GPO Prog02 part3:GPO Prog02 part3 19/05/2011 15:22 Page 86
You’re Mahatma Gandhi, Napoleon Brandy – you’re MickeyMouse During the Depression, many families could barely afford housing and food. Theatre was a luxury affordable to just the employed, the wealthy and the mobsters. Because Broadway musicals were no longer being aimed at the general public, but rather a more constricted group of cognoscenti, who went to all the same night spots, read the same newspaper columns and spent weekends at the same estates, everyone in the audience was swift to pick up even the most obscure references in all the lyrics. No one catered to this phenomenon with as much unbridled glee as did Cole Porter, who delighted in dropping the names of all his friends. His lyrics during the early 1930’s read like a Who’s Who and What’s What of the era. Opening night audiences of the time played the game and loved catching and devouring every topical tid bit tossed by the master. It was an age in which all gentlemen attending a Broadway opening did so in top hat, white tie and tails, while all the women were perfectly pedicured, if not pedigreed. The following disparate assemblage of information was made possible through the assistance of historian Dr Gerald Turgow, and Hollywood Book City’s Alan Siegel, whose giant book store was used as a temporary reference library.
you’re the top • “Bendel bonnet” – One can still purchase a Bendel bonnet at Henri Bendel, 10 West 57th Street, then as now a fashionable ladies’ speciality shop • “Mickey Mouse” – Mickey was the world’s most popular movie star during the 1930’s • “Vincent Youmans” – Born the day after George Gershwin, Youmans (1898–1946) was the brilliant melodist of “Time on My Hands”, “Without a Song”, “Tea for Two”, “I Want to be Happy”, “Hallelujah”, “Orchids in the Moonlight” and countless other hits • “Mahatma Gandhi” (1869–1948) – Hindu nationalist who fought British rule of India with “passive resistance”. Famed in 1934 for hunger strikes and his distinctive sartorial style • “Napoleon Brandy” – Once brandy is bottled,
it ceases to improve; and any brandy left in a cask since the days of Napoleon would have evaporated long ago So much for the myth of old brandy! • “National Gall’ry” – London’s National Gallery on Trafalgar Square was founded in 1824 [and built by the architect of The Grange, William Wilkins] • “Garbo’s sal’ry” – In 1933, Greta Garbo’s salary was alleged to be $10,000 a week. A quart of milk cost a dime • “cellophane” – A transparent, flexible film used largely in packaging, cellophane was invented in 1908 by the Swiss chemist Jacques Edwin Brandenberger. American rights were purchased in 1923 by E I duPont. Successfully waterproofed in 1927, it was hailed as the miracle wrapping of the age and helped to promote the self–service industry. In 1934, the sets and costumes for the Broadway production of Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein’s Four Saints in Three Acts were made of cellophane • “the time of the Derby winner” – Founded in 1780, and named after the Twelfth Earl of Derby, this race for three-year-olds at Epsom Downs is probably the world’s most celebrated horse race. In 1934, the course was run in two minutes, 34 seconds by Windsor Lad • “Ritz hot toddy” – The fabled Ritz hotel in Paris was opened by César Ritz in June 1898. Cole Porter loved to write lyrics at its popular bar, where, on a chilly night, he no doubt warmed himself with Ritz hot toddy: a heated mug of whisky, flavored with citrus fruits and spices. The word “toddy” comes from the Hindi “tari” which means fermented or fresh sap of a palm tree • “Brewster body” – One of America’s most beautiful cars, the Brewster was noted for its heart–shaped grille, flared fenders and split bumpers • “Nathan panning” – Author and theatre critic, George Jean Nathan (1882–1958) was the darling of the intellectuals, championed Eugene O’Neill, and often flailed his flamboyant wit at defenseless actors and playwrights • “Bishop Manning” – Bishop William Thomas Manning (1866–1949) was the Episcopal Bishop of New York, where he devoted most of his life to building and completing the Cathedral of St John the Divine • “broccoli” – A green vegetable of the mustard family, broccoli spread from its native Italy to France and England