A WRITER'S WIT
My Book World
If you are a fan of Cole Porter and his music, you will probably enjoy this collection of letters. Though some of them refer to his bisexuality, most of them pertain to his many professional and personal connections. Such communications illustrate many characteristics about Mr. Porter. One, he is a consummate professional, in spite of his propensity to play and play hard during vacations and between gigs on Broadway or Hollywood. He answers every bit of mail himself, except when he occasionally calls on his secretary to take care of something. He is a team player, important for anyone working in a collaborative arena like the theatre. Second, he is also fierce but polite about not doing anything musically that would (in his opinion) ruin a show. At the same time, when overpowered by those above him, he sometimes gives in, particularly, it seems, when the issue does not matter that much to him.
In a business that can be crass and cold at times, Porter is also very caring and thoughtful of everyone he comes in contact with. He sends thank you notes for the smallest favors, and, because he often runs short of money before he makes it big, he is generous with cash gifts and loans later in life. Third, his wit and sharp tongue are unmatched with regard to the social whirl of the 1930s through the 1950s. Though he wouldn’t dream of hurting anyone publicly, he does not mind getting off a zinger or two during a personal letter to a dear friend. Perhaps most interesting is how Porter shares some of his methods for songwriting:
In a related matter, of what compels him to accept a job or assignment, he says:
“My sole inspiration is a telephone call from a producer. If Feuer and Martin phoned me today and asked me to write a new song for a spot, I’d just begin thinking. First, I think of the idea and then I fit it to a title. Then I go to work on the melody, spotting the title at certain moments in the melody, and then I write the lyric—the end first—that way, it has a strong finish . . . I do the lyrics like I’d do a crossword puzzle. I try to give myself a meter which will make the lyric as easy as possible to write without being banal. On top of the meter, I try to pick for my rhyme words of which there is a long list with the same ending” (499).
I think that just about says it all about Cole Porter, his music, and how many fans he still has in the world!