Friday, 03 April 2015 00:00 GFP Columnist - Sage Thyme

My best guess is that Cole Porter gave up the music of this life with few regrets. The list of his popular songs adds color and richness to the American Song Book. Younger readers who “think about it” may be inspired  by the witty words and companion music that moved the Broadway, Hollywood and popular song scene through half of the 20th century.

Caution.  Your morals may be tainted by the “lifestyle” reflected in the lyrics peppered with references to the private lives of the seldom mentioned rich and famous of on the world stage.

"I get no kick from cocaine but I Get a Kick out of You.” In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked at as something shocking, now heaven knows, “Anything Goes.”  “My Heat Belongs to Daddy” of course refers to a sugar daddy.  You figure it out. 

John Bone, the long ago manager of WBAT in Marion, Indiana nearly broke the studio window while banging on it when I played “Love for Sale” which had been banned from some networks and many radio stations across the country.  I’m sure Mr. Porter didn’t intend to be rude or crude.  It’s just that he travelled in “sophisticated” circles, which showed in his songs.

When out of state friends came to visit, Mary and I wanted to show them some of the Indianapolis we enjoy.  On the agenda, a trip to the Indiana History Center.  Boring? Wrong.  You can control a look at the history of all parts of the state, walk through a “smoke screen” into re-creations of people and settings from long ago and search the Historical Society’s archives for glimpses of how the locals came to be Hoosiers. It’s the music that entertains me the most.  The early jazz recordings by musicians coming to Rochester from all over the country to leave a legacy. Naturally there’s lots of lore from Hoagy Carmichael.  But it’s the Cole Porter room where a properly dressed interpreter will sing your choice of Porter standards in a 1940’s inspired setting invoking the style of New York’s famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

Our good luck was that Kevin Johnson was on duty this day to tell the story and sing a favorite that I had requested.  Seems that bragging to friends at lunch, the prolific songwriter offered that he could write a song about anything. Someone suggested he base it on the next thing overheard in the restaurant, at which point a waiter nearby delivered the  very proper message that “Miss Otis Regrets she’s unable to lunch today.”

Wealth and privilege might have kept him in his Peru Indiana home, but his personal lifestyle was not well suited for the area, so a “professional marriage” to a wealthy divorcée provided the setting for a life which only a catastrophic fall from a horse could mar. Other than that I really believe that when Cole Porter left the music of this life, he really had no Regrets.

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