Mae West

May West wrote a play that caused controversy in Stamford, where it was scheduled for tryouts in 1927. (Handout / February 29, 2012)

"The Drag" was a new play by Jane Mast slated to have its out-of-town try-out on a stage in Stanford in 1927. But trouble started when word spread that the author was really Mae West who had just scandalized Broadway with her play "Sex," which was still running with her as the star.

The manager of the Stamford Theater, Mrs. Emily W. Hartley, which The Courant described as "an actress of note who is believed to have the distinction of being the only woman manager of of a legitimate theater in the United States... [Mrs. Hartley] was given to understand that the play was of an uplifting nature."

But when Mrs. Hartley learned that the work "concerned itself and none too subtly with homosexology" and cross-dressing, she "closed the door of her theater to the production."

But a hearing was sought by the producers of the play in Bridgeport and the show was allowed to go on — with detectives from New York, where the show would eventually head, in the audience. But the detectives didn't see the show as written because of expurgations demanded by the local police chief.

But adding to the tabloid nature of the event was some off-stage drama, which the Courant reported with a combination of propriety and pulp fiction.

"Members of the company had a merry party [at a hotel] after the first performance." Among the participants were Miss Beverly West, sister of the author —- and a married woman —- and Edwin Elsner, who directed the play.

A complaint was made to the police about the party and a couple was arrested on misconduct charges. In court they explained they were merely going over the script together "with the view to making some changes."

The case was nulled on payment of costs. West and Elsner said they would sue the hotel for $100,000 charging defamation of character and false arrest.

Things got fishier when it was discovered that in the courtroom was a New York lawyer for West's husband —- who was seeking a divorced —- and a stenographer taking notes.

The publicity the play received made the brief run of three nights highly profitable. (It was advertised as "more sensational that 'White Cargo,' "Rain" and 'Sex!"). After Stamford, the production moved to Paterson, N.J. "The Drag" never makes it to Broadway but a reworked version titled "The Pleasure Man" did —- with the leading man now portrayed as a heterosexual.

It lasted one performance.