guinan; gorgeous, doomed Starr Faithfull, a Greenwich Village good-time girl — the Gloria Wandrous of John O’Hara’s blazing “Butterfield 8” — whose corpse rattled many of the rich and powerful when it washed up on a Long Island beach; and a news dealer named Mr. Isidore who was the last person in Manhattan, from his stand under the El at Sixth Avenue and Ninth Street, to see Starr Faithfull alive as she disappeared into the PATH station on her way to the L.I.R.R.
• • There are also a number of fictional characters, notably Eliza Rourke, a repressed, glamour-worshipping, working-class Irish-American girl who slaves without pay in her parents’ boarding house on Ninth Street, and Mario “Shortie” DeAngelis, a young, over-eager New York newspaper reporter who dashes frantically between such headline events as the jailing of Mae West and the discovery of Starr Faithfull’s body on Long Island (which actually happened in 1931). Eliza is sweet on him; her mother is not happy about this budding romance.
• • Veteran news man Jerry Tallmer, who founded the Obie Award in the mid-1950s, is one of the few who realized the truth: that Mae West's arrest for obscenity was provoked by the midnight performance of her new homosexual play "The Drag." Variety Magazine reported that this "sneak preview" occurred in Daly's 63rd Street Theatre and, hours later, the vice squad showed up to raid Mae's performance in "Sex."
• • Headline-hungry tabloids rushed to photograph the new felon on 9 February 1927 at Jefferson Market Police Court on Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village. Understandably, Mae West was upset that night. Little did she know what would happen to her in the near future because of her police record.
• • Get ready to come up and see Mae onstage during July 2008.
Courting Mae West
• • Illustration: Mae West • • artist Michael DiMotta • •