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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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mae West on 19 April 1927

"The Beaux arts-style Palace, originally called the Loew's Poli Theater, opened in 1922 and was once the biggest venue in the state, seating about 3,600 for live entertainers including MAE WEST," writes Ken Dixon today in his article for the CT Post. "It closed about 35 years ago. ... Scared off by estimates that a study of Bridgeport's long-vacant vaudeville-era theaters would cost about $619,000, a legislative committee Monday voted to require state officials to perform the study with existing funds. ..."
• • Mae-mavens already know that in 1927, "The Drag" premiered at Poli's, a stock burlesque house in Bridgeport, Connecticut located on the most prominent boulevard downtown.
• • During the early 1920s, impresario Sylvestre Poli brought the Poli Palace to the Nutmeg State.
• • Designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb and eventually renamed Loew's Palace Theater [1325 Main Street, Bridgeport, CT 06604], this landmark was the biggest movie theater ever erected in Connecticut — — and the largest among Bridgeport's 20-plus theaters. Poli's was actually one of two theaters built inside a single building (the other being the Majestic).
• • Despite the public's curiosity about the controversial vaudevillian Mae West, and her latest play "The Drag," Jim Timony could only manage to secure half a week at Poli's Park, which was then in use as a burlesque house in Bridgeport. It was a dreary and wintery Monday on 31 January 1927 when the Morals Production Company hoisted a banner over the trolley cars criss-crossing Main Street. Pedestrians were intrigued by this saucy announcement: "The Drag" by the author of SEX — — more sensational than Rain or The Captive!"
• • While they were lodging at the Arcade Hotel, Beverly West and Edward Elsner (Mae's sister and director) were arrested at 5 AM on 2 February 1927. Both the play and the arrest were the talk of Bridgeport.
• • 19 April 1927 • •
• • The sentencing of Mae West, Jim Timony, and the cast of "Sex" took place on 19 April 1927 in Jefferson Market Court. That trial and the dramatic verdict end Act I of the stage play "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets."
• • This is a photo of that pivotal moment in the courtroom when the play was last presented in New York City at the Algonquin Theatre in July 2008. Mae West was portrayed by actress Yvonne Sayers. The role of Texas Guinan went to Eileen Glenn and Gloria M. Buccino was Matilda West.
• • The legal battles fought by Mae West and Jim Timony are dramatized in the play "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets," set during the Prohibition Era. Watch a scene on YouTube.

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• • Photo: Mae West
trial with Matilda West and jury reenactment onstage • • 19 April 1927 • •

Mae West.

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