Mae West
American actress, playwright, screenwriter, and sex symbol
Mae West
Mae West was an American actress, playwright, screenwriter and sex symbol whose entertainment career spanned seven decades. Known for her bawdy double entendres, West made a name for herself in Vaudeville and on the stage in New York before moving to Hollywood to become a comedienne, actress and writer in the motion picture industry.
Mae West's personal information overview.
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Mae West Vamps It At 83 Years Young - Village Voice (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
30 2011 at 12:30 PM ​In this YouTube classic, a Mae West female impersonator--all done up in black with a mountain of blondeness on her head--vamps and scamps through "Frankie & Johnny" and "After You've Gone"--as a roomful of males practically orgasms
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See All the Red-Carpet Looks From the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards - New York Magazine
Google News - over 5 years
We'll have to check the videotape, but we have a vague recollection that she tongued Mae West at the 1936 VMAs.) But the red carpet was notably restrained this year (many wore black, seemingly as a show of respect for the late Amy Winehouse),
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Crowds enjoy Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival - The Birmingham News - (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
Famous acts such as the Marx Brothers and Mae West performed here. Eventually the theatre moved to showing movies before closing its doors for good. Currently owned by Birmingham Landmarks, Inc., there is a fundraising effort underway to restore the
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Odysseus Is Parading Into Queens - New York Times
Google News - over 5 years
Roosevelt Island, which is visible from the sculpture park, was once known as Welfare Island; it housed a women's prison, “and the two most famous inmates who spent some time there were Mae West and Billie Holiday, so we thought they would be fantastic
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On This Day in History: August 17 West of Brooklyn - Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Google News - over 5 years
Her autobiography is entitled Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It. Mae West died in 1980 from complications following a stroke. Mae once wrote, “The Brooklyn I was born in, near the end of the 19th century, was still a city of churches, with their great
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Mae West Quotes - Screen Junkies
Google News - over 5 years
Mae West quotes are as famous as the blonde bombshell actress herself. Born in New York on August 17, 1893, she lived to the advanced age of 87 before she passed away on November 22, 1980 in California. Mae West was a sex symbol who enjoyed and showed
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Edinburgh Festival show features piano man playing at the Pearly Gates - The List
Google News - over 5 years
... that 'in heaven all the interesting people are missing', Crush believes The King of Bling would 'make [the afterlife] as fabulous and extravagant as his life was on earth' by partying with Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland and Mae West
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Living Delightfully Scandalous - Huffington Post
Google News - over 5 years
Think about it: Cleopatra, Mae West, Coco Chanel, Josephine Baker, Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross, Cher, Madonna, Angelina Jolie. All are women who by living and loving (and dressing) on their own terms, often created controversy and concern among the
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She's still singing in the rain - Boston Globe
Google News - over 5 years
My show is filled with songs, I do my impressions, like Barbra Streisand and Mae West, and I tell jokes. I do a lot of the old-time performers. I even do Jimmy Stewart and Liberace. I do people I've met. It's like going through my career
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School board summons wisdom of Mae West - Chicago Tribune
Google News - over 5 years
School board members in West Chicago turned to an unlikely source — the late sex symbol Mae West — to provide them with some encouragement Tuesday night. A line from West, a flirtatious and curvaceous actress and entertainer from a showbiz era long
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Clinton Waller - Canton Daily Ledger
Google News - over 5 years
He was born November 3, 1929 at Lewistown, the son of Clinton H. and Nellie Mae (West) Waller. He married Marilyn Meyer on October 11, 1948 at Havana. She survives. Also surviving is one son, John (Susie) Waller of Acworth, Ga.; one sister,
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Incentives and Debt in China - Global Economic Intersection
Google News - over 5 years
(WC Fields' was supposed to have once called Mae West “a plumber's idea of Cleopatra”, and for some reason that story popped into my mind when I read the article.) It is a scenic jewel, a hamlet of hill-hugging chalets, elegant church spires and
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Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Mae West
  • 1980
    Age 86
    He soon moved in with her, and their romance continued until West's death in 1980 at age 87.
    More Details Hide Details Novak once commented, "I believe I was put on this Earth to take care of Mae West." Other plays as writer Albums: At least 21 singles (78 rpm and 45 rpm) also were released from 1933 to 1973.
    In August 1980, West tripped while getting out of bed.
    More Details Hide Details After the fall, West was unable to speak and was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, where tests revealed that she had suffered a stroke.
  • 1976
    Age 82
    In 1976, she appeared on Back Lot U.S.A. on CBS, where she was interviewed by Dick Cavett and sang "Frankie and Johnny" along with "After You've Gone."
    More Details Hide Details That same year, she began work on her final film, Sextette (1978). Adapted from a 1959 script written by West, daily revisions and production disagreements hampered production from the beginning. Due to the near-endless last-minute script changes and tiring production schedule, West agreed to have her lines signaled to her through a speaker concealed in her hair piece. Despite the daily problems, West was, according to Sextette director Ken Hughes, determined to see the film through. At 86, her now-failing eyesight made navigating around the set difficult, but she made it through the filming, a tribute to her self-confidence, remarkable endurance, and stature as a self-created star 67 years after her Broadway debut in 1911 at the age of 18. Time wrote an article on the indomitable star entitled "At 84, Mae West Is Still Mae West." Upon its release, Sextette was not a critical or commercial success, but remains notable for the diverse cast, and considering none of West's contemporaries such as Dietrich, Garbo, Davis, etc., were still making films. The cast included some of West's first co-stars such George Raft (Night After Night, 1932), silver screen stars such as Walter Pigeon and Tony Curtis, and more contemporary pop stars such as The Beatles' Ringo Starr and Alice Cooper, and television favorites such as Dom DeLuise and gossip queen Rona Barrett. It also included cameos of some of her famed musclemen from her 1950s Las Vegas show, such as the still remarkably fit Reg Lewis.
  • 1975
    Age 81
    In 1975, West released her book Sex, Health, and ESP (William Allen & Sons, publisher), and Pleasure Man (Dell publishers) based on her 1928 play of the same name.
    More Details Hide Details Her autobiography, Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It, was also updated and republished in the 1970s. Mae West was a shrewd investor, produced her own stage acts, and invested her money in considerable tracts of land in Van Nuys, a thriving suburb of Los Angeles. With her considerable fortune, she could afford to do as she liked.
  • 1971
    Age 77
    Mae West's counterculture appeal included the young and hip, and by 1971, the student body of UCLA voted Mae West "Woman of the Century" in honor of her relevance as a pioneering advocate of sexual frankness and courageous crusader against censorship.
    More Details Hide Details West's last rock album (released in 1972) on MGM Records, titled Great Balls of Fire, covered songs by The Doors among others, and had songs written for West by English songwriter-producer Ian Whitcomb.
  • 1969
    Age 75
    The April 18, 1969, issue of Life featured West at age 75, with images by child star, actor, and professional photographer Roddy McDowall.
    More Details Hide Details After a 27-year absence from motion pictures, West appeared as Leticia Van Allen in Gore Vidal's Myra Breckinridge (1970) with Raquel Welch, Rex Reed, Farrah Fawcett, and Tom Selleck in a small part. The movie was intended to be deliberately campy sex change comedy, yet was tastelessly directed and edited, resulting in a botched film that was both a box-office and critical failure. Author Vidal, at great odds with inexperienced and self-styled "art film" director Michael Sarne, later called the film "an awful joke". Though Mae West was given star billing to attract ticket buyers, her scenes were truncated by the inexperienced film editor, and her songs were filmed as though they were merely side acts. Despite Myra Breckinridges mainstream failure, it continued to find an audience on the cult film circuit where West's films were regularly screened and West herself was dubbed "the queen of camp".
  • 1965
    Age 71
    In 1965, she recorded two songs, "Am I Too Young" and "He's Good For Me" for a 45 rpm record released by Plaza Records.
    More Details Hide Details She also recorded several tongue-in-cheek songs including "Santa, Come Up to See Me" on the album Wild Christmas.
  • 1964
    Age 70
    In 1964, she made a guest appearance on the sitcom Mister Ed..
