Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York.
Place of Death
Claim to Fame
Pop/Rock, Traditional Pop, Tin Pan Alley Pop, Vaudeville, Celebrity
Theatrical, Exuberant, Provocative, Carefree, Whimsical, Sensual, Irreverent, Aggressive, Rousing, Street-Smart, Rollicking, Boisterous, Raucous, Energetic
Soundtrack, Actor/Actress, Writer
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Profile Bio Text
Mae West was an American screen legend and erotic icon famous for her voluptuous figure, sexy innuendos, and irrepressible wit. A free thinking and independent woman far ahead of her time, West expressed herself boldly, both sexually and creatively. She famously surrounded herself with handsome muscle men, both onscreen and off, and accrued a long list of famous and powerful lovers. Notably, West was one of the first female American playwrights, and actresses, to demand and receive creative control over her work. West’s creative expression encompassed nearly every facet of the entertainment spectrum including theatre and screenwriting, film, radio, television, and audio recording. And with a career spanning some 80+ years, she holds the further distinction of having performed both vaudeville and rock and roll. As a cultural icon she is immortalized by imitators, biographers, and even an assortment of snacks and devices bearing her name. Her trademark phrases have been translated into numerous languages, including Mandarin, Mongolian, Norwegian, and Lithuanian.
She was born Mary Jane West on August 17, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York. Her father, the bare knuckles prizefighter Battlin’ Jack West, was a native New Yorker from the lower east side. A heavy smoker and drinker, he turned to violence when thwarted. Her mother, "Tillie", was a former corset and fashion model, and frustrated actress, who had immigrated to America from Germany with her parents. Curiously, although Mae West always claimed that Tillie was Jewish, records show that the family listed their religion as Lutheran upon arrival in America. West’s paternal grandmother had also immigrated as a child -- an Irish Catholic, she married Mae’s paternal grandfather, John Edwin, while only 12 years old. Edwin’s own ancestry remains enigmatic. But according to West biographer Jill Watts, he may have been a light-skinned African American who passed for white.
Arising from this milieu of adversity, Mae learned early on that her unusual talent and good looks were an advantage that just might leverage her into a better life – if she played it smart. Encouraged by her mother, she used her sexuality to build alliances with, or dominate, nearly every man who crossed her path. And she learned to view marriage as a double edged institution – one that offered legal protection and social acceptance, but which robbed women of their independence and sexual freedom. According to most sources she took refuge in marriage just once, with fellow actor and lover Frank Wallace. When she tired of Wallace, and discovered she was not pregnant as feared, she ended the relationship. She neglected to file for divorce however, and Wallace showed up years later, in 1937, with marriage certificate in hand to receive a share of West’s ample earnings. She may have been simultaneously married to musician Guido Deiro, divorcing him in 1920. West allegedly used the alias Catherine Mae Belle West when marrying Deiro to avoid bigamy charges.
While West’s attitudes toward men were heavily influenced by her mother so was her choice of career. Tillie West had once longed to follow in the footsteps of idol Lillian Russell, even having her portrait painted in such way as to highlight a certain resemblance. She started Mae off in show business as early as age 5, according to some reports, and by age 7 Mae had won the gold medal in a talent show, with Tillie billing her as "Baby Mae". By age 12 she was appearing on the vaudeville circuit and was soon performing as the sexy "Baby Vamp". At 18 she introduced vaudeville to the "shimmy", a sexy full body undulation that she’d first observed in the blues bars of Chicago.
In the 1920s she had moved on to playwriting. A shameless self promoter, she is said to have single billed herself on works that were in fact jointly authored. Nonetheless both on the stage and later in film she showed tremendous wit and intelligence for writing dialogue, especially for those parts she played herself. But while West is chiefly remembered for her clever dialogue and powerhouse sensuality, much of her work dealt also with spiritual matters and West was herself a deeply and eclectically spiritual person for most of her life. Not surprisingly, her tendency toward frankness and maverick free thinking, on all subjects, often put her at odds with moralists and hard line religious leaders.
Her first major run in with censorship laws came in 1926 when she was jailed for the play Sex, which she both wrote and starred in. West was sentenced to 10 days in jail on obscenity charges. However she allegedly received star treatment in prison, dining each night with the warden and getting two days off for good behavior. Despite this fact she was sympathetic to those less fortunate, and upon her release she penned an article about the women she’d met behind bars. Putting he
Couple Profile Source
Full Name at Birth
Mary Jane West
Page Display = 2 (Legacy)
John West (a featherweight prizefighter)
Matilda Decker Doelger
John Edwin West
Katie, Mildred Katharina West
Marlene Dietrich, George Raft, Texas Guinan, David Brown, Helen Gurley Brown, Billy Wilder
John Edwin (grandfather)
Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It 
Mae West: An Icon in Black and White  (Jill Watts), Becoming Mae West  (Emily Worth Leider), Mae West: Empress of Sex  (Maurice Leonard)
Has Detailed Data (Music)
Actress, Playwright, Author
Cause of Death
Mary Jane "Mae" West (August 17, 1893 – November 22, 1980) was an American actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, and sex symbol whose entertainment career spanned seven decades.
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Has Detailed Data (76)
Music Profile Complete
Strong NY accent, Sharp tongued remarks, Sexuality that was often 'daring' in the early film industry
Los Angeles, New York
Steak, Mashed Potatoes
Pink, Purple, Turqouise, Yellow
Erasmus Hall High School
Platinum blonde hair
www.allaboutmae.com/, www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1089, www.allaboutmae.com/