Publicity photo for Night After Night (1932)
|Born||Mary Jane West
August 17, 1893
Brooklyn ,New York City, New York, United States
|Died||November 22, 1980
Los Angeles, California, United States
|Occupation||Actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedienne|
|Spouse(s)||Frank Szatkus, stage name Frank Wallace
Known for her bawdy double entendres, West made a name for herself in vaudeville and on the stage in New York City before moving to Hollywood to become a comedienne, actress, and writer in the motion picture industry. For her contributions to American cinema, the American Film Institute named West 15th among the greatest female stars of Classic American cinema.
One of the more controversial movie stars of her day, West encountered many problems, including censorship. When her cinematic career ended, she continued to perform in Las Vegas, in the United Kingdom, and on radio and television, and to record rock and roll albums. Asked about the various efforts to impede her career, West replied: "I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it."
Early life and career
West was born Mary Jane West in Bushwick, Brooklyn, delivered at home by an aunt who was a midwife. She was the eldest surviving child of John Patrick West and Matilda "Tillie" Doelger, whose maiden name was later anglicized to "Dilker" or "Delker". Doelger had emigrated with her family from Bavaria to the United States in 1886. West's parents married on January 18, 1889, in Brooklyn and reared their children as Protestant. 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 was an Irish Catholic, 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. The 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, Queens, as well as the Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods of Brooklyn. It was in Woodhaven, at Neir's Social Hall (which opened in 1829 and is still extant) that West supposedly first performed professionally.
West was five when she first entertained a crowd at a church social, and she started appearing in amateur shows at the age of seven. She often won prizes at local talent contests. She began performing professionally in vaudeville in the Hal Clarendon Stock Company in 1907 at the age of fourteen. West first performed under the stage name Baby Mae, and tried various personas including a male impersonator, Sis Hopkins, and a blackface coon shouter. 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. Her first appearance in a Broadway show was in a 1911 revue A La Broadway put on by her former dancing teacher, Ned Wayburn. 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. In 1912 she appeared in the opening performance of A Winsome Widow as a "baby vamp" named La Petite Daffy.
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. In 1918, after exiting several high-profile revues, West finally got her break in the Shubert Brothers revue Sometime, opposite Ed Wynn. 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".
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. Although critics panned the show, ticket sales were good. The production did not go over well with city officials, and the theater was raided, with West arrested along with the cast. 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 ten days for "corrupting the morals of youth." 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. She served eight days with two days off for good behavior. Media attention surrounding the incident enhanced her career.
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 was an early supporter of the women's liberation movement, but said she was not a feminist. She was also an early supporter of gay rights.
West continued to write plays, including The Wicked Age, Pleasure Man and The Constant Sinner. Her productions aroused controversy, which ensured that she stayed in the news, which also often resulted in packed houses at her performances. Her 1928 play, Diamond Lil, about a racy, easygoing lady of the 1890s, became a Broadway hit. This show enjoyed an enduring popularity and West would successfully revive it many times throughout the course of her career.
In 1932, West was offered a motion picture contract by Paramount Pictures despite being close to 40. This was an unusually high age to begin a movie career, especially for women, but she nonetheless managed to keep this fact ambiguous for some years. She made her film debut in Night After Night starring George Raft. 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." West replies, "Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie." 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 most likely saved Paramount from bankruptcy.
Her next release, I'm No Angel (1933), paired her with Grant again. I'm No Angel was also a financial success, and was the most successful film of her entire movie career. By 1933, West was the eighth-largest U.S. box office draw in the United States and, by 1935, the second-highest paid person in the United States (after William Randolph Hearst). On July 1, 1934, the censorship of the Production Code began to be seriously and meticulously enforced, and her screenplays were heavily edited. 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" was introduced in this picture. Her next film, Goin' to Town (1934), received mixed reviews.
Her following effort, Klondike Annie (1935) dealt, as best it could given the heavy censorship, with religion and hypocrisy. Some critics called the film her screen masterpiece. That same year, West played opposite Randolph Scott in Go West, Young Man. 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.
