Originally published November 14, 1964
At the age of 71, Miss West still possesses overwhelming sexual force. It comes and goes, like distant music heard across a fairgrounds on a summer night, but it is there. She first appeared before the public in 1900, at the age of 7, on the stage of the Royal Theater in Brooklyn, billed as the “baby vamp.”
When she was 17, she married a song-and-dance man named Frank Wallace (her only marriage) and stayed with him for the duration of one road tour through Pennsylvania and Illinois. Ever since then, she has usually had several men attached to her at the same time, more often than not brawling over her in bars and hotel rooms, a state of affairs she considers both natural and appropriate.
“With me, sex has always been a natural thing, part of my personality, you know what I mean? … I was the first person to bring sex out into the open. Before I came along, nobody could even print the word on billboards.”
She explained that although she had carried on with a number of gentlemen over the years, she had never been promiscuous or cheap; neither had she suffered twinges of guilt or regret.
“The score never interested me,” she said, “only the game.”
—“Let Me Tell You about Mae West” by Lewis Lapham, November 14, 1964
This article is from the November/December 2018 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.