Jefferson Market Courthouse in New York

A Love Affair with a Landmark in Manhattan: An Arresting Drama in Greenwich Village. [Opinions expressed are the views of OLD JEFF unless attributed to other - - potentially less-reliable - - sources, i.e., newcomers who have not been around since 1832 on Sixth Avenue.]

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Mae West: Jailbird, Feb. 1927

Former felon Dewitt Gilmore, 41, served time in the Groveland Correctional Facility [Sonyea, NY] as well as in a federal prison in New Jersey for check-cashing fraud. Using his "street cred" to break into publishing, Gilmore penned several novels about life behind bars and recently inked a four-book-deal with St. Martin's Press for a sum "in the low six figures," he said. Large publishing house are rubbing their hands together anticipating the profits from a "surging interest in street lit" in February 2006.
• • Once again it must be said: Mae West was ahead of her time.

In 1927 she spent the night of February 9th incarcerated in Jefferson Market Prison, held in a cell with prostitutes, addicts, and pickpockets. After a trial at Jefferson Market Court, she was found guilty and sentenced to the Women's Workhouse for ten days in April 1927. [The Warden shaved off two days for good behavior.]
• • Mae was paid $1,000 to write about her experiences for a women's magazine. Some of her essay appears here. [Mae donated the $1,000 to the workhouse to establish a library for female inmates.]
• • Released from the lock-up, Mae told reporters she had enough material for several plays. In April 1928, the actress opened on Broadway at the Royale Theatre playing a "kept woman" with an unsavoury past and a jailbird lover named Chick. Set in a saloon on the Bowery, her play "Diamond Lil" became a novel and a Hollywood film [retitled "She Done Him Wrong"]. Mae West, a star with "street cred"!
• • Come up and see Mae:
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• • Photo: • Mae West in 1927 •

Jefferson Market.