In 1969 Mae West negotiated a
contract after a 26 year hiatus at the age
of 76, in which she got top billing over the leading lady, Raquel
Welch, as well as a handsome fee and the ability to write her own
lines. That’s her at 76 to the left.
It was a long way from her first play, which she wrote and performed in
During its 375 performances in New York City 325,000 people watched it
including judges, policemen and their wives, and some of the district
attorney’s staff. After the 375th performance the New York Police
Department came to the theater to arrest Mae and the rest of the
They allowed her to finish the show and change into her street clothes,
which included her black cloche hat and a fur coat, before taking her
into the station.
After conviction for “unlawfully preparing, advertising, giving,
presenting, and participating in an obscene, immoral and impure drama,
play, exhibition, show and entertainment” her punishment included 10
days of work on Welfare Island and a $500 fine.
Her arrest and trial generated enough publicity to launch Mae into the
spotlight establishing a career that she maintained on her own steam
for another 51 years. She made one more movie after Myra Breckinridge,
and enjoyed celebrity her life long.
She was a real character, famous for her risqu� one liners. Roger Ebert
tells the story of her remarks at a USC film class just before the
filming of Myra Breckinridge. A student asked her: “Isn’t it great to
be making a movie in 1969? In the old days, the censors wouldn’t even
let you sit on a man’s lap.” She replied, “I may be old, but I’m not
that old. I’ve sat on more laps than a napkin.”
There’s a lot that can be done in this life that requires a bit of
boldness to be carried out. Don’t shirk. Don’t shrink. Step forward and
take your place. It’s the spice that makes the soup all the more
once, but if you do it right, once is enough.
– Mae West