A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from July 12, 2019
“I feel like doin’ a Big Apple” (Mae West as Eve, talking about the Big Apple dance)

Brooklyn-born actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian, and sex symbol Mae West (1893-1980) appeared on ventriloquist Edgar Bergen’s radio show The Chase and Sanborn Hour on December 12, 1937. West performed an “Adam and Eve sketch with actor Don Ameche that was written by Arch Oboler. West (as Eve), told the snake to go to the apple tree and get an apple:

“Now get me a big one. I feel like doin’ a Big Apple.”

The reference was to the “Big Apple” dance, a national craze in 1937. The audience applauded.

The sketch is completely harmless and somewhat dull, but the Federal Communications Commission at the time called it “vulgar and indecent” and “far below even the minimum standard which should control in the selection and production of broadcast programs.” Mae West would not appear on radio again until 1950.


Wikipedia: Mae West
Mary Jane “Mae” West (August 17, 1893 – November 22, 1980) was an American actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian, and sex symbol whose entertainment career spanned seven decades. She was known for her lighthearted, bawdy double entendres and breezy sexual independence. She was active in vaudeville and on the stage in New York City before moving to Hollywood to become a comedian, actress, and writer in the motion picture industry, as well as appearing on radio and television. The American Film Institute named her 15th among the greatest female stars of classic American cinema.
(...)
Radio and censorship
On December 12, 1937, West appeared in two separate sketches on ventriloquist Edgar Bergen’s radio show The Chase and Sanborn Hour.
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More outrageous still was a sketch written by Arch Oboler, starring Don Ameche and West as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden on NBC. She told Ameche in the show to “get me a big one… I feel like doin’ a big apple!” This ostensible reference to the then-current dance craze was one of the many double entendres in the dialogue. Days after the broadcast, the studio received letters calling the show “immoral” and “obscene” by societies for the protection of morals. Several conservative women’s clubs and religious groups admonished the show’s sponsor, Chase & Sanborn Coffee Company, for “prostituting” their services for allowing “impurity [to] invade the air”.

Under pressure, the Federal Communications Commission later deemed the broadcast “vulgar and indecent” and “far below even the minimum standard which should control in the selection and production of broadcast programs”. Some debate existed regarding the reaction to the skit. Conservative religious groups took umbrage far more swiftly than the mainstream. These groups found it easy to make West their target. They took exception to her outspoken use of sexuality and sexual imagery, which she had employed in her career since at least the Pre-Code films of the early 1930s and for decades before on Broadway, but which was now being broadcast into American living rooms on a popular family-friendly radio program. The groups reportedly warned the sponsor of the program they would protest her appearance.

NBC Radio scapegoated West for the incident and banned her (and the mention of her name) from their stations. They claimed it was not the content of the skit, but West’s tonal inflections that gave it the controversial context, acting as though they had hired West knowing nothing of her previous work, nor had any idea of how she would deliver the lines written for her by Oboler. West would not perform in radio for a dozen years, until January 1950, in an episode of The Chesterfield Supper Club, which was hosted by Perry Como.

Old Time Radio Downloads
Air Date : 12.12.1937 ( December 12, 1937)
Plot : + Red net. Sponsored by: Chase and Sanborn Coffee (Charlie McCarthy doll premium). Nelson Eddy begins the program with a rousing, “On The Road To Mandalay.” The program contains the famous “Adam and Eve” skit with Don Ameche and guest Mae West, which was considered sacriligious enough to have Mae West banned from network radio immediately after the program. Mae and Charlie banter about the time he “came up to see her,” Don Ameche sings.
(The “Adam and Eve” sketch tarts at 18:45. At 25:20.--ed.)
MAE WEST (Eve, talking to the snake about the apple tree in the Garden of Eden): “Now get me a big one. I feel like doin’ a big apple.”

Newspapers.com
17 December 1937, Winnipeg (Manitobe) Evening Tribune, pg. 1, cols. 3-4:
Their “Adam and Eve” Rankles
Mae As Eve Rouses Flood Of Protests
Script, Rehearsals Harmless, But Actress “Pepped Up” Reflections On Air, and Sponsors Promise “Never Again”

NEW YORK, Dec. 17.—Ever since the Mae West-Charlies McCarthy frolic Sunday night, N.B.C. has been flooded with protests.

Headquarters in the R.C.A. building here were bombarded with telegrams, mail, phone calls. Each day the volume of kicks from all over the country increased. Women’s clubs passed angry resolutions, sent copies to N.B.C.

The broadcasting company explains the situation thus: The script was inoffensive. The trouble was caused by the sexy implications Miss West read into the lines.

Miss West, say the broadcasters, never completely rehearsed the Adam-and_eve skit and the love scene with Charlie. She did not appear at a preliminary rehearsal called for last Friday.

The script, as it stood then, had been rejected by NBC officials in Hollywood. It was taken to Miss West’s apartment for revision. There was much wrangling between the actress and the broadcasters, but the latter won, or thought they won.

Miss West rehearsed on Saturday and, according to NBC, read the lines flatly and innocuously, giving no inkling of how she meant to pep them up later.

The Sunday rehearsal, too, was a routine affair. But on the air, Miss West read her lines in her well-known “C’m-up-and-see-me-sometime” manner. Once the program was under way, there was a hurried conference of NBC officials but they decided that cutting the show off would raise an even bigger row than letting it run.

As the protests piled in, the advertising company responsible for the broadcast admitted it was a mistake and assured the public that “the same mistake will not happen again.”
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There were more objections because of the apple-eating scene. After Mae took her first bite of the forbidden fruit she announced she felt like doing the first Big Apple dance.

Newspapers.com
21 December 1937, San Francisco (CA) Examiner, pg. 9, col. 4:
Station’s License in Peril Because of Mae West Skit
Congressman Urges Revocation of Permit

By DARRELL DONNELL
The Associated Press reports that Representative Connery, Democrat of Massachusetts, demanded yesterday that the Communications Commission revoke the license of the radio station from which an Adam and Eve broadcast, featuring Mae West, originated last week.

Connery declared the program was “indecent.”

Newspapers.com
15 January 1938, The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), “Mae Gets ‘Spanking’ By FCC,” pg. 1, col. 5:
WASHINGTON—(U.P.) _- Mae West, buxom movie queen who drawlingly proposed to “do the Big Apple” in her much publicized “Garden of Eden broadcast” Dec. 12, was verbally spanked Friday by the federal communications commission.

While taking no formal action against NBC, Miss West or any other participants in the broadcast, the commission warned, however, that the incident would be reviewed when licenses of stations which carried the broadcast come up for renewal.

Chairman Frank R. McNinch made public a letter to Lenox B. Lohr, president of the National Broadcasting co., describing the radio skit as “far below even the minimum standards” for programs.

Newspapers.com
26 January 1938, Daily News (New York, NY), pg. 27, col. 1 editorial:
MAE WEST AS WHIPPING GIRL
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The main thing is to stop government censorship of radio in its tracks, now.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theatre/Film/Circus • Friday, July 12, 2019 • Permalink