Saturday, June 09, 2007


Today is the birthday of one of the greatest songwriters of all time: Mr. Cole Porter. The portrayal recently of Cole by Kevin Kline in the motion picture musical "De Lovely" was simply brilliant. It brought to life a most amazing man with a most amazing talent. Cole Porter's life had more ups and downs that few others have ever experienced. I love those Cole Porter songs-- and most of all those incredible lyrics! No wonder he was so particular about them in performance.Porter was born in Peru, Indiana to a wealthy Protestant background. His maternal grandfather, James Omar "J.O." Cole, was a coal and timber speculator who dominated his daughter's family. Music was one way for the young Cole to escape from his grandfather's iron hand. His mother started Porter in musical training at an early age; he learned the violin at age 6, the piano at 8, and he wrote his first operetta (with help from his mother) at 10. Porter's mother, Kate Porter, recognized and supported her son's talents. She changed his legal birth year from 1891 to 1893 to make him look like an advanced child. Porter's grandfather J.O. Cole wanted the boy to become a lawyer and with that career in mind, sent him to Worcester Academy in 1905 (where he became class valedictorian)and thenYale University beginning in 1909. Cole was a member of Scroll and Key and Delta Kappa Epsilon, and sang as a member of the original line-up of the Whiffenpoofs. While at Yale, he wrote a number of student songs, including the football fight songs "Yale Bulldog" and "Bingo Eli Yale" (aka "Bingo, That's The Lingo!") that are still played at Yale to this day. Cole Porter wrote 300 songs while at Yale. The great songwrtiter spent a year at Harvard Law School in 1913, and then transferred into Arts and Sciences. An unverified story tells of a law school dean who, in frustration over Porter's lack of performance in the classroom, suggested tongue-in-cheek that he "not waste his time" studying law, but instead focus on his music. Taking this suggestion to heart, Cole Porter transferred to the School of Music.In 1915, his first song on Broadway, "Esmeralda", appeared in the revue Hands Up. However, the quick success was immediately followed by failure; his first Broadway production, in 1916, See America First was a flop, closing after two weeks. He soon started to feel the crunch of rejection, as other revues he wrote for were also flops. After the string of failures, Porter banished himself to Paris, selling songs and living off an allowance partly from his grandfather and partly from his mother. Cole Porter was writing and selling songs and holding “glittering soirees” when the U.S. entered World War I in 1917. He traveled all over Europe, living very freely and savoring the good life around him. He lived lavishly and socialised with some of the best known intellectuals and artists in Europe, becoming a charter member of the Lost Generation.
Believing he would continue to lead his charmed life, he did not register for the draft, yet loved to tell the press that he had joined the French Foreign Legion. In reality, he went to work for the Duryea Relief Fund and maintained a closet full of various tailormade military uniforms that he wore when the mood suited him. More often, his playboy lifestyle suited him better. The French Foreign Legion, however, claims Porter as an enlistee and displays his portrait in its museum in Aubagne.In 1918, he met Linda Lee Thomas, a gorgeous, rich Louisville, Kentucky-born divorcée 8 years his senior; they were married in 1919. She was beautiful, loved travel, and was extremely wealthy, as well as a brilliant hostess with an innate sense of style and class, and Porter loved learning these tastes and disciplines from her.Happy Birthday dear Cole Porter. We've got you "under our skins"

No comments: