Born Mary Jane West she was an actress, playwright, singer and screenwriter known for her bawdy double entendres and long career in Vaudeville. Mae was an open supporter of gay rights and was once sentenced to 10 days in prison for ‘corrupting the morals of the youth’. A true Diva, she refused to wear the prison issue knickers and wore her own silk panties while serving time. Mae dined with the warden and his wife and was given 2 days off her sentence for good behaviour. Ms West thrived on giving the censors hives and a lot of her work was banned, most notably her play entitled ‘The Drag’ which dealt with homosexuality and which she called one of her comedy-drama’s of life. Although Mae was an early supporter of the women’s liberation movement, she was not a feminist and was dubbed the ‘queen of camp’. Unapologetically outrageous, Mae loved men and had many boyfriends in her lifetime. Although Mae was married a couple of times she once remarked that ‘marriage is a great institution, I’m just not ready for an institution yet’. A tiny woman at only 5ft tall she was a real spitfire who lived by her own rules and when the management of her apartment building objected to her African-American lover - boxer Gorilla Jones - visiting her, she solved the problem by buying the building. She lived in the penthouse apartment with her last lover who was 30 years her junior and cared for her until her death at the age of 87.
Mae had a couple of interesting effects on pop culture. Her lips were immortalised in one of the most popular objects of the surrealist movement – The Mae West Lips Sofa created by Salvador Dali in 1938 and during World War II life vests were dubbed ‘Mae Wests’, partly as rhyming slang and partly because they resembled her torso when inflated.
Although Mae was often labelled a good time girl and a brazen hussy she was not much of a drinker and her home bar was stocked with her favourite ice cream sodas. When she did have a drink she insisted it was Champagne – as befits any sex symbol worth her salt... I'm using my top 3 Champagne cocktails – my personal preference is either Bollinger or Veuve Clicquot but sparkling wine will do in a pinch. Please don’t call it Champagne though, that’s sacrilege! As with any Champagne cocktail, pour the other ingredients into the glass first then top with Champagne. Don’t stir as it will cause a mess, besides – the bubbles do it for you.
This beautiful blush coloured cocktail is perfect for toasting a newlywed couple. It’s also very easy to make and serve to a large party.
1 tot peach schnapps
1 tot grenadine
Pour into a flute and top up with Champagne
The Mimosa is a delightful and simple cocktail that is perfect for a lazy brunch. You can vary the recipe a little by adding a splash of grenadine or a little cognac.
½ tot triple sec
1 ½ tots fresh orange juice
Pour into a flute, top with Champagne and garnish with an orange slice.
Fruity Champagne Punch
Few things are more festive than a nice Champagne punch. It would be fine to substitute a good Cava or Prosecco in this case. You can also be less rigid on the amounts used here and just go by your own personal taste.
1 ½ cups chilled Champagne
1 ½ cups chilled lemonade
3 tots chilled vodka
3 tots Malibu coconut liqueur
1 lime, thinly sliced
100 g frozen raspberries
½ cup fresh granadilla pulp
Combine all the ingredients in a large jug, add ice cubes and serve.
‘When I’m good I’m very good but when I’m bad, I’m better’
~ Mae West
(August 17, 1893 - November 22, 1980)
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