An American In Paris   written and produced by Paul Hares

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Around the year 1891, in New Orleans, Scott Joplin took a simple white European tune and fused it with black African syncopation…Ragtime was born, and with it the first uniquely American voice was heard on the world's musical stage…
Not by many…at least, not in the beginning.
But before too long this new musical synthesis was to become symbolic of emerging America…

In the same year, in Peru, Indiana, Cole Porter was also busy being born…

In the grand scheme of things, just another birth in another Mid-Western town…But because of circumstances and simulations; because of the turning wheel of fortune (and Cole Porter was certainly blessed with plenty of fortune, both good and inherited)…
Yes…Because of the mixture that was America, the myriad melting pot of peoples and places: the kaleidoscope of cultures and conditions…

Life would soon have something to say about what happened to Cole Porter from Peru, Indiana…

And if life was to have a lot to say about what happened to Cole…well, it wasn't too long before Cole had something to say about what happened to life…

But as with all of life's reactions, a catalyst was needed - and the catalyst was be America's new music, and America's new music began with Ragtime…

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From the turn of the century until the beginning of the First World War, America was swept by the curious pianistic art of Ragtime. It was men like George Botsford, Larry Buck and Ben Harney who had brought this black polyrhythmic music out of the Deep South and presented it to a public eager for something new…

What they got was syncopation…

And syncopation was evident not only in the newly discovered southern music, in the Ragtime inspired by Joplin and Turpin and in the hot jazz of Buddy Bolden…

No…

Syncopation was more than a musical ethos…more than just the dynamo that [powered minstrelsy and Dixieland. Syncopation was about crossover…And crossover was the essence of America. Black and White; Vaudeville and Ragtime; Creole and Cajun; Blues and Barmitzvah; Samba and Sonata.  The music of three continents pounded together and mixed in the crucible of the most diverse continent of them all…

America…

At the turn of the century America was a nation still young, still moulding and stretching.

Her growing pains had been cruel ones. She had fought herself to free her black population and the great and grotesque institution of slavery had gone…and then, in an act of juvenile perversity she had emasculated her native peoples in the genocide that had culminated at Wounded Knee…The Bison and the Indian had been reduced to tourist novelties.

America was changing, and fast and furious was the change.

The pioneering days were over and frontiers had been pushed from seaboard to seaboard.
"I'll sing you a true son of Billy the Kid.
I sing you the record of deeds that he did.
Way down in New Mexico a long time ago…"

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In terms of the new attitude pervading the nation, in terms of the new order and structure…it was indeed a long time ago.
What had been the Wild West was now the Wild West Show, and in the dance halls of New York and Chicago, nobody cared much that:  "Fair Mexican maidens play guitars and sing
          Songs about Billy, the boy-bandit king."

The twentieth century was to be the time for America to realise her national identity, and in this hybrid land, in days to come, no one was to epitomise the confluence of cultures more than Cole Porter.

Jazz came first as the music of illegality, of prohibition and prostitution, of barroom and bordello. And Jazz, and the popular music it spawned were to become the hallmark of American culture and to play a big part in the life of Cole Porter, as he, in turn, was to become one of the most distinctive and accomplished voices in that new and vibrant tradition. Twenty years on, one of Cole Porter's finest and most poignant songs would be inspired by Storeyville and all such places where women practised that most ancient of professions…

In the new twentieth-century America, whatever you wanted you could get - for a price.

And there, as always and everywhere, it was
"Love for Sale".
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Love for Sale was not an emotion to inspire enthusiasm amongst the mainstream of middle-class America in the first half of the twentieth century. The disparate forces that powered this pot-pourri of people's and places, this diverse cultural mélange, seemed to be bound, inextricably, by a strong twine of Puritanism that harked way back to the Founding Fathers…
And whilst Cole Porter may have been "Cool" Porter to his sophomore friends and, later, the toast of Yale and Harvard, his penchant for the slick lyric and the double-entendre did not seem set to open any doors in the
real world - at least, not in the beginning…
And Cole Porter's beginnings had been about as good as you could get. He came from money: lots of it. His grandfather, the source of all the wealth had Cole earmarked for the rôle of gentleman farmer - the problem being that Cole wasn't too keen on the
latter part.

Expensive shoes, surely, were meant to
shine…And shine they would on the feet of the East Coast Gentleman that Cole had his sights set on becoming. The sort of gentleman who, as Cole learned early on, never eats - he breakfasts, he lunches, he dines…but he never eats. And he certainly never gets mud on his boots…Mud and farms seemed…well…inappropriate.

If grandfather was disappointed in the way that Cole was turning out, his mother was little short of euphoric. She dressed him in satins and silks and had him learn French and music…and while Cole never quite took to the violin with all its scraping scales, he fell instantly under the spell of the piano and it's ability to express the creative urges within him…From the age of ten he was writing songs, much to his adoring mother's delight, and studiously avoiding the hayfield, much to his grandfather's chagrin…Yes, he'd even figured out a French word to encapsulate the patriarch's displeasure…

In fact, his first trip to Paris had sown the seeds of a lifetime fascination…Not exactly the seeds that grandfather had in mind, but for Cole Porter it was love at first sight….

Only someone who loved Paris could write "I Love Paris" in the way that Cole Porter did…

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By the time that "I Love Paris" was written for the last but one of Porter's stage shows, "Can-Can" in 1953, Cole had already been a star, a fading star, gone Nova and eventually become a White Dwarf in the ever-shifting firmament of musical entertainment…
But whatever the vagaries of his career may have been, he was, by any definition, something of an American legend…
He was, in the words of one noted stage-critic, the embodiment of "the rich boy made good…"

It wasn't that way back in 1916, thirty eight shows earlier, when his first sortie into the world of musical theatre proved less than auspicious: "SEE AMERICA FIRST" screamed the billboards, on the opening night of this, his first show…
"SEE AMERICA
LAST" carped the critics…
If Cole was mortified by his first taste of professional failure, he'd at least learned a salutary lesson: that the cosy world of Harvard sophisticates, the self-indulgent and heady realm of his privileged peers was a far cry indeed from the harsher lights that illuminated the stage of the music-buying public at large…
His response, though, was typically Porteresque, and saw him retreating into that fantasy-world which was to prove to be such an essential feature of the Porter persona. He took himself off to his beloved Paris, spreading the rumour that he had gone to "join the Legion…"
But the truth was more typical…He had, in fact, gone to join his piano, which had been shipped out a little while earlier. He remained in Paris throughout the Great War and stayed on after, spreading various rumours about his activities…None of which were true. He spent his time playing his piano, even going so far as to take lessons from the great French composer Vincent D'Indy, founder of the musical group know as "Les Six"…
That "Les Six" never became "Les Sept" was probably the result of Cole's preference for cocktails over counterpoint...

In truth, he did produce one ballet score, an exercise never to be repeated. Cole Porter was not destined for the world of classical music. This mercurial mid-western farm boy with a taste for silk cravats and haute couture would eventually become perhaps the finest exponent of that uniquely American creation, the Musical.
The American and the Parisian would combine, and the combination would, in time, prove to be truly "Magnifique"…

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