I met Mae West in a quite amusing and memorable way back in 1976 when she was appearing on the Dick Cavett Show on CBS. This was when I was the TV critic for the Hollywood Reporter and was invited to a press party to celebrate Mae West’s historic reappearance on screen (no matter how small the screen she could always fill it magnificently).
When I arrived at the festivities there she was, in a low-cut red-spangled gown, with the familiar shoulder-length blonde wig, sitting like a queen on a throne, surrounded by a bevy of men. All the male reporters from the industry had turned up to see and talk to this Goddess. I saw how she was talking with her deep growl, and provocative smile, and heard their laughter and retorts. I started to move closer so I could join the adoring crowd – after all I was a significant journalist at a major event and paths always opened for me.
However, a young women, obviously a publicist for the show, stopped me. I’m sorry she said, You can’t go over there. Miss West never allows women reporters to get even close to her.
I stopped, prepared to argue, ready to insist, but then I looked over to the dais and saw why. This was a love fest, men adored her, men got it. Of course, women, myself included, would have noted the creases in the red dress, the dusty blonde wig, the deteriorated countenance of this legendary octogenarian diva.
Mae West was a genius of illusion. The woman that her male worshipers wished we all could be - sexy, witty, challenging, independent, and ready for whatever action they imagined. Was she beautiful? She was 83 and yes there was a radiance to her that transcended time. Okay Mae, I smiled to myself, I got it!
As the Hollywood Reporter is a paper of record, my review of the show is somewhere in the HR archive, and you can see the full Cavett interview on You Tube.