Woodhaven, Queens, New York City, New York USA
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
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Full Name at Birth
Mary Jane West
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, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian, author, investor
Cause of Death
Mary Jane "Mae" West (August 17, 1893 – November 22, 1980) was an American actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian, and sex symbol whose entertainment career spanned seven decades, known for her lighthearted bawdy double entendres and breezy sexual independence.
Has Detailed Data (105)
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
Jazz, Stage & Screen, Non-Music, Pop, Rock
Mezzotone, Decca, Tower, Dagonet Records, 20th Century Fox Records, MCA Records, Plaza Records
Talent Agency (e.g. Modelling)
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Wiki Bio Text
==Mary Jane "Mae" West== (August 17, 1893 – November 22, 1980) was an American actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian, and sex symbol whose entertainment career spanned seven decades.
===Personal life=== 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. She was 17; he was 21. 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. An affidavit in which she had declared herself married, which she made during the Sex trial in 1927, was also uncovered. 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. 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. 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.
===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.
===West had a relationship=== with James Timony, an attorney 15 years her senior, in 1916, when she was a vaudeville actress. 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. He soon moved in with her, and their romance continued until West's death in 1980 at age 87. Novak once commented, "I believe I was put on this Earth to take care of Mae West." West was a practicing Presbyterian and her funeral was held at the First Presbyterian Church in Beverly Hills, California.
==Mae West== Actress - ===Born=== 17 August 1893 Woodhaven, Queens, New York City, New York USA
===Died=== November 22, 1980 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA (complications from strokes)
===Birth Name=== Mary Jane West
===Nicknames=== "Queen of the World", "The Statue of Libido"
===Height=== 5' (1.52 m)
===Mini Bio (2)=== Mae West was born in Queens, New York, to "Battling Jack" West and Matilda Doelger. She began her career as a child star in vaudeville, and later went on to write her own plays, including "SEX", for which she was arrested. Though her first movie role was a small part in Night After Night (1932), her scene has become famous. A coat check girl exclaims, "Goodness! What lovely diamonds!", after seeing Mae's jewelry. Mae replies, "Goodness had nothing to do with it". Her next film, in which she starred, came the following year. She Done Him Wrong (1933) was based on her earlier and very popular play, "Diamond Lil". She went on to write and star in seven more films, including My Little Chickadee (1940) with W.C. Fields. Her last movie was Sextette (1978), which also came from a play. She died two years later.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Carla Donnell
===Mary Jane West=== was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 17, 1893, to parents involved in prizefighting and vaudeville. Mae herself worked on the stage and in vaudeville from the time she was five years old. She never was academically inclined because she was too busy performing. She studied dance as a child, and by the time she was 14 she was billed as "The Baby Vamp" for her performances on stage. Later Mae began writing her own plays. One of those plays, "Sex", landed her in jail for ten days on obscenity charges in 1926. Two years later her play "Diamond Lil" became a huge Broadway success. Mae caught the attention of the Hollywood studios and was given her first movie role with George Raft in Night After Night (1932). Although it was a small role, she was able to display a wit that was to make her world-famous. Raft himself said of Mae, "She stole everything but the cameras." She became a box-office smash hit, breaking all sorts of attendance records. Her second film, She Done Him Wrong (1933), was based on her earlier and popular play that she had written herself. The film was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture. It also made Cary Grant a star. Her third film later that year was I'm No Angel (1933). The controversy aroused by these two films resulted in the studios establishing the Motion Picture Production Code, which regulated what content could be shown or said in pictures. As a result of these codes, Mae began to double-talk so that a person could take a word or phrase any way they wished. This was so she could get her material past the censors, and it worked. She really felt she had a vested interest because it was her written work being scrutinized. She had already written and performed these for the stage with the very material now being filmed. Her next film, Belle of the Nineties (1934), was an equal hit. By 1936, with Klondike Annie (1936) and Go West Young Man (1936) she became the highest paid woman in the US. After 1937's Every Day's a Holiday (1937), she didn't make another film until 1940, when she co-starred with W.C. Fields in another film she wrote herself, My Little Chickadee (1940). It was well known she had little use for Fields and his ways, which were crude even for her. After The Heat's On (1943), Mae took a respite from the film world, mainly because the censors were getting stricter. She decided she would be able to have greater expression in her work if she went back to the stage. Mae continued to be a success there. When censorship began to end in the 1960s, she returned to film work in 1970's Myra Breckinridge (1970). Her last film was 1978's Sextette (1978). Mae suffered a series of strokes which finally resulted in her death at age 87 on November 22, 1980, in Hollywood, California. She was buried in New York. The actress, who only appeared in 12 films in 46 years, had a powerful impact on us. There was no doubt she was way ahead of her time with her sexual innuendos and how she made fun of a puritanical society. She did a lot to bring it out of the closet and perhaps we should be grateful for that.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson
===Spouse (1)=== [[Frank Wallace]] (11 April 1911 - 23 July 1942) (divorced)
===Trade Mark (5)=== Platinum blonde hair, Sparkling blue eyes, Voluptuous figure, Deep sultry voice, Rampant double entendres.
===Personal Quotes (45)===
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Joseph Chernivasky Orchestra, Lenny Marvin Orchestra, Ernie Held's Orchestra, Sy Oliver & Orchestra, Victor Young And His Orchestra, The Mike Curb Congregation, Somebody's Chyldren, The Hot Rockers, George Stoll, Xavier Cugat, Leo Shuken, Duke Ellington & His Orchestra, Timothy Dalton, Tito Coral, Grasshoppers, Don Ameche, Robert Armbruster And His Orchestra