02/02/07 - mae west

In today's excerpt - vaudeville and Hollywood legend Mae West, known for such lines as 'I used to be Snow White but I drifted' and 'It's better to be looked over than overlooked':

"By 1938, she had already appeared in eight feature films that had propelled her from the status of a notorious Broadway trouble-maker to that of the movies' greatest comedienne. Her personal appearance tour caused ructions throughout the eastern states of the US: in Hartford ... the police were overwhelmed by a turnout of over 30,000 fans. ... [In] New York, where Loew's State Theatre opened its doors at 8am and the jam of backstage 'autograph hounds' was so heavy that extra cops were deployed throughout the day. ...

"In 1929 she wrote, for The Parade under the title 'Sex in the Theater':

" 'I have often been accused both by the press and individuals of deliberately appealing to the salacious and evil-minded. One can readily see how wrong that is, when you consider that I have played to more than ten million people in the United States drawn from all walks of life, from the highest and the most intelligent to the lowest and the poorest. Ten million Americans can't all be salacious and evil-minded. When one can please the masses one must essentially be right.'

"The wonderful medium of theatre, Mae suggested, was ideal to bring those hidden educational truths home to ordinary people and to cast light on such concealed realities as the lives of prostitutes and the even less known facts of homosexual lives and loves. In three plays, 'Sex', 'The Drag' and 'Pleasure Man', written by herself, Mae had attempted to bring these lives to the attention of her eager audiences, only to be met with banning orders, court cases and, in the case of 'Sex', an actual spell behind bars. Nevertheless, Mae vowed: 'I realized the problem and devoted my career in the theatre to the education of the masses. I shall boldly continue to do so, in spite of criticism, insults and narrow-minded bigots."


Simon Louvish


Mae West: It Ain't No Sin


St. Martin's Press


Copyright 2005 by Simon Louvish


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