    More Details Hide Details Much later, in 1976, she was interviewed by Dick Cavett and sang two songs on his "Back Lot U.S.A." special on CBS. West's recording career started in the early 1930s with releases of her film songs on bakelite 78s. Most of her film songs were released as 78s, as well as sheet music. She recorded "The Fabulous Mae West" in 1955. Demonstrating her willingness to keep in touch with the contemporary scene, she recorded a pair of rock-and-roll albums, Way Out West (1966) and Great Balls of Fire (1972). Her Christmas album Wild Christmas (later reissued as Mae in December (1980)) was released in 1966.
  • 1959
    Age 65
    West guest-starred on television, including "The Dean Martin Variety Show" in 1959 and The Red Skelton Show in 1960, to promote her autobiography, and a lengthy interview on Person To Person with Charles Collingwood, which was censored by CBS in 1959, and never aired.
    More Details Hide Details CBS executives felt members of the television audience were not ready to see a nude marble statue of West, which rested on her piano.
    In 1959, she released an autobiography, Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It, which became a best seller and was reprinted with a new chapter in 1970.
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  • 1958
    Age 64
    In 1958, West appeared at the live televised Academy Awards and performed the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Rock Hudson, which brought a standing ovation.
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  • 1950
    Age 56
    When casting about for the role of Norma Desmond for the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard, Billy Wilder offered West the role.
    More Details Hide Details Still smarting from the censorship debacle of The Heat's On, and the constraints placed on her characterization, she declined. The theme of the Wilder film, she noted, was pure pathos, while her brand of comedy was always "about uplifting the audience". Mae West was a unique comedy character, and as such, timeless, in the same way as Charlie Chaplin. After Mary Pickford also declined the role, Gloria Swanson was cast. In subsequent years, West was offered the role of Vera Simpson, opposite Marlon Brando, in Rodgers and Hart's Pal Joey, which she turned down, with the role going to Rita Hayworth. In 1964, West was offered the part of Maude opposite Elvis Presley, in Roustabout. She turned this down, and Barbara Stanwyck took it. West was also courted for roles in Frederico Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits and Satyricon, but rejected those offers, as well. West avoided roles where the female character is victimized, as not being in sync with her own Westian creation.
  • 1943
    Age 49
    After appearing in The Heat's On in 1943, West returned to a very active career on stage and swank clubs.
    More Details Hide Details Among her popular new stage performances was the title role in Catherine Was Great (1944) on Broadway, in which she penned a spoof on the story of Catherine the Great of Russia, surrounding herself with an "imperial guard" of tall, muscular young actors. The play was produced by theater and film impresario Mike Todd (Around The World In 80 Days) and ran for 191 performances. When Mae West revived her 1928 play Diamond Lil, bringing it back to Broadway in 1949, The New York Times labeled her an "American Institution - as beloved and indestructible as Donald Duck. Like Chinatown, and Grant's Tomb, Mae West should be seen at least once." In the 1950s, West starred in her own Las Vegas stage show at the newly opened Sahara Hotel, singing while surrounded by bodybuilders. The show stood Las Vegas on its head. "Men come to see me, but I also give the women something to see: wall to wall men!" West explained. Jayne Mansfield met and later married one of West's muscle men, a former Mr. Universe, Mickey Hargitay.
  • 1942
    Age 48
    She obtained a legal divorce on July 21, 1942, during which Wallace withdrew his request for separate maintenance, and West testified that Wallace and she had lived together for only "several weeks". The final divorce decree was granted on May 7, 1943.
    More Details Hide Details In August 1913, she met an Italian-born vaudeville headliner and star of the piano-accordion, Guido Deiro. Her affair went "very deep, hittin' on all the emotions." West later said, "Marriage is a great institution. I'm not ready for an institution yet." West remained close to her family throughout her life and was devastated by her mother's death in 1930. In 1930, she moved to Hollywood and into the penthouse at the new Ravenswood apartment building, where she lived until her death in 1980. After she began her movie career, her sister, brother, and father followed her to Hollywood. West provided them with nearby homes, jobs, and sometimes financial support. Among West's other boyfriends was boxing champion William Jones, nicknamed Gorilla Jones. When the management at her Ravenswood apartment building barred the African American boxer from entering the premises, West solved the problem by buying the building and lifting the ban.
