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Judy Crowell: What Is This Thing Called Love, and Other Cole Porter Conundrums

'Is it the girl? (Or is it the gown?)' 'Why marry them?' ... Visit to the romantic composer's birthplace of Peru, Ind., might be a perfect getaway for you and your Valentine

Westleigh, the Cole Porter family home in later years, in Peru, Ind.
Westleigh, the Cole Porter family home in later years, in Peru, Ind.  (Judy Crowell / Noozhawk photo)

By Judy Crowell, Noozhawk Contributing Writer |

[Click here for a Noozhawk photo gallery of Cole Porter’s birthplace.]

What Valentine’s Day would be complete without a hot-house rose, love letter words, a silver moon, dancing to “just one of those things” and a table for two?

How about a sightseeing tour and dinner by candlelight at The Siding? The side-car setting is wonderful and — between you and me — the only place to eat in Peru, Ind., birthplace and early home to Cole Porter, one of the most famous and most prolific American composers whose romantic lyrics are so easy to love.

What a priceless pleasure, what a charming afternoon and weekend affair with your Valentine: a stay in Porter’s recently restored childhood home, now including the Cole Porter Suite, the Anything Goes Suite and the Night and Day Suite.

Kate the Great, Porter’s mother and true love, encouraged her son’s extraordinary musical talent — unlike his maternal grandfather, J.O. Cole, a curmudgeon and millionaire, who, for no rhyme or reason, mercilessly badgered his grandson to study law.

“I know it’s not meant for me,” the young prodigy countered, and from that moment on, it was written in the stars that he would get out of town. At age 10, a defiant Cole wrote on his bedroom wall, “I don’t want to be a lawyer!”

At Worcester Academy, Porter was the only student with a piano in his room. At Yale University, he served as president of the Yale Glee Club and was an original member of the Whiffenpoofs.

Realizing that opportunity knocks but once and vowing to follow every fancy, he got away from it all in Paris. There he met and — to the surprise of all — said “I do,” marrying the wealthy and beautiful Linda Lee Thomas, a Kentucky-born divorcee several years his senior. The marriage of this closeted homosexual genius and the sophisticated, well-connected Linda was as complex, loving and ultimately as enduring as the composer’s incomparable music.

Although it may not be a destination or a big town, a visit to Peru and Porter’s birthplace — like another sentimental song — will have your Valentine sweetie saying, “Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.”

Cole Porter composed both the melodies and lyrics to almost 1,000 songs. I’ve included 27 titles within the text of this article. If you can identify 20, you’re sensational. If you can identify all 27 titles, you’re the top. Oops — that makes 29!


“What Is This Thing Called Love?” * “Is It the Girl, Or Is It the Gown?” * “Why Marry Them” * “Hot House Rose” * “Love Letter Words” * “Silver Moon” * “Just One of Those Things” * “A Table for Two” * “Side Car” * “Between You and Me” * “So Easy to Love” * “Weekend Affair” * “Anything Goes” * “Night and Day” * “Kate the Great” * “True Love” * “For No Rhyme or Reason” * “I Know It’s Not Meant for Me” * “From This Moment On” * “Written in the Stars” * “Get Out of Town” * “Opportunity Knocks But Once” * “To Follow Every Fancy” * “Away From It All” * “Paris” * “Let’s Do It” * “Which” * “You’re Sensational” * “You’re The Top”

— Judy Crowell is a Noozhawk contributing writer, author, freelance travel writer and part-time Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are her own.

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