It began when Steve Lopez, now a well-known Los Angeles Times columnist and his wife rented a home near Mae’s Santa Monica cottage in 1999. Mae was nearly 90.
Looking out his window, Steve would see a big yellow Oldsmobile drive by, seemingly driverless, and learned the driver was 4 foot, 10 inch Mae straining to see above the dashboard, as she was always on the go.
As neighbors, they got to know each other and he learned of her background as a long time sales clerk for Henshey’s department store and later as a bookkeeper for the “Lawrence Welk Show.” But Mae had long retired from her working life.
He learned how active she continued to be. Each year she attended the Pageant of the Masters Art Show in Laguna Beach, a 60 mile journey and that she and a neighbor Judy, attended dances at nearby Pepperdine University in Malibu.
Steve saw her read tea leaves not only for him and his wife but for others all over the community and saw she grew beautiful vine ripened tomatoes in her backyard for a local restaurant.
And he learned more of her past. Mae had married Nicholas Laborde, a street car conductor she met on the Red Line, Los Angeles’s original transit system and they had a daughter Shirley. But Nicholas and Shirley had long ago passed away and Mae enthusiastically lived her life for today, enjoying her three grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
In 2002 at the age of 93, Mae became the subject of what became multiple articles Steve had written about her in his Times column. As a result of those articles, and other articles about her, Mae was contacted to do television and commercial roles which launched a late and joyful career for her as an entertainer.
Most notably, Mae became a cast member on Fox’s Saturday Late Night “Talkshow with Spike Feresten,” a show hosted by former “Seinfeld” and “Simpsons” comedy writer Spike Feresten, which ran from 2006 to 2009. Mae was on the show at least 15 times and did one comedy skit that went viral on the Internet, receiving fan mail and public recognition for it. This was all the more incredible because she hadn’t become an actress until she was 93.
Mae spoke in a gentle voice, but wasn’t shy. Very late in life when she could no longer drive, she needed a ride to a radio show she was on, and according to Steve, she called the Santa Monica Police Department for help. It was such an unusual request; the police chief personally drove her, curious who would make such a request.
Mae was very popular and her 100th birthday, because it was such a big event was held at the Santa Monica YMCA, attracting entertainers and politicians as well as her family and friends.
And then an end came to the life of this remarkable lady. On Monday, January, 9th 2012, 102 year old Mae passed away in her sleep at a Santa Monica assisted living facility. Where had this lovely lady gotten so much positive energy that had made such a wonderful difference in her life?
“I like to keep in touch with things. I just keep busy, and I have fun doing it,” Mae told the Times in 2000, when she was 91. “You have to have a sense of humor and keep happy thoughts. I keep thinking of the nice things that are going to happen.”