  • 1937
    Age 43
    On December 12, 1937, West appeared in two separate sketches on ventriloquist Edgar Bergen's radio show The Chase and Sanborn Hour.
    More Details Hide Details By the second half of the 1930s, West's popularity was affected by her dialogue being severely censored. She went on the show eager to promote her latest movie, Every Day's a Holiday. Appearing as herself, West flirted with Charlie McCarthy, Bergen's dummy, using her usual brand of wit and risqué sexual references. West referred to Charlie as "all wood and a yard long" and commented, "Charles, I remember our last date, and have the splinters to prove it!" West was on the verge of being banned from radio. More outrageous still was a sketch written by Arch Oboler, starring West and Don Ameche as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden on NBC. She told Ameche in the show to "get me a big one... I feel like doin' a big apple!" This ostensible reference to the then-current dance craze was one of the many double entendres in the dialogue. Days after the broadcast, the studio received letters calling the show "immoral" and "obscene" by societies for the protection of morals. Several conservative women's clubs and religious groups admonished the show's sponsor, Chase & Sanborn Coffee Company, for "prostituting" their services for allowing "impurity to invade the air". Under pressure, the Federal Communications Commission later deemed the broadcast "vulgar and indecent" and "far below even the minimum standard which should control in the selection and production of broadcast programs". Some debate existed regarding the reaction to the skit.
    At first, West denied ever marrying Wallace, but she finally admitted in July 1937, in reply to a legal interrogatory, that they had been married.
    More Details Hide Details Although legally wed, the couple never lived together as husband and wife. She insisted they have separate bedrooms, and she soon sent him away in a show of his own to get rid of him.
  • 1936
    Age 42
    That same year, 1936, West played opposite Randolph Scott in Go West, Young Man.
    More Details Hide Details In this film, she adapted Lawrence Riley's Broadway hit Personal Appearance into a screenplay. Directed by Henry Hathaway, Go West, Young Man is considered one of West's weaker films of the era, due to the censor's cuts. West next starred in Every Day's a Holiday (1937) for Paramount before their association came to an end. Again, due to censor cuts, the film performed below its goal. Censorship had made West's sexually suggestive brand of humor impossible for the studios to distribute. West, along with other stellar performers, was put on a list of actors called "Box Office Poison" by Harry Brandt on behalf of the Independent Theatre Owners Association. Others on the list were Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Fred Astaire, Dolores del Río, Katharine Hepburn, and Kay Francis. The attack was published as a paid advertisement in the Hollywood Reporter and was taken seriously by the fearful studio executives. The association argued that these stars' high salaries and extreme public popularity did not affect their ticket sales, thus hurt the exhibitors. This did not stop producer David O. Selznick, who next offered West the role of the sage madam, Belle Watling, the only woman ever to truly understand Rhett Butler, in his film version of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind after Tallulah Bankhead turned him down. West also declined the part, claiming that as it was, it was too small for an established star, and that she would need to rewrite her lines to suit her own persona.
  • 1935
    Age 41
    West kept the marriage a secret, but in 1935, after West had made several hit movies, a filing clerk discovered West's marriage certificate and alerted the press.
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  • 1934
    Age 40
    On July 1, 1934, the censorship of the Production Code began to be seriously and meticulously enforced, and her screenplays were heavily edited.
    More Details Hide Details West would purposely place over-the-top lines in her scripts, knowing the censors would cut them out. She hoped they would then not object as much to her other lines. Her next film was Belle of the Nineties (1934). Originally titled It Ain't No Sin, the title was changed due to the censors' objections. Despite Paramount's early objections regarding costs, she insisted the studio hire Duke Ellington and his orchestra to accompany her in the film's musical numbers. Their collaboration was a success; the classic "My Old Flame" (recorded by Duke Ellington) was introduced in this picture. Her next film, Goin' to Town (1935), received mixed reviews, as censorship continued to take its toll in eroding West's best lines. Her following effort, Klondike Annie (1936) dealt, as best it could given the heavy censorship, with religion and hypocrisy. Some critics called the film her screen masterpiece, but not everyone felt the same way. Press baron and would-be film mogul William Randolph Hearst, ostensibly offended by an offhanded remark West made about his mistress, Marion Davies, sent a private memo to all his editors stating, "That Mae West picture 'Klondike Annie' is a filthy picture We should have editorials roasting that picture, Mae West, and Paramount DO NOT ACCEPT ANY ADVERTISING OF THIS PICTURE." At one point, Hearst asked aloud, "Isn't it time Congress did something about the Mae West menace?" Paramount executives felt they had to tone down the West characterization, or face further recrimination.
