I’ve been sitting on this gem for months; we share it today in conjunction with our upcoming West Fest, the Mae West Festival in NYC, Aug. 17-29, 2018.
In August 1970, Mae West did an interview with TV Guide, ostensibly in connection with an upcoming TV special which seems never to have materialized. It was a couple of years after Myra Breckenridge, and several years before her Dick Cavett interview and Sextette. Her comments were illuminating, and would be surprising only to the thickest of dolts, of which the vast majority of mankind seems to be composed. The distinctions she makes between her own work and smut are the very same ones that separate New Burlesque from the culture of topless bars and pornography, for example. Art vs. anatomy. Mae was the farthest thing from a prude, it should be obvious, even as an old lady. But like so much on this earth, sex can be joyous and life-affirming or it can be grotesque, and monstrous. Naturally every person has their line, and Mae, you will remember was born in 1893. Here are some quotes from the story. The italics are from the original article by Edith Efron.
“TV should be censored! You can’t have those awful new sex movies on TV. It’s repulsive. You can get sick to your stomach watching them. Sex has to have the greatest love behind it to mean anything. Today, sex is like nothing! It has no more value — it’s a bunch of animals out there!….This new stuff, it’s like the old burlesque. It was the scum of the theatre. That isn’t sex that’s going on today. It’d nudity. If you have a real sex personality, you can keep all your clothes on. I was often covered up from my ankles to my neck. They take all their clothes off because they don’t have sex personalities. They’ve got nothing else to offer but nudity.”