Cole Porter - "After You, Who?"
In June we will be featuring all LGBTQ+ artists in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month
He could turn a phrase and spin a lyric. He was Sondheim before there WAS a Sondheim. He had the whole world singing along to his song and dancing to the tunes he crafted, all as a silk screen to allow him to live the life he wanted.
Cole left graduate school in 1916 and moved to New York City, where he lived at the Yale Club. His first show, See America First (1916), lasted for only 15 performances, but the audience was full of prominent socialites, and Cole himself quickly became a familiar figure in social circles in New York.In July 1917, Cole moved to Paris. The First World War was raging, and Cole invented stories about joining the French Foreign Legion and performing numerous heroic exploits that were duly reported in the press back home and that remained part of Cole's official biography throughout his life. Not a word was true. In fact, Cole was enjoying Paris's fabulous social life, an endless stream of extravagant parties full of international celebrities, members of the minor nobility, cross dressers, artists, and eccentrics, accompanied by alcohol and other drugs, and featuring an assortment of gay and bisexual activity.Linda Lee Thomas from Louisville, Kentucky, was another prominent socialite in Paris. Divorced from an abusive husband, wealthy, and considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, Linda soon became one of Cole's closest friends. She was older than Cole, and was quite aware of his homosexual preferences and activities. Nevertheless, on December 19, 1919, Cole and Linda were married. Although sex was never a part of their relationship, they truly liked each other, and Linda was deeply dedicated to Cole's career, so, in its own way, their marriage proved a close, successful, and mostly happy one.Cole and Linda led a glittering social life in Paris, Venice, and the Riviera. Their Paris home had platinum wallpaper and zebra skin chairs. For one extravagant party in Venice they hired 50 gondoliers and a troupe of circus acrobats. For another party, they hired an entire ballet company.
Finally, the Broadway career that had so long escaped him began to be a reality. He followed up on Paris with another "French" show, and a full musical this time, Fifty Million Frenchmen (1929). The show, with a book by Herbert Fields, ran for 257 performances, and included "You've Got That Thing", and "You Do Something To Me". And then, for a London show called Wake Up and Dream (1929), Cole wrote "What Is This Thing Called Love?"Now living in New York, Cole entered an extraordinarily productive period in which show followed show on Broadway, and hit song followed hit song. The New Yorkers (1930) introduced "Love For Sale". His 1932 musical Gay Divorce starred Fred Astaire, in Astaire's last Broadway role and Astaire's only Broadway appearance without his sister and longtime dancing partner Adele. The show ran for 248 performances, and included "Night And Day" and "After You, Who?"In 1934, Cole wrote one of his greatest scores for a show with a book by Guy Bolton, P.G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsey, and Russel Crouse, Anything Goes. The show starred Ethel Merman, William Gaxton, Bettina Hall, and Victor Moore and included "Anything Goes", "I Get A Kick Out Of You", "All Through The Night", "Blow, Gabriel, Blow", and "You're The Top".
He had continued success into his later years with many ups and downs, but his storied life is on that shines like a beacon to so many young LGBTQ people out there. Press far enough out into the world and you can do whatever you want. You don’t have to live by anyone else’s rules.
His ability to craft a feeling, a moment, and story, into a song that the entire world would understand was mystifying. His magnetic personality and acerbic wit were legendary. His music is eternal.
So today, with a great big smile and a lot of hope, I choose Cole Porter’s "After You, Who?" sung by Helen Merrill, as my, look into his eyes, see the sunrise, find the safety you’ve been searching for, song for a, give the love you wish to receive, you already know you heart won’t leave, here’s your chance you might not get more, Wednesday.