  • 1933
    Age 39
    By 1933, West was one of the largest box office draws in the United States and, by 1935, West was also the highest paid woman and the second-highest paid person in the United States (after William Randolph Hearst).
    More Details Hide Details Hearst invited West to San Simeon, California. "I could'a married him," West explained, "but I got no time for parties. I don't like those big crowds."
  • 1932
    Age 38
    She made her film debut in 1932's Night After Night starring George Raft, who suggested her for the role, and helped secure her entry into film history.
    More Details Hide Details At first, she did not like her small role in Night After Night, but was appeased when she was allowed to rewrite her scenes. In West's first scene, a hat-check girl exclaims, "Goodness, what beautiful diamonds." And West replies, "Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie. " The rest was cinema history, effectively waking up the American audience from the doldrums of the Depression. Reflecting on the overall result of her rewritten scenes, Raft is said to have remarked, "She stole everything but the cameras." She brought her Diamond Lil character, now renamed "Lady Lou", to the screen in She Done Him Wrong (1933). The film is also notable as one of Cary Grant's first major roles, which boosted his career. West claimed she spotted Grant at the studio and insisted that he be cast as the male lead. She claimed to have told a Paramount director "If he can talk, I'll take him!" The film was a box-office hit and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The success of the film saved Paramount from bankruptcy, grossing over $2 million, the equivalent of $140 million in today's dollars. Paramount recognizes that debt of gratitude today, with a building on the lot named after her.
    In 1932, West was offered a motion picture contract by Paramount Pictures despite being close to 40.
    More Details Hide Details This was an unusually late age to begin a movie career, especially for women, but she was not playing an ingénue, and her characterization of a freewheeling, sexually secure, and liberated woman was timeless and ageless. She nonetheless managed to keep her age ambiguous for some years.
  • 1928
    Age 34
    Her 1928 play, Diamond Lil, about a racy, easygoing, and ultimately very smart lady of the 1890s, became a Broadway hit, and cemented West's image in the public's eye.
    More Details Hide Details This show had an enduring popularity and West successfully revived it many times throughout the course of her career. With Diamond Lil being a hit show, Hollywood naturally came courting.
  • 1927
    Age 33
    An affidavit in which she had declared herself married, which she made during the Sex trial in 1927, was also uncovered.
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    She was taken to the Jefferson Market Court House, (now Jefferson Market Library), where she was prosecuted on morals charges, and on April 19, 1927, was sentenced to 10 days for "corrupting the morals of youth.
    More Details Hide Details Though West could have paid a fine, and been let off, she chose the jail sentence for the publicity it would garner." While incarcerated on Welfare Island (now known as Roosevelt Island), she dined with the warden and his wife; she told reporters that she had worn her silk panties while serving time, in lieu of the "burlap" the other girls had to wear. West got great mileage from this jail stint. She served eight days with two days off for "good" behavior. Media attention surrounding the incident enhanced her career, by crowning her the darling "bad girl" who "had climbed the ladder of success wrong by wrong." Her next play, The Drag, dealt with homosexuality, and was what West called one of her "comedy-dramas of life". After a series of try-outs in Connecticut and New Jersey, West announced she would open the play in New York. However, The Drag never opened on Broadway due to efforts by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice to ban any attempt by West to stage it. West explained,"the city fathers begged me not to bring the show to New York, because they were not equipped to handle the commotion it would cause." West was an early supporter of the women's liberation movement, but said she was not a "burn your bra" type feminist. Since the 1920s, she was also an early supporter of gay rights.
  • 1926
    Age 32
    Eventually, she began writing her own risqué plays using the pen name Jane Mast. Her first starring role on Broadway was in a 1926 play she entitled Sex, which she wrote, produced, and directed.
    More Details Hide Details Although conservative critics panned the show, ticket sales were hot. The production did not go over well with city officials, who had received complaints from some religious groups, and the theater was raided, with West arrested along with the cast.
  • 1918
    Age 24
    In 1918, after exiting several high-profile revues, West finally got her break in the Shubert Brothers revue Sometime, opposite Ed Wynn.
    More Details Hide Details Her character Mayme danced the shimmy, and her photograph appeared on an edition of the sheet music for the popular number "Ev'rybody Shimmies Now".
  • 1916
    Age 22
    West had a relationship with James Timony, an attorney 15 years her senior, in 1916, when she was a vaudeville actress.
    More Details Hide Details Timony was also her manager. By the time West was an established movie actress in the mid-1930s, they were no longer a couple. West and Timony remained extremely close, living in the same building, working together, and providing support for each other until Timony's death in 1954. At 61, West became romantically involved with one of the muscle men in her Las Vegas stage show, wrestler, former Mr. California, and former merchant marine Chester Rybinski. He was 30 years younger than West, and later changed his name to Paul Novak.
  • 1912
    Age 18
    In 1912, she appeared in the opening performance of A Winsome Widow as a "baby vamp" named La Petite Daffy.
    More Details Hide Details She was encouraged as a performer by her mother, who according to West, always thought that anything Mae did was fantastic. Other family members were less encouraging, including an aunt and her paternal grandmother. They are all reported as having disapproved of her career and her choices.
  • 1911
    Age 17
    West was married on April 11, 1911, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Frank Szatkus, whose stage name was Frank Wallace, a fellow vaudevillian whom she first met in 1909.
    More Details Hide Details She was 17; he was 21.
    Her first appearance in a Broadway show was in a 1911 revue A La Broadway put on by her former dancing teacher, Ned Wayburn.
    More Details Hide Details The show folded after eight performances, but at age 18, West was singled out and discovered by the New York Times. The Times reviewer wrote that a "girl named Mae West, hitherto unknown, pleased by her grotesquerie and snappy way of singing and dancing." West next appeared in a show called Vera Violetta, whose cast featured Al Jolson.
  • 1907
    Age 13
    She began performing professionally in vaudeville in the Hal Clarendon Stock Company in 1907 at the age of 14.
    More Details Hide Details West first performed under the stage name "Baby Mae:, and tried various personas, including a male impersonator, She used the alias "Jane Mast" early in her career. Her trademark walk was said to have been inspired or influenced by female impersonators Bert Savoy and Julian Eltinge, who were famous during the Pansy Craze.
  • 1893
    West was born Mary Jane West in Bushwick, Brooklyn on August 17, 1893, having been delivered at home by an aunt who was a midwife.
    More Details Hide Details She was the eldest surviving child of John Patrick West and Matilda "Tillie" Delker (sometimes spelled "Dilker"), who, with her five siblings, had emigrated with their parents, Jacob and Christiana, from the German state of Bavaria in 1886. West's parents married on January 18, 1889, in Brooklyn and reared their children as Protestants, although John West was of mixed Catholic-Protestant descent. Her father was a prizefighter known as "Battlin' Jack West" who later worked as a "special policeman", and later had his own private investigations agency. Her mother was a former corset and fashion model. Her paternal grandmother, Mary Jane (née Copley), for whom she was named, was of Irish Catholic descent, and West's paternal grandfather, John Edwin West, was of English-Scots descent and a ship's rigger. Her eldest sibling, Katie, died in infancy. Her other siblings were Mildred Katherine West, later known as Beverly (December 8, 1898 – March 12, 1982), and John Edwin West, II (sometimes inaccurately called "John Edwin West, Jr."; February 11, 1900 – October 12, 1964). During her childhood, West's family moved to various parts of Woodhaven, as well as the Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods of Brooklyn. In Woodhaven, at Neir's Social Hall (which opened in 1829 and is still extant), West supposedly first performed professionally.
Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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