West next starred in Every Day's a Holiday (1937) for Paramount before their association came to an end. After the film failed at the box office, West 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 Norma Shearer. The attack was published as a paid advertisement in the Hollywood Reporter and was taken seriously by studio executives. The association argued that these stars' high salaries and extreme public popularity didn't affect their ticket sales and thus hurt the exhibitors.
In 1939, Universal Pictures approached West to star in a film opposite W. C. Fields. The studio was eager to duplicate the success of Destry Rides Again starring Marlene Dietrich and James Stewart with a vehicle starring West and Fields. Having left Paramount eighteen months earlier and looking for a comeback film, West accepted the role of Flower Belle Lee in the film My Little Chickadee (1940). Despite the stars' intense mutual dislike, and fights over the screenplay, My Little Chickadee was a moderate box office success, but the film outgrossed Fields's previous film, You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939), and the later The Bank Dick (1940).
West's next film was The Heat's On (1943) for Columbia Pictures. She initially didn't want to do the film but after producer and director Gregory Ratoff pleaded with her and claimed he would go bankrupt if she didn't, West relented. The movie opened to bad reviews and failed at the box office. West was so chastened by the experience that she would not attempt another film role for the next quarter-century.
On December 12, 1937, West appeared in two separate sketches on ventriloquist Edgar Bergen's radio show The Chase and Sanborn Hour. By the second half of the 1930s, West's popularity was dwindling and 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 that his kisses gave her splinters.
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". Women's clubs and Catholic groups admonished the show's sponsor, Chase & Sanborn Coffee Company, for "prostituting" their services for allowing "impurity [to] invade the air". 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". There is some debate regarding the reaction to the skit. Catholic groups took umbrage far more swiftly than the mainstream. These groups already had it in for West, whom they despised, for her outspoken use of sexuality and sexual imagery, which she had employed in her career since at least the Pre-Code films she had made in the early 1930s. The groups reportedly warned the sponsor of the program they would protest her appearance.
NBC blamed West personally for the incident and banned her (and the mention of her name) from their stations. They claimed it was not the content of the skit, but West's tonal inflections that gave it the controversial context. West would not perform in radio for a dozen years, until January 1950, in an episode of The Chesterfield Supper Club, which was hosted by Perry Como. Ameche's career did not suffer any serious repercussions, however.[why?]
After appearing in The Heat's On in 1943, West remained active during the ensuing years. Among her stage performances was the title role in Catherine Was Great (1944) on Broadway, in which she spoofed the story of Catherine the Great of Russia, surrounding herself with an "imperial guard" of tall, muscular young actors. The play was produced by Mike Todd and ran for 191 performances. In the 1950s, she also starred in her own Las Vegas stage show, singing while surrounded by bodybuilders. Jayne Mansfield met and later married one of West's muscle men, a former Mr. Universe, Mickey Hargitay.
When casting the role of Norma Desmond for the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard, Billy Wilder offered the 57-year-old West the role. Still smarting from the failure of The Heat's On, she declined, claiming to be offended at the notion. Wilder later said, "The idea of [casting] Mae West was idiotic because we only had to talk to her to find out that she thought she was as great, as desirable, as sexy as she had ever been." After Mary Pickford also declined the role, Gloria Swanson was cast.
In 1958, West appeared at the Academy Awards and performed the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Rock Hudson. In 1959, she released an autobiography, Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It, which became a best seller.
Later career and final years
West made occasional appearances on television, including The Red Skelton Show in 1960. In 1964, she made a guest appearance on the sitcom Mister Ed. Demonstrating her willingness to keep in touch with the contemporary scene, she recorded a pair of rock-and-roll albums, Way Out West and Wild Christmas (later re-issued as "Mae in December") in the late 1960s. 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. She also made several parody songs including "Santa, Come Up to See Me" on the album Wild Christmas.
The April 18, 1969, issue of Life featured West at age 75. The article detailed her views on homosexuals, her generosity to certain charities, her vast real estate holdings and her desire to continue an active career in the upcoming decade.
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 a deliberately campy sex change comedy that was both a box office and critical failure. Vidal later called the film "an awful joke". Despite Myra Breckinridge's mainstream failure, it did find an audience on the cult film circuit where West's films were regularly screened and West herself was dubbed "the queen of camp".
West recorded another rock album in 1968 (released in 1972) on MGM Records, titled Great Balls of Fire, which covered songs by The Doors among others. Her autobiography, Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It, was also updated and republished.
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. That same year, she began work on her final film, Sextette (1978). Adapted from a script written by West, daily revisions and disagreements hampered production from the beginning. Due to the numerous changes, West agreed to have her lines fed to her through a speaker concealed in her wig. Despite the daily problems, West was, according to Sextette director Ken Hughes, determined to see the film through. Despite her determination, Hughes noted that West sometimes appeared disoriented and forgetful and found it difficult to follow his directions. Her now-failing eyesight made navigating around the set difficult. Hughes eventually began shooting her from the waist up to hide the out-of-shot production assistant crawling on the floor, guiding her around the set. Upon its release, Sextette was a critical and commercial failure.
In August 1980, West tripped while getting out of bed. 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. She remained in the hospital where, seven days later, she had a diabetic reaction to the formula in her feeding tube. On September 18, she suffered a second stroke which left her right side paralyzed and developed pneumonia. By November, her condition had improved, but the prognosis was poor and she was sent home. She died there on November 22, 1980, at the age of 87.
A private service was held in the Old North Church replica, in Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills, on November 25, 1980. Bishop Andre Penachio, a friend, officiated at the entombment in the family mausoleum at Cypress Hills Abbey, Brooklyn, purchased in 1930 when her mother died. Her father and brother were also entombed there before her, and her younger sister, Beverly, was laid to rest in the last of the five crypts less than 18 months after West's death.
For her contribution to the film industry, Mae West has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1560 Vine Street in Hollywood. For her contributions as a stage actor in the theater world, she has been inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.
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 in order 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 she and Wallace 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 "[v]ery deep, hittin' on all the emotions which would lead to their son's birth on April 11, 1914.You can't get too hot over anybody unless there's somethin' that goes along with the sex act, can you?" Deiro fell in love with her and arranged his bookings so the two could travel together. Some sources claimed the pair were married (with West using an assumed name, to avoid charges of bigamy). Their second son Andy was born on September 21, 1916. During a 1935 radio broadcast Walter Winchell incorrectly reported that Mae West had been married to Guido's brother, Pietro. The similarly named Walter Wincher, a writer for Accordion News magazine, corrected the error: "In a recent radio broadcast, Walter Winchell conveyed the information that Pietro Deiro had been married to Mae West for four years. As one Walter to another, I must set him right. Pietro was never married to the 'come up and see me sometime' girl. Guido Deiro, his brother, was supposed to be the fortunate accordionist."
West made no public statements indicating that she had been married to Deiro. She referred to him simply as "D" in her autobiography. West's biographers state that the two never married. West and Deiro split in 1916.
Deiro's son claimed that years later West privately revealed that she had become pregnant by Guido, and had an abortion without his knowledge, resulting in complications which left her sick for nearly a year and reportedly unable to bear children.
According to Deiro's biographer, West filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery on July 14, 1920. The divorce was granted by the Supreme Court of the State of New York on November 9 of that year. 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 would live 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 fifteen 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. However, 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."
In popular culture
- During World War II, Allied aircrew called their yellow inflatable, vest-like life preserver jackets "Mae Wests" partly from rhyming slang for "breasts" and "life vest" and partly because of the resemblance to her torso. A "Mae West" is also a type of round parachute malfunction (partial inversion) which contorts the shape of the canopy into the appearance of an extraordinarily large brassiere.
- West has been the subject of songs, such as in the title song of Cole Porter's Broadway musical Anything Goes and in "You're the Top", from the same show.
- One of the most popular objects of the surrealist movement was the Mae West Lips Sofa, which was completed by artist Salvador Dalí in 1938 for Edward James
- The graph depicting the probability of uranium or other fissionable materials producing specific fission products has two peaks with a "valley" in the middle, is sometimes referred to as the Mae West curve.
- When approached for permission to allow her likeness on the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, West initially refused, asking "What would I be doing in a Lonely Heart's Club". The Beatles wrote her a personal letter declaring themselves great admirers of the star and persuaded her to change her mind.
