Mae West considered writing her autobiography as early as 1957 and several publishing houses had already approached her. A flood in the mid-thirties destroyed documents of her early vaudeville appearances stored in the basement of her Hollywood apartment building, The Ravenswood, and other papers stored at her ranch house were eaten by rats.
Since arriving in Hollywood, her film career had been well-documented, but West had only a faint recollection of what happened and where. She asked Larry lee, who assisted her with the novelization of "Diamond Lil" to research her early stage career. Lee suggested they try writing a few chapters to see how things went. Eventually Stephen Longstreet, an author who ghosted other star biographies came on board to help West pull together her book, and was given credit for his "editorial assistance." West apparently supervised everything and pointed out, "Nobody can write about me except me," a remarkable feat considering she barely completed the third grade.
The driving force in West's decision to pen her memoirs was that someone else might try to write an unauthorized account of her life and there wasn't much she could do about it since much of her life had been spent in the public domain. Initially West protested that she had so much more to do with her life, but friends pointed out she could write a sequel in the future. Some of the the early working titles West had in mind for her memoirs were "Queen of Sex," and "Come Up and See Me Sometime."
Although West's autobiography went through several printings in hardback and soft cover, critic's reaction to her account of her life was mixed. Theatre Arts stated "the heart of gold is outweighed by the purse of gold and the gloating over box-office grosses," while the New York Times reviewer found West's tome "theatre wise, basically clean, sometimes corny, often entertaining yarn."
Perhaps Mae West's self penned novel, "Babe Gordon," published in 1930 and later rechristened, "The Constant Sinner," was closer to the actual events of her life, that she dared not reveal in her later biography. The inside panel of the original cover proclaimed, "Constantly sinning and constant to her sin, Babe Gordon, the heroine of this vigorous story belongs to that rare type of woman who uses her beauty and sexual allure as a soldier uses his weapons - without mercy or scruple. She is irresistible to every type of man, from the bruisers of the prize ring to the sensitive sons of aristocracy. She is canny, worldly wise, quick thinking. All her art , her wisdom, her will is to love; and when her passion for one man cools, she kindles it in another.
In a classic example of life imitating art, Mae West was outraged when Confidential magazine featured an expose on her private life alleging her sexual proclivity for black men. Chalky Wright, "a bronze boxer" whom West had met was "invited up to see her sometime" and ended up living with her for a year. Confidential magazine claimed "West's favorite color combination, as only the men in her life know, is black and white."
As a result of Mae West's appearance in Myra Breckinridge in 1970, interest in her was at an all-time high, and MacFadden-Bartell published an updated edition of her biography in paperback.
West asked George Eiferman, a former 1948 Mr. America, and 1962 Mr. Universe title holder, to write an eight page appendix entitled "My Story," explaining the events that led to Chuck Krauser aka Paul Novak knocking out Mickey Hargitay. West sagely secured affidavits from the other bodybuilders in the act supporting her statement that she had never shown romantic interest in Haritay. When asked why it would possibly matter years after the fact, West pointed out, "That's where you're not thinkin' clear. It's when he gets desperate that he'll try to peddle a story, '"I was the One Man Mae West Wanted but Couldn't Get."
West's prophesy was realized when Gordon Mitchell, one of the muscleman in her Vegas act was quoted in the July 2001 issue of Premier : "Mickey won't tell you this but I will. Mae was crazy about him! He was the first guy who ever rejected her." Other chapters in West's updated memoirs dealt with the filming of Myra Breckinridge and outlined plans for future projects.
For the serious student of Mae West lore, "Goodness Had Nothing To Do With It" is an excellant starting off point to discover why Mae West can be considered the most fascinating woman of the Twentieth Century.