Mae West: Jail Exit
• • The week before, one of her hometown papers ran with this headline: "Common Nuisance Mae West Goes to Jail."
• • On 20 April 1927 Mae West had been sentenced to ten days in the Women's Workhouse (then located on Welfare Island) in the middle of the East River.
• • During the trial in March and early April — — presided over by Judge George Donnellan — — Mae West had argued in a written statement that her plays were a work of art. Her lawyers made a case that "Sex" was a morally instructive drama. Mae did not take the stand. At Jefferson Market Court, Justice Donnellan had suggested a guilty verdict would be fitting, before the jurors went off to deliberate. Six hours later, the verdict came in. At her sentencing, Mae West was fined $500 and given 10 days to repent at an off-shore detention center.
• • The warden shortened her sentence by two days for good behavior.
• • The play "Courting Mae West" dramatizes the trial and the melee in court when the verdict comes in.
• • Mae was paid $1,000 to write about her experiences for a women's magazine. Some of her essay appears elsewhere on this blog. [Mae donated the $1,000 to the workhouse to establish a library for female inmates.]
• • Released from the lock-up on April 27th, Mae told the reporters — — who were waiting for her like Stage Door Johnnies — — that she had enough material for several plays now. Criminal street cred served the playwright well when she sat down to write "Diamond Lil" about a woman with a thing for bling, whose motto is, "My career is diamonds."
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • The serious-minded comedy "Courting Mae West" by Greenwich Village playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo, set during 1926 — 1932, explores Mae West's legal woes surrounding "The Drag" and "Sex." Scenes in Act I dramatize Mae's interactions with her drag queen cast, the police raid on 9 February 1927, and the tense aftermath at Jefferson Market Police Court.
• • Using fictional elements, the text is anchored by true events and has several characters who are based on real people: actress Mae West; Beverly West; Jim Timony; Texas Guinan; a news seller on Sixth Avenue and West 9th Street; and Sara Starr, based on the Greenwich Village flapper Starr Faithfull, whose death inspired John O'Hara's novel "Butterfield 8" and a dozen other books.
• • "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets" has attracted the attention of a theatre owner and Is now seeking a co-producer for a for-profit production.
Courting Mae West
• • Photo: Mae West • • 27 April 1927 • •