- Mae West has a statue at Hollywood-La Brea Boulevard in Los Angeles, designed by Catherine Hardwicke and built in honor of multi-ethnic leading ladies of the cinema, together with Dolores del Rio, Dorothy Dandridge and Anna May Wong.
- An Emerson table radio model BD-197, designed by a prominent designer Alexis de Sakhnoffsky was known as "Mae West" due to its unusual design resembling an ample female bosom. http://www.tuberadioland.com/emersonBD-197_main.html
|September 22, 1911 – September 30, 1911||A La Broadway||Maggie O'Hara|
|November 20, 1911 – February 24, 1912||Vera Violetta||West left show during previews|
|April 11, 1912 – September 7, 1912||Winsome Widow, AA Winsome Widow||Le Petite Daffy||West left show after opening night|
|October 4, 1918 – June 1919||Sometime|
|August 17, 1921 – September 10, 1921||Mimic World of 1921, TheThe Mimic World of 1921|
|April 26, 1926 – March 1927||Sex||Margie LaMont||Written by Jane Mast (West). West was jailed for 10 days due to the play's content.|
|January 1927||Drag, TheThe Drag||closed during out-of-town tryouts (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
credited only as writer
|November 1927||Wicked Age, TheThe Wicked Age||Evelyn ("Babe") Carson|
|April 9, 1928 – September 1928||Diamond Lil||Diamond Lil|
|October 1, 1928 –October 2, 1928||Pleasure Man, TheThe Pleasure Man||credited only as writer|
|September 14, 1931 – November 1931||Constant Sinner, TheThe Constant Sinner||Babe Gordon|
|August 2, 1944 – January 13, 1945||Catherine Was Great||Catherine II|
|1945–46||Come on Up||Tour|
|September 1947 – May 1948||Diamond Lil||Diamond Lil||(Revival) United Kingdom|
|February 5, 1949 – February 26, 1949||Diamond Lil||Diamond Lil||(2nd Revival) until West broke her ankle on the latter date.
The play resumed as a "return engagement"
|September 7, 1949 – January 21, 1950||Diamond Lil||Diamond Lil||(2nd Revival) as "return engagement"|
|September 14, 1951 – November 10, 1951||Diamond Lil||Diamond Lil||(3rd Revival)|
|July 7, 1961 – closing date unknown||Sextette||Edgewater Beach Playhouse|
- Other plays as writer
|1921||Ruby Ring, TheThe Ruby Ring||Vaudeville playlet|
|1922||Hussy, TheThe Hussy||Unproduced|
|1930||Frisco Kate||Unproduced, later produced as the 1936 film Klondike Annie|
|1933||Loose Women||Performed in 1935 under title Ladies By Request|
|1936||Clean Beds||Sold treatment to George S. George, who produced
an unsuccessful Broadway play of West's treatment
- 1956: The Fabulous Mae West; Decca D/DL-79016 (several reissues up to 2006)
- 1960: W.C. Fields His Only Recording Plus 8 Songs by Mae West; Proscenium PR 22
- 1966: Way Out West; Tower T/ST-5028
- 1966: Wild Christmas; Dragonet LPDG-48
- 1970: The Original Voice Tracks from Her Greatest Movies; Decca D/DL-791/76
- 1970: Mae West & W.C. Fields Side by Side; Harmony HS 11374/HS 11405
- 1972: Great Balls of Fire; MGM SE 4869
- 1974: Original Radio Broadcasts; Mark 56 Records 643
- 1987/1995: Sixteen Sultry Songs Sung by Mae West Queen of Sex; Rosetta RR 1315
- 1996: I'm No Angel; Jasmine CD 04980 102
- 2006: The Fabulous: Rev-Ola CR Rev 181
At least 21 singles (78 rpm and 45 rpm) also were released from 1933 to 1973.
- West, Mae (1930). Babe Gordon. The Macaulay Company. (the novel on which The Constant Sinner was based)
- West, Mae (1932). Diamond Lil. Caxton House. (novelization of play)
- West, Mae (1970) . Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It. Prentice-Hall.
