“Too much of a good thing is wonderful.” –Mae West
It’s official; I worship at the altar of Mae West.
Over the weekend Van and I watched West as the bejeweled and bawdy Lady Lou in She Done Him Wrong. This is the 1933 film in which she delivers the famous line “come up and see me sometime” to a very young Cary Grant. Really, it’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t. A pint-sized diva with an oversized personality, she is fearless, hilarious, tough, powerfully sexual, gutsy, and utterly devoid of sentiment and shame. No wonder I’m smitten! Even Van, who doesn’t usually like old movies, was amused and humored me as I spent the rest of the evening trying to speak in the burlesque style of Ms. West. (This is best attempted after a few cocktails, I discovered.)
If there were a Femme Hall of Fame–and there should be!–West would deserve a special place in it for the brilliant campiness she brings to her sex symbol persona. As most femmes will tell you, one of the biggest misunderstandings we encounter is the myth that being a femme is only or primarily about clothes and appearance. For me, femmeness is sometimes revealed in a particular fashion or style, but it is often something much more intangible–an attitude, a certain theatricality, a way of being/performing in the world. As Mae West puts it, “It’s not what I do but how I do it. It’s not what I say but how I say it. And how I look when I’m saying and doing it.”
Ain’t it the truth.