L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Friday, January 27, 2012

The things that lodge in your brain...and repeat

We talked about growing old gracefully
And Elsie who's seventy-four
Said [with a strong Mid-western twang], 'A, it's a question of being sincere,
And B, if you're supple you've nothing to fear',
Then she swung upside down from a glass chandelier.
I couldn't have liked it more.

From the Noël Coward song, "I've Been to a Marvelous Party", of course. Which I performed once or twice in the eighties, speak-singing the thing, as Coward would have done. I'm sure I was quite unable to pull off; I haven't got the stuff to put over that sort of business now, and I certainly didn't have it then. Of all the song's very droll lyrics - which I still remember fairly well - these are the ones that will just pop into my head. Again and again. From nowhere. And I'll speak-sing them out loud, if given any opportunity.

The stage direction for the Mid-western twang - or what I imagine one to be - is my little invention. The rest is done in a rather vague approximation of an icy British accent. Maybe it's the earthiness of Elsie's twang that tickles me so, and sets the fragment on repeat in my brain. Or that it's some genuine inspiration of mine in the midst of my pale imitation of a Cowardian delivery. Maybe, in my mind, it somehow makes up for my perceived inability to "sell" the rest of the song"; if I can't channel Noël, I can still damn well do Elsie.

Like most - maybe all - of the names of the people listed in the song, "Elsie" was based on an actual person in society at the time. She was the celebrated interior designer Elsie de Wolfe, Lady Mendl. Quite the marvelous self-creation, herself. You can read more about her on my friend Stephen Rutledge's excellent blog.


  1. ok, now i'm going to have to make you speak-sing it to me. love the song. no, i can't see you pulling it off in the eighties, but you have the droll wit to deliver it now, i'd think.

  2. I am grateful to you for the shout out!
    & seeing you use the phrase "ny friend Stephen" just makde ny heart go to my throat... you being one of my favorite people on the planet. We share a lot of the same passions & interests, except that you are great, world-class artist & I am a dilettante.

  3. You are are certainly no dilettante, dear fellow - pas du tout! Your blog is a gift - a very important one for many reasons, not least for safeguarding OUR history - and so are you!