- West, Mae (1975). Mae West on Sex, Health and ESP. W. H. Allen. ISBN 0-491-01613-1.
- West, Mae (1975). Pleasure Man. Dell Pub. Co.
- West, Mae; Joseph Weintraub (1967). The Wit and Wisdom of Mae West. G. P. Putnam.
- Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence; McNeilly, Donald (2007). Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. Routledge. p. 1183. ISBN 0-415-93853-8.
- Karen Weekes (February 15, 2011). Women Know Everything!. Quirk Books. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-59474-545-4.
- Wortis Leider, Emily (2000). Becoming Mae West. Da Capo Press. p. 20. ISBN 0-306-80951-6.
- Watts, Jill (2003). Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. Oxford University Press US. p. 10. ISBN 0-19-516112-2.
- West, Mae (1959). Goodness Had Nothing to Do With it. Prentice-Hall. p. 1.
- Wortis Leider, Emily (2000). Becoming Mae West. Da Capo Press. p. 23. ISBN 0-306-80951-6.
- "The religion of Mae West, actress". adherents.com.
- Gross, Max (February 6, 2004). "Playwright Examines Mae West's Legal Dramas". forward.com. Retrieved November 22, 2008.
- Wortis Leider, Emily (2000). Becoming Mae West. Da Capo Press. pp. 23–24. ISBN 0-306-80951-6.
- Watts, Jill (2003). Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. Oxford University Press US. p. 12. ISBN 0-19-516112-2.
- Wortis Leider, Emily (2000). Becoming Mae West. Da Capo Press. p. 21. ISBN 0-306-80951-6.
- Musgrove, Stanley (1982). Mae West. William Morrow & Co. p. 20. ISBN 0-688-00816-X.
- Louvish, Simon (2007). Mae West: It Ain't No Sin. St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0-312-37562-X.
- 1870, 1880, 1900 US censuses.
- Watts, Jill (2003). Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. Oxford University Press US. pp. 12, 289. ISBN 0-19-516112-2.
- amNew York, Thursday, September 5, 2013, p. 23.
- Lisa L. Colangelo (June 22, 2010). "Woodhaven bar Neir's Tavern gets a time-machine fix up". Daily News. New York. Retrieved November 2, 2014.
- "Mae West: Neir's, Far From Truth". Mae West. June 24, 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2014.
Fact is, though one of the former owners of Neir's had hung up a Mae West poster on a door a long time, it is doubtful that Mae ever set foot in such a blue collar saloon. And was the tin-ceilinged corner bar serving alcohol at all during the 1920s, in defiance of Prohibition, when she was in the neighborhood?
- Watts, Jill (2003). Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. Oxford University Press US. pp. 16, 18. ISBN 0-19-516112-2.
- Louvish, Simon (2005). Mae West: It Ain't No Sin. St. Martin's Press. pp. 9–10. ISBN 0-312-34878-9.
- Eells, George; Musgrove, Stanley (1982). Mae West: A Biography. Morrow. pp. 23, 170. ISBN 0-688-00816-X.
- Eells, George; Musgrove, Stanley (1982). Mae West: A Biography. Morrow. pp. 38, 170. ISBN 0-688-00816-X.
- Watts, Jill (2003). Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. Oxford University Press US. pp. 23, 28, 194. ISBN 0-19-516112-2.
- Wortis Leider, Emily (2000). Becoming Mae West. Da Capo Press. pp. 122–3. ISBN 0-306-80951-6.,Louvish, Simon (2006). Mae West: It Ain't No Sin. Macmillan. p. 18. ISBN 0-312-34878-9.
- Watts, Jill (2003). Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. Oxford University Press US. pp. 32–33. ISBN 0-19-516112-2.
- Maurice Leonard. Mae West Empress of Sex. ISBN 0-00-637471-9; pp. 33–34
- Louvish, Simon (2006). Mae West: It Ain't No Sin. Macmillan. pp. 50, 452. ISBN 0-312-34878-9.
- Biery, Ruth, "The Private Life of Mae West: Part One", Movie Classic, January 1934, pp. 106–08
- Tuska, Jon (1992). The Complete Films of Mae West. Citadel Press. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0-8065-1359-4.
