Stage Voices catches up with an old friend, Maggie Worsdale, who will be channeling Sophie Tucker for ‘Mae West’s Birthday Bash’ on August 14 at the Actor’s Temple in Manhattan (10pm to midnight): She tells us virgins get in free, what the icons mean today, and about the evening, which includes classic Tucker/West songs such as “Frankie and Johnny,” “There'll Be Some Changes,” “That's All Brother,” “Blues in the Night,” and “Some of These Days.” There’s even a shimmy contest, best dressed award, and gorgeous raffle gifts. Mae, played by Anne Marie Finnie, will also treat the audience to a reprise of her Academy Award appearance in 1958 with Rock Hudson.
SV: You’ve got a vehicle!
Anne Marie portrayed Mae West in a show in New Jersey. I was in that production. Six months later I portrayed Sophie Tucker in the same theatre, and Anne Marie came to see it. We decided to put both gals on the same bill—Anne had been performing Mae for nine years previously and Sophie was a natural fit for me. Six years later the show is still going strong in both a Vaudeville and Las Vegas style. We've played Atlantic City, Yonkers Raceway, the Poconos, and the Catskills. We also produced an album three years ago, which is loaded with the songs that we sing in the show.
SV: What drew you to Mae West and Sophie Tucker?
Both women performed bawdy material, dressed flamboyantly, had a stockpile of one liners that were hysterically funny and clever, and to top things off, their songs are out of this world. They’re the originals, and they even shared the stage once in 1919, when Sophie was a vaudeville headliner and Mae was an up and comer. Others are drawn to them, too: Bette Midler is, currently, doing a voiceover for a documentary being filmed about Sophie. Bette also dedicates a segment of her stage show to a few Sophie Tucker stories and jokes.
SV: How do you even play these parts?
We don't imitate them to a tee. Our delivery is well timed, we have gorgeous costumes, which everyone “wows” over the moment we make our entrance, and we blend our own personalities with those of Mae and Sophie. This approach gives us room to throw in contemporary jokes and songs if need be. These gals are broad and humorous. One of Mae's greatest quotes is, "It isn't what I do, but how I do it. It isn't what I say, but how I say it, and how I look when I do it and say it." This quote is always in the back of our minds when we do the show.
SV: What were they like in real life?
Sophie Tucker had only one persona: Sophie Tucker. I'm friends with her niece, Barbara Fine, and Barbara says that what you saw is who she really was on and off the stage.
Mae West turned on the charm in public. In private she was very warm, a good listener, and, toward the end of her life, a bit paranoid.
SV: Who wrote your show and how was it put together?
Anne Marie and I both wrote the script and are constantly tweaking it. Many of the songs had been part of Mae's and Soph's repertoire. We do perform other well-known songs that fit these women such as “Beautiful Baby” and “Blues in the Night.”
SV: How do you think people relate to Tucker and West today?
These two persisted. They recreated themselves to fit the times and to keep their names out there. Madonna and Lady Gaga learned a lot about "show business" from Sophie and Mae. The greatest lesson they taught was that you must believe in yourself no matter what anyone else is saying about you. Many felt that Mae couldn't sing, act, or tell a joke. She was considered a failure for twenty-five years and then became an overnight success in Hollywood. She became the highest paid Hollywood actress in the 1930s.
Sophie, they thought, was homely and fat, so they made her sing her songs in blackface so the audience couldn't see her true features. She became the highest paid vaudeville headliner between 1911 and 1922. If someone in the entertainment industry feels down and out, they have only to look at these two women. You will fail but you must keep on keeping on. In the end, those perceived failures were truly your greatest achievements. Mae and Sophie believed in themselves when many did not.
SV: So, tell me: Did Mae West lie about her age?
Did Mae West lie about her age? According to the most reliable evidence, Mae West was born on August 17, 1893, in Brooklyn, New York. The confusion comes because she regularly "adjusted" her age to suit her purposes, but then again, what woman doesn't?
SV: What's the most surprising thing you can tell us about Mae West and Sophie Tucker?
Surprising thing about Mae West: She had a great belief in the supernatural.
Surprising thing about Sophie Tucker: She was nominated for a Grammy in 2010 for Best Historical Album: ‘Origins of the Red Hot Mama, 1910-1922, Sophie Tucker’.
© 2010 by Bob Shuman. All rights reserved.
Mae West's Birthday Bash
Hosted by The Last of the Red Hot Mamas – SOPHIE TUCKER
Starring – MAE WEST
Saturday, August 14, 2010 10pm-midnight
ACTORS TEMPLE, 339 West 47th Street, New York, NY 10036 (Between 8th and 9th Avenues); 212-245-6975; http://www.theactorstemple.org/
SUBWAYS: IND: C, E to West 50th Street station; BMT: N, R, W to West 49th Street
ALL TICKETS AND INFORMATION:
See the Gaudy Girls on youTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Av7D6ntxE9g
The Gaudy Girls starring Mae West and Sophie Tucker
ABOUT THE VENUE: THE ACTOR'S TEMPLE
Actors Temple was founded in 1917 as the West Side Hebrew Relief Association. Its leaders were Orthodox Jews who owned shops in the rough-and-tumble district called Hell's Kitchen, at the time one of the world's busiest steamship ports. The founders borrowed a Biblical nickname for God, Ezrath Israel, "the One who assists Israel," as the name for their benevolent little Jewish community center.
Over time a bond formed between the shul and Jews working in another local industry, show business. Talent from vaudeville, musical theater, nightclubs, live television and the dramatic stage made the synagogue a true Actors Temple. Shelley Winters kept the holy days in our sanctuary. Several of the Three Stooges attended services too. The building contains memorials to superstars of yesteryear including Sophie Tucker, who used to headline an annual benefit for Actors Temple at a Broadway theater.
This location was chosen for the show due to its historical ties to Sophie Tucker. It's a beautiful location!
IN CASE WE’VE MISSED ANYTHING . . .
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 "My Yiddishe Momme," "Red Hot Mama," "Everybody Shimmies Now," "My Old Flame," "Baby, It's Cold Outside," and more.
It's one night only so plan to come up and see Mae — — and Sophie. Details below.
• • 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: IND: C, E to West 50th Street station; BMT: N, R, W to West 49th Street
Visit Stage Voices blog: http://stagevoices.typepad.com/stage_voices