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Cole Porter

Cole Porter As a child born into wealth, Cole Porter lacked for nothing — his maternal grandfather, J.O. Cole, saw to that. Family background J.O. Cole was a self-made man from northcentral Indiana, who provided his daughter, Kate, with a comfortable life, and asked nothing in return other than for her to marry a savvy fellow with a head for business, and large financial resources. What he got was nearly the opposite. Kate was rebelling a bit when she chose a local pharmacist, Sam Porter, as her mate. J.O. grumbled, but ultimately Kate won out — she wanted a man she could dominate, as her father had dominated her life. Cole Porter arrives Baby Cole arrived in June 1891. He was exposed early to the musical life — violin lessons at age six, piano lessons at eight. He composed his first operetta at age 10, with his mother's help. That talent led to Cole's enrollment in a private prep school, Worcester Academy, in anticipation of an Ivy League college, then a school of law. The college years Following Worcester, Cole did attend such a school — Yale University in 1909. While at Yale, Porter was a prodigious music producer. He left a legacy of more than 300 tunes, many of which were fight songs that are alive and well today. He also left a wealth of other work, including musical productions for his Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, Yale Dramatic Association, and Yale Glee Club. Following his Yale years, Porter entered Harvard Law School as planned. Music, however, was his first love and, convinced by a professor that too many distractions does not a lawyer make, Porter transferred to the Harvard School of Music. Reality Following his successful tip-toeing through the college tulips, Porter used social contacts to stage his first Broadway production, See America First, in 1916. It was a flop. Porter was not discouraged for long. After hobnobbing among New York's elite, Porter removed himself to postwar Europe and settled in Paris. He moved among the upper echelons of society and attended lavish soirees. During those years, the wealthy threw elaborate parties characterized by much experimental sexual activity, foreign nobility, international musicians, and a generous supply of mood-enhancing drugs. At that time, Porter toyed with the American press by fabricating a hero's life in the French Foreign Legion. He would encourage the story throughout his lifetime. Linda In 1919, Porter met American socialite and wealthy divorcee Linda Thomas, who had abadoned an abusive relationship. The two hit it off famously. Thomas loved the limelight of entertaining; Porter was intrigued by it all. It was evident that Thomas could have a companion who was not a physical threat (Porter was gay); Porter could have a trophy wife for public consumption — a perfect marriage of convenience lay in the offing. They remained committed to a marriage without sexual intimacy until her death in 1954. Musical successes — and failures Porter's work in the 1920s was largely off target, but by the end of the decade, he experienced some success with Fifty Million Frenchmen, a musical produced on Broadway in 1929, and made into a feature film in 1931. One of Porter's singles, "Don't Fence Me In," also was produced in that decade. The 1930s proved to be Porter's heyday, when he wrote such musical comedy standards as Anything Goes (1934), Red, Hot, and Blue (1936), and Leave It to Me (1938). Porter followed those up with 1940s and 1950s hits Something for the Boys (1942), Mexican Hayride (1943), Kiss Me, Kate, based on Shakespeare's, Taming of the Shrew (1948); Can Can (1953), and Silk Stockings (1954). Popular stand-alone songs included, "Begin the Beguine," "Night and Day," So in Love Am I," and "What is This Thing Called Love?" Porter also developed a style that catered to individual voices, e.g. Fred Astaire and Ethel Merman. Private life The Porters continued to throw decadent parties in America, rubbing shoulders with such luminaries as Fanny Bryce, who would commission Porter to write a song for her; Igor Stravinsky; and Elsa Maxwell. The year 1937 was a disaster for Porter. His legs were crushed under a falling horse while he was out riding. According to a spurious biographical account, Porter penned the lyrics to "At Long Last Love," while lying in pain and waiting to be rescued. Porter's not-so-secret love life involved affairs with a number of associates, including Boston socialite Howard Sturges and architect Ed Tauch, for whom he wrote "Easy to Love." The end Porter endured tremendous pain from the riding accident; he underwent more than 40 operations before having his left leg amputated. He died of kidney failure in 1964, at the age of 73. Porter's life was made into a movie, Night and Day (1946), starring Cary Grant, and Alexis Smith as Linda. Some say the film was so sanitized of his actual sexuality that it approached fantasy. Another, more realistic version, was released in 2004, De-Lovely, starring Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd. In the film, Kline portrays Porter's character as more bisexual than homosexual.

See also Stephen Foster.