- Louvish, Simon (2006). Mae West: It Ain't No Sin. Macmillan. pp. 78, 79, 452. ISBN 0-312-34878-9.
- Yeatts, Tabatha (2000). The Legendary Mae West. Lulu.com. p. 77. ISBN 0-9679158-1-3.
- Watts, Jill (2003). Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. Oxford University Press US. pp. 88–89. ISBN 0-19-516112-2.
- Bunyan, Patrick (1999). All Around the Town: Amazing Manhattan Facts and Curiosities. Fordham University Press. p. 317. ISBN 0-8232-1941-0.
- Schlissel, Lillian; West, Mae (1997). Three Plays by Mae West: Sex, The Drag and Pleasure Man. Routledge. p. 16. ISBN 0-415-90933-3.
- Hamilton, Marybeth (1997). When I'm Bad, I'm Better: Mae West, Sex, and American Entertainment. University of California Press. pp. 57, 67. ISBN 0-520-21094-8.
- Chauncey, George (1995). Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940. Basic Books. p. 312. ISBN 0-465-02621-4.
- Eells, George; Musgrove, Stanley (1982). Mae West: A Biography. Morrow. pp. 66–68. ISBN 0-688-00816-X.
- Watts, Jill (2003). Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. Oxford University Press US. p. 299. ISBN 0-19-516112-2.
- Cullen, Frank; Hackman, Florence; McNeilly, Donald (2007). Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. Routledge. p. 1187. ISBN 0-415-93853-8.
- Eells, George; Musgrove, Stanley (1982). Mae West: A Biography. Morrow. pp. 78, 79, 81. ISBN 0-688-00816-X.
- Eells, George; Musgrove, Stanley (1982). Mae West: A Biography. Morrow. pp. 223, 228, 229. ISBN 0-688-00816-X.
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- Robertson, Pamela (1996). Guilty Pleasures: Feminist Camp from Mae West to Madonna. I.B.Tauris. p. 27. ISBN 1-86064-088-5.
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- Robertson, Pamela (1996). Guilty Pleasures: Feminist Camp from Mae West to Madonna. Duke University Press. p. 25. ISBN 0-8223-1748-6.
- Yeatts, Tabatha (2000). The Legendary Mae West. Lulu.com. p. 71. ISBN 0-9679158-1-3.
- Cullen, Frank; Florence Hackman; Donald McNeilly (2007). Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America. Routledge. p. 1188. ISBN 0-415-93853-8.
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- album cover
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- Hoberman, J.; Jonathan Rosenbaum (1991). Midnight Movies. Da Capo Press. p. 268. ISBN 0-306-80433-6.
- Hamilton, Marybeth (1997). When I'm Bad, I'm Better: Mae West, Sex, and American Entertainment. University of California Press. p. 263. ISBN 0-520-21094-8.
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- Clarke, Gerald (May 22, 1978). "At 84 Mae West Is Still Mae West". Time. Retrieved November 15, 2008.
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- "Mae West, Stage and Movie Star Who Burlesqued Sex, Dies at 87". The New York Times. November 23, 1980. Archived from the original on April 7, 2008. Retrieved November 15, 2008.
- "Former Boxing Champ Managed by Mae West Succumbs at Age 75". Jet 61 (17): 52–53. January 28, 1982. ISSN 0021-5996.
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- "Theater Hall of Fame members".
- "The Gershwin Theatre – On This Very Spot". Retrieved March 20, 2014.
- Maurice Leonard in Mae West, Empress of Sex ISBN 0-00-637471-9, pp. 29–30
- Hamilton, Marybeth (1997). When I'm Bad, I'm Better: Mae West, Sex, and American Entertainment. University of California Press. p. 15. ISBN 0-520-21094-8.
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- Watts, Jill. Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. Oxford University Press. pp. 201–2.
- Louvish, Simon (2006). Mae West: It Ain't No Sin. Macmillan. p. 283.
- Watts, Jill. Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. Oxford University Press. p. 224.
- Louvish, Simon (2006). Mae West: It Ain't No Sin. Macmillan. pp. 350–1. ISBN 0-312-34878-9.
- Louvish, Simon (2006). Mae West: It Ain't No Sin. Macmillan. p. 351. ISBN 0-312-34878-9.
- West, Mae (1959). Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It. Prentice-Hall.
- Granlund, Nils Thor; Sid Fedder; Ralph Hancock (1957). Blondes, Brunettes, and Bullets. David McKay Company, Inc. p. 43.
One of the first big acts Loew ever booked was a girl named Mae West. She had an act with an accordion player named Deiro. She later married him.
- Variety magazine printed a notice stating "Mr. and Mrs. Deiro" were playing at Shea's in Toronto, Canada, for the week beginning November 29, 1913.
- Laurie, Joe Jr. (1953). Vaudeville: From the Honky-Tonks to the Palace. Henry Holt & Co. p. 69.
Among the fine accordionists was... Deiro (Mae West's ex-hubby).
- Winchell, Walter (February 1935). "Truly Yours". Accordion News. p. 13.
- Watts, Jill (2003). Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. Oxford University Press US. pp. 43–46. ISBN 0-19-516112-2.
- Wortis Leider, Emily (2000). Becoming Mae West. Da Capo Press. pp. 79–81. ISBN 0-306-80951-6.
- Louvish, Simon (2006). Mae West: It Ain't No Sin. Macmillan. pp. 59–61. ISBN 0-312-34878-9.
- Eels, Stanley (1982). Mae West. William Morrow & Co. pp. 53–57. ISBN 0-688-00816-X. Spelled Diero in this book.
- Bergman, Carol (1988). Mae West. Chelsea House. ISBN 1-55546-681-8. Deiro unmentioned.
- Hamilton, Marybeth (1995). The Queen of Camp: Mae West, sex and popular culture. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-04-440960-5. Deiro unmentioned.
- Watts, Jill (2003). Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. Oxford University Press US. pp. 46–47. ISBN 0-19-516112-2.
- Wortis Leider, Emily (2000). Becoming Mae West. Da Capo Press. p. 81. ISBN 0-306-80951-6.
- Louvish, Simon (2006). Mae West: It Ain't No Sin. Macmillan. pp. 60–61. ISBN 0-312-34878-9.
- Count Guido Roberto Deiro, "Guido & Mae West: The Untold Story", Guido Deiro: Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 2 (Archeophone 5014: 2009), p. 13
- Envelope 7. Misc. Letters & Legal Documents, "The Guido Deiro Archive: Part II. Printed Items" Center for the Study of Free-Reed Instruments at the City University of New York Graduate Center 
- The divorce certificate can be found in the Deiro Archive at the Center for the Study of Free-Reed Instruments at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. See also Doktorski, The Brothers Deiro.
- Swainson, Bill (2000). Encarta Book of Quotations. Macmillan. p. 980. ISBN 0-312-23000-1.
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- Watts, Jill (2003). Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. Oxford University Press US. p. 207. ISBN 0-19-516112-2.
- Eels, Stanley (1982). Mae West. William Morrow & Co. pp. 55–61, 39–146, 188–191, 241. ISBN 0-688-00816-X.
- Kevin Thomas (July 15, 1999). "Paul Novak, 76; 26-Year Companion of Actress Mae West". Los Angeles Times.
- Eels, Stanley (1982). Mae West. William Morrow & Co. pp. 249, 250. ISBN 0-688-00816-X.
- Tom Vallance (July 20, 1999). "Obituary: Paul Novak". The Independent.
- Eels, Stanley (1982). Mae West. William Morrow & Co. p. 293. ISBN 0-688-00816-X.
- Elster, Charles Harrington (2006). What in the Word?: Wordplay, Word Lore, and Answers to Your Peskiest Questions about Language. Harcourt Trade. p. 246. ISBN 0-15-603197-3.
- "Parachute Rigger's Handbook". Federal Aviation Administration. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
- Wortis Leider, Emily (2000). Becoming Mae West. Da Capo Press. p. 349. ISBN 0-306-80951-6.
- Gleadell, Colin (October 6, 2003). "Object of the week: the 'Mae West' lip sofa". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved November 22, 2008.
- Martin, George (1995). Summer of Love: the Making of Sgt. Pepper. MacMillan. p. 139.
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