On 12 December 1937, Mae West appeared on the Chase and Sanborn Hour with ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his monocled knee-pal (dummy), Charlie McCarthy. [You can hear the whole broadcast here.] Stars of stage and screen and airwaves, Bergen and McCarthy had a huge following, and West was keen to promote her latest film, Every Day’s a Holiday. She appeared in two sketches, including “The Garden of Eden” with Don Ameche, and a flirtatious banter with McCarthy. The announcer introduces the meeting as “the romantic battle of the century”, a contest of seduction which the dummy might just prove strong enough to resist. There follows a blistering back-and-forth, during which West describes Charlie as “all wood and a yard long”. This was too much for many listeners (though the studio audience found it hilarious), especially on a Sunday, and the Federal Communications Commission deemed it indecent. NBC banned West (you couldn’t even mention her name) from all their radio stations. She didn’t appear on radio until January 1950. Here’s a transcript of some of the offending dialogue. Watch out for those splinters:
Charlie: Could you even like Mr. Bergen?
Mae : Ah, Mr. Bergen. He’s very sweet. In fact, he’s a right guy. Confidentially, you’ll have to show me a man I don’t like.
Charlie : That’s swell! Bergen’s your man. You know, he can be had.
Mae : On second thought, I’m liable to take him away from you.
Charlie : Well, if you take Bergen away, I’m speechless.
Mae : Why don’t you come up … uh, home with me now, honey? I’ll let you play in my woodpile.
Charlie : Well, I’m not feeling very well tonight. I’ve been feeling very nervous lately. I think I’m gonna have a nervous breakdown. Whoop! There I go.
Mae : So, good-time Charlie’s gonna play hard to get? Well, you can’t kid me. You’re afraid of women. Your Casanova stuff is just a front, a false front.
Charlie : Not so loud, Mae, not so loud! All my girlfriends are listening.
Mae : Oh, yeah! You’re all wood and a yard long.
Charlie : Yeah.
Mae : You weren’t so nervous and backward when you came up to see me at my apartment. In fact, you didn’t need any encouragement to kiss me.
Charlie : Did I do that?
Mae : Why, you certainly did. I got marks to prove it. An’ splinters, too.