If the name Mae West means nothing to you, then you should come up and see me some time . . . and I’ll fill you in. My knowledge of this woman – her life, her career, her philosophy – is so encyclopedic that a friend once suggested I teach a college course on her.
It’s been thirty years since her death but I can remember the details as if it were yesterday. True, I was just a child, but the effect she’d had on my short life at that point was already indelible and I morned her death on Nov 22, 1980 with as much grief as the rest of the world morned John Lennon just a few weeks later.
But like so many iconic celebrities, Mae West continues to live on and on . . . as evidenced by the stronghold her image still has on pop culture. In fact, there’s going to be a Mae West Birthday Bash happening this upcoming weekend, hosted by The Gaudy Girls! I got a chance to chat about Mae, Sophie Tucker, the joys of celebrating strong women, and the importance of keeping the torch going when I caught up with Maggie Worsdale who embodies Sophie Tucker (“The Last of the Red Hot Mamas!”) and Anne Marie Finnie who channels Mae West. Together, they are The Gaudy Girls.
Tell me a little bit about The Gaudy Girls – How did you both come up with the idea of bringing the fabulous Mae West and Sophie Tucker to new audiences?
Maggie Worsdale: Anne Marie Finnie portrayed Mae West in a show in NJ. I was in that production. 6 months later I portrayed Sophie Tucker at that same theater and she came to see the show. We decided to put both gals on the same bill. The show has been going strong for the past 6 years. We’ve played Atlantic City, Yonkers Raceway, The Poconos and the Catskills. We also produced an album 3 years ago which is loaded with many of our show tunes. We have 2 distinct shows – Vaudeville and Las Vegas Style. Currently, this is the only show with which we are touring.
What do you think today’s gals could learn from Mae and Sophie?
Maggie: The greatest lesson they taught was that you must believe in yourself no matter what anyone else is saying about you. You will fail but you must keep going. In the end, those perceived failures were truly your greatest achievements. THESE TWO GALS SEIZED EVERY OPPORTUNITY THAT CAME THEIR WAY!
You ladies make a career of adopting the personae of very strong, very independent woman who, without a doubt, were ahead of their time. How has stepping into their lives affected how you live your own life?
Maggie: What a great question! We transform onstage. Anne Marie Finnie more than I. I’m a big mouth on and off the stage. Anne Marie is much more demure. It’s just too much fun to put on all the glitz, gloves, diamonds, hats, sequin boas and knock ’em out with a hot rendition of A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND. We’ve been at this thing – THE GAUDY GIRLS – for about 6 years and the show is well seasoned. To know that an audience is going to be entertained beyond their expectation as we are standing behind the curtain before our entrance is a thrill!
Anne, when you channel Mae, do you embody her from a particular movie, or period of time?
Anne Marie Finnie: No particular movie or time period. I even add a bit of my personality to the fold which makes the show more pliable. Mae West’s one-liners, songs, naughty innuendos, and the fussin’ the male element of the audience drives them all wild.
You’re hosting Mae West’s Birthday Bash at The Actor’s Temple Theatre on Saturday August 14th which (by my count) would have been Mae West’s 118th Birthday. What can people expect if they buy a ticket to this fantastic shindig?
Classic Tucker/West songs such as FRANKIE AND JOHNNY, THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES, THAT’S ALL BROTHER, BLUES IN THE NIGHT, SOME OF THESE DAYS and more. Mae will treat the audience to a reprise of her Academy Award appearance in 1958 with Rock Hudson – it’s legendary! There will be a shimmy contest, best dressed award, and gorgeous raffle gifts.
If Mae was around today – do you think she’d enjoy the party you’re throwing for her?
We think she made this whole party happen. She’ll love it! She’ll be there.
And finally, leave us with your favorite Mae West one-liner . . .
Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just glad to see me? (classic!)
While I didn’t get to speak with her directly, LindaAnn Loschiavo is the woman who has put on this MAE WEST BIRTHDAY GALA for the last handful of years. She has maintained a Mae West Blog for 7 years. LindaAnn also wrote a fantastic play called COURTING MAE WEST.
See below for all party details!
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Empress of Sex Offers Free Admission For VIRGINS in August
Mae West and Sophie Tucker Sizzle at the Annual Mae West Birthday Tribute New York, NY: The general public will pay $15 each to enjoy the Annual Mae West Birthday Tribute — — but virgins (who are over 21 years of age) will be admitted free — — when the Empress of Sex and the Last of the Red Hot Mamas entertain on Saturday, August 14th, 2010. The organizers will have a mind reader at the door to determine who is naughty and who is “snow white.” Mae West once said, “I was snow white — — but I drifted.” In honor of Mae’s upcoming birthday, both the pure and the (ahem) experienced are welcome to enjoy the music made famous by Mae West, the Empress of Sex, and Sophie Tucker, the Last of The Red Hot Mamas.
Join us for a shimmy-long night of good songs, swell jokes, jaw-dropping raffle prizes, and more. And the live entertainment will ignite you and delight you on Saturday August 14, 2010 when two broads head back to Broadway — — Sophie Tucker along with Mae West.
Continuing her custom of commemorating the birthday of Mae West, playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo has a most exciting late-night treat in store this year: The Gaudy Girls, two talented beauties who perform the best-loved songs made famous by Sophie Tucker and Mae West.
As part of their repertoire, the ladies will spotlight a tribute to the New York-based composers and lyricists who created those popular numbers such as “Blues in the Night,” “Some of these days,” “Everybody Shimmies Now,” “Beautiful Baby,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and more. It’s one night only so plan to come up and see Mae — — and Sophie.WHERE: ACTORS TEMPLE, 339 West 47th Street, New York, NY 10036 [where SOPHIE TUCKER was one of their first vaudeville members in 1923] • • - WHO: MAE WEST [Anne Marie Finnie], SOPHIE TUCKER [Maggie Worsdale], presented and introduced by playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo • • - WHAT ELSE: Shimmy lessons, raffle prizes, goodies, and a chance to win deluxe European scarves featuring MAE WEST’s quotes and a rare caricature. • • - SUBWAYS: C, E to West 50th Street station; N, R, W to West 49th Street station — — exit on the West 47th Street side. • • - GENERAL ADMISSION: $15. VIP service and Group Sales available. • • - URL: tickets and information: www.thegaudygirls.com and MaeWest.blogspot.com