Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mae West too Hot for radio?

Way back in December of 1937, Edgar Bergan brought Mae West onto his Charlie McCarthy Radio Show top perform her "Adam and Eve" skit. How could this be exciting? Is this too trivial? No. It gets way better. Mae West rarely appeared on radio unless she was promoting one of her films. This was unique for that reason.. and one more.

In the 1930s Mae was already pretty famous for her bawdy double entendres. But the skit had been passed by the censor. But Ms. West sprikled a little mojo on the script reading when they took it live on December 12th. She gave new meaning to the lightly suggestive script.

The sketch starred West and Don Ameche as Adam and Eve in the Garden Of Eden. It was such a imbroglio that NBC President Lenox R. Lohr got a letter from the F.C.C. Chairman Frank McNinch. the uptight curmudgeon wrote the following:
"The admittedly objectionable character of these features is, in our opinion attributable to the lack of a proper conception of the high standards required for a broadcast program intended for reception in the homes, schools, automobiles, religious, social and economic institutions, as well as clubs, hotels, trains and other places, reaching in the aggregate a much larger number of people daily than any other means of communication and carrying its message to men, women and children of all ages."

Before the show was off the air, the NBC phones were ringing off the hooks. Letters poured in from all over denouncing the skit but the most ominous one was from the FCC, demanding a full electrical transcription of the show, a copy of the network's contract with the sponsor and the call letters of all stations that had carried the skit. To this end, six days after the broadcast, the general manager of the NBC station group banned any mention of Mae West’s name. She was gone, never to grace the airwaves again. Mae West was banned by the network for fifteen years, where it was taboo to even mention her name.  

But Mae didn't really give a damn. In 1927 she wrote and starred in a Broadway play titled "sex." Ticket sales were as amazing as you expect. But it was the 1920s so she was prosecuted on morals charges and, on April 19, 1927 she was sentenced to 10 days in jail for public obscenity. She's already done time, angry letters weren't going to slow her down, neither was an uptight curmudgeon in D.C. She went on to fame, fortune and continued to have her fun her